Thesis and Projects Guidelines

Difference between a Thesis and Project

A thesis is a research paper–a traditional master’s thesis. “Research” includes the use of interviews, surveys, online sources, and archival collections as well as traditional book-based work.

If you wish to engage in creative, alternative work, that’s a project. Examples of projects include writing a memoir or biography, composing original music, and filming a documentary. Internships and community service work can also lend themselves well to MALS projects. Projects must include a research component relevant to the nature of the endeavor.

Both projects and theses involve extensive research.  However, for the project the research is the background for, or supplementary to, the creative or alternative activity that forms the bulk of the project.

Expected length for theses and projects is at least 50 pages of text, excluding the signature pages, bibliography, etc. The number of sources used in research depends on the topic. Both length and number of sources should be agreed upon with your advisor and second reader.

Your Advisor and Second Reader

Finding an Advisor

​If you know whom you’d like to ask to serve as your advisor, you’re welcome to talk with that person directly.  Otherwise, the MALS director will help you to identify appropriate faculty. 

Thesis advisors must be full-time UD faculty; UD regulations do not permit adjunct or retired faculty to serve as thesis advisors.  If you would like to work with an adjunct or retired faculty member, please ask the MALS director about the possibility of appointing co-advisors, one of whom must be a full-time UD faculty member. 

When you know who your advisor will be, please let the MALS office know so that the appropriate designations can be made in UDSIS. This is important so that you can be graded properly for your thesis/project work.

Finding a Second Reader

Once you know who your advisor will be, work with that person to identify a second reader. Ideally, the second reader should be able to fill in areas of expertise that differ from those of the advisor.  As an example, a student who is writing about the effect of Saturday morning cartoons on the behavior of children might want to work with someone who specializes in mass communication and someone else who knows about child psychology.

If you need suggestions for a person to serve as second reader, please contact the director, who will help you identify an appropriate person.

The Role of Your Advisor and Second Reader

Your advisor helps you to define your topic and to refine your proposal.  He or she also provides suggestions, guidance, and feedback as needed.  Although there is no single model for student-advisor interaction, it is a good idea to touch base with the advisor periodically rather than doing a whole semester’s work before discussing it with the advisor.

In your last semester, you should submit your finished work to the advisor at least a month, and preferably six weeks, before the due date.  The advisor may require revisions before approving the work.  There is no hard-and-fast rule about whether the work goes first to the advisor and then to the second reader, or to both at the same time.  The advisor is solely responsible for assigning a grade to the work.

The second reader should offer advice, suggest sources, and provide other help in the areas of the work that fall within his or her expertise.  Like the advisor, the second reader must approve both the proposal and the finished work.  There is no hard-and-fast rule about whether the work goes first to the advisor and then to the second reader, or to both at the same time.  The second reader may and should require any revisions he/she deems necessary.  If differences of opinion arise between the advisor and second reader, those should be resolved by the two faculty members, not by the student.

Getting a Topic Approved

​Once you have established a relationship with an advisor, you will write a thesis or project proposal. After being approved by both the thesis/project advisor and the second reader, the proposal should be sent to the MALS director as an e-mail attachment with copies to the advisor and second reader.  No hard-copy signatures are necessary.  The MALS director will forward it to the Faculty Advisory Committee, which normally responds within a week.  As soon as the proposal is approved, you are ready to start your work.

Students are encouraged to submit a thesis/project proposal during or shortly after their final MALS course.  If you take time to write the proposal during MALS869 or 879, you decrease your chances of finishing your work in the projected graduation term.

At the very latest, you must submit a proposal by the end of the seventh week of the first semester in which you register for MALS 869 or 879.

Click here for detailed instructions on submitting your proposal: Proposal Guidelines Revised 12-2020.pdf

Registering for Thesis/Project Credit

Please contact the MALS office (; 302-831-4130) to register for thesis or project credit.  We will insure that your advisor is designated as the instructor so that you can be appropriately graded for your work.

You must take a total of six credits of MALS869 (thesis) or MALS879 (project). The number of credits you take each semester is up to you. You are required to be registered for credits each fall and spring semester until you graduate. You may sign up for MALS869 or 879 in winter or summer if you wish to do so. The decision about how many credits to take each semester should be based on the amount of time you propose to devote to the thesis or project that semester. You should also bear in mind that the semester in which you graduate is not a full semester of work on the thesis or project even if you are registered for MALS869 or 879 at that time. The completed work is due in mid-November in the fall semester and in mid-April in the spring semester, which means that the final draft has to reach the thesis/project advisor at least a month before that. Please see current deadlines at

Ideally, you should pace the credits of MALS869 or 879 to finish the credits and the work in the same semester. If that does not work out, you must register for sustaining credit each semester until you graduate, including the graduation semester itself. Requests for sustaining status should be sent to the MALS director, who will forward them to the Graduate College. 

Structure and Formatting of Your Thesis/Project

Your advisor will help you to select a style guide that is appropriate for the kind of work you are doing.  The most commonly used are the Modern Language Association Style Manual, the Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association, and the Chicago Manual of Style.  This style guide will help you structure such things as footnotes and the Works Cited page.

For both a thesis and a project, you must acquire and use the UD Thesis / Dissertation Styles to set up the format for your paper. These styles will ensure that your document meets the standard formatting requirements.

Regardless of whether you are doing a thesis or a project, you should consult the UD Graduate College’s Thesis and Dissertation Manual, available at  

If you are doing a project rather than a thesis, check the sample title and signature pages. Your signature page should include lines for the signatures of the advisor and the MALS director only.​

For specific requirements for MALS projects, please refer to MALS Project Requirements.pdf

Grading Thesis or Project Credits

As you complete credits of MALS869 (thesis) or 879 (project), your advisor should assign a grade of Satisfactory or Unsatisfactory.  These are temporary grades, and when you complete the work, they will be replaced by the regular letter grade the advisor assigns to the completed project or thesis.  

Including Interviews and Surveys

​Any form of research, including interviews and surveys, is acceptable in both theses and projects. If you propose to use interviews or surveys, it is necessary to get approval from the UD Human Subjects Review Board. More information is available here.

Submitting Your Project or Thesis


Please consult the Graduate College’s Thesis and Dissertation Manual for details.

As that manual indicates, theses are submitted online as a pdf file.


For a project, the only signatures required are the advisor, second reader and MALS program director. A sample signature page is available. The project does not need to be submitted to the dean’s Office or Graduate College.

Projects are due to the MALS office on the same day as theses are due to the Graduate College in a given semester. Students must submit a pdf of the project to the MALS office, including signature pages (for mixed media projects, the written portion thereof). The abstract of the project will be placed on the MALS website.

If a project has a non-print component, such as music or film, a copy should be submitted on CD, DVD, or whatever other format is appropriate.


Your deadlines for submission of your project or thesis are available at