Thesis Project Guidelines

Program Guide

Thesis Project quick links: Developing a Thesis Project | Primary Advisor | Proposal Summary | Thesis Proposal | Proposal Guidelines | Collaborative Thesis Projects | Thesis Proposal Crit | Thesis Panel | Project Timing | Graduation Degree Audit | Defense | Required Materials | MFA Exhibition and Screening

The Thesis Project demonstrates the student’s ability to develop a body of work that reflects his or her research and ideas in integrated media arts, combining creative and technical skill with a strong writing and analytical foundation.

The Thesis Project is an artistic work that can range from a movie, a web based project, an installation, a transmedia production, or any other means of storytelling that employs emerging technology as an essential aesthetic and conceptual component of the student’s communication with an audience.  Many students make documentary films, with or without a “new media” aspect.  But just as many do not.  Students have graduated with projects including audio docs and interactive sound mapping projects.  Others have done social media projects with video aspects, transmedia performance pieces, art installations with documentation, and more.

In order to graduate, the Thesis Project must be publically exhibited as part of the IMA Thesis Show.  The student must also submit a Thesis Paper that contextualizes the Thesis Project in terms of the history of the chosen medium, the artistic lineage of the project, the student’s creative development, and the project’s creative and theoretical trajectory.

 >> Developing a Thesis Project

Developing a thesis project is far from an exact science.  There are several things to keep in mind.  One is how the thesis will be seen in relation to your other work, both formally and content-wise.  Is there a clear or obvious trajectory?  If not, you should be prepared to contextualize the project.  Explain why you’ve picked that topic, or that formal approach.  Another key is going to be why the project matters to you.  Your passion will have to carry the project to completion through a difficult process, so your commitment should be something you think about carefully.  If it matters to you, you should be able to communicate that to others.  A third area is ‘do-ability.’  There is no right size for a thesis, but you should also think carefully about how much you want to take on.  Some students do, for example, a feature-length film.  This is more than anyone can do in a single semester.  While your thesis can be used as your calling card in the future, it need not be massive in scope.  A well-made film of half-an-hour is more than sufficient to graduate.

The best approach is to show your work whenever possible, to IMA faculty and students, to visiting artists, or to friends, and to think carefully about what your work means and why it is important to you.  It is also very helpful to think of yourself as a media producer in conversation both with other makers and with an audience or audiences that you hope to engage, or are engaging.  Who else is out there?  Who does work you admire?  Why do you like their approach?

Another essential step in understanding the Thesis Project and how it relates to your coursework and artistic growth is to attend the IMA Thesis Show each semester.  Prior to the semester when you present your thesis, you should consider attendance at each Thesis Show as an informal requirement of the program.
By seeing and experiencing the Thesis work of other students in the IMA Program, you will develop an understanding of the thesis process and the realm of possible topics and approaches.  There is no better way to learn what a thesis project entails than to see the outstanding work of others in the program.  It will help you identify and cultivate the skills needed to navigate the obstacles that arise in every creative endeavor, particularly one as ambitious as a thesis project.  In other words, to fully understand where you are now in your graduate studies, it helps to see the work of those completing that educational and creative journey.  Even if you have already selected your thesis topic, a student’s approach to a thesis project should evolve through coursework and intellectual interactions with IMA students and faculty.

Although you cannot formally commence a Thesis Project until a Thesis Advisor has endorsed it, students sometimes work on projects that contribute to or inform their thesis prior to official approval of the project.  While you should not approach the thesis as your sole creative endeavor in all IMA classes, students are encouraged to pursue creative and analytical course work that relates to their planned thesis.

By their very nature, some Thesis Projects with ambitious scope take time to complete.  For instance, a documentary’s time sensitive subject matter may compel students to undertake extensive shooting prior to the approval of the Thesis Project.  A Thesis Project that builds on prior work or incorporates pre-existing material must include “substantial new work.”  In the Thesis Proposal Summary and in the Thesis Proposal, the student must articulate the precise nature and scope of the substantial new work that will be completed while working under the guidance of the Thesis Advisor and the secondary advisors.

 >> Primary Thesis Advisor

Students should obtain a Thesis Advisor from the full-time IMA MFA faculty by a deadline after your Thesis Crit. The exact date of the Thesis Crit and all other thesis deadlines will be provided at the start of the thesis process.

The Thesis Advisor will provide reading, viewing, and research suggestions to help the student situate the Thesis Project within the critical and historical context of an existing body of media work and literature.  The student should work closely with the Thesis Advisor during the formative stages of the thesis and in the writing of the Thesis Proposal and the final Thesis Paper.

