Thesis Information

Quick links:  Developing a Thesis Project | Entering Thesis | Thesis Practicum/Class | Thesis Concept Summery | Thesis Concept Presentation and Crit |  Thesis Proposal | Thesis Timeline | Thesis Deadline | Primary Thesis Advisor | Thesis PanelThesis Paper | Thesis Defense | Graduation Degree Audit | The MFA Exhibition and Screening | Thesis FAQs

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.

>> 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.  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.

>> Entering Thesis

The semester after passing your Second Crit, you register for the 3-credit thesis course, IMA 788 (MFA Thesis Project). You can defer the thesis course for one semester if you instead register for one or more IMA courses.
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.

>> Thesis Practicum/Class

The Thesis Practicum meets approximately every other week during the semester to provide thesis students with additional guidance and community during their capstone project. Led by an IMA faculty member, the Thesis Practicum provides a forum to exchange ideas, show work, and share feedback in a supportive atmosphere. Since most thesis students have completed course work, the Thesis Practicum also helps you stay connected to the Program while gaining valuable perspective and insight from other thesis students.
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.

>> Thesis Concept Summery

The Thesis Concept includes a one page summary of your proposed Thesis and one page of additional information about it. One week prior to the Thesis Concept Presentation and Crit, we distribute the Thesis Concept to all full time IMA faculty.
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.

>> Thesis Concept Presentation and Crit

At the Thesis Concept Presentation and Crit students present their Thesis Concept to the IMA faculty for feedback. The Crit supports students in the early stage of thesis development and helps connect them with faculty advisors.
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.

>> Thesis Proposal

After participating in the Thesis Concept Presentation and Crit, you should secure a Primary Advisor if you have not done so already (see Primary Thesis Advisor below). Once you have your Primary Advisor in place, you should focus on writing your Thesis Proposal. You complete the Thesis Proposal in consultation with your Primary Advisor who must approve 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.

>> Thesis Timeline

With your Primary Advisor develop a 1 – 2 page Thesis Timeline that accounts for your Thesis project’s scope, available resources, and IMA Program requirements.
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.

>> Thesis Deadline

You have one academic year to complete the Thesis.  The year commences when you register for the Thesis course (IMA 788).

>> Thesis Extension

Primary Advisors may grant a one-semester Thesis Deadline extension provided you have demonstrated substantial progress on your Thesis Project.
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.

>> Primary Thesis Advisor

Full-time IMA faculty members serve as Primary Thesis Advisors. When approaching potential primary advisors, explain why you want to work with them, especially in connection with your planned project. If possible, meet with them in person. Potential advisors have to consider working with you in light of existing and anticipated advising commitments, so give them time to consider your request. If they decline, do not take it personally.
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.

>> Thesis Panel

Your Primary Thesis Advisor and two other thesis advisors comprise the Thesis Panel. You should expect a similar advising commitment from 2nd and 3rd Advisors.
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.
Student Responsibilities:

  • 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.

>> Thesis Paper

While the Thesis Paper serves as a supporting corollary to the Thesis Project, write your paper with the understanding that it may be read by some people who do not have the opportunity to experience your Thesis Project. Thesis Papers will be housed in an on line repository managed by the Hunter library, searchable and viewable through any web browser. In other words, your Thesis Paper will become a public document. So take it seriously.
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):

  • 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 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.
  • Bibliography
    • 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

>> Thesis Defense

You must pass the Thesis Defense in order to participate in the Thesis Show and meet the degree requirements for graduation.
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.

>> Graduation Degree Audit

At the start of the semester you plan to graduate, you must file for graduation with Degree Audit. To do so, you will log into your MyHunter page and indicate that you would like to file for graduation. The simple form will ask if there are any classes that you have not completed yet, and you should indicate: Thesis IMA 788 and any other incomplete grades that you’re planning to fix and use towards your 48 credits. Once you have filed for graduation, you will get a response from Degree Audit that says that they are processing your information. Be sure to continue to check your MyHunter page and your Hunter email for any updates from Degree Audit. Forward any emails from Degree Audit to the IMA Program Coordinator:

>> Thesis Paper Deposit

Thesis papers are now deposited directly online and they are searchable on the web. There is a process for uploading your thesis paper and deadlines are provided each semester. The IMA Program Coordinator will walk you through the process of uploading your completed paper before the deadline. Details can be found here.

