The Thesis Project is a media project that demonstrates your research and ideas in integrated media arts, combining creative and technical skill with a strong writing and analytical foundation. Many students make documentary films, with or without a “new media” aspect. But just as many students have graduated with web docs, interactive websites, and audio projects, like radio shows and sound walks. Others have done social media projects with video aspects, transmedia performance pieces, art installations, space studies, physical computing, gaming, and augmented reality.
Your Thesis Project must be publically exhibited as part of the IMA Thesis Show. You are also required to submit a Thesis Paper that contextualizes the Thesis Project in terms of the history of the chosen medium, the artistic lineage of the project, and the project’s creative and theoretical development.
One is how the thesis will be seen in relation to your other work. Is there an organic or tangible trajectory? If not, you should contextualize the project. Explain why you’ve picked that topic, or that formal approach.
Another key will 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.
Do-ability is equally important. There is no right size for a thesis, so carefully consider how much you want to take on. Some students make feature films. 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 twenty-minute film is more than sufficient to graduate. And we recently had an outstanding thesis film that clocked in at just over seven minutes! Focus on impact, not duration.
Show your work whenever possible, to IMA faculty and students, to visiting artists, and to friends. Consider yourself as a media producer in conversation both with other makers and with audiences that you hope to engage. Who does work you admire? Why do you like their approach?
Attend the IMA Thesis Show each semester. By seeing and experiencing the Thesis work of other IMA students, you will develop an understanding of the thesis process and the realm of possible topics and approaches. 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 your thesis. To grasp where you are now in your IMA journey, it helps to see the work of those completing theirs.
You cannot formally commence a Thesis Project until you have passed your Second Crit, but students sometimes work on projects that contribute to or inform their thesis prior to officially entering the thesis process. While you cannot use your thesis as a project in all your IMA classes, you can take courses and try creative work that relate to your planned thesis. Even after the selection of a thesis topic, your approach should evolve through coursework and intellectual interactions with IMA students and faculty.
Some Thesis Projects necessarily take longer than others to complete. For instance, a project’s ambitious scope and/or time sensitive subject matter may compel students to undertake extensive work prior to the formal approval of the Thesis Project. A Thesis Project that builds on prior work or incorporates pre-existing material must include “substantial new work” at the thesis stage – the precise nature and scope of this substantial new work must be specified in the Thesis Concept and the Thesis Proposal.
In your first thesis semester, you create a Thesis Concept, participate in a Thesis Concept Presentation, write a Thesis Proposal, secure your Thesis Advisors, and are encouraged to attend the bi-monthly Thesis Practicum class.
A sample semester calendar with the various benchmarks and deadlines:
- 9/21: Thesis Concept deadline
- 9/28: Thesis Concept Presentation and Crit
- 10/5: Deadline to secure Primary Advisor
- 10/19: Deadline for Thesis Proposal (10-15 pages) approved by Primary Advisor
- 10/26: Deadline to secure 2nd and 3rd Advisors
- 11/2: Deadline to meet with Thesis panel (all advisers, in person or via Skype) to discuss Thesis Proposal and Thesis Timeline.
- 11/9: Deadline to file Thesis Proposal and Thesis Timeline with IMA office in order for Thesis students to access Hunter equipment and facilities.
You do not have to register separately for the Thesis Practicum. The practicum is open to all thesis students. We encourage students to attend throughout their thesis process. Under appropriate circumstances, students not yet in thesis can participate in the practicum with the permission of the Program Director.
On the first page, explain your Thesis project’s proposed subject, scope, and design.
On a second page, provide additional information about your proposed Thesis:
- Advisor(s) (if secured)
- Anticipated semester of graduation (e.g. fall 16, spring 17, etc.)
- Sources referenced in research
- If the Thesis builds on prior work or pre-existing material, you must also:
- Articulate precisely the nature and scope of the new work; and
- If you worked on the Thesis in IMA classes, list the work completed in each corresponding course.
- If you are collaborating with another IMA student on Thesis, submit a Collaboration Thesis Agreement that details the collaborators’ respective roles and responsibilities.
- The non-submitting collaborator must approve the Thesis Concept in writing.
- 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.
30 minutes per Thesis Concept:
- Up to 10-minutes for student presentation (can include presentation of supplementary materials like clips)
- 20-minute discussion with faculty
- Student presentations can be shorter than ten minutes.
- Students do not have to provide any supplementary materials.
