Thesis and Dissertation Guidelines

Students usually find that crafting the thesis or dissertation proposal is a lengthy process that requires repeated consultation with the major professor and other committee members. Be sure to plan ahead. Thesis and dissertation proposals must be approved by GADCom.

Academic Integrity 
Students must submit their own work. Students are not authorized to use outside editorial services in the writing of the thesis or dissertation.

Clarification of the Scope and Purpose of the Thesis and Dissertation
The master's thesis in music history, theory, or ethnomusicology should be regarded as a project of research and writing that will demonstrate the student's synthesis of material and application of concepts covered in coursework to a document of no more than 80 pages.

The doctoral dissertation, in contrast, is a lengthier document that results from a more extended period of research and writing and that often entails application of knowledge to a new or previously uncharted area of scholarship or the use of innovative methodology.

Thesis Hours Enrollment Statement
Students may enroll in thesis hours once they are in their final semester of coursework and have identified a faculty member who agrees to serve as major professor. The proposal must be completed within the semester in which the student first enrolls in thesis hours; the thesis itself must be defended within two semesters after the semester in which the proposal is accepted. Extensions will be considered only through petition to GADCom and with the support of the major professor.

Dissertation Hours Enrollment Statement
Students may enroll for dissertation hours after the qualifying exams have been completed. The proposal must be completed within two semesters after the student first enrolls in dissertation hours; the dissertation document itself must be defended within three years after the proposal is accepted. Extensions will be considered only through petition to GADCom and with the support of the major professor.

Requirements of Proposals
The masters and doctoral proposals must:

1. present a clear thesis statement that (a) formulates a main idea; (b) specifies the subordinate elements of this idea; (c) indicates how these subordinate elements relate to one another and to your main idea; (d) indicates the methodologies that you plan to use.

2. present a review of the literature that identifies all significant publications relevant to the topic and explains how the argument of the thesis or dissertation relates to the arguments of the publications. Students should consult with the faculty advisor for the meaning of "all" and "significant" as appropriate to the proposal.

3. describe the research tasks to be accomplished, demonstrate their feasibility (including access to sources, which may include documents, archives, field research sites, interview subjects, or copyright clearances), and present a timeline for their completion.

4. present a provisional outline of the complete thesis or dissertation as an appendix. The outline should show the estimated length of each chapter.

5. show competent use of a citation format in current use in musical scholarship. Suggested formats are the humanities style (footnotes and bibliography) for proposals in musicology and theory, and the author-date system for proposals in ethnomusicology. Consult The Chicago Manual of Style (15th ed.) and its online guide Chicago Manual of Style for models.

6. include a list of references and sources with full citations. The list of references should distinguish between types of sources (primary, secondary, etc.) as appropriate to the topic.

7. conform to a maximum length: The main body of text, not counting references, appendices, or musical examples, must be no more than 10 double-spaced pages (master's theses) or 20 double-spaced pages (for doctoral dissertations). Proposals must adhere to a standard format: 12-point type, 1-inch margins, black ink, and double spacing.

Submission Process for Thesis and Dissertation Proposals

The Master’s Thesis Proposal Approval Form and Doctoral Dissertation Proposal Approval Form are both available at All members of the student's advisory committee must review the student’s proposal and sign the appropriate approval form. This signed form must be submitted to the Graduate Studies Organization at See the website for more information or contact Dr. Brian McKee ( for help.
PhD approval forms and topic proposals are submitted to (look for the “topic proposals” link). PhD proposals are forwarded to the Graduate Academic Degree Committee (GADCom) typically by the end of week 11 of the Fall and Spring long semester for review. The deadline for submission of approval forms and proposals for Fall 18 is Friday, November 9th. GADCom membership for Fall 2018 is:

Peter Mondelli, Chair

Vivek Virani 

Ellen Bakulina (substituting for Stephen Slottow, back Spring 2019)

Margaret Notley (substituting for Bernardo Illari, back Spring 2019)

David Bard-Schwarz 

MA proposals are approved by committees within the individual academic areas (Music History, Theory and Ethnomusicology). Students should consult their committee advisor and/or area coordinator for guidelines on submitting their proposal for approval. The Master’s Thesis Proposal form only is submitted to the Graduate office at It should also be submitted by November 9th.

Need additional writing assistance? Contact the UNT Writing Lab at

Suggested Resources
The research process

Booth, Wayne C., Gregory G. Colomb, and Joseph M. Williams. 2008. The Craft of Research. 3rd ed. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.
Turabian, Kate L. 2007. A Manual for Writers of Research Papers, Theses, and Dissertations. 7th ed. Chicago: University of Chicago Press. Includes material from The Craft of Research.

Writing about music

Wingell, Richard J. 2008. Writing about Music: an Introductory Guide. 4th ed. Upper Saddle River, N.J.: Prentice Hall.
Wingell, Richard J., and Silvia Herzog. 2000. Introduction to Research in Music. Upper Saddle River, N.J.: Prentice Hall.

Clear writing

Williams, Joseph M. 1995. Style: Toward Clarity and Grace. Chicago: University of Chicago Press. Second language issues.
Bailey, Stephen. 2011. Academic Writing: a Handbook for International Students. New York: Routledge. Paltridge, Brian, and Sue Starfield. Thesis and dissertation writing in a second language: a handbook for supervisors. New York: Routledge. 2007


The Chicago Manual of Style. 2003. 16th ed. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.