Once the Thesis Project has been approved, the Thesis Advisor should see student thesis work-in-progress and provide feedback on a regular basis.  Over the course of a Thesis Project, you can expect your Thesis Advisor to devote approximately twenty hours to viewing your projects and meeting with you in person.  Students are responsible for scheduling sessions with Thesis Advisors and for keeping advisors consistently updated about the project’s progress.  In the rare instance that a Thesis Advisor is unresponsive to a student’s requests for meetings or feedback, the student should inform the IMA Program Director.

 >> Thesis Concept Summary

In order to participate in the Second Crit, students must first submit a Thesis Concept Summary (1-page)

  • As with all written work submitted for consideration at a Crit, the Thesis Concept Summary must be distributed to the Crit Panel one week prior to the scheduled crit.
  • The Thesis Concept Summary will be distributed by the IMA office to all full time IMA faculty.
  • If the thesis builds on prior work or pre-existing material, the Thesis Concept Summary must also:
    • Articulate precisely the nature and scope of the new work; and
    • If you worked on the thesis in any IMA classes, enumerate the specific thesis related work completed and the corresponding course.
  • If the thesis will be completed in collaboration with another IMA student, the Thesis Concept Summary must also include:
    • The collaborators’ respective creative roles and mutual obligations must be clearly delineated; and
    • The collaborator must sign the Thesis Concept Summary.

If a student’s Thesis Advisor is not already a member of the Second Crit Panel, the student may invite their advisor to attend and speak in support of the student’s proposed Thesis Project.  If it is not possible for the Thesis Advisor to attend in person, he or she may write a note of support of the student’s Thesis Project to the panel.

 >> Thesis Proposal

After passing their Second Crit, students register for IMA 788 (MFA Thesis Project) for the following semester.  There will be a thesis meeting to go over deadlines for that semester. Then a Thesis Crit and by mid-semester, a Thesis Project Proposal paper will be due.

 >> Thesis Proposal Guidelines

  • The Thesis Proposal should open with a project title and a detailed description of the subject matter to be explored in the Thesis Project, including an explanation of what brought the student to this project and how it connects with his or her other work in the IMA Program.
  • It should then describe the form or forms that the Thesis Project will take.  The structure, intellectual and aesthetic approach, and (where appropriate) the length of the completed project should be clearly articulated.
  • The Thesis Proposal should also indicate the research to be undertaken for the Thesis Project, including the kinds of sources the student plans to use.  The ways in which the Thesis Project relates to or builds upon an existing body of media work and/or literature should be delineated.
  • The intended audience and/or audiences that the Thesis Project aims to reach should be described.
  • A plan for exhibiting, distributing and publicizing the project should be presented.  The Thesis Proposal should discuss the extent to which the project is intended to promote public awareness and discussion, and describe plans for achieving this objective.
  • The Thesis Proposal must include a bibliography of no less than 25 books, articles, web sites, films, videos, etc. using the Chicago Manual of Style or MLA Style Sheet formats for bibliographic entries.
  • If the Thesis Project will build on the student’s pre-existing work, the Thesis Proposal must explain in detail what “substantial new work” the student will complete while working on the thesis.
  • If the Thesis Project will be a collaborative work, each collaborator must complete an individual Thesis Proposal.

 >> Collaborative Thesis Projects

One week prior to the Thesis Proposal Crit, the collaborators must submit a signed Collaborative Thesis Agreement that clearly identifies the respective roles and responsibilities governing the collaboration.  Any subsequent changes to the respective roles and responsibilities of the collaborators must be approved by the Thesis Advisor(s) and included as a signed addendum to the Collaborative Thesis Agreement.

 >> Thesis Proposal Crit

During the first month of the first semester that students are in Thesis, they will be asked to present their concepts during a in a Thesis Concept Crit, with a panel consisting of the IMA Director and the Graduate Committee members.  Thesis Concept Crits will follow the format of five minutes for the student presentation (the Panel has already reviewed the Thesis Concept Summary), and twenty minutes for panelist questions and feedback.

Although students cannot fail the Thesis Concept Crit, the Panel may, in consultation with the Thesis Advisor, require the student to submit a revised Thesis Concept Summary within a mutually agreeable time frame.

 >> Thesis Panel

Your Thesis Advisor and two secondary thesis advisors comprise the Thesis Panel.

Your 2nd and 3rd Thesis Advisors must be in place by a deadline provided.  You have greater flexibility in choosing your 3rd Advisor, but you should expect the same advising commitment from 2nd and 3rd Advisors.

The 2nd Advisor can be a full time faculty member in the Film and Media Studies Department or an Adjunct.  The 3rd Advisor can also be a full time departmental faculty member or an IMA adjunct, a faculty member from another department or school, or an accomplished professional without an academic association.

Assemble a balanced Thesis Committee.  Your Thesis Project will benefit from a panel of advisors with varied analytical approaches, creative methods, and technical skills.  When selecting 2nd and 3rd Thesis Advisors, consider the committee as a whole and approach potential advisors who will augment, rather than duplicate, aspects of the Thesis Project addressed by your other advisors.

