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 | Thesis Paper Guidelines

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 early in the semester in which they start Thesis, the exact deadline discussed at the first Thesis meeting.

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 develop a timeline for their project.

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 Proposal Summary

In order to participate in the Second Crit, students must first submit a Thesis Proposal Summary (1-page), signed by their Thesis Advisor.

  • As with all written work submitted for consideration at a Crit, the Thesis Proposal Summary must be distributed to the Crit Panel one week prior to the scheduled crit.
  • The Thesis Proposal 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 Proposal 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 Proposal Summary must also include:
    • The collaborators’ respective creative roles and mutual obligations must be clearly delineated; and
    • The collaborator must sign the Thesis Proposal 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. Students must submit a 10 to 15 page thesis proposal paper. The exact deadline for the paper will be emailed to you as you start thesis and discussed during the first thesis meeting.

>> 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 20 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 third Wednesday of the semester, students and their Thesis Advisors participate in a Thesis Proposal Crit, with a panel consisting of the IMA Director and the Graduate Committee members. Thesis Proposal Crits will follow the format of five minutes for the student presentation (the Panel has already reviewed the Thesis Proposal), and twenty minutes for panelist questions and feedback.

Although students cannot fail the Thesis Proposal Crit, the Panel may, in consultation with the Thesis Advisor, require the student to submit a revised Thesis Proposal 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 within one month after the Thesis Proposal Crit. 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 must be a full time faculty member in the Film and Media Studies Department. 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 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 obtain an Degree Audit Application Form, fill it out from a transcript, have it approved by the IMA Program Director, and file it with the Graduate Degree Audit section of the Registrar at the beginning of the semester in which he or she will graduate. This document verifies that the student has completed all required course work for the degree and petitions the College for graduation and the MFA degree.

>> 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. One original and two copies of the signed Thesis Project Approval Form
  2. Two unbound copies of the Thesis Paper in a folder or envelope
  3. One copy of the Thesis Paper in a binder
  4. Three copies of the work or documentation (on DVD, CD or other pre-approved format)
  5. An approximately one paragraph description of the project for the MFA Thesis Exhibition and Screening program.
  6. In the credits of the Thesis Project the following language must be included: “This project was made in partial fulfillment of the requirements of the degree of Masters in Fine Arts in the IMA Program at Hunter College of the City University of New York” (CHECK PRECISE LANGUAGE)

In order to graduate, students must strictly adhere to the School of Arts & Sciences masters requirements, which can be found at: http://www.hunter.cuny.edu/artsci/masters-theses-in-arts-sciences.

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.

>> Thesis Paper Overview

The Thesis Paper is not simply a revised Thesis Proposal. 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.

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.

While the Thesis Paper serves as a corollary to the Thesis Project, write your paper with the understanding that it will be read by some people who do not have the opportunity to view your Thesis Project.

The Thesis Paper should be between 15 and 25 pages. It should be professionally written and meticulously revised. Take as much care with its completion as you do when 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 include the following sections:

  • Abstract
    • 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 have you approached the representation of the subject? Why did you choose this particular media, or mix of media, 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 (anticipated and unexpected) you encountered and how you responded to them, what ultimately beneficial “mistakes” occurred during the process, and what you 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.
  • Bibliography
    • Include a bibliography of no less than 25 books, articles, web sites, films, videos, and other research sources. The majority of your bibliographical entries should be referenced and contextualized in the body of your paper. Carefully follow the Chicago Manual of Style or MLA Style Sheet formats for bibliographic entries.

>> Hunter Guidelines

Guidelines for Preparing Master’s Theses in Arts & Sciences

The following are general requirements for master’s theses submitted within the School of Arts and Sciences. Candidates should check with their departments for information about any additional requirements specific to their degree programs.

Choosing the Thesis Topics, Submitting Drafts

The degree candidate should consult her/his graduate advisor for the requirements of the graduate program with regard to choosing the thesis topic and submitting the first and final drafts. The deadlines for the submission of drafts are determined by the graduate program.

