The thesis is a major requirement for those in the MA in anthropology thesis track.  The thesis should demonstrate the student's ability to apply knowledge and skills gained from the anthropology department's curriculum.  A desirable goal for an excellent thesis would be a work of sufficient rigor and quality that it could be considered for publication.  Original data collection ("fieldwork") is recommended but not required for the thesis.  Analysis of secondary data-whether quantitative, qualitative, visual or other formats--is perfectly acceptable as long as the research is informed by a clearly articulated research question and under-girded by a research proposal.

The traditional thesis is a single document that often incorporates a literature review, definition of a problem, discussion of methods to address the problem, the subsequent research activity and results.  However, the student may design a thesis with different emphases, in consultation with their advisor.  For example the goal may instead be a more compact paper submitted to a peer-reviewed journal.  Other thesis plans may combine some research activity such as a video production, museum exhibit or an internship, with an accompanying paper.  Students pursuing the thesis option must develop a topic and research proposal that specifies their plans in the semester after their completion of 18 credit hours.

The thesis must be defended before a committee of three faculty, at least two of whom need to be on the Department of Anthropology faculty (which includes senior instructors and research faculty).  The structure of the thesis is largely determined by the University of Colorado Denver Graduate School Rules; i.e., a thesis must conform to the rules.

  1. For the thesis, students must prepare a full research proposal which must be approved by their thesis chair before beginning their research. This proposal must be completed by the semester after the student has completed 18 credit hours. Sections of the proposal should include, at a minimum:
    • Introduction and statement of the problem: Should include a one sentence statement of the problem on the first page, and a discussion of its significance (i.e., why is it important that this topic be researched).
    • Literature review covering theoretical and topical material.
    • Research design and methods including a data analysis plan.

Note:  Wenner-Gren and National Science Foundation both provide good models and templates for the research proposal. Those in the medical anthropology track might want to consider following the NIH model, depending the nature of their research questions and career goals.

  1. All students proposing to work with humans or data on modern humans must apply for and receive approval from the Human Subjects Research Committee before they begin their research. Note: most of the material for the application will be drawn from the research proposal.
  2. The draft thesis must be reviewed and approved as “defensible” by the student’s thesis committee faculty chair before a thesis defense date can be set. Defensible means the chair has reviewed the draft and suggested changes have been made.
    • The draft sent to the student’s committee must be substantively complete: All references must be in the text and properly formatted in a references cited section; there should be no “track changes” comments in the text; the text should be formatted according to Graduate School requirements.
    • Given the complexity of faculty and student schedules, consultation on a defense date should be done as far in advance as possible.
    • There must be a minimum of three weeks between the agreed-upon date for the defense and distribution of the draft thesis defined as defensible by the student’s chair. If you would like feedback from your committee members before the defense, you should plan to distribute the thesis at least 4 weeks before the defense date.

Note: If you intend to graduate the same semester you defend your thesis, you must schedule, successfully defend, and complete all recommended changes in accordance with UC Denver Thesis and Dissertation Guidelines  . This effectively translates to having the thesis completed and “defensible” before the middle of the semester.

Your Thesis Committee

The committee generally consists of your major advisor and two other faculty members with whom you have worked during the course of your program. You may choose committee members from outside the department, particularly if they are experts in an area that you explore in the thesis. However, at least two of your committee members must be from the anthropology department. And, all committee members must belong to the Graduate Faculty. See the rules of the Graduate School.

Thesis Preparation

Click here to obtain a copy of Directions for Preparing Masters and Doctoral Theses.

The Process of Submitting a Thesis

In the semester in which a student intends to submit the thesis for examination, he/she must first submit an Application for Admission to Candidacy. This initiates a process of determining if the student has met all of the other requirements for the degree, and is eligible to submit a thesis. The application for candidacy form should be completed in consultation with your major advisor, and the graduate director. A Diploma Card is submitted at the same time, to initiate the process of preparing final records for graduation.

The completed thesis itself is then submitted for a format review. This review ensures that the material is presented in a readable format that is consistent with the standards of the university. The student then submits a Request for Examination, which publicly announces the exam or defense for all interested parties.

At the exam or defense, the student may be asked to revise or add to the thesis before it is approved. The revised thesis is then submitted to the examination committee for final approval, and then copies are handed in to the Graduate School. These copies are permanently kept in the library as a resource for other scholars in the field.

Thesis Submission

Questions concerning matters not discussed in this document must be directed to the thesis committee chairperson. Theses must be reviewed by the Graduate School for format review before the final examination or defense. Once the thesis is signed by the appropriate faculty committee, submit three reproduced or original copies of the thesis, two on CU bond and one on regular paper. The University keeps all three of these copies. You may also order additional copies at this time. The binding fee is due and payable when the thesis is submitted to the Graduate School. Since fees are subject to change, contact the Graduate School for current fees.

The Thesis Examination

The exam consists of a public presentation and defense of the work. The tradition calls for the following steps to be completed:

  • Your thesis committee greets you, and then sends you out of the room while the chair of your committee discusses the thesis, asks if there are any particular concerns, and establishes the particular procedure for the conduct of the examination.
  • After you are invited to reenter the examination room, the chair will invite you to provide a formal presentation of your research, which should generally not exceed 30 minutes in length.
  • After your presentation, the committee will ask you questions about the thesis, work related to it, and perhaps general questions about theory, method, and practical implications of the research.
  • When questioning is completed, you will be asked to leave the room again so that your committee may discuss the defense, and decide on whether to give you a pass or fail.
  • A "pass" may take many forms, including a request for revision that must be approved by the full committee, or simply a request that revisions be reviewed by the chair.

Registration Issues

Students must be registered during the semester of their final examination/ defense. Students who choose to perform these examinations or defend their thesis on a date that falls between semesters (between Fall and Spring; Spring and Summer, or between Summer and Fall), must register for the semester immediately after their exam/defense.  For the purpose of this registration requirement, a new semeser begins on the first day of instruction for that semester.