Guidelines for Master's Proposals and Theses

Before signing up for PHIL 799 Thesis, students must have a thesis proposal, a thesis director and a thesis committee.

MA Thesis Proposal Approval Form - This form must be filed in the Philosophy Department before the student is permitted to register for PHIL 799.

Time lines for thesis submission:

  • Student must submit a final draft to committee members 6 weeks before the library due date.
  • Committee members must return this draft to the student with comments and proposed revisions (if there are any) within 2 weeks of receiving the final draft.
  • Student must send a final version which takes account of comments and proposed revisions to committee members within 2 weeks of receiving the committee’s comments.
  • At this time the committee either accepts or rejects the thesis
  • The thesis will be expected to be between 40-80 pages to be determined by the director.
  • The thesis will be expected to be of high quality as reflected in the clarity of the writing, the cogency of the argument, the thoroughness of the research

Checklist for Planning your Thesis (Prior to PHIL 799 Registration)

  • When you are developing your proposal with your thesis director, discuss your ideas for a thesis as well as the best choice of research methodology.
  • Consult with your advisor about whom you should ask to serve on your thesis committee. Begin talking about your ideas with potential committee members.
  • Start working on your written proposal.
  • Confirm, with each member of committee, the feasibility of your tentative time line for completion of the thesis.
  • Make adjustments for the times they are unavailable. Include consideration of deadlines for graduation applications, changes of grade, etc.
  • Give your committee members plenty of time to review drafts of your proposal and your project or thesis.

Thesis Proposal

MA Thesis Proposal Approval Form - This form must be filed in the Philosophy Department before the student is permitted to register for PHIL 799.

Your thesis proposal is developed in consultation with—and must be approved by—your three-person committee before starting your first semester of PHIL 799.

Your thesis director and at least one other member of your committee must be members of the GMU Philosophy faculty and must be GMU full-time faculty.

To prepare the proposal, you may wish to sign up for an independent study course under the direction of your selected thesis advisor in the semester prior to your first semester of PHIL 799.

Writing a detailed thesis proposal is the key to successful and timely completion of work. A discussion of ideas with each committee member prior to writing the proposal will help clarify the approach to be taken.

The thesis proposal should include the following:

  • A detailed description of the research problem or hypothesis to be addressed in a thesis, including an explanation of the appropriate methodology to be used
  • A substantial, preliminary literature review of the current and past research related to the chosen topic, and the additional sources to be examined and presented in the final thesis
  • A detailed explanation of the reasons for choosing the topic and how it relates to the student’s philosophical education
  • A time line for completion of the thesis that has been coordinated with the committee members, prior to the proposal submission

The proposal is generally 5-15 pages, including:

  • cover sheet
  • table of contents
  • brief explanation of the elements of the thesis, including a list of relevant courses you have taken
  • rationale for the study; the purpose of doing the research
  • literature review of the research related to your topic
  • research question/hypothesis
  • methodology section explaining how your research will be carried out (this will include the systematic collection of evidence and evidence)
  • annotated bibliography
  • timeline for completion

The thesis committee will request revisions to the proposal if these criteria have not been met or clearly conveyed. Proposals containing grammatical errors or poor writing will not be approved. Students must fulfill these requirements and their proposals must be approved before registering for a second semester of PHIL 799.


A thesis is original, independent research presented in the form of a scholarly document that has the potential to be published in a professional journal. A thesis is an unbiased examination of a research hypothesis followed by analysis and presentation of conclusions. The thesis will include a complete bibliography and documentation of source material within the text. A thesis is focused on issues of significance to the field(s) of interest chosen by the student. Academic research involves posing a question or hypothesis and using appropriate methodology to prove or disprove the proposed hypothesis.

Theses—General Guidelines

Thesis prerequisites are completion of 24 credits toward the MA in philosophy, approval of the thesis proposal by the thesis committee, and permission of instructor (thesis director).

Theses are graded S (Satisfactory) or NC (No Credit). The director may grant an IP (In Progress) grade during the first semester of PHIL 799 if the proposal is not completed within one semester. The director may grant an IP (in progress) grade if the thesis is not completed within the second semester of PHIL 799.

George Mason graduate policy requires all students enrolled in PHIL 799 to maintain continuous enrollment in at least one credit (PHIL 799) per semester while working on a project or thesis. Continuous enrollment does not apply to the summer session unless the student anticipates graduating in that session.

Theses must meet university standards for formatting and submission. For more information about thesis formatting and submission, students should contact the Dissertation/Thesis Service coordinator (C203 Fenwick Library or 703.993.2222).  A collection of completed theses can be found at the Fenwick Library. Students are advised to consult the University Dissertation & Thesis Service (UDTS) .