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Thesis or SRP (Substantial Research Paper)


    Although the groundwork for a master’s thesis should begin in the fall of a student’s first year, the majority of the work involved in developing a thesis project takes place during the Spring Quarter of the first year. By the start of Spring Quarter of the first year, the student should approach a faculty member as a possible thesis advisor and discuss their project idea. A student’s thesis proposal will be developed in close consultation with the thesis advisor.

    In order to serve as a thesis advisor, a faculty member must hold a tenured or a tenure-track appointment in the Department of Media, Film & Journalism Studies. Other thesis committee members may be tenured, tenure-track, or teaching professors in the department. The student should choose a thesis advisor with the expertise and background which best match the student’s own interests. This may or may not be the student’s initial faculty advisor. If a student is changing their advisor, they will need to fill out a Change of Advisor form. In some instances, a faculty member may wish to confer with one or more other faculty members before accepting the thesis advising role to determine the viability of a student’s research project. Students can consult with their original academic advisor or with the Graduate Director if they need help in identifying a suitable faculty member to serve as their thesis advisor.

    When a faculty member agrees to become the thesis advisor, the student should work with this advisor to develop a thesis proposal. The advisor will help the student to focus the research question and the thesis project. In addition, the advisor may recommend specific readings or additional coursework that will help the student to develop their ideas. The student should meet with their thesis advisor at least twice during the Winter or early Spring Quarter of the first year to outline the thesis research or project (see the Timeline section for scheduling suggestions). The student will need to select a thesis committee, which includes the advisor and a minimum of two other faculty members who will read the formal research proposal and the final report. These additional members should be contacted and asked if they would be willing to serve on the thesis committee. Generally, the thesis committee is drawn from MFJS faculty.

    Having formed a thesis committee, the student should begin writing the formal thesis proposal. The student should ask their advisor to provide examples of a successful thesis proposal for guidelines. The exact form of this proposal will be outlined by the thesis advisor and will vary according to the thesis topic, the specific problem being studied, and the methodology proposed to explore that problem. Proposals tend to range in length from 25-40 pages. All proposals should include the following sections (the order may vary):

    Introduction/Problem Statement. The proposal begins with a general introduction to the thesis, which includes the thesis topic, a clear statement outlining the student’s interest in the subject, and a preliminary explanation of the theoretical and methodological approach that will be used in the thesis.

    Literature Review. The proposal includes a review of the existing literature related to the specific topic and provides a clear and succinct statement of the issues the thesis will address. This review provides a critical analysis, examining the topic and approach and highlighting the specific issues in the debate about that topic and approach. The discussion should make clear where the student places themselves within that debate and justify the approach they will apply to the thesis.

    Research Question(s). The student identifies and clearly states the specific research questions that will be addressed in the thesis.

    Methodology. The students situates their work within a methodological perspective and outlines the specific study design of the thesis project. This section of the proposal should also include a description of the materials or data that will be examined as the student researches and develops the thesis.

    Contributions. The proposal should include a discussion of the contributions the study or project will make to the existing discourse on the thesis topic.

    Once the proposal has been approved by the thesis advisor, the student needs to distribute the proposal to all thesis committee members and convene the thesis committee for a proposal defense. The committee members should be presented with the proposal at least two weeks prior to the date of the proposal defense. At the meeting, the committee members will question the student about the project’s theory, design, and research methods to ensure the project is rigorous and of appropriate scope.

    Four general outcomes for the proposal defense are possible: Pass with no revisions; pass with minor revisions, pass with major revisions, or fail. The committee decides the extent of the revisions and whether the revisions will be overseen by the committee chair (thesis advisor) or whether the entire committee will need to see the proposal again before proceeding. Students will receive, in writing, the specific changes required by the committee. Students may regard this written communication as a contract. An approved proposal outlines specifically what procedures the student must follow to complete the thesis requirement; no committee member may fault the student for the study’s design when the thesis is complete. Such concerns must be addressed at the proposal defense.

