Guidelines for the Culminating Project

A. General

All participants in the MLS program must complete a culminating project. This project must have an interdisciplinary dimension and be undertaken as a 4-credit independent study course [LibrlSt 798].

B. Options/Scope

The culminating project can take the form of a traditional thesis, but it may also adopt an alternative creative, performative, or occupationally-related model.

  1. A thesis poses a significant and timely research topic or problem, critically addresses existing literature related to that topic, and draws a conclusion that offers a new, revised, or expanded perspective on the topic. The scope of a thesis is generally comparable to a scholarly journal article.
  2. A creative or performative project, although ostensibly more personal in form, must also address significant historical or contemporary issues and be augmented by a text that demonstrates critical awareness of the work. A creative project can, for example, entail an exhibition of new paintings, photographs, or other visual art; an original dramatic or musical performance piece; or a portfolio of recent literary work.
  3. An occupationally-related project will likely have some immediate practical function, but it must also feature a strong link between humanistic studies and professional use. Hypothetical examples include a teacher who devises an innovative, interdisciplinary curriculum for teaching science; a lawyer who researches and writes an original argument for a human rights case; a pastor who develops musical strategies for dealing with profound grief; or a policeman who proposes an experimental approach to gang intervention using popular literature and local history.

C. Selection of Adviser

The student should select from among UWM’s graduate faculty an appropriate project adviser and discuss with her/him the topic and procedure for pursuing it. When the adviser has agreed to supervise the project, the student shall notify the MLS program director who will then enter the name of the project adviser in the student’s file.


In consultation with the adviser, the student prepares a project proposal. The proposal should be approximately 3-5 pages in length and must include a brief description of the topic or problem to be addressed, rationale for its significance, mode of procedure, tentative outline and/or timetable, budget/ resources required, preliminary bibliography, and other information deemed central to the project.

  1. The project adviser reviews the proposal and either returns it for revision or approves it. When approved, the adviser transmits the proposal with a letter of acceptance to the MLS program director.
  2. The MLS program director reviews the proposal to ensure its completeness and interdisciplinarity, and if found acceptable, sends the student written permission to proceed with the project.
  3. This written notification certifies that the student has a) no more than one outstanding incomplete, b) completed both MLS core seminars [LibrlSt 701 and 702] and at least 6 credits of MLS special topics course work [LibrlSt 721 and/or 722], and c) will have completed at least 23 credits applicable to the MLS degree prior to the semester in which project research is first formally taken.

E. Registration Policy

The project proposal must be submitted and approved prior to the semester in which the student wishes to register. Once the proposal is accepted, the student may register for 4 credits of research [LibrlSt 798]. Should the project not be completed during that semester, the student must subsequently register for 1 credit as a “candidate for degree” [LibrlSt 888] during the semester in which he/she plans to graduate.

F. Project Submission & Approval

At least 4 weeks before the last day of classes during the semester in which the degree is to be awarded, the student submits a complete draft of the culminating project to his/her adviser.

  1. The adviser may approve the draft or return it for revision. Once approved, the adviser transmits the final written version of the project to the MLS program director.
  2. The MLS program director reviews the thesis or project text to ensure that it fulfills program requirements (see sections A & B). Following this review, projects with previously planned exhibition or performative components may take place.
  3. After the culminating project is approved in writing by the MLS program director, a date for oral defense of the project is scheduled to take place no later than 2 weeks prior to the expected date of graduation. The defense committee will consist of the project adviser and MLS program director.
  4. The committee will examine the student and approve or reject his/her oral defense of the project.

G. Finished Project/Graduation

Following a successful defense and at least one week before commencement, the student must prepare and deliver a clean covered copy of his/her culminating project to the MLS program office. Because LibrlSt 798 is defined specifically as a “project” rather than a “thesis”, a copy need not be submitted to the Graduate School in its prescribed format. However, the student must still make formal application to graduate through the Graduate School, usually no later than the third week of his/her final semester.

Revised: August 2016