Guide for Preparing the Thesis

The thesis must be typewritten, and its appearance must be neat throughout. The thesis must be printed on 8 1⁄2″ x 11″ unpunched, white, rag-content bond paper of at least 16 lb. weight. “Erasable bond” or other coated papers are not acceptable. The Library recommends paper of archival quality (acid-free, alkaline pH, 100% cotton fiber).

The left margin of both text and illustrations must be a minimum of 1.5 inches to permit binding. The right-hand and top and bottom margins should be 1 inch. Text should be double-spaced throughout, except for quotations of more than four lines, which should be set apart (single-spaced and indented). Footnotes, endnotes, and bibliography should be single-spaced, with double-spacing between notes and entries. Pages — including pages of illustrative material, bibliography, and appendices — should be numbered consecutively in Arabic numerals.

No ink insertions are allowed, except for diacritical marks not offered by any font. Such insertions must be made in permanent black ink. Corrections may be made if the result is clean and clear. Striking over or crossing out an error is not permitted.

Illustrations, graphs, charts, and photographs must also be printed or mounted with a permanent adhesive on the type of paper described above. Tape, staples, or other fasteners are not acceptable. The graduate program should be consulted for its regulations about photocopied illustrations. If the insertion of oversized material cannot be avoided, such material should be folded from right to left, and the left side should allow one and one- half inches for binding.

Thesis Title Page

The first page of the thesis should bear the title of the thesis, the name of the candidate, the year of completion, the names and signatures of the thesis sponsor and second reader, and the following inscription:
Submitted in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree of Master of Arts Hunter College of the City University of New York
Also see the title page template in MS Word format.

Multiple Copies of the Thesis

A graduate program may require students to submit a second copy of the thesis in addition to the single copy required by the Dean’s Office for binding and microfilming by the Library. Candidates should consult their graduate programs about requirements for the additional copy. Candidates may also submit additional copies to be bound for their personal libraries provided they submit a Bursar’s receipt covering the appropriate fees (see “Binding Fee” below).

Thesis Approval

The thesis should be read by two faculty readers (a sponsor and a second reader), and their approval should be certified by their signatures on the title page of the thesis. When the thesis has been approved by the thesis sponsor and second reader, it is brought to the departmental graduate advisor. If the advisor is satisfied that the thesis has met departmental requirements, she or he signs the thesis approval form that has been completed by the candidate.


Each graduate program sets its own deadline for the final approval of the thesis. The department-approved thesis must then be deposited in the Office of the Dean of the School of Arts and Sciences (room 812 Hunter East) at least three weeks prior to the date of graduation at which the degree is conferred.

Binding Fee

Candidates must pay a binding fee of $15.00 per submitted copy to the Bursar’s Office (room 238 Hunter North). NOTE: The Bursar’s receipt for all binding fees must be submitted to the Dean’s Office along with the copies for binding.

Depositing Theses

At minimum, one signed, approved copy of the thesis is to be deposited in the Office of the Dean of the School of Arts and Sciences, located in room 812 Hunter East. Thesis copies should be submitted in envelopes or boxes listing the candidate’s name, address, phone number, e-mail address, and program.

The following items must be presented to the Dean’s Office when depositing a thesis:

  • At least one copy of signed thesis (identified as requested above);
  • Completed thesis approval form, signed by the graduate advisor;
  • Bursar’s receipt covering expenses for binding all submitted copies of the thesis.

When the thesis has been accepted by the Dean of the School of Arts and Sciences, the thesis approval form will be signed and forwarded to the degree-audit department of the Registrar’s Office to certify final approval. A copy will be forwarded to the department’s graduate advisor. The Dean’s Office will deposit the thesis in the Library.

If you have any questions about master’s theses, please contact your graduate advisor or the Dean of Arts & Sciences Office at (212) 772-5121.