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Thesis Requirements


1. Thesis Exhibition in the Museum of Art

2. WrittenThesis

3. OralExamination


Expected Outcomes

Upon completing the visual and written thesis, students should demonstrate the ability to:

-Produce a body of work that demonstrates a significant understanding and use of visual and conceptual elements

-Self evaluate the strengths and weakness of the work

-Demonstrate a thorough understanding of the integration of technique and media as well as the contemporary and historical context of the work


Thesis Responsibilities


The visual and written thesis requires intense study and research Thesis committees will guide MFA students toward success, but the ultimate responsibility for managing time and the successful outcome of each MFA project is that of each student. Students will need to initiate their own processes, establish their own boundaries, and formulate criteria for self-criticism and evaluation.

It is each student’s responsibility to develop clear, personal goals, and to communicate those goals to the thesis committee. MFA students will be expected to honor deadlines, and to maintain professional work habits without supervision. Communicate with your committee, continue working and be efficient in delivery of deadlines and goals. When will your next draft of your thesis be prepared? When will you next meet as a whole group?

It is each student’s responsibility:

-to confirm all appointments with a thesis committee, to attend all appointments, and to do so in a timely manner. If an appointment must be canceled or postponed, it must be done in advance by e-mail, voice mail, or any combination that is most likely to produce the desired result of advising thesis committees ahead of time.

-to keep a thesis committee informed about the content and direction of the visual and written thesis on an ongoing basis.

-to stay in contact with the MFA coordinator, and to respond to all requests for information, and to participate in all necessary paperwork, meetings and activities as determined by the coordinator. It is each student’s responsibility to keep the coordinator informed of any changes in contact information (phone, e-mail, address) to maintain effective communication.

-MFA students must commit at least 20 hours per week towards the visual thesis (this amount of time does not including the written portion of the thesis). It is understood there may be surges and slow times during the process; the figure of 20 hours per week is an average by which to gauge time management and progression on the thesis

-MFA students must work with MoA staff in the preparation and installation of the thesis exhibition. Students must assist with the installation process. Students will assist the MoA staff who are responsible for the design and placement of the exhibition,. Thesis committees may be involved in this process at any point.

-It is each student’s responsibility to form strong interconnections between the visual and written components of the thesis. A shift in the research may result in a change in the direction of the visual or written portions of the thesis, and vice versa. The thesis process should therefore be seen as a fluid and growing endeavor in which both the work and the writing are integral components.

Academic Requirements

It is the MFA candidate’s responsibility to manage all deadlines, procedures, and requirements of the MFA thesis process. The thesis committee, the MFA coordinator and the Registrar can assist each student in obtaining information and understanding the processes. However, the management of the academic requirements of the thesis is ultimately each student’s responsibility. Each student must stay in contact with the group of faculty and staff listed above, and ask them questions about any procedures that are not understood.

The Thesis Process

Thesis committees will meet with their students sometime in early November to establish a schedule and calendar agreements for the term. The thesis committee should recommend the frequency of critique/feedback during the spring semester. This may occur in the form that best suits the needs of the student and the thesis.

Thesis Evaluation Criteria

The thesis committee will take the general MFA outcomes, as well as the following evaluation criteria, into consideration.

Creative Practice
-Student demonstrates advanced capabilities with technical skills
-Student exhibits attention to detail in execution and presentation
-Student’s work successfully conveys the intention
-Student’s work exhibits a synthesis of acquired skills with strong personal artistic voice -Student’s practice exhibits a synthesis of research and experimentation

Integrated Knowledge, Critical Thinking and Cultural Inquiry
-Student communicates an understanding of related art historical and contemporary uses of discipline-specific or cross-discipline work
-Student discerns levels of meaning and interpretation in own work
-Student demonstrates an awareness of art and design in present culture and locates their work
within this larger context
-Student demonstrates an understanding of how their work relates to the major issues and
directions of his or her chosen field(s)
-Student’s work exhibits ideas developed through both experimentation and research

Effective Communication
-Student communicates clearly and effectively through speaking and writing using critical vocabulary concerning own work
-Student engages in a critical exchange of ideas

Social Engagement
-Student exhibits an understanding of audience and context in relation to his or her work -Student is competent to engage in public presentation of his or her work

Professional Practice
-Student demonstrates professional skills appropriate to a career as a visual artist; documentation of work, portfolio preparation, writing resumes, exhibition and project proposals, selecting and entering competitive exhibitions, applying for grants and artist residencies and a familiarity with the business of the artworld.