    Following approval of the thesis proposal, the student may proceed to conduct the research described in the proposal. When the research is completed, the student discusses the results and processes in the final written thesis. The format of the thesis must follow the guidelines developed by the Office of Graduate Studies exactly. The length of the thesis will be determined by the approach and the topic, but most theses average between 75-150 pages in length.

    Once the student completes a draft of the entire thesis, they submit it to the thesis advisor for approval. Once approved, the student distributes the work to the other thesis committee members and schedules an oral defense of the thesis before the required deadline stated in the Graduate Studies Schedule of Deadlines. In addition to the thesis committee, the student must contact a tenured or tenure-track faculty member outside of the MFJS department to act as an outside thesis chair. The outside chair presides over the oral thesis defense, providing both quality control for the University of Denver and protection that the student is being treated fairly. The Office of Graduate Studies must be notified of the defense three weeks prior to the date, using the Schedule of Oral Examination form obtained from the Office of Graduate Studies (see Deadlines section of this Handbook for deadlines).

    As with the proposal, the student should deliver copies of the final thesis to the committee members at least two weeks prior to the defense date.

    At the thesis defense, the student may be questioned as to the interpretation of the results, methods used, any additional unanticipated findings, and the implications of the study. Four general outcomes for the thesis defense are possible: Pass with no revisions; pass with minor revisions; pass with major revisions; or fail. It is uncommon for a thesis to fail once it has been approved for circulation by the thesis advisor. The committee will decide the extent of any revisions and whether the revisions will be overseen by the thesis advisor or by the entire committee. The student will receive, in writing, the specific changes required by the committee. The students may regard this written communication as a contract.

    Revisions must be completed by the Graduate School Schedule of Deadlines.

    Students should check the Dissertation/Thesis Instructions from the Office of Graduate Studies: 


    As students begin work on a thesis, it is important to consult an advisor and develop a timeline. Below is a typical timeline for a full-time graduate student (8 credits/quarter, beginning with Fall Quarter, completing 48 credits required for the M.A. by the end of Spring Quarter of 2nd year), which students can use as a guide and adapt to their individual situation.

    First Year (estimated dates only):

    • End of Winter Quarter/beginning of Spring Quarter: Choose thesis advisor, identify thesis topic.
    • Spring Quarter: Begin literature review, begin developing thesis proposal;
    • Summer Quarter: Continue work on writing a formal thesis proposal. Select thesis committee.

    Second Year (estimated dates only):

    • Fall Quarter: Submit formal thesis proposal to thesis committee no later than October 1; defend proposal and, if approved, continue work on thesis.
    • Winter Quarter: Continue work on thesis; first draft of all parts/chapters completed by March 1.
    • Spring Quarter: Complete thesis; submit the Schedule of Oral Examination form to the Office of Graduate Studies at least THREE WEEKS PRIOR to the date of your oral thesis examination. For Spring Quarter graduation, April 1 is the final date by which your Schedule of Oral Examination form may be submitted. Take the oral thesis exam no later than May 1. Make final revisions and submit the approved thesis to the Office of Graduate Studies no later than May 5. 

    Note: See the Office of Graduate Studies Schedule and consult the Graduate Policy Manual for details on specific deadlines for thesis completion during other quarters. Students may choose to accelerate this schedule and finish by the end of Winter Quarter of their second year. Others may choose to extend the schedule and graduate by the end of Summer Quarter in their second year.


    The Office of Graduate Studies (OGS) has implemented an electronic final submission process for the student thesis. The electronic submission process eliminates the need to print the document for final submission and allows the student to pay online via credit card. The process is managed through UMI/ProQuest ETD Administrator. The OGS anticipates that the electronic submission process will make it easier and less expensive for students to submit a final document.

