MA/MTS Thesis Proposal Seminar

Instructor : Amy Erickson

Associate Professor of Hebrew Bible and Director of the MTS Program

This is a preview of the details for the major projects that you will complete this quarter. It's just meant to inform you; there will be much more about each assignment as we get closer to it. Keep in mind that the work we do during each week leading up to these assignments will help you prepare for tackling them. Your "participation" is going to help you accomplishing these goals. You'll notice that some of the links do not work until you have actually reached the week in which we do these activities. Be sure to use the class work we do to help you complete these assignments. It is to your advantage to follow the order of the class. (i.e. Don't skip around here or get behind.) Stay with us!

Thesis Proposal Draft -- Not the final product! A DRAFT!

(Week 3, Thursday)

Remembering and using the argument you've constructed over the last two weeks in our discussions, you're going to create a first draft of your actual thesis proposal. Are you as excited as I am?! According to the handbook, "Students will seek approval the Thesis Proposal by the fourth week of the proposal seminar." The proposal, on not more than five double-spaced typed or printed pages using appropriate grammar 
and style, should include the following items: 

• Statement of the proposed title
• Statement of the Thesis and scope of the study
• Rationale for pursuing the Thesis
• Tentative outline
• Discussion of available resources with a working bibliography"

This is part of your participation grade, but it is not a graded assignment. After you've had a chance to review the comments made by your peers and instructor, you'll turn it in to your faculty reader next week for their approval and conversation.

This first draft of your Thesis Proposal that your peers will read. Please do not turn in what Anne Lamott would call your "shitty" first draft. This loose writing is a useful way to begin, but it is not really meant for public viewing. Spend some time with your own red pencil figuring out how it sounds best before you turn it over for us to read. I know we would all rather spend our time figuring out ways to improve your ideas that figuring out what you mean! So, take care with your communication skills. On the Friday after this is turned in, I'll assign you a peer for you to review. Once your peers have had a chance, I'll give my own comments, too.


Learning Agreement (Week 3, Sunday)

This is where you begin to tell me who you are as a thesis writer. There are two aspects to your self-evaluation, The initial learning agreement is due Sunday of Week 3. 

1) Reflect: Why are YOU writing a thesis? I know it’s required for your graduation with a particular kind of graduate degree, but what role do you think it’s supposed to play in your education? How might it be a capstone to what you’ve done, a bridge to something else, a hoop to jump through? What about thesis writing sounds like a useless exercise for you? What sounds easy? What sounds like something you want to push yourself to be better at doing?
What do you think this project could do for you? For scholarship? For the world or a part of it you love? And what do you plan to invest in order to achieve this?
Think about these questions before you move on to the second part. There's no written work for this reflection, but it will inform your written learning agreement in the second task.
2) Anticipate and Agree to the work you intend to do, Assign Yourself a Grade: While I will provide you with extensive written feedback on your assignments, all students will evaluate their own four assignments (Annotated bibliography, Literature review, Introduction to the Thesis, Full Outline) and assign themselves a grade for each. By the end of the second week you should have a clearer picture of the expectations of this course. During Week 3, I’m asking you to give me a narrative descriptionof your intentions for fulfilling all of the course requirements as they are delineated in the syllabus (see the Assignment Descriptions for more detailed information on these items):
Annotated bibliography. 15% (Due Week 5)
Literature review. 15% (Due Week 7)
Introduction to the thesis. 15% (Due Week 8)
Full outline. 15% (Due Week 10)
By reading the syllabus and course assignments, you should be able to reflect upon what you will do. Describe how you will evaluate what you have done in each of these items by the end of the course. You may share personal challenge goals around being a student (time management, more insightful participation in discussions) and learning what it means to be a thesis writer.
This document will essentially serve as a learning agreement between you and me, and with yourself. This learning agreement can be as long or as short as you wish in order to communicate your intentions. You will not be completely sure of what you will do for all of your projects, but you can indicate where you are leaning.
At the end of this piece of writing, please tell me what grade you intend to achieve in the course. This critical reflection will not be considered complete without you suggesting a final, desired grade. This is a pass/fail course. I expect you all intend to pass, but what letter grade level do you intend to give me?
In each of the four major assignments for the course listed above and making reference to this first learning agreement, you will evaluate in writing how you think did in achieving your stated objectives and goals throughout the quarter, and whether or not you achieved the grade you anticipated, reflecting on the story you hoped to achieve of yourself as a student and writer. At the end of this reflection, you must give yourself a grade for the assignment.
As the instructor, I am responsible for assigning final grades. In almost all cases, I will assign the grade you give yourself. However, if you wildly overrate or underrate your work, we will enter into negotiations about the final grade.

Annotated bibliography. 15% (Due Week 5)

You will produce an evaluative Annotated Bibliography that includes 15-20 resources that you will use (or hope to use) in your thesis. [Note: Elsewhere I said "12-20", so I'll allow as few as 12. However, for most of you, 15 or more is much better! You don't want to fall behind in collecting resources.]

Make your bibliography from materials that focus on your topic. One or two general resources are acceptable for some background, but the vast majority should assist with your key research questions. 

For this assignment, your annotations for each bibliography entry will evaluate the resource for its usefulness in answering or contributing to your key research questions. Make sure that each entry is written properly as a full bibliography entry in your chosen citation style. For each resource, write one or two short paragraphs under each resource that include:

The document you turn in should have your name, thesis title, and page numbers at the top right-hand corner of each page of the document.There is no page range on this assignment, but keep your bibliography between 15-20 entries and within one or two quite short paragraphs of annotation for each entry.

