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Forming a Thesis Committee

Upon entering the program, you will be assigned an initial advisor who is available to help you plan your classes, discuss academic issues relating to courses or to your progress through the program, and clarify any confusion that remains for you after you have carefully read the WGSS Graduate Handbook. The WGSS Director of Graduate Studies is also available to answer any questions that remain for you. It is important to consult your advisor when planning your classes, because some classes are offered on a two-year cycle and she can help you plan accordingly.

Additionally, you should begin to develop relationships with other WGSS core and affiliate faculty members, so you can get to know their research better and because they can provide advice and mentoring. These relationships are important because you must select a faculty member to direct your thesis by the end of the second semester of the first year (note: the thesis chair is the student’s main advisor for the thesis). Don’t forget to notify the Director of Graduate Studies once you have chosen your thesis advisor.

As you think about forming your thesis committee, you will want to meet affiliate faculty who share your research interests. Consult the list of WGSS affiliate faculty on the website early in the program, and note their home departments and office locations. The easiest (and best) way to meet an affiliate faculty member is to take a class with her/him (typically, these will be cross-listed between her/his home department and the WGSS). If you don’t have the opportunity to take a class with a faculty member with whom you share research interests, contact her/him by email, and make an appointment to meet with her/him. Affiliate Faculty are interested in gender scholarship, so they will be open to meeting you and helping you better learn about the subject area in which they specialize. Success in an interdisciplinary field like women’s studies requires that students be proactive about drawing on Affiliate and Core WGSS faculty as a resource.

The thesis chair must be selected by the end of the second semester of your first year. The thesis chair must be a full-time tenured or tenure-track WGSS faculty member. Under special circumstances and with permission from the WGSS Graduate Director, committee may be co-chaired; however, at least one co-chair must be a WGSS full-time tenured or tenure-track faculty member, and the number of co-chairs who are not members of the WGSS cannot exceed the number of co-chairs who are members of the WGSS.

Even if you are still in the process of taking courses, a thesis chair can help you select courses that will best prepare you for your thesis research. However, it is a good idea to take a course with the faculty member you have identified as a prospective thesis chair so that she knows about your work before deciding to be your chair. And, more importantly, having the faculty member for a class prior to asking her or him to chair your thesis allows you to know whether your working styles and personalities are compatible. Students don’t need to be friends with their thesis chairs, but they do need to get along with and respect them. The WGSS Graduate Director and other faculty can also offer advice about which faculty might be a suitable match for an individual student. Don’t be discouraged if your first choice of thesis chair is not able to serve on your thesis project; faculty are often already serving on many other committees. However, they can usually suggest other people who would be equally suitable for your thesis project.

Since WGSS M.A. students are specializing in gender studies, all thesis chairs must have a sophisticated knowledge of feminist, gender studies, or queer theory scholarship. Consequently, thesis chairs must be either Core or Affiliate faculty in the WGSS. Exceptions to this rule are possible on a case-by-case basis. In all cases, the thesis chair must be a full-time tenured or tenure-track faculty member at Georgia State and must hold graduate teaching status.

You should select your thesis committee soon after you select your thesis chair. Often, your thesis committee will be made up of professors who have taught you in the M.A. program in WGSS. They will help you think through and execute the thesis project. You might have two committee members in mind as a result of taking courses with them. A student can also ask her or his thesis advisor for suggestions of other committee members.

M.A. thesis committees are comprised of a thesis chair and at least two other faculty members who have expertise in the area in which the student plans to conduct research. A thesis committee can have more than three members, but the first three members of the thesis committee, including the chair or co-chair(s), must be full-time tenured or tenure-track faculty members. Thesis committee members are almost always graduate faculty at Georgia State. However, in special cases where a compelling reason exists, a faculty member from another university may be invited to serve on the committee. In such cases, the student will request a CV from the external committee member and submit it to the chair/advisor of the thesis committee, who, in consultation with the graduate director, will approve the committee member. The College of Arts and Sciences stipulates that non-Georgia State members must hold a tenure or tenure-track position at their own institution. The student’s thesis chair must write a brief memo to the WGSS director explaining the compelling reasons for having the non-Georgia State faculty member on the committee. At no time shall the number of committee members who are not GSU full-time tenured or tenure-track faculty members exceed the number of committee members who are GSU full-time tenured or tenure-track faculty members.

Coursework Questions

WGSS tries to coordinate with other departments to ensure that courses offered in other departments that have a gender component are also listed as WGSS courses. When they are cross-listed with our Institute, they have a WGSS prefix and automatically count toward a graduate student’s 30 hours of required coursework as long as you register for the WGSS prefix. Nevertheless, sometimes gender-related courses in other departments escape our attention and are not cross-listed as WGSS. Additionally, sometimes students wish to take a course highly relevant to their scholarly development in WGSS that does not have an explicit gender component.

In many cases, students can still get WGSS credit for such courses, but they are required to seek approval from the WGSS Graduate Director before taking the course. Be forewarned that there is a limited number of these courses that the Graduate Director will approve per student.

Sometimes a student has a specific idea for a WGSS course that is not offered by the Institute or is only offered at the undergraduate level. Under these circumstances, a student can approach a faculty member to request that s/he do a directed reading course. With prior permission from the WGSS Graduate Director, the student can register for WSt 6999, Directed Readings, attend the undergraduate course, and work with the faculty member to develop extra readings and assignments, which the student must list on the Directed Readings Form.

A student may also do an independent directed reading with a faculty member. Typically, the student will have a well thought-out idea of the readings and assignments for such an independent course and will use these ideas as a starting point for dialogue with the faculty member. If the faculty member agrees to a directed readings course with the student(s), the student will fill out a Directed Readings Form (which includes a list of readings and assignments). Once the form is completed, the faculty member directing the course will review the form, sign it, and pass it on to the Graduate Director for approval. The student must receive approval for the Directed Reading before registering for the course. A directed reading course is not intended to be used as a substitute for a course that is typically offered in other semesters, and should only be used for specialized topics that are not covered in other courses.