- Students may observe other presentations.
The presentation should include:
- The Thesis subject matter
- What interested you in this project
- How the project connects with your prior work in the IMA
- Project form and design
- Proposed research
- Prospective audience
Notes on presenting:
- Speak to what the project is about at its core. Not what happens in it.
- Why the project is timely.
- Why you are the person to make it. Your relationship with the material.
- Explain your creative approach.
- Use your authentic voice – don’t try to sound like someone else.
- Think of pitching like improvisation. Say yes to feedback. Don’t block it.
Although the form and tone of your Thesis Proposal can reflect your artistic voice, the proposal should address the following:
- Describe the project, including its form and content, and (where appropriate) the anticipated duration of the completed project.
- Explain your relationship with the project and how it connects with your other work in the IMA Program.
- Articulate your structural, theoretical, and aesthetic approach to the project.
- Indicate planned research, including the kinds of sources you will use, and how the project relates to an existing body of media work and/or literature.
- Explain your Thesis Project’s intended audience(s).
- If your project aims to promote public awareness and discussion, describe your plans for achieving this objective.
- Include a bibliography of no less than 10 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 builds on existing work, the Thesis Proposal must explain in detail what “substantial new work” you will complete in thesis.
- If the Thesis Project will be a joint work, each collaborator must complete an individual Thesis Proposal.
The Thesis Timeline must be approved by the Primary Advisor and submitted to the IMA Program office along with the Thesis Proposal.
Thesis students will not be granted access to Hunter equipment or facilities until the Thesis Proposal and Thesis Timeline are on file with the Program.
You can request a second one-semester Thesis Deadline extension by providing your Primary Advisor with a written rationale supporting the extension request. Your Primary Advisor then presents the extension request to the Graduate Committee for consideration. If the Graduate Committee declines to extend the Thesis deadline, you MUST complete the Thesis Project and defense by the applicable deadline in order to receive an MFA degree from the IMA Program.
There are no further extensions to the Thesis Deadline. All students MUST complete Thesis Projects and defenses within two years.
If you have difficulty securing a Thesis Advisor on your own or you would like advisor recommendations, the IMA Director will connect you with potential primary advisors and facilitate the process.
Work closely with the Primary Thesis Advisor while writing your Thesis Proposal. Once the Thesis Proposal has been approved, the Primary Thesis Advisor provides project feedback on a regular basis throughout the thesis process. The Primary Thesis Advisor will also provide reading, viewing, and research suggestions.
You are responsible for consistently updating and scheduling sessions with your Primary Thesis Advisor.
Your 2nd Advisor must be a faculty member in the Film and Media Studies Department. Your 3rd Advisor can also be a departmental faculty member, a faculty member from another department or school, or an accomplished professional without an academic association. IMA adjuncts can serve as 2nd and 3rd advisors.
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.
Your Primary Thesis Advisor will assist you in securing suitable 2nd and 3rd Thesis Advisors. The Program Director can also suggest potential advisors and, if you want, approach faculty on your behalf.
Once your full Thesis Panel has been formed, request an initial meeting with the panel to collectively review your Thesis Proposal and Thesis Timeline. Meeting as a group at this stage enables advisors to hear from each other and get a sense of the project’s trajectory and the advising approaches, both individually and as a group.
- Thoroughly review your Thesis Project plans with your Primary Thesis Advisor and meet with him or her regularly to discuss the progress of the project.
- Meet with your entire Thesis Panel to review the Thesis Proposal and Timeline and then one more time prior to the Thesis Defense.
- Meet at least twice individually with your 2nd and 3rd Thesis Advisors.
- Present your 2nd and 3rd Thesis Advisors with at least two iterations of your Thesis Project, 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 at least 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 of your artistic growth, and may delay your graduation.
The Thesis Paper builds on the Thesis Proposal’s foundation. Your Thesis Proposal reflects your understanding at a project’s inception – a creative, intellectual, and practical plan for undertaking your Thesis. You write your Thesis Paper from the opposite perspective, so it should reflect what you learned throughout the thesis process. The distinctions between your Thesis Proposal (project conception) and Thesis Paper (project execution) illuminate fundamental lessons about media making and your thesis journey.
In your Thesis Paper, present your conclusions about the central question you sought to investigate in your thesis, detail the artistic and theoretical methodologies you employed in exploring this question, and explain how this experience might influence your ensuing projects.