Good luck! And, as always, you can ask questions on the General Questions discussion board.

There is more general information about annotated bibliographies here (Links to an external site.)Links to an external site., but make sure you follow my instructions rather than theirs.


Literature review. 15% (Due Week 7)

Your Literature Review is the longest writing assignment I ask you to create. It will help you situate your project in the context of the scholarship that already exists. More than any other part of the thesis proposal seminar, this assignment can help you determine what is at stake when you write your thesis. This is the way you determine "so what?" in an academic way and give yourself depth and breadth of knowledge in your topic like nothing else.

This literature review involves much more than just a summary of the included sources. It should take a critical, evaluative approach, showing the relationships between the various writings and how they relate to your own work. A good literature review will look at the research that has been done and synthesize or pull together those elements that are similar or most pertinent to the chosen theme/topic.

Please follow this documentPreview the documentView in a new window from The Writing Center, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill to guide yourself through the whole literature review process. It should answer most of your questions about the actual process of writing literature reviews, but if you have any questions, please ask them on the General Questions discussion board. I'm sure if it's not clear to you, it's not clear to someone else.

Questions a literature review may answer:


Introduction to the thesis. 15% (Due Week 8)

For this assignment, you get to turn all of the energy you've been putting toward the background of your thesis and turn it toward the actual thesis project! Write a draft of the introduction to your thesis, no less than 2 pages, typed, double-spaced in a Times or similar 12pt font. Write clearly. Check your grammar and syntax. Edit carefully. 


Late assignments will be penalized, as this is one of the assignments your peers will review.


Full outline. 15% (Due Week 10)

This assignment is due (with NO exceptions) on the final day of our class.

For this assignment, I suggest three possible ways of outlining your thesis. If there is another way you'd like to outline, please ask me as soon as possible. As long as you are rigorously showing the various layers of ideas that your thesis will express, I will probably be on board; however, you must ask for approval no later than Monday, November 6th. 

However, don't reinvent the wheel if you don't want to! Here are my three options:

1) Idea Map
2) Tree Diagram
3) Linear or Topic Outline (find more information on this herePreview the document.)

You can see this Writing Lab Handout that explains the three options in a slightly different way here. Here are the "Idea Map" and "Tree Diagram" pictures to which the handout refers.

For your thesis proposal itself, you have to put together a "tentative" outline. I'm sure you could use any of these options to help you with this, although you're expected to put together a more "traditional" (linear, topic) outline, not one of the more unique visual forms.

Course Rhythm

Required Texts

The only other required book is the style manual you will need for your thesis project. Choose the appropriate style guide based on the citation style you will be using. Please check with your faculty reader to determine the style you will need to use. Most theses at Iliff use Chicago Style.

Choose only ONE:

Course Overview


Course Objectives


“‘Who will teach me to write?’  a reader wanted to know.

The page, the page, that eternal blankness, the blankness of eternity which you cover slowly, affirming time’s scrawl as a right and your daring as necessity; the page, which you cover woodenly, ruining it, but asserting your freedom and power to act, acknowledging that you ruin everything you touch but touching it nevertheless, because acting is better than being here in mere opacity; the page, which you cover slowly with the crabbed thread of your gut; the page in the purity of its possibilities; the page of your death, against which you pit such flawed excellences as you can muster with all your life’s strength: that page will teach you to write.”

—Annie Dillard, The Writing Life (Harper & Row, 1989)

Sep 14, 2018FriProposal Samples to Reviewdue by 05:59AM
Sep 14, 2018FriConcise Introductions (Profile)due by 05:59AM
Sep 14, 2018FriYour Faculty Readerdue by 05:59AM
Sep 17, 2018MonAppointment with Your Faculty Readerdue by 05:59AM
Sep 17, 2018MonExercise 3.3 from The Craft of Researchdue by 05:59AM
Sep 17, 2018MonExercise 3.4 from The Craft of Researchdue by 05:59AM
Sep 21, 2018FriFamiliarize Yourself with the Iliff's Primo Library System and find your LC Search Termsdue by 05:59AM
Sep 21, 2018FriKey Research Questionsdue by 05:59AM
Sep 24, 2018MonProvisional Research Idea to One Sentence Research Problemdue by 05:59AM
Sep 24, 2018MonDevelop Your Writing Schedule and Goalsdue by 05:59AM
Sep 28, 2018FriOptional Exercise: Familiarize Yourself with Your Citation Manualdue by 05:59AM
Sep 28, 2018FriThesis Proposal First Draftdue by 05:59AM
Oct 01, 2018MonLearning Agreementdue by 05:59AM
Oct 01, 2018MonPeer Review of Thesis Proposal Draftdue by 05:59AM
Oct 05, 2018FriDatabase Reviewdue by 05:59AM
Oct 08, 2018MonInteractive Readingdue by 05:59AM
Oct 12, 2018FriMining Texts for More Textsdue by 05:59AM
Oct 15, 2018MonAnnotated Bibliographydue by 05:59AM
Oct 22, 2018MonAdvance your Argumentdue by 05:59AM
Oct 29, 2018MonLiterature Reviewdue by 05:59AM
Nov 02, 2018FriFind a Model Introductiondue by 05:59AM
Nov 05, 2018MonIntroduction to your Thesisdue by 06:59AM
Nov 09, 2018FriPeer Review of Introductionsdue by 06:59AM
Nov 12, 2018MonWriting Practicesdue by 06:59AM
Nov 17, 2018SatFull Outline of your Thesisdue by 06:59AM