French Resources

During the course of your graduate studies, and in order to complete and verify what is stated here, consult frequently the Division of Graduate Studies website.

SEEK GRADUATE ADVISING EVERY SEMESTER. Students should plan their courses in consultation with the graduate advisor and fill out the “Advising Worksheet - M.A. student in French” every semester. Pay attention to the type of courses and number of units needed to graduate and cross-registration regulations if you want to take courses in universities such as U.C. Berkeley or other universities from the CSU system. Send an electronic copy to your advisor to keep him/her informed of the courses taken.

• If you are conditionally admitted to the program, seek the advisor for “Advancement to Classified Graduate Standing” when you complete the courses specified as preconditions (Such course work may NOT be used to meet degree requirement).

• Begin studying early the document containing the “Reading List” of the French M.A. Program and the description of the culminating experience requirements (option I or option II). It is a good idea to begin preparing your reading list for the oral exam early on. It is also a good idea to start reflecting on your preferences concerning the culminating experience requirements. Check

also the document: “Guidelines Thesis – French”.


All graduate students must complete Level I and Level II writing English requirements. The level I requirement is met when applying to the graduate program, by giving to the French Program a statement of purpose in English (500 words) alongside the same statement written in French.

• The level II writing requirement needs to be met while in the graduate program. It can be met in the following ways:

Choice I: by submitting for evaluation to the French faculty either a 15-20 page essay written in English for a graduate class (program other than the French Program), or the English translation of a 15-20 page essay written in French for a graduate class from the French Program, unless the French instructor of that class accepts to receive an essay written in English.

Choice II: all students writing a thesis must write a 500/700 word or 2-3 page summary of their thesis in English. An extended version of this summary in English (15 pages) or a 15 page translation of part of the thesis can be submitted for evaluation to the French faculty. In order to fulfill this requirement successfully, discuss how to be best prepared for it with the graduate advisor early in the course of your graduate studies, especially if English is not your first language or if you have deficiencies in writing.


You will need to fill out and turn in two forms at the beginning of that semester:

“The Advancement for candidacy” (ATC) and the “Culminating Experience”, typically before the third week of instruction. Check the deadlines.

You will thus have to choose your option for the culminating experience

(option I or II) by that date. At the same time, decide also how to fulfill the second level English requirement (15-20 page essay written in English or 15 page summary of the thesis written in English).

• Make an appointment with the graduate advisor to discuss your ATC - it is a good idea to make a first draft of it, and discuss your choice for the « Culminating Experience» requirement: you can either take a written and oral. Comprehensive examination (Option I), or an oral Comprehensive examination and write a thesis (Option II). In the second case, you need to choose a topic and a title for the thesis, you also need to choose a thesis committee.

• When you are ready, fill out the The Advancement for candidacy” (ATC) form online, Option I or Option II

You will find all necessary forms on the forms section of the Graduate website. Print it out and have it approved and signed by the graduate advisor. The ATC should show at least 6 units yet to be completed for the degree. If you are making any substitutions for the program requirements stated in the Bulletin, file a petition for ATC substitution along with the ATC.

• Fill out also the form “Culminating Experienceonline: either

Comprehensive examination (Option I) or 898 Thesis without animal human subject (Option II). On this form, you will write a paragraph summary of your project, give the title of the thesis and list the members of your committee. Any change made later in the title chosen or the composition of the committee will require to fill a new form indicating these changes. As a general rule, any change in the content of a form submitted to Graduates Studies will require submission of a new form. Print it out and have it approved and signed by the Graduate adviser and the members of your committee.

Both forms will be signed by the Chair of the Department of Modern Languages and Literatures  and sent together to Graduate Studies by the Department.

If you choose the thesis, read carefully the document prepared by the French Program: “Guidelines Thesis – French”. Check the format of the thesis and the administrative requirements at the thesis page . You will have to present your thesis prospectus to your committee for discussion some time during that semester (one hour). You will also have to take your oral exam at the end of that semester (one hour).


• Fill out online the form “Application for Award of Degree” on the Registrar's website typically before the third week of instruction of the term you expect to graduate. Check the deadline.


Complete the Culminating Experience Requirements chosen to obtain your French M.A. (OPTION I or OPTION II).

If you chose OPTION I (written and oral exams), you will need to select a date with the graduate advisor towards the end of the semester for taking the written exam (4 hours). The oral exam (1 hour) is typically set two weeks after the written exam. During that semester, meet with the graduate adviser to discuss how to be best prepared for the written and oral exams.

