Thesis Guidelines


A thesis should be the culmination of course work completed in the School of Journalism and Mass Communications by a student in the MSJ program. A thesis is theoretically based, scientific research directed and critiqued by an academic committee selected by the graduate student in accordance with the guidelines in this Handbook, which reflect the guidelines of KU’s Office of Graduate Studies.

Thesis Proposal

The proposal outlines the capstone research to be conducted as part of completion of the Master’s degree. The proposal must be shared with the student’s academic committee and approved by that committee before the start of primary data collection. The proposal includes:

  • An introduction that outlines the problem that will be examined, the purpose and importance of the research, a brief introduction of the theory and method used in the study, and an overview of work’s chapters. (5-10 pages)
  • An exhaustive literature review outlining the previous research conducted on the subject, an extensive explanation of the theory being used in the study, and research questions and/or hypotheses. (20-25 pages)
  • methodology of the data being used in the study. The methodology will include the sample and how it will be collected, operationalization of definitions used in the study, measurements used in the study, timeline for gathering/analyzing data, and other materials pertaining to the validity of the data collection. The methodology is the most important aspect of research design. Be thorough in explaining plans for data collection. Fail in the methodology and the research fails. (5-10 pages)
  • plan of action will outline the timetable for the thesis, beginning with a proposal approval date and ending with a thesis defense. Be specific with dates about data collection, writing the results and conclusions. (1-2 pages)
  • References of all materials used in the proposal (pages as needed)
  • Thesis proposal total: About 30-45 pages (+ references)


The thesis generally consists of five chapters: the introduction, literature review, and methods, each revised in accordance with committee recommendations; and the results and discussion/conclusion chapters. Other organizational schemes may be more appropriate for some topics. The complete thesis must be presented to the student’s academic committee and formally defended in front of that committee. The thesis generally includes:

  • A revised introduction. (5-10 pages)
  • A revised literature review. (20-25 pages)
  • A revised methodology. (5-10 pages)
  • Results of the research that answers the research questions or addressed the hypotheses. Analysis of data should be explained. A clear understanding and summation of the results are to be included. Charts, tables and graphs are to be included in the results section. (7-10 pages)
  • discussion provides context to the results and explains why the results are what they are. The discussion can also introduce additional results that are not addressed in by the RQs or Hs. The discussion should circle back to the literature review and explain how and why this study added to the theory, and the practical implications. The discussion should incorporate the results of the current study into the results from previous work. The author should be able to contextualize what it all means to the larger research. The discussion should include the study’s limitations and questions for future research. (10-15 pages)
  • Conclusions summarize the key points of the research and its implications. (3-5 pages)
  • References of all materials used in the proposal. (pages as needed)
  • Thesis total: about 50-75 pages (+ references)

(NOTE: Page numbers are rough estimates. Actual length of each thesis chapter will vary depending on each student’s research questions and research approach.)