Master's Thesis

One way a student can fulfill the requirement for a culminating project is to write a master's thesis. This option is frequently chosen by those who plan to pursue a doctoral degree.

You must register for 3 to 6 credits of thesis research (Anth 6998 and 6999), either sequentially or during the same semester.  You do not receive letter grades for these courses; credit is assigned after the thesis is complete.

Thesis Proposal

If you are writing a thesis, you should begin developing possible thesis topics well before the completion of course work for the degree. Possible topics should be discussed with all appropriate faculty and should have a demonstrable basis in your course work. The first step is to draft a proposal for your thesis research, using theM.A. Thesis Proposal Form. The proposal should not exceed about 2500 words and should contain the following:

         1. A working title.
         2. A brief description of the subject and problem(s) to be studied, rationale, your thesis statement, and methods of analysis.
         3. A preliminary analysis of the primary data involved: nature of the materials, location, limits, sampling techniques, etc.
         4. Description of scholarly context: which scholars have studied similar problems; which scholars are most important as models for your work; what you anticipate to be your scholarly contribution.
         5. A list of persons who have helped you develop the proposal.
         6. Bibliography of key sources (about one page).

The scope of the thesis should be focused. Students should spend the equivalent of 20 hours a week for 13 weeks on the thesis project (the equivalent of 6 credit hours or two regular classes). The written product is usually between 75 and 200 pages in length, excluding bibliography. The thesis may be based on field or laboratory research or written sources and may be combined with an exhibit or a catalogue. Examples of successful theses are in the Department seminar room (HAH 202).

Your thesis director is usually your mentor, but can be any Department faculty member. (Part-time and adjunct faculty may be thesis directors but must be approved by the CCAS graduate dean). There must also be a second person to serve as reader, selected in consultation with the director; both the director and the reader must approve the thesis topic.  Readers need not be GW faculty, but, if not, need to be approved by the graduate advisor.

Thesis Formatting Basics

  1. The thesis text should be in 12-point serif type (e.g., Times Roman, Century Schoolbook, Cambria); do not use sans-serif type (e.g., Arial). Picture captions, map legends, etc., may be in other faces and sizes. All text must be double-spaced, but long quotations, picture captions, footnotes and endnotes, bibliographic entries, and lists in appendices may be more tightly spaced.

  2. Print the document single-sided, using 1.25-inch margins on the left to allow for binding and 1.0-inch margins on the other three sides.

  3. Preliminary pages (table of contents, list of illustrations, etc.) are numbered in lowercase roman numerals (e.g., ii, iii, etc.) at the center of the text at the bottom of the page, resting on the bottom margin. The title page is counted as the first page, but does not carry a number. The copyright page, if used, is also not numbered. The first page of front matter carrying a number is "ii."

  4. Text pages are numbered sequentially using arabic numbers at the bottom of the page.

Title page. Title pages for GW theses, whether graduate or undergraduate, have a specific format, and you should refer to our sample title page for guidance. Notice (1) this page is not numbered; (2) it is not in boldface or oversize type; (3) it bears the student's official date of graduation, not the date the thesis was submitted; (4) it contains the full name and official academic title of the thesis director(s), but not of the reader.

Citations and References Cited

Anthropology theses typically follow the style manual of the American Psychological Association (APA).  This mandates that citations to other works be in the text, not in footnotes. Follow the author-date method of in-text citation. This means that the author's last name and the year of publication for the source should appear in the text – for example, (Castano et al., 1998) – and a complete reference should appear in the reference section at the end of the paper.  A good presentation of APA style is at

An alternative style manual commonly used in scientific publications is that of the American Medical Association. See

If you wish, you may use footnotes or endnotes for explanatory material.

Your list of references is arranged alphabetically by author, last name first.  For details, and issues such as citing anonymous web pages, see your chosen style guide.

Final Stages

Approved theses are now submitted electronically to GW Proquest, administered by the Gelman Library.  The final draft of the thesis must be submitted to your thesis advisor and reader one month before the date for GW Proquest submission. The Proquest deadlines are: For spring graduates, May 15; for summer graduates, August 15; for fall graduates, January 15. When one of these dates falls on a weekend, the deadline is the preceding business day. You can check with Rebecca Dunner at CCAS (994-9632, [email protected]) about deadlines and to allow for possible delays in getting your thesis into final shape.

The thesis director and the reader must review and approve the thesis, signing the Culminating Project Approval Form. This is a departmental form, available from the Anthropology office or website. It is not submitted to any third party. Final submission of the thesis is done electronically to an outside site, ETD Administration. Information on steps in submission, deadlines, format, best practices, etc. can be found at Gelman Library's forms and survey webpage. Before submitting the thesis to the College, the director and the student also sign the Electronic Theses and Dissertations Approval Form.

Thesis binding

In addition to the copy submitted in PDF to Proquest, the student must submit a paper copy to the Department, which will have it bound and added to our library. It is customary to also submit a copy for the thesis advisor. Photographs and color illustrations must be of equally high quality in all copies. All our theses are given library bindings, with M.A. theses in red with white lettering on the spine.  If you visit the department's seminar room, you can see copies on the shelves.  Students may also obtain additional copies for themselves, their family, advisors, etc., at cost (roughly $15.25 per thesis), but may choose among the 15 colors of buckram available from our bindery and three colors of ink (white, black, gold).