If you chose OPTION II (thesis), you should enroll in FR 898 and write your thesis during that semester. Be careful about the calendar you set for yourself in order to submit the final approved copy of your thesis in time to Graduate Studies (check the deadline).

When your Culminating Experience Requirements are completed, obtain the Graduate Advisor’s signature on the form “Report of Completion of Specified Graduate Program Requirements” (not available on line) and file it with the Department of Modern Languages and Literatures Office (which submits the report to Graduate Studies).



1 This document is based on the guidelines written by the English department of San Francisco State University for the graduate students in the Literature Program. If you are interested, you can consult these guidelines on the site of the graduate program of the English Program. We adapted them to the specific requirements of the French Program and the specifications available on line on the Division of Graduate Studies website.

1. WHEN TO START THINKING ABOUT WRITING A THESIS? It is a good idea to think about it early in your graduate studies. You are technically supposed to write it during your last semester, when you are enrolled in FR 898 (Master’s Thesis), but you need to start working on your project much earlier, at least a year before, in order to have the time to choose a topic, reflect about it and exchange ideas, do research, fill up and turn in the required forms in time (see 2 below), present the prospectus describing the project to your committee (usually a semester before taking FR 898), and finally do the actual writing. Be also aware that writing often takes more time than planned, considering the need for revisions and final proofing.



a) A semester before the end of your studies (before taking the last 6 units of courses necessary for the completion of your M.A.), you must file the ACT form, which is due early in the semester (check the deadlines). Upload the ACT form for the French Program Option II. Fill the form on line and print it before having it approved and signed by the graduate advisor. Remember that if later you change the courses or the type of culminating experience indicated on your ACT, you will need to fill a new form.

b) To the ATC you must attach another form: “Culminating experience”: 898 thesis (No human/animal subjects) (Option II) available on the same site. File this form on line and print it before having it approved and signed by the graduate adviser and the members of your committee. On this form, you will write a paragraph summary of your project, give the title of the thesis and list the members of your committee. Any change made later in the title chosen or the composition of the committee will require to fill a new form indicating these changes.


3. WHERE DO THESIS IDEAS COME FROM? Thesis ideas should come from your study of French and francophone literature, culture and language and from your special interests. You may develop a thesis out of a seminar paper or an independent study. Your research papers and/or the suggestions of professors may help you frame and develop a topic. You may also consult bound copies of theses written by French M.A. students in the Library or in the Graduate Reading Room (HUM 473). You should undertake considerable primary and secondary reading in order to convince yourself that your project has worth. The range of possibilities for an M.A. thesis is immense; however, it is preferable to choose a topic corresponding to the types of courses taught and/or interest areas of the French faculty, especially of your first reader. It is also important to think about your future goals, and to be realistic about your time and your abilities. Don’t be overambitious.


4. HOW LONG SHOULD A THESIS BE? Long enough to develop in detail a focused and structured argument. The thesis should extend in scope and conception beyond the range of a seminar paper and be more concise than a dissertation or book-length study. The number of pages depends entirely upon the individual project, but, generally speaking, the range is around 60 pages or a little longer (not to extend beyond 100 pages).


5. HOW TO FIND MY READERS? Your thesis committee can have two or three members. They will most likely be made up of faculty from the French program and the first reader should be a member of the French program. But you may choose another reader from another department or program if it seems appropriate for your topic. Remember that your thesis must be written in French: all your readers should be able to read French. Initially, you must find a first reader from the French faculty who is interested in your general topic and responsive to you and your approach. Your first reader should have some specialization, or at least interested experience, in one or more of the areas of your topic. (For a list of faculty interests and specializations, see the program website) To find such a reader, you must appear with a fairly clear idea and some enthusiasm as well as flexibility. It is recommended that you write down a short description of your project to present to prospective readers. This description should articulate your research questions, list some of the texts you wish to examine, and what you think you might find. Once you have found a first reader, you should discuss who might serve as second and eventually third reader on the committee. If, for any reason, you experience difficulty finding a first reader, you should consult the Graduate Program advisor or the Program Coordinator for advice.


6. WHAT IS THE PROSPECTUS? The prospectus is a written statement that establishes the main lines of argument and organization for the thesis. It should be developed from your initial description of the project and written in consultation with your committee. The prospectus should present the topic chosen, explain the purpose and significance of the thesis; the approach chosen by you; the selection of literary sources; and an overview of relevant scholarship and criticism.” You should also indicate the time line for remitting each chapter and the final version to your committee. The format might look like this:

Statement describing the project, its significance and the approach chosen

Chapter outline

Working bibliography of major primary and secondary sources

–Time line for remitting chapters and final version

A finished prospectus tends to be 8-12pp. in length but can be slightly shorter; a draft is usually submitted to your first reader for commentary and revision before going to the full committee.