    Students will find step-by-step instructions on how to submit their thesis through the ETD Administrator at this website: 

    The OGS understands that many students would still like to receive a hard-bound copy of their thesis, so it has maintained a relationship with the Denver Bookbinding Company. Students who wish to receive hard-bound copies of their thesis should visit: 
    After the thesis has been bound, it will be returned to the MFJS department for the student to pick up.

    The Office of Graduate Studies is available to review thesis documents for formatting before submission and to help answer any questions students may have. Contact the Office of Graduate Studies at: or 303-871-2305 with any questions or to set up a formatting review time.


     A Substantial Research Paper (SRP) is a problem-focused paper designed to engage students in an independent research project that is longer and more in-depth than a class research paper, but less than a thesis project.  Unlike a thesis, an SRP does not require a review committee or an oral defense; rather, it will be supervised and graded by a single appointed faculty member. Also, unlike a thesis, the SRP does not require the collection of primary data, but may use secondary data only.

    To begin work on the SRP, the student must first choose an area of research interest and develop a research question that will guide the research. It may be based on a class research paper that will then be expanded for the SRP.  The student should choose an SRP faculty advisor with expertise in the student’s area of interest. The faculty advisor will help the student to focus the research question and may suggest additional readings or coursework that will help the student develop the SRP.  It is important that the student and faculty advisor establish a reasonable and mutually agreeable timeline for exchanging drafts and comments on the student’s work. The final copy of the SRP should be formatted according to an academic style, such as APA or MLA, and follow any other guidelines agreed upon with the faculty advisor.

    Students opting to complete an SRP should register for MFJS 4995 for a maximum of 4 credits, allocated in the quarters in which they are actually working on the SRP.  It is not permissible to register for credit before work has commenced or after the work has been completed.


    Continuous Enrollment (CE) is for active-status graduate students who have completed all coursework. CE is allowed only when a student is pursuing academic work/research necessary to complete a degree and is designed primarily for students who are working on a thesis. CE allows students to maintain active status with the University and to use university resources, which include: library, lab access, student health insurance and reduced rates at the Coors Fitness Center. CE is not offered to students taking time off from the program (leave of absence) or to make up Incomplete grades. An exception to the latter rule is granted only if all other coursework has been completed and the student is working on their thesis while also finishing the work required for a course where the student was given a grade of Incomplete.

    All graduate degree-seeking students must be continuously enrolled in Fall through Spring terms. Enrollment may consist of registration for courses, thesis credits, or Continuous Enrollment. The Continuous Enrollment Approval Form must be filled out and signed by the student’s faculty advisor and then submitted to the Office of Graduate Studies for the Associate Provost’s signature.

    According to the Office of Graduate Studies, CE policies include the following:

    All students should be aware that:

    • If students are finished with coursework and want to have student status, they must either register for coursework or CE. Students must enroll in CE annually using the form described in the CE Procedures. A fee determined by the Office of Graduate Studies is charged each time a student registers for CE.

    Students are not eligible for the SHIP (Student Health Insurance Plan) or Health and Counseling services unless they are considered a full-time student. If a student is registered for fewer than 6 credits (1-5) and wants Health and Counseling services, they must enroll by the enrollment deadline for each quarter desired using the form designated by the Health and Counseling Center. Interested students should contact the Health and Counseling Center at 303-871-4136 to obtain the form.

    Continuous Enrollment Students should be aware that:

    • Students should apply for CE once per academic year.
    • Registration in CE is required each quarter.
    • Registration must happen prior to the start date of the term to avoid late fees.
    • Enrolling in CE at least two weeks prior to classes and no later than the end of the first week of classes will result in timely loan disbursements.
    • The Student Health Insurance Plan (SHIP) requires enrollment by the enrollment deadlines in both Fall and Spring quarters. Students should follow the directions on the applicable forms.
    • Students wanting to access Health and Counseling services must enroll by the appropriate deadline each quarter using the appropriate form and applying by the stated deadline.

