MSJ Thesis Information

Thesis General Information

Master’s projects/theses in the J-School must conform to the University’s Restricted Research Policy, Faculty Senate Rules and Regulations Article IX., Section III.10: Research that cannot be published or otherwise publicly disseminated because of restrictions shall not be presented to the University in fulfillment of academic requirements. In order to implement this standard, when students propose to work on restricted research for any purpose, including financial support, the students involved, the faculty member concerned and the Office of The Vice Provost for Research shall agree in writing on the following condition: that any theses, dissertations, or other work submitted to fulfill course or university requirements shall be unrestricted or shall not be submitted to the committee for formal defense until they are unrestricted, that is, until their procedures, techniques, tools, data, and results are open to inspection by any member of the Graduate Faculty. It shall be the responsibility of the faculty member concerned to ensure that this written agreement is secured before any graduate student begins work on restricted research; no student may be paid for their work until this agreement has been obtained and filed with the Office of the Vice Provost for Research.

Students begin the master’s research component in JMC 899 Thesis/Project. Once approved by the advisor, a student may begin working on their project/thesis prior to enrolling in JMC 899. 

Students may receive the grade of P (progress) in JMC 899 to indicate work is progressing but not complete. If the student does not complete during that term, they continue to work on it "on their own time.”  The student needs to be enrolled in 1 hour of JMC 815 Investigation and Conference (at least) the term of graduation.

Master's theses are filed electronically through UMI. Theses that exceed the file limit and/or contain multimedia components may require mailing (separately) a CD for the multimedia component. Details can be found online and assistance is available in the J-School Graduate office.  Master's projects are filed electronically through KU ScholarWorks.

Guidelines and forms for preparation of projects/theses are posted on the school’s website and are available through the graduate advisor.

Style Guide and Graduation Instructions

(Developed by KU Graduate School, Summer 2005; modified by J-School, Fall 2012)

This revision of guidelines supersedes prior instructions for formatting of theses. Do not use copies on file in departments and libraries as guides for formatting your thesis. Use only these J-School Instructions adapted from the Graduate School Instructions.

General Guidelines

The thesis is to be a coherent scholarly work, not a collage of separate, distinct pieces. Its unity of theme and treatment may still accommodate several subtopics by demonstrating their relationships and interactions. (Formats required by publishers for book and journal items are usually not satisfactory for theses and use of them may result in your thesis being rejected. Before using guidelines of this kind be sure they are acceptable to your department and to the Graduate School.)

Students are required by university policy, ProQuest/UMI policy, and the KU ScholarWorks policy to ascertain that use of all copyright-protected materials either falls within the “Fair use” guidelines of U. S. copyright law or are reproduced with the permission of the owner.

After any changes required by the student’s committee have been made in the thesis, the thesis should be submitted electronically in PDF format to ProQuest/UMI on or before the date specified by the J-School. (Note: this date is in advance of the Graduate School deadline.) Supplementary materials may be added in other formats. (See Section 4, Publication Requirement.)

The J-School does not require bound copies. Binding for personal copies may be requested from commercial binders. Find more information on the KU Graduate Studies website.

Formatting and Style Manuals

In consultation with your chair and thesis committee, identify the style manual that you will follow. The J-School has used APA Style primarily, but MLA Style is also acceptable to the School. Check with your chair for any preference.

Text pages, bibliography, footnotes, and appendices should follow the style manual chosen. You may also contact Library Instructional Services or use electronic templates.

Title Page: Follow the Title Page Format (Page 5, below).

Acceptance Page: Follow the Acceptance Page Format (Page 6, below. Use the J-School version shown).

Font Size and Font: The body of the thesis should be 12-point type, Times or Times New Roman. The same font style and size should be used throughout the thesis, for text, captions, labels and references. Tables, captions and footnotes should use the same font style but may be smaller in size; however, font sizes smaller than 10-point type tend to be difficult to read in print and PDF format.

Chapter and section headings may be bolded and no more than 2 points larger than the text size. Non-standard typefaces, such as script, are generally not acceptable except for commonly accepted symbols. Some other fonts may also be used. It is recommended that approval of the font be obtained in advance from your thesis committee chair.

All fonts used in a thesis must be embedded in the PDF files submitted to ProQuest/UMI. This ensures that the document will be readable on all computers. See instructions on converting your thesis to PDF (section 3).

Line Spacing: Normally theses are formatted double-spaced. (Single or space-and-a-half spacing for the body of your thesis is accepted only with the prior approval of your thesis committee AND graduate division.)

Single spacing is to be used in the table of contents, footnotes and endnotes, charts, graphs, tables, quotations, captions, glossary, appendices and bibliography.

Margins: Each page must have a least a 1.5 inch left-handed margin and as least 1.25 inch top, bottom and right margins. Margins may be wider but not narrower than these standards and must be consistent throughout the document. With the exception of copyrighted materials found within appendices, all pages must meet thesis requirements.

Page Numbering: Number the pages 3/4 inch down from the top OR 3/4 inch up from the bottom. Page numbers should be consecutive and must appear on every page, including appendices, tables, figures, photographs, maps, charts, etc. The title page is the ONLY page not numbered. Blank numbered pages that will be included within the thesis must have the following statement on each page: “Page left intentionally blank.” Landscape formatted pages will have the page numbers placed on the page in the location consistent with the rest of the thesis.