Thesis Exhibition

Each student is required to participate in installing their exhibition. Since the exhibition is a group show representing the work of the entire MFA thesis class, students should not expect that each and every piece produced for their thesis exhibition must be included. The installation of the exhibition itself is an important step in understanding the work you have produced, and you may find that you may need to make some changes or edits once you see the work in the space.

As the time for the thesis exhibition approaches, students will receive important information concerning space allocation, technology availability, etc., from MoA staff.


Written Thesis

The written portion of your thesis, a thesis statement, should clearly and succinctly delineate the most important aspects of the body of work produced while attending the MFA program. Topics may include: a conceptual framework; art historical and contemporary contexts; and other relevant fields that are central to understanding of the work.

-The written thesis will be evaluated against professional writing standards. Proofreading for appropriate grammar and spelling, as well as the proper application of Chicago Manual of Style citations and bibliography, is required. Theses must adhere to the WSU’s thesis format; information about formatting is located at:

Students are responsible for managing all written thesis deadlines, to afford themselves the opportunity to work through multiple draft revisions and editing assessments. Write a thesis prospectus for your thesis committee before winter break of the third semester. This will give the committee enough time to provide valuable feedback and will give you enough time to make use of this feedback in subsequent revisions. You are strongly encouraged to ask additional readers for additional points of view and resources during the draft process. Although it may be impossible to explore every single avenue of inquiry into a thesis topic, it is important that the in- process paper remains sufficiently malleable and open to changes, in order to reflect the shifting grounds sometimes created when more and more information is revealed.

The following points will help guide the writing process:

Your written thesis is meant to provide clear insight into your work while addressing its conceptual underpinnings.

Present a central thesis statement: Your central thesis statement – typically one, but not more than two sentences – will provide the backbone of your writing. The central thesis statement conveys the central tenets and questions of your work. This sounds incredibly simple but too few students set out with a clearly delineated thesis statement. The thesis statement should be supported throughout the entire paper; if any subject, image, reference, sentence or paragraph does not support the thesis, it should be eliminated or re-worked until it clearly connects to the thesis statement.

Use an outline: Construct a basic outline that will serve as a guide through the writing process. Plan to have an introduction (about a page that establishes the thesis statement as well as a general context), a body (about three-four pages that describes methodology and analysis) and a conclusion (about a page that may indicate directions for new, further research). The outline should reflect this structure as well as the most important elements that need to be examined in the paper. If the direction of the thesis changes (which is entirely possible), adjust the outline accordingly.

The length of the thesis paper/statement should not be long: Approach the thesis as an extended artist statement. It is not to be scholarly discussion of the work. An excellent goal to set for the overall length is five to six pages. A shorter thesis will force the writer to be succinct and clear, two of the most important elements of grant, exhibition, residency and teaching applications. The thesis should be a document that will be used repeatedly after graduation; avoid a thesis that does not accomplish this goal.

Use clear, articulate language: Write the thesis as if it were meant for an educated audience but not one that is solely focused on the art world. Good examples of this type of writing can be found in the art criticism of The New York Times. Writers like Roberta Smith and Holland Cotter set the bar high for clear thinking and writing along with insightful illuminations of complex images and topics. Good writers like Smith and Cotter examine art world issues in depth but never at the expense of broader historical, societal and cultural contexts. It can also be useful to consult past thesis in the WSU archive and determine if a creative solution is more appropriate to providing access to the visual work.

Suggested working advice for your writing practice:

Use an objective voice: Avoid excessive use of the first person singular pronoun “I” and the possessive pronouns “me” and “mine.” You are speaking about your work. Be creative in approaching it. How many different ways can one articulate possession and creation?

Locate the work within art historical and contemporary contexts: While using these contexts, do not hesitate to employ connections to other fields that are important to the work.

Develop a bibliography: Accurately keep track of all books, chapters and articles read, which will also serve as the thesis bibliography. The bibliography should be composed of primary sources; avoid citing websites such as Wikipedia.

Use proper citations: To do otherwise may constitute plagiarism. Consult the Chicago Manual of Style for the correct format of citations.

Edit carefully: The thesis paper should be meticulously edited. As with studio work, editing constitutes one of the most important parts of this process.

Use correct grammar and spelling throughout: One of the easiest ways to annoy and distract a thesis committee is to make grammatical and spelling mistakes. Avoid such a situation by having every draft carefully proofread by a reliable source before each draft is submitted to the committee.