    The Continuous Enrollment Approval Form can be obtained online or from the Office of Graduate Studies.


    Continuous Enrollment Approval - must be completed ANNUALLY:

    • Students must fill out the Continuous Enrollment Approval Form prior to the beginning of Fall Quarter each year.
    • Students must obtain appropriate signatures from their graduate advisor and Associate Provost. The Associate Provost for Graduate Studies’ signature is required for Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences programs.
    • Students requiring the Associate Provost’s signature should submit forms to the Office of Graduate Studies, Admission and Records, Mary Reed Hall, Room 5.
    • Upon submission of the Continuous Enrollment form, permission is granted for Continuous Enrollment registration.
    • Permission to enroll for Continuous Enrollment is granted for one academic year beginning in the Fall Quarter. Students requiring Continuous Enrollment after Fall Quarter registration must complete and submit a new form prior to the beginning of the Fall Quarter of the subsequent academic year. Continuous Enrollment permission is granted for one (1) academic year. For example, students who become eligible for CE in:
      • Fall Quarter: permission is granted for the full academic year.
      • Winter, Spring, or Summer Quarters: permission is granted for the remaining academic year. Student must submit a new CE form for the Fall Quarter.

    REGISTRATION - must be completed QUARTERLY:

    • Students are responsible for registering for Continuous Enrollment each quarter, and responsible for payment of the registration fee and the associated technology fee.
    • Master-level students should enroll in CENR 4600. Students who have received an approved time extension from Graduate Studies should enroll in CENR 4700.
    • Students register online on
    • Registration must occur within the appropriate registration and drop/add periods for the quarter to avoid late fees.
    • Students who are not continuously enrolled must apply for readmission and will owe Continuous Enrollment and technology fees for the terms they were not enrolled. In addition, a late fee will be assessed at the time of readmission. Paying fees for previous terms will not make the student eligible for retroactive enrollment or retroactive loan deferment.


    • United States citizens and permanent residents participating in Continuous Enrollment are eligible for student loans and loan repayment deferment while they are within the financial aid limits (seven years for master’s, six years for MSW, eight years for EdS, and 10 years for doctoral degrees). The eligibility for loans and loan repayment deferment does not continue when the student exceeds the eligibility limit for the degree. However, there are alternatives to the “in school” loan repayment deferment that may be applicable during an extension of time to complete a degree. To find out more information about these forbearance or economic hardship deferments, please contact the Office of Financial Aid or your lender.
    • Students must follow the loan procedures established by the Office of Financial Aid. Registration in Continuous Enrollment does not guarantee eligibility for financial aid. Satisfactory progress towards the degree must be verified.
    • Student loans will be automatically set up for the traditional academic year. Those students planning to enroll for summer term should complete a loan change form (available online in April) to have their loans adjusted to include Summer term.
    • Students registered in Continuous Enrollment are not eligible for waivers, scholarships, or other forms of financial aid, including work-study, which require the student to be enrolled on a full-time basis (eight credit hours or more).


    • Continuous Enrollment registration entitles graduate students to library, computer lab privileges, and reduced rates at the Coors Fitness Center. Registration also creates eligibility for enrollment in DU’s Health Insurance plan.
    • In order to purchase health insurance, students must obtain a CE Health Insurance Form from the Health and Counseling Center and take the signed copy to the Student Health and Counseling Center (Ritchie Center-3rdfloor North) or call the insurance coordinator at 303-871- 4136 after registration. Students should also include a check for the health insurance premium, as it will not be included on the tuition bill.

    International Students. International students must be continuously enrolled and must purchase health insurance to maintain their student status at DU. International students must register for three consecutive quarters each academic year to maintain full-time student status with the university. International students should consult with International Student and Scholar Services regarding their specific case. Information available on the ISSS website.

  • So You Want to Write a Thesis: MFJS Graduate Student Thesis Requirements (PDF)

This portfolio last updated: 08-Jul-2023 11:14 AM