Department of Middle Eastern Studies
Department of Middle Eastern Studies

Thesis and Report


No university document distinguishes clearly between a report and a thesis in terms of length or scope. Some programs or individual faculty define a report as a library project, or reviewing what scholars have said about a particular topic, and a thesis as an original contribution to knowledge in which a novel analysis or argument is offered, a text or problem is analyzed using a new or previously untried framework, or data about a subject is collected and analyzed. Others may distinguish between the two solely on the basis of length. Hence, one of your first challenges will be to ensure that your supervisor and reader(s) agree with one another and with you about the scope and nature of your project as well as its likely length. 


Thesis Committee: 

Both a report and a thesis have two readers. These can serve as joint supervisors, or one may serve as the supervisor while the second is a reader. In either case, both must find the document acceptable and sign it before the graduate school will accept it. The supervisor—or at least one reader in the case of joint supervision—must be a member of the MES Graduate Studies Committee (GSC). Please note that lecturers can serve as supervisors or readers only if special permission is granted by the Office of Graduate Studies (OGS). The second reader or supervisor may be from a GSC in any UT department or program. 

Please understand that the success of your thesis or report project will depend on your ability to work well with your readers. Although the graduate advisor and Graduate Coordinator can provide you with information about policy matters, they do not intervene in your relationship with your readers. Because of the autonomy of faculty in making assessments about matters of instruction, including the supervision of thesis or report research, the graduate advisor plays no role in evaluating the thesis or report project, its quality, or its completion. 

There is no oral defense for either the report or the thesis unless your committee requires it. Once all the documents are signed and the Graduate Coordinator has a copy of them, you will turn them in, along with the thesis or report, to OGS. 


Thesis / Report Courses:

Students taking the thesis option will sign up for 698A one semester and 698B the next. The thesis is officially begun one semester and finished the following. Thus, these courses must be taken consecutively; they cannot be taken concurrently. You could enroll in the sequence in fall/spring, spring/summer, spring/fall or summer/fall. The summer is considered a single term for these purposes. Students not completing a thesis in two semesters continue to sign up for 698B until they have finished or until they are no longer eligible to re-enroll.

Students doing a report sign up for the report course 398R. The assumption is that the report is begun and finished in the same semester, the student’s last term in the program.  

Once you submit a report or thesis, you are officially out of the program and the Graduate School unless you are are continuing to a Ph.D. program at the university. OGS is very strict about enforcing the rule requiring the submission of a thesis or report during the semester you graduate. Very few exceptions have been granted. If you plan to take courses in the semester after you have completed your report or thesis, be advised that special arrangements must be made in advance, regardless of whether or not these courses will apply to your degree. 


Finding a Supervisor and Reader

With the rarest exception, you should expect your supervisor and reader to be professors who have taught you. Approaching someone you have not had a course with is quite risky because you do not know their expectations, nor do they know your work.

When approaching a faculty member, it is usually a good idea to have a 3-to-5-page prospectus explaining the topic of your thesis or report. In this document, you will want to state the research question you hope to answer, give some background on the problem or issue, including background on how scholars have approached the issue, explain how you will approach the subject, and describe what you foresee the structure of your paper. Attach a bibliography with works cited in the prospectus as well as works you know that you will read.

One of the earliest things you will need to do is negotiate a timeline with each reader. Never submit your work late, expecting the readers to drop everything and accommodate you. If a supervisor or reader is going on leave or if she is going to be away at conferences, these facts will influence the deadlines you must set for yourself.

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