Progressing through the Program

The oral defense of the thesis proposal takes place after a student has received official word that she has passed the comprehensive exams and before beginning work on the thesis itself. It is conducted by the members of the student’s thesis committee and headed by the thesis chair. Typically, at the defense, the student provides a short (5-10 minute) overview of the thesis proposal (even though the committee has received a written thesis proposal two weeks ahead of time). The presentation is followed by questions by the committee that seek to ascertain whether the student has an adequate understanding of the research area and scholarly literature surrounding her proposed project. The committee also asks questions about the process and feasibility of the methodological design or analytical approach proposed by the student for the project. If the committee determines that the student is not ready to begin independent research on the thesis at this stage, members can ask for a revision of the thesis and organize a second oral defense. Often, the thesis committee may indicate that the student has passed while recommending adjustments to the thesis methodology and/or suggesting additional analytical possibilities for the project. Thus the oral defense of the thesis proposal is an exercise of assessment to ensure that the student is prepared to begin the thesis. It is also an important opportunity for the student to assemble the entire committee in one room to think collectively about the strengths and possibilities of the project and to help the student undertake the project in the best way possible. After the oral defense, the student is responsible for informing the WGSS Graduate Director of the committee’s decision using the appropriate form.

All students whose research will involve human subjects must gain approval for their project from Georgia State’s Institutional Review Board (the “IRB”) before undertaking the thesis research. The university insists on this check to insure that research will be conducted in an ethical manner and will not bring emotional or physical hard to the participants. The Institutional Review Board requires that students submit a completed electronic IRB application, found on the Institutional Review Board website. Here, students will also find instructions on how to acquire a login to enter the system, and on completing a mandatory IRB online training. Students who plan to use human subjects (by conducting interviews, for instance) should discuss their ideas and the process of gaining IRB approval with the thesis chair in the process of writing the thesis proposal. Students submit the IRB application after passing the thesis proposal defense and before beginning thesis research. If you are not conducting research that involves the participation of human subjects, you do not need IRB approval.

Students can register for thesis hours upon completing their course work and passing their comprehensive exams. Rare exceptions can be made for students close to submitting their comprehensive exams who have finished all their course work. Students seeking an exception must contact the WGSS Graduate Director.

For a full-time student, the program is designed to take two academic years. Please consult the recommended timeline in the WGSS M.A. Handbook for a breakdown of how students should fulfill the requirements within the two year period.

Attending or giving a paper at a conference is a learning opportunity from which students benefit immensely. The National Women’s Studies Association, regional women’s studies associations (like the Southeast Women’s Studies Association – SEWSA), and numerous small conferences regularly issue calls for papers and encourage graduate student participation. Keep your eye out for announcements on the WGSS listserv, or check the NWSA website.

A caution about conferences, however. We recommend that you propose a conference paper based on a course paper that you have already written and on which you have received positive feedback from the course instructor. A conference provides a good opportunity to revise an existing paper that may become part of your thesis. But it is very stressful to try to write a paper specifically for a conference on top of the demands of a typical graduate course load. Depending on budget considerations, the WGSS is committed to providing funding to offset some of the conference travel costs (i.e., flight, hotel, conference registration). Calls for conference travel funding proposals usually go out at the beginning of the spring semester. Because limited (if any) funds are available from the WGSS, you are advised to be realistic about the cost of attending the conference when you are deciding whether to propose a paper. Finally, if your paper is accepted by the conference, the expectation of the organizers is that you will go to the conference. Because papers are often accepted, only apply to conferences that you can attend. At conferences, be professional and well-prepared, for your own sake, as well as because you are representing Georgia State University’s Institute for Women's, Gender, and Sexuality Studies. Feel free to discuss conference ideas with faculty members or with the WGSS Graduate Director.

Students need to apply for graduation at least three (3) semesters before the semester in which they intend to graduate. You must also be continuously enrolled for all three semesters leading up to graduation with a total of six (6) credits of enrollment for all three semesters combined (one example would be to register for two credits in each of the three semesters leading up to graduation). You apply for graduation by filling out the Registrar’s online graduation form and paying a $40 graduation fee at the Student Accounts Cashier’s window on the first floor of Sparks Hall. Because students are asked to apply for graduation three semesters in advance of completing all requirements of the M.A. program, many students find that they need to change their graduation dates. This change should be made as soon as the student is aware of the need to change the date. Please stay on top of your graduate date, as failing to do so creates extra work for the WGSS.

Georgia State and the WGSS have a number of resources for students, and we urge all students to take advantage of them as the need arises. The most important factor in successful resolution of an academic problem is seeking out help early.

For academic problems with a particular course, students can and should speak with the course instructor first. The WGSS Graduate Director is also available to counsel students on academic and other issues relating to students’ progress through the program. The Director of the program is another excellent source.

For specific help with writing, we very much encourage you to contact the Writing Studio (call 404.413.5840), located in room 2420 of the 25 Park Place Building to schedule an appointment with a writing consultant or for information about drop-in hours. Writing consultants are available to help students plan and/or edit written work.

Georgia State also offers free psychological counseling to students to help them manage personal crises or relationship problems, or simply to manage the stresses that inevitably accompany the new challenges of graduate work. You can call the Counseling Center at 404.413.1640 to schedule an appointment. Another resource for students with problems arising from interactions with particular offices at Georgia State is the Student Ombudsperson, who can be reached at 404. 413.2510.

Note: The Georgia State University Graduate Catalog supersedes all information offered on this website.