>> 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.
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:

Submitted in partial fulfillment
of the requirements of the degree of
Master of Fine Arts in Integrated Media Arts
Hunter College
The City University of New York 

>> Thesis FAQs

How many times do you need to register for the thesis course (IMA 788)?
What do I register for in subsequent semesters that I’m working on my Thesis?
How many times do I have to pay the MAM fee?
When do I need to pay MAM?
What if I paid MAM, but didn’t graduate that semester? Do I have to pay it again?
I registered for IMA 788 in a prior semester, but the 3 credits haven’t posted yet.
Can adjuncts serve as advisors?
When can I begin working with a Primary Thesis Advisor? Can it be prior to formally commencing the thesis process?
Can I begin working on my thesis before I pass my 2nd Crit?
What if my Thesis Project changes? Do I have to go through the thesis approval process again (Thesis Concept, Thesis Proposal, and Thesis Timeline)?
Can I switch advisors?
What steps do I have to take to change my advisor?
Is there a minimum running time for a Thesis Film?
What makes a project meet the Thesis threshold?
What constitutes “substantial new work”?
What constitutes a “collaborative” work for Thesis purposes?
What if I don’t want my Thesis Paper publically available?
Does that mean my Thesis Project is also publically available?

How many times do you need to register for the thesis course (IMA 788)?
You only need to register for the 3 credit Thesis Course (IMA 788) once.
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What do I register for in subsequent semesters that I’m working on my Thesis?
Currently, you do not have to register for any additional courses. The IMA 788 course covers your entire thesis process, even when it extends to several semesters.  In your final Thesis semester (unless this is also the semester you registered for IMA 788), you must pay the Maintenance of Matriculation fee (MAM).
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.
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How many times do I have to pay the MAM fee?
Only once. In the semester you graduate. And if you’re registered for any other credits that semester, you do not need to pay MAM.
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When do I need to pay MAM?
You can wait until the end of the semester. In other words, don’t pay MAM until your Thesis Defense has been scheduled.
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What if I paid MAM, but didn’t graduate that semester? Do I have to pay it again?
Yes. You must pay the fee in your final semester, even if you paid MAM in a prior semester.
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I registered for IMA 788 in a prior semester, but the 3 credits haven’t posted yet.
Unless you graduate in the semester you register for IMA 788, you will receive a grade of “SP.” Once you complete your Thesis Project and Paper and pass your Thesis Defense, we submit a change of grade for IMA 788 to an “A.” That means that the 3 credits from IMA 788, which are required in order for you to graduate, are only officially “earned” at the very end of your thesis process. Unfortunately, the change of grade form is required by the College if we are going to allow students to spend more than one semester in thesis.
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Can adjuncts serve as advisors?
Adjuncts can serve as 2nd and 3rd advisors. If you have a compelling reason you want an adjunct to serve as your Primary Advisor, you can petition the Program Director. It is possible, in rare circumstances, for this request to be approved, pending the endorsement of the adjunct in question.
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When can I begin working with a Primary Thesis Advisor? Can it be prior to formally commencing the thesis process?
You cannot officially have any thesis advisors until you register for IMA 788, since the faculty member gets the workload credit associated with your registration. However, students have begun informal discussions and consultation with faculty prior to that point. In general, you should not expect a thesis advisor to fully engage with your project until you are officially registered for the Thesis Class.
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Can I begin working on my thesis before I pass my 2nd Crit?
Depending on your project’s scope, you may find it necessary to begin work on an aspect of your thesis prior to officially entering the thesis process. But, just because you have done work on what you wanted to be your thesis, does not mean that the work will be approved for your thesis. If you have questions about this you should speak with the Program Director or your Faculty Mentor.
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What if my Thesis Project changes? Do I have to go through the thesis approval process again (Thesis Concept, Thesis Proposal, and Thesis Timeline)?
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.
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Can I switch advisors?
On occasion students do switch thesis advisors.
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What steps do I have to take to change my advisor?
If you are considering changing advisors, you should explain your reasoning to the Program Director, whose approval is required to switch advisors after the semester in which you registered for IMA 788.
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Is there a minimum running time for a Thesis Film?
No. The project must be capstone in nature. Ambitious in form and content, in concept and execution, but it doesn’t have to be long.
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What makes a project meet the Thesis threshold?
This is one of those judgment calls that faculty members make based on years of experience. If you see enough Thesis Shows, you’ll get a sense of the threshold as well. The project must be an ambitious, capstone experience to your IMA studies.
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What constitutes “substantial new work”?
This is another judgment call made by the Program Director and Graduate Committee. In general, if at least fifty percent of the project will be completed after you enter thesis, you will meet the substantial new work requirement.
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What constitutes a “collaborative” work for Thesis purposes?
Any work in which you do not have creative control. We are particularly concerned with projects where two IMA students want to work together and have the same project count as a thesis for both of them.
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.
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What if I don’t want my Thesis Paper publically available?
You do not have a choice. All Hunter College Thesis Papers will be made available on line through the library’s thesis repository. Submitting your Thesis Paper in the correct format and through the prescribed process for inclusion in the on line repository is a requirement for graduation. You cannot receive your MFA degree unless you comply.
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Does that mean my Thesis Project is also publically available?
No. The IMA Program was exempted from this requirement, so your actual Thesis Project will not be made available on line. Instead, you will deposit a hard copy in the form of a DVD/Blue Ray. We will provide you with delivery specifications. Copies of IMA thesis projects will continue to be available in the Hunter library for in library reference.
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