The Thesis Paper should be between 15 and 25 pages. It should be well written and meticulously revised, with as much care as you devote to preparing your Thesis Project for exhibition. Do not treat the Thesis Paper as an afterthought – it is an integral component of the IMA Program’s graduation requirements.
The Thesis Paper should generally include the following sections (although each Thesis Paper will differ based on the specific project it describes and on your writing style and creative voice):
- Summarize your Thesis Project in one or two paragraphs.
- Project Description
- Provide a detailed description of the subject matter you explored in the Thesis Project. Explain your relationship to your thesis subject, including what led you to it. How did you approach the representation of the subject? Why did you choose this particular media, or media mix, to explore the subject? Describe how your stylistic, structural, intellectual, and aesthetic decisions relate to your chosen subject.
- Research Analysis
- Detail your Thesis Project research. Explain how your research influenced your approach to the subject. Situate your thesis within the critical and historical context of the media in which you are working. Delineate how your thesis relates to an existing body of media work and literature, and how it contributes to the particular artistic trajectory with which you engaged.
- Thesis Production Process
- Reflect on the production process itself. Evaluate what you intended to do, what you actually accomplished, the obstacles you encountered and how you responded to them, what beneficial “mistakes” occurred during the process, and what you ultimately learned – about this particular project, about your artistic sensibility, and about how you will approach subsequent projects.
- Audience and Exhibition
- Identify the audience you want your Thesis Project to reach. If you intend that your Thesis Project promote public awareness and discussion, how will you achieve this objective? What is your plan for exhibiting, distributing and publicizing your thesis?
- Elaborate on any legal issues that might impact your ability to exhibit your Thesis Project outside the IMA Program. If your Thesis Project includes unlicensed copyrighted material, articulate your fair use rationale for including these third party elements in your thesis. Describe your plan to clear music, archival footage, photographs, and other proprietary materials.
- Include a bibliography of no less than 25 books, articles, web sites, films, videos, and other research sources that follows the Chicago Manual of Style or MLA Style Sheet formats. The majority of your bibliographical entries should be referenced and contextualized in the body of your paper.
- Thesis paper guidelines and specifications are listed on the Dean’s site here
Often, more than one semester of work with a faculty advisor may be required before approval to proceed to the Thesis Defense is given. When a Primary Thesis Advisor determines a student is not ready to defend, that student will be told to defer the defense until a subsequent semester.
Once you receive approval from your Primary Advisor, schedule a Thesis Defense with your advisors during the thesis defense week (approximately the first week in December and in May). Thesis Defenses are usually scheduled in 90 minute or two-hour slots, depending on the Thesis Project’s running or presentation time.
You must submit the Thesis Project and Thesis Paper to your advisors at least one week prior to the Thesis Defense.
At the Thesis Defense, you will present your Thesis Project. Your thesis advisors will then discuss the project and paper with you.
You then leave the room and the panel will confer to determine whether you have passed the defense.
Although the panel can vote not to pass you, once your Primary Advisor gives you approval to schedule the Thesis Defense, we expect you will pass the defense and move on to the Thesis Show and graduation. While not all IMA students finish the Thesis Project, the Program has thus far always passed students who have completed their Thesis and presented it at the Thesis Defense.
Advisors sometimes agree to provisionally pass a student provided the student makes specific changes to the Thesis Project and/or Thesis Paper before the panel will give its final approval 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.
If your thesis project is a linear film, the preferred addition to the credits sequence:
of the requirements of the degree of
Master of Fine Arts in Integrated Media Arts
The City University of New York
In order to compensate adjuncts for serving as 2nd and 3rd advisors, we are considering requiring students to register for an additional 1 credit thesis class for each additional semester spent in thesis. The 1 credit thesis class will eliminate the need for thesis students to pay the Maintenance of Matriculation fee (see below). The 1 credit thesis class is currently undergoing curricular the review and approval process. This new procedure will not apply to students currently in thesis.
All thesis projects change to a certain extent. If your project has remained essentially identifiable as the one you proposed, and your advisors approve of the changes in question, even if those changes are in format (e.g. from a film to an installation), you do not need to repeat any steps in the process.
If you want to work on a completely different project, you should submit a new Thesis Concept and Proposal, in active consultation with your advisors.
Every thesis includes various levels of collaboration. But unless you are in an equal creative partnership, this requirement probably doesn’t apply to you. If you aren’t sure about how to characterize your collaboration status, please speak with the Program Director.