Try to communicate in a clear and concise way that provides insight into your work. The thesis does not have to be a dense, theoretical paper.

Although the discussion of technical matters is typically not the focus of the written thesis, this may be included when an understanding the techniques or processes used is integral to understanding the work.

The thesis is simply a point in time in the development of your work. It is not a final, definitive rationale for your work: The work, as well as an understanding of it, is a dynamic process that will continue to change throughout a career. Think of the thesis as a document that will used and refined in the future. Be flexible and willing to change the approach as needed; be prepared to write a number of drafts.

It is essential to continue working and investigating in the studio: It is critical that you do not stop or slow your studio work, which should continue to feed your writing and understanding throughout the thesis process. It can be a difficult balance and each (the written thesis and the work) will inform one another.

You may become stuck and frustrated. Develop strategies to help navigate such challenges. These might include keeping plenty of notes; remaining flexible with drafts; revisiting the bibliography to study or re-read something that was of particular interest—especially chapters, articles or artist statements that are clear and articulate; toggling back and forth between writing and working in the studio; and conferring with the thesis committee as needed.


Oral Examination/Review

The oral defense marks the conclusion of the thesis process. The oral defense evidences the level at which each student controls and understands the deeper meaning and context of a particular body of work. During the oral exam, thesis committees will hear an MFA candidate’s presentation and ask questions about the work and its context. The review will last approximately one hour.

There is no pre-determined script or outline for the oral exams. The oral exam is the opportunity for the MFA candidate to cohesively and clearly present a summation and analysis of his or her thesis project through a question and answer process conducted by the thesis committee. Students should be prepared to speak coherently about their process, artistic strategies, content, historical, social and contemporary precedents.

It is crucial that the student take the initiative to lead the presentation and maintain an engaged, informed presence at all times. It is not the responsibility of the thesis committee to explain the student’s process or answer questions about the work. This is the final presentation of the student’s project and he or she will need to be prepared to articulately defend the choices, processes, and to justify the end result of the work.


University Graduation Requirements

An MFA candidate must:

– maintain at least a 3.0 (“B”) grade during all semesters while in the MFA program.

– complete all thesis work and documentation and fulfill all academic requirements in order to receive their diplomas and degrees.

In addition to the completion of the required academic credits and the thesis project, there are several other responsibilities of the MFA student. A diploma will be withheld unless the following criteria are met:

The written thesis, in the correct form, with signature and digital documentation, have been submitted and subsequently archived in the appropriate WSU department/office

All WSU library fines have been paid and all books returned

All outstanding fees, tuition charges or other indebtedness to the University have been paid

All personal property must also be removed from the studio space by the end of May. After that time, any material left in the studio space is considered to have been abandoned and will be discarded or recycled. Graduates are responsible for the removal of artwork from exhibition galleries and are responsible for expenses of packing and shipping of artwork left behind for others to remove. Artwork left in the exhibition space longer than one week after the final day of the show will be discarded.

Students must provide WSU with changes of contact information.


Thesis Timeline

Fall Semester

• Thesis committee members determined by MFA coordinator in consultation with MFA candidate and faculty

Early November
• Meet with thesis committee (MFA candidates coordinate the location, day and time of all thesis committee meetings)
• In consultation with MFA coordinator, prepare final Program of Studies (PoS)

• PoS delivered to Graduate School for approval

Late November
• Meeting with Museum of Art (MoA) staff to begin preparations for thesis exhibition

Early December
• First draft of thesis statement is usually due (actual due date determined by thesis committee) • Graduating application for degree is made available in early December

Spring Semester

Mid- to Late January
• Continue with drafts of thesis statement as determined by thesis committee

Late January or Mid-February
• Meetings with MoA staff to determine exhibition selection (thesis committees members may attend these meetings)

Mid- to Late March
• Thesis statement finalized

Late March
• Final preparations for thesis exhibition

Late March or Early April
• Thesis exhibition installation
• Scheduling of oral examinations must be scheduled with the committee, MoA and the Graduate School.
Final exam schedules must be filed 10 days prior to the date of oral examination and within the thesis work installed. All ballots are due within 5 days of examination.

Early April
• Thesis exhibition opens • Oral defense

Late April
• Thesis exhibition closes

Early May
• Semester concludes • All grades due

Late May
• Studio clean out (specific date to be determined by MFA coordinator)