Grad Students: Guidelines for Graduate Work

A word version of this document may be found here: Contract-for-the-Latin-MA-Thesis.  (Please use that version to print the contract)

Marshall University Department of Classics 

MA Thesis Guidelines



An MA thesis is a special type of culminating activity.  By successfully completing an M.A. Thesis you will demonstrate to a community of scholars that you are capable of doing a professional level of work and have completed an important level of apprenticeship as a Classicist.  This contract explicates our expectations for you and your obligations while writing your thesis.

  • Please note: this contract does not include the deadlines or timeline set by the Graduate School. You need to check their website for dates for all the various paperwork that needs to be done.

If you fail to live up to any of your obligations, or should fail to attend mandatory meetings, your thesis director has the right to drop you and you will need to acquire a new director.  This will cause you to lose substantial time, money and effort and may set back your graduation 15 months.

Your director will work out a specific schedule with you based upon your project and your progress.  Your director’s obligations will include meeting with you on a regular basis, reading and commenting on work in a timely fashion (though submission of a piece of work is no excuse to not continue working on your project) and letting you know when your work is acceptable to go to the rest of your committee.



There are three main expectations for your Thesis:

1)    It will contain an original argument.

  1. Creating an original argument that you can sustain over more than fifty pages is an important skill.  Likewise, you are pushing forward the boundaries of human knowledge.  You are being afforded the time and opportunity to take an issue and work on it at great length.  You should look through adequate secondary scholarship to discern whether your topic is original or not.  See step 3

2)    It will engage with Latin in a persistent way.

  1. Your argumentation will be based in large part on close and accurate readings of your texts. You will produce accurate translations of the primary sources you use.

3)    It will utilize secondary sources.

  1. Unlike during your time as an undergraduate, you are not laboring alone to produce a document that only your instructor will see.  You will now be producing work that will be published and freely available on the Marshall University Electronic Theses and Dissertations page.  Since you will be participating in the scholarly community it is necessary to demonstrate that you are aware of what the scholarly community has to say about your chosen topic.  You have noticed a hole in our knowledge of the ancient world and you will fill it.


  • Please note: this denotes expectations from the Department of Classics.  As mentioned above, there are separate deadlines set by the Graduate School.

1 August: Thesis outline and Contract

  • You will produce a document that contains the following:

1)    A signed Thesis Contract (included at the end of this document)

2)    An abstract

  • Your abstract will be a 2-3 page summary of your Thesis that includes a) a concise thesis statement; b) a summary of your argument; c) what you know now; d) what you expect to find; e) a projected chapter breakdown

3)    a bibliography of relevant materials

4)    a delineation of of what your sense of the state of the question is (a state of the question is what scholars currently think about your topic area)

1 December: A working draft of your thesis OR one full, complete, polished and ready to submit chapter.

  • Should you choose to produce a working draft, this means that you will produce 50 pages by 1 December.  This means that on average you will be producing 5 pages a week, or writing 300-500 words a day.  This is the best option, and even Ovid said so: Gutta cavat lapidem; consumitur annulus usu (ex Ponto 4.10.5).  The advantage of this option is that it allows you to get your arms around the whole project and gives you the Spring semester to polish.
  • Should you choose to produce a ready to submit chapter, you should have a complete draft of this chapter to your advisor by 1 October, a revised second draft to your committee by 21 October, a revised third draft to your committee by 14 November and a complete draft by 1 December.  This option is preferable if you are applying to doctoral programs, as you will have a beautiful and thorough demonstration of your scholarly ability.  Nonetheless, no graduate school application should include your first chapter of your thesis as it is a literature review and state of the question.  , It may be therefore necessary to produce a rough version of your first chapter before moving to your second chapter.

1 February: a penultimate draft of your thesis. 

  • This should be as complete a draft as you can muster, and will be the final one you will receive comments on before producing your defense draft.

1 March: a defense draft of your thesis

  • This is a draft that you would be willing to submit to the graduate school in fulfillment of your thesis obligation of your degree.  It is likely the case that you will need to do some final edits of your thesis in response to concerns of the committee at your defense, but you should be as close as possible to perfection when this draft comes in.

Late March: Thesis Defense

  • Your thesis defense will consist of a 20 minute public lecture on your topic, a public question time, and a private question time with your committee.  At the end of the time with the committee you will find out what if any final edits you will need to do before the committee gives their final approval and signs off on your documents.

1 May: Electronic submission of your Thesis

  • This is the publication version of the Thesis.  Failure to meet this deadline means you will not have a Spring graduation.


Marshall University Department of Classics Thesis Contract

Name of student:         ____________________________________   901 __________________

MU Email Address:     ____________________________________   Phone: ________________

Name of Thesis Director:        _______________________________________________

Names of Thesis Committee:   _______________________________________________


Preliminary title of Thesis: _________________________________________________________


I have read and agree to the Marshall University Department of Classics MA Thesis Guidelines. I understand that failure to abide by them may jeopardize my standing in the program and my ability to graduate.


_________________________________________________          ________________________

Signature of MA Candidate                                                                 Date


I agree to direct this thesis.


_________________________________________________          ________________________

Signature of Thesis Director                                                                Date



☐ Abstract

☐ Bibliography

☐ State of the question