Illustrations: Charts, graphs, diagrams, maps, figures, musical scores, photographs and other pictorial components must be clear and pertinent to the subject matter of the thesis. Symbols or labels may be used in graphs/charts for identification rather than color. Lettering and symbols, after reduction, should generally be no smaller than 10-point type. Illustrations are placed within the text where they belong rather than appearing in the text with the following type of notation: “Table 1 here” etc. Table titles are generally found above the table and titles of figures are placed below but in any case the placement used should be followed consistently. If landscape formatted illustrations are used, the title of the table or title of the illustration should be positioned on the landscape edge. Page numbering should be placed on the page in the location consistent with the rest of the thesis. Legends or keys for illustrative material may be placed on the facing page if the page with the illustration has space limitations.

Images: Images must be clear and of high quality.

Final Steps to Graduate and Graduation Instructions

Final General Exam and Defense: Each student must pass a final general examination before graduating. This examination is part of the thesis defense. In your final semester, schedule and complete your defense with your committee chair. Notify the Journalism School's Graduate Office of these dates. Deadlines for scheduling the defense can be found on the Web site under Academic Deadlines.

“Application for Graduation” Form: Submit an “Application for Graduation” form on-line by the deadline date set by the University Registrar’s Office. To file your “Application for Graduation” form online, access Enroll & Pay>Learner Services>Academics>Apply for Graduation and follow instructions. If you have questions or experience problems, contact the University Registrar’s Office at 785- 864-5128 or 913-588-6589 on the KUMC campus. If you filed an application in an earlier semester but did not graduate, you must file a new form with correct, up-to-date information. J-School Recognition Events The School hosts a graduation recognition event in May each year. The recognition ceremony requires academic regalia. Tickets are not required. Information will be posted on the School’s web site in late April.

Thesis Checklist


• Study areas of current faculty scholarship.

• Review faculty CVs and résumés.

• Identify an area to explore — one rich enough to sustain you over two or three semesters and one for which you have access to ample resources. FYI: The best access is local access. • Once you have determined a topic, identify one or two J-School faculty who share that interest. Better yet, find faculty already working on projects in the area. Make an appointment to discuss your interest and ask one faculty member to chair your committee. The graduate director and marketing communications program coordinator will assist you in this process. • In consultation with your chair, discuss two possible committee members. Be sure to consider an outside member (only one from outside the J-School Graduate Faculty) because they may contribute needed expertise.

• Working with your chair, develop a timetable for Project/Thesis development. Begin a review of what’s been done in your area (even as part of other classes such as your research classes). Find out who the players are in your topic area. Scholars refer to this as the literature review. Don’t let the terminology intimidate you. You just need to find out about prior work—what’s been done, how good was it, who’s done the work, who knows the most, etc.

Next Steps

• Complete the make-up of your committee if you have not already done so. Work with your chair on this. Notify (by email) the Graduate Program Coordinator that you are ready to complete your committee form.

• Based on the timetable discussed with your chair, begin to plan the stages of your project and how you will execute this research. This part is what scholars call the description of methods—how you will get data, who must be interviewed, etc. Keep in mind that you may change and adapt your methods as you move along, so keep notes on what you do and why you did it to write up later. (By the way, it is perfectly acceptable to acknowledge that you chose x, y or z source because it was conveniently located, or because KU had a complete collection.)

• Execute portions of the plan (reporting, surveying, conducting experiments, gathering data, shooting visuals, recording footage) and continue discussions with your chair and committee members about your progress and findings. This is especially important if you run into trouble. Your chair should help you sort out dead ends or detours.

Further Development

During the semester of enrollment in Master's Research:

• Continue the execution of all elements of your plan.

• Write chapter drafts, develop elements of the plan, shoot photos, write articles, etc. Your chair and/or committee members may want to see chapters as written. Sometimes the chair will want to see drafts before circulating them to the committee. You and your chair need to work out what is best for your thesis and for the committee members.

• You may be able to begin writing the introductory materials by this time: the topic, why this topic, the scope of your topic, the literature review and description of methods. The order that these various parts are taken up depend on your subject, on your chair’s advice and on how you want to tackle it.


During the semester of enrollment: Early in the semester, schedule the defense or presentation of your Master’s Project/Thesis. See deadlines below. To allow for possible changes and slight revisions, all defenses must be completed by these dates. Note: These dates do not change each year. (If the date falls on a weekend, the defense must be completed by the Friday before the weekend.

Post Defense Instructions

Now that you have met with your committee for the defense of your thesis, you will need to prepare to electronically file your document. The first step will be to complete any required changes to your thesis. Once the required changes are completed and you have the approval of your committee chair, you will need to print out the first two pages of the document: the Title Page and the Acceptance Page. If you would like to use the Word form version, contact Jammie Johnson to request access to a shared folder that contains the forms.  All you will have to do is tab through these documents to fill in the pre-formed blanks. You will need to print out the Title Page and the Acceptance Page. On the Title Page form, you should secure the signatures of your committee chair, who should also enter the date of approval, and then the signatures of the committee members. Your chair must also sign the Acceptance Page form. You do not need the signatures of all committee members on the Acceptance Page. Electronic signatures are acceptable.