The Program Director can help you assemble a balanced committee and will both suggest potential advisors and approach faculty on your behalf under appropriate circumstances.  Your Thesis Advisor will also assist you in securing suitable 2nd and 3rd Thesis Advisors.

Once the full Thesis Panel has been constituted, the student may request an initial meeting with the panel for the purposes of feedback and project planning.
Student Responsibilities:

  • Students must thoroughly discuss their Thesis Project plans with their Thesis Advisor and meet with him or her regularly to discuss the progress of the project.  In some instances, more than one semester of work with a faculty advisor may be required before approval to proceed is given.  In the case where a Thesis Advisor feels a student is not ready to show their best work, the student will be advised to defer the project and graduation until the following semester.
  • Meet at least once with your Thesis Committee prior to the Thesis Defense.
  • Meet twice individually with your 2nd and 3rd Thesis Advisors.
  • Present your 2nd and 3rd Thesis Advisors with two iterations of your Thesis, giving them ample time to review it and provide you with meaningful feedback.
  • Provide your 2nd and 3rd Thesis Advisors with a draft of your Thesis Paper, leaving them ample time to review it and provide you with meaningful feedback.
  • Send your 2nd and 3rd Thesis Advisors regular updates.  At minimum, provide both advisors with progress reports at least twice during the final thesis semester – once at mid-semester and a second time three weeks before the Thesis Defense.
  • Don’t fall out of touch with your advisors or submit materials to them at the last minute.  Your advisors need the opportunity to thoughtfully review your project at various stages of development, and you need the opportunity to work on your Thesis after considering your advisors’ constructive criticism and advice.  Postponing consultation with your 2nd and 3rd Advisors until you have nearly completed your project undermines the advising process, negates an essential component in your intellectual and artistic growth, and may delay your graduation.

 >> Thesis Project Timing

Because many Thesis Projects take a year from approval to completion students can automatically extend the time to work on the Thesis Project by an additional semester following the semester in which they register for IMA 788 (MFA Thesis Project) by registering for Maintenance of Matriculation (there is no need to register for IMA 788 more than once).  If a student wants to extend the Thesis Project into a third or fourth semester, the approvals of the Thesis Advisor and the IMA Program Director are required.  Extensions for a fourth semester of thesis work will only be granted under exceptional circumstances.

 >> Graduation Degree Audit

After being approved to register for the Thesis Project and completing all other IMA Program requirements, the student must file for graduation via their MyHunter page online by deadlines provided.

 >> Thesis Defense

Toward the end of the semester, but before the scheduled thesis show, there will be a scheduled Thesis Panel Defense.

The student must submit the final Thesis Project and Thesis Paper (see the Thesis Paper Guidelines for more information) to the Thesis Panel one week prior to the Thesis Defense.

The Thesis Panel will rigorously review the student’s work and then confer and decide to either approve the student to proceed with that semester’s exhibition and screening or advise the student to defer the project and graduation until the following semester.

Students who do not receive approval to proceed with the MFA Thesis Exhibition and Screening must delay until a subsequent semester and will have to pay a Maintenance of Matriculation fee for the semester in which they will graduate.

If approving the student to proceed to the screening and exhibition, each of the three thesis advisors will sign the Thesis Project Approval Form.

 >> Required Thesis Materials

Prior to the exhibition and screening, the student must submit the following to the IMA Program office to fulfill requirements for graduation:

  1. completed project as a high quality file or on DVD
  2. completed thesis paper as pdf
  3. Approximately one paragraph description of the project for the MFA Thesis Exhibition and Screening program.
  4. In the credits of the Thesis Project the following language must be included (CHECK PRECISE LANGUAGE):

Submitted in partial fulfillment
of the requirements for the degree of
Master of Fine Arts in Integrated Media Arts
Hunter College
The City University of New York
In order to graduate, students must strictly adhere to the School of Arts & Sciences masters requirements, which can be found here.

The IMA Program cannot grant any exceptions or extensions to Hunter’s Arts & Science’s thesis policies.

 >> The MFA Exhibition and Screening

The MFA Exhibition and Screening will be scheduled in the last week of each semester.  Participation in the show is mandatory for graduation and thesis credit.  After the MFA Thesis Exhibition and Screening, the IMA Program will submit all the necessary paperwork and documentation to the Dean’s office in order to complete the degree process and approve the student for graduation.

Participating in the show means more than just showing up for the presentation of your individual piece.  Students must collaborate with the other artists showing work to help create an outstanding capstone event for everyone involved.

Students are required to attend a show-planning meeting with the co-presenters, and are expected to work together in a spirit of cooperation and respect.
In addition, students must fully complete the Thesis Show Information Form by the deadline set by the Program Assistant.  This form includes important details to help the IMA Program plan the show and promote it, including project format, running time, technical specifications and requirements, description, short bio, and artwork.