7. PRESENTATION OF THE PROSPECTUS. You will meet with your committee to discuss your project (based upon the completed prospectus) and to evaluate your readiness to start writing. This presentation should be scheduled during the semester before you intend to begin writing, usually towards the end of the semester (or earlier). At the latest, it could be done very early in your final semester but it is not recommended because in this case you may not have enough time to finish writing before the end of that semester. Expect that presentation to last about an hour. First, you’ll be given a chance to explain how you chose your topic and your approach to it. You must be prepared to present and argue the case for a well-delineated plan of research. You will defend or modify your plan of study in response to questions and suggestions from your readers.


8. ORAL EXAM. Students who chose to write a thesis need to remember that they must also take a comprehensive oral exam where they are tested on their knowledge of French literature in order to receive their M.A. in French. The preparation of this exam should also be planned early, while taking graduate classes. It is the same for option I (written comprehensive exam) and for option II (thesis). To prepare it, you have to select a specified number of readings from the French Reading list of the M.A. Program (see this reading list for more details on the preparation and the format of this exam). The oral exam lasts one hour and takes place with the three members of the French faculty (unless one of them is on sabbatical/unavailable. It should also be scheduled during the semester before you start writing; if not, at the latest, very early in your final semester. Talk with the graduate adviser in order to plan wisely the dates of the presentation of the prospectus and the oral exam.


9. MAY I CHANGE MY MIND CONCERNING THE CONTENT OF MY THESIS? Yes, if you mean that your thesis takes different twists and turns as you write. But, if you move completely away from the original proposed topic, you must write a new proposal, develop a new prospectus, and make a new presentation, which implies filling up new forms online.


10. WHAT ARE THE ROLES OF THE FIRST AND SECOND OR THIRD READERS? At some early stage—perhaps at the end of your oral—readers’ responsibilities will be clarified for your particular project. It may be helpful for the first reader to proceed through the complete manuscript before submitting it to the other readers; sometimes another reader will want to see drafts of chapters immediately after the first reader has perused them or at the same time. Check with your committee to formulate the most appropriate plan of submission. It is important to allow sufficient time for your readers to read and respond to your work, and to apportion time for your revisions and modifications (see 6 above).


11. LEVEL II WRITING ENGLISH REQUIREMENT? To meet this requirement, students writing a thesis must write a 15-page summary of their thesis in English. This summary will be submitted for evaluation to the French faculty. In order to fulfill this requirement successfully, discuss how to be best prepared for it with the graduate advisor early in the course of your graduate studies, especially if English is not your first language or if you have deficiencies in writing.


12. OTHER FORMS TO FILL? After your ACT and “Culminating Experience” forms have been filed, you will sign up for FR 898 (Master’s Thesis) in the first two weeks of your final semester. You will also need to fill out a “report of completion of specified graduate program requirements” and “an application for award of degree” in order to receive your diploma (see 2. above for the site).


13. HOW DO I SUBMIT MY THESIS? Be sure you know the thesis submission deadline for the semester you intend to graduate (check Graduate Division website). You will need to submit the final draft to your committee members with enough time for them to read it and for you to make any last minute changes (usually 2-3 weeks before the published deadline). Theses should follow the latest MLA Style Manual, available on line, in the Library, the bookstore, or anywhere academic books are sold. Pay attention to the Graduate Division guidelines for formatting and submission. It can be downloaded from its website (look for “Thesis Guidelines” under “Graduate Forms”). You will need to take the final approved copy of your thesis to yours readers for signature. Then you can file it. Remember that you will need to make an extra copy of the thesis for the archives of the Department of Modern Languages and Literatures.


14. WHAT IF I DON’T MAKE THE DEADLINE FOR COMPLETING THE THESIS AT THE END OF THE SEMESTER THAT I SIGNED UP FOR FR 898? You will be issued a grade of “RP,” which indicates “report of progress”. When you do finish the thesis, there is no new paperwork to file as long as there are no changes to either the original GAP or “Culminating Experience” forms you submitted. If your graduate application was approved but you did not finish your thesis, you will need to re-apply for graduation in the semester that you complete the thesis. Please keep in mind the university’s 7-year limit for completing post-graduate programs: you should endeavor to complete the thesis within 7 years of the date of the earliest course work listed on your GAP form. You will not need to reapply to the university if you need an extra semester to finish your thesis. However, if it takes you longer, you will then have to reapply to the university.