In the semester in which you intend to graduate, you may choose to write a research paper under the direction of a faculty advisor. Your paper should focus on a topic that has attracted your interest through your Liberal Arts Studies coursework. You are welcome to coordinate your research and your paper with a research project being conducted by your faculty advisor, such as writing it as a contribution to overall research findings of the larger project. Your paper should demonstrate the highest level of research and writing that you have attained through your master’s degree work.

A research paper is not the same as an M.A. thesis. You will receive 3 hours credit instead of 6; the paper should be less than half as long as a typical thesis; you may present tentative findings or research-in-progress; you may want to conclude with a section on next steps for how you will pursue this research in the future. A research paper is like an M.A. thesis in being written on a topic that you deeply care about and want to keep exploring.

Your first step in finalizing this proposal will be to ask a faculty member of the university to work with you as your advisor. The faculty member’s commitment should include regular meetings with you as you develop and write up your project. You are responsible for coordinating a mutually agreeable date for a final discussion of your work that includes your advisor and the Program Director.


Complete the Research Proposal form, obtaining signatures from your faculty advisor and the Program Director. Attach to the form a 250-word description of your proposed research project (Word document, 12pt font, double- spaced):

  • Explain the topic you plan to explore.
  • Describe what has drawn your interest to this topic.
  • Sketch out your plan of research for the semester and the methods you will use (such as literature review, reading list, interview or observation schedule, or other method appropriate to your project).
  • State any tentative hypothesis that will guide you; what is your research question as you begin?
  • Outline your intended schedule of writing the paper
  • What are your intended learning outcomes for this research? What do your hope to experience and learn in this process that will be helpful to your future endeavors?

“At the end of the capstone project, I will …. [follow with bulleted list]”

Final Paper Guidelines

Write an approximately 7,500-word paper (about 30 pages in a Word document, 12pt font, double-spaced), in a style appropriate for graduate-level writing, and following the format for title page and other introductory material for a Graduate School thesis (see Graduate School website).

  • Define and describe the project.
  • Discuss the project’s generation and major influences in its creation.
  • Explain your motivations and rationale for the undertaking, including its intended audience.
  • Under the advisement of the faculty member, divide your paper into sections with sub-headings such as Research Plan, Readings and Literature Review, Research Findings, Hypothesis tested and confirmed or modified, Discussion of Impact, Conclusions [this is only an example of possible ways to organize your paper].

You must submit your paper to your faculty advisor and the Program Director in time for them to read it in preparation for discussion. Schedule the discussion well in advance of the date. The advisor and Program Director will assess your paper together.


If you have questions about the Liberal Arts Studies M.A. program, please contact us so we can help you!