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Western Kentucky University

Thesis Capstone Experience

Thesis Capstone Experience and Timeline

The Department of Communication offers a thesis option and a non-thesis option for students who complete the Masters degree. The completed thesis can carries six hours of credit; non-thesis students will take an equal number of hours in regular classroom courses. We recommend that early in the Masters program all students begin to consider the possibility of developing a thesis direction.

The Masters thesis offers a student the opportunity to develop an individual research project which focuses on answering a specialized question(s) in communication research. Typically, this question is unique in that the answer does not currently exist in the literature. Students may begin to identify areas of interest early in their coursework and then describe the specific question after searching to find whether or not another researcher has already provided the answer. Some students choose to replicate existing research in an effort to determine the validity of an earlier researcher’s work.

The Department of Communication provides standardized timelines for developing a thesis. However, in order to begin the process of considering the thesis-option, students should follow these steps.

  1. Talk with your advisor early in the graduate program about how one chooses a research question and what the thesis process involves as to time required and the nature of the work.
  2. When you decide on a general topic, you should talk with the Graduate Director or Advisor and complete a form that indicates the thesis topic, the full-time faculty member who will direct the thesis, other committee members, and the anticipated date of completion.
  3. The Graduate Director will contact the faculty members named on the Form and ask them to verify that they have agreed to serve in those capacities. The Form becomes a document that provides validation to you and to the faculty that the process is underway. Once you have the form complete, the Graduate Director will enter an override in TopNet allowing you to register from COMM 599: Thesis and Research Writing.
  4. Completion of the Thesis Declaration Form does not obligate you to complete the thesis, but it provides the Department with information about your intentions.
  5. If you change your plan and decide to complete six class hours instead of doing the thesis, you should inform the Graduate Director or your Advisor of your decision. The Graduate Director will notify the faculty members listed as the Thesis Committee.


Last Step: Does is seem strange to start with the last step? Read on…

  • The Graduate Studies rule that matters most here is the one that requires the completed and committee-approved thesis to be turned in to the College Reader three weeks prior to the end of the semester you intend to graduate (see the Graduate Studies website for specific dates).
  • That means your planning must begin with that deadline in mind.
  • Be sure to get a copy of Graduate Studies thesis guidelines.

First Step: Now we can begin at the beginning. Why do you want to write a thesis? (Occurs during your first 12-15 hours)

  • You have a “burning” question that you wish to answer.
  • You enjoy the process of researching and writing and want to be able to work on a longer project that the typical class assignment
  • You enjoy challenging work.
  • You plan to get a doctorate and you think this will improve your chances (not necessarily so).

Second Step: How do you get started? (Occurs during your second semester)

  • Talk with your teachers about your reasons and your interests.
  • Find one professor who will agree to direct your project. This requires a good deal of exploration because the Director must have expertise in the topic area and research methods required for the thesis and both the time and interest in working with you.
  • Seek the director’s input as you look for the other two members of your Thesis Committee. Secure their agreement to serve and complete the Thesis Declaration Form. Submit this form to the Graduate Director who will provide clearance for you to register for COMM 599: Thesis Research and Writing in your last two semesters.

Third Step: Now it’s time to begin research from published sources and to complete preliminary writing.

  • Work with your Director to put together your Prospectus, which includes the following (see the department website for other typical formats):
    • A rationale for your study
    • A literature review (with complete bibliography) of your topic
    • A preliminary methods section * An outline of all remaining chapters (typically a total of 5)
    • A timeline for completion of all chapters, defense of the thesis, revisions made, and thesis delivered to Graduate Studies by the deadline.
  • Set a time for the Prospectus Meeting with your committee. The committee will approve and/or recommend changes to the plan and will complete the Thesis Prospectus Approval Form.

Fourth Step: Data gathering, interpretation, analysis phase. (Occurs during your final semester.)

  • Data gathering will vary depending on what sort of research methods you use. Work with your Director to plan the process.
  • Whether you “interpret” or not is likewise dependent on your research methods. Work with your Director on this element.
  • Analysis of your data should yield conclusions and implications by now as well as suggestions for further research.
  • Work with your Director and Committee members, who are likely all reading your draft chapters as you go along.

Fifth Step: Thesis Defense meeting

  • Deliver your completed draft thesis to all members of your committee in plenty of time for them to have read it before the meeting (a minimum of two weeks). Work that detail out with the Director.
  • Schedule your defense meeting. Ask that a room equipped with Power Point capability be reserved. Prepare your presentation carefully. Prepare for questions that will be asked by the committee.
  • Revise as necessary.

Actual Last Step: Submit a paper copy of the revised and approved thesis to the Potter College Dean’s office for the College Reader to review. The reader may require additional edits, but not to worry. Just do them. You can order bound copies but Graduate Studies requires all theses to be submitted electronically to the TopSmart repository.

Note: documents in Portable Document Format (PDF) require Adobe Acrobat Reader 5.0 or higher to view,
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Note: documents in Excel format (XLS) require Microsoft Viewer,
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Note: documents in Word format (DOC) require Microsoft Viewer,
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Note: documents in Powerpoint format (PPT) require Microsoft Viewer,
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Note: documents in Quicktime Movie format [MOV] require Apple Quicktime,
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 Last Modified 8/28/15