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Capstone - MA TESOL

Candidates meet the 33-hour requirement through course work and completion of one of the following capstone options

  1. A thesis and oral defense
  2. A portfolio and written comprehensive exam
  3. A graduate paper and written comprehensive exam


The thesis provides an opportunity for students to conduct original research on a topic of their choice. Students choosing this option are expected to gather and analyze original data. Students are encouraged to begin exploring possible research topics as soon as their first semester.

The following information outlines deadlines for full-time students taking 9 credit hours per semester. Part-time students will work with their supervisors to craft time lines which are appropriate to their individual needs.

While these deadlines are somewhat flexible, the final date to submit the graduate research to the graduate office is a published deadline designated each semester. This date is not flexible and it is the student’s responsibility to insure that this deadline is met.

After completing 18 credits:

  • The student should identify and communicate with faculty members with whom they would like to work or with whom they share an area of interest.
  • The student should have received verbal agreement from a faculty member to supervise the thesis.

The next semester (19-25 credits)

  • Within the first 4 weeks of the semester, the student should meet with the thesis supervisor to develop a time frame for completion of the thesis research including: expanding the literature review, arranging potential study participants, and preparing the Internal Review Board (IRB) research proposal for review.
  • Within the first 9 weeks of the semester, the IRB proposal should be submitted. The student should also contact and receive agreement from an appropriate faculty member to serve as second reader.
  • Before the end of the semester, the student should complete initial sections of the thesis (i.e. introduction, review of the literature, and methodology) and a prospectus meeting should be scheduled. The prospectus date is selected by the student in consultation with the thesis supervisor.
    • The student must determine a time to meet for the thesis prospectus that is agreeable with all members of the committee.
    • The student should schedule a room with the necessary technology (i.e., computer, overhead projector, computer projector, etc.) for the prospectus presentation.
    • The student should confer with the thesis supervisor to determine the nature of the presentation expected at the meeting. Prospectus meetings should be limited to one hour: 30-minute student presentation, committee discussion, and feedback.
    • No later than 1 week prior to the meeting, the student should provide each committee member with a written copy of the thesis proposal (introduction, review of the literature, and methodology sections of the thesis).
    • At the thesis prospectus meeting, the student must bring the Thesis Topic Approval Form to be signed by all members of the thesis committee.

Last semester (27-36 credits)

  • The student should enroll in GR699 (MA Oral Examination), 3 credits.
  • Within the first 4 weeks of the semester, all research data collection should be completed.
  • Within the first 8 weeks of the semester, a complete draft of the thesis should be submitted to the supervisor.
  • Within the first 11 weeks of the semester, a draft of the thesis should be submitted to the full thesis committee for review.
  • The oral defense of the thesis must be completed by the deadline determined by Graduate Studies (this deadline varies slightly but is generally approximately 6 weeks before the end of the semester). The final research paper in digital and hard copy format as well as the appropriate research paper approval form or thesis acceptance form must be submitted to both the thesis supervisor and Graduate Studies by the published deadline (determined by Graduate Studies). It is the student’s responsibility to make sure that all final drafts of research adhere to any graduate school requirements pertaining to format.
  • Students who fail to meet the final research submission deadline may be given either an incomplete or a grade of less than “A” for the research, at the discretion of the research supervisor. Students who are given a grade but have not completed their research must enroll in at least 1 hour of research during the following summer semester in order to complete their research. Students who are given an incomplete must complete the research by the end of the following summer semester or receive a grade of “F”.

Please consult with your thesis director for more specific timelines for your individual research project.

The thesis must be submitted electronically and must adhere to additional guidelines which are available on the School of Graduate Studies website. It is the student’s responsibility to review the most current guidelines to insure compliance. Referencing must adhere to formats found in the most current edition of the Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association (APA).


The TESOL Professional Portfolio is an integrated composite of the student’s studies and reflects the student’s beliefs and practices concerning the teaching of English to Speakers of Other Languages. Through the compilation of this portfolio, students have the opportunity to review their academic progress and document professional development. The portfolio contains a variety of items that reflect the training experience of the participant. In some instances, the items are an outgrowth of assignments in coursework that are revised and modified as the student’s knowledge base is broadened through training and experience.

Most students will complete their portfolios during their last semester of coursework. When filing their application for candidacy, they should notify their advisor that they plan to complete a portfolio.

First three weeks of semester (in which you plan to graduate)

A draft of your portfolio must be submitted to your supervisor (the supervisor of your portfolio may but does not have to be your academic advisor)

Three weeks before comprehensive exam

Portfolio must be approved by supervisor

Two weeks before comprehensive exam

Portfolio must be approved by second reader

One week before comprehensive exam

Portfolio and approval sheet (with signatures of supervisor and second reader) must be filed with the Chair's Office

  • CV or Resume
  • A statement of philosophy of teaching and learning English as a Second (ESL)/English Foreign Language (EFL)
  • A description of factors to be taken into consideration when teaching ESL/EFL students including language acquisition, language learning process, linguistic, and sociolinguistic factors
  • A description of a curricular plan for a specified program of study, with goals and objectives, and examples of materials (including original materials and creative uses of technology) as well as assessment measures (needs analysis, formative, and summative)
  • Analysis of one lesson plan that includes objectives, student population, procedures, materials, time frames, and relation to your curricular plan
  • Evidence of teaching excellence- one or more of the following: written observations by peers or supervisors, student evaluations, teaching awards or recognitions
  • Professional development/scholarly work, such as conference presentations, publications, service to community, and or course papers

The portfolio must be submitted electronically and may take the form of a website. The organization of the portfolio should be explicit to the reader and include a table of contents and section labels. Students who design a website should share a link to the site and submit screen shots of the site.

Graduate Paper (Non-Thesis) and Comprehensive Exam

The graduate paper is a capstone project that demonstrates knowledge of scholarship or explores an essential question in the field of TESOL. Most students will complete their graduate paper during their last semester of coursework.

Students can use any paper they have already written for TESOL courses but the draft written in TESOL courses should be revised several times before the final submission as a non-thesis. The requirements for the non-thesis are similar to the final paper in TL 630 class but the evaluation criteria are much higher. In other words, if you earned a good grade for your paper in TL 630 class, that does not mean it can be accepted as a non-thesis without further revisions.

Requirements for Graduate Paper

  • Explore a well-defined issue relevant to TESOL. Students need approval of the Supervisor to conduct primary research
  • Include an abstract, cover page, and works cited (APA format)
  • Be a minimum of 15 pages in length
  • Draw on 15-20 references

Format and Organization

  1. Title page
  2. Abstract and Keywords
  3. Introduction, Statement of the Problem, Research Questions
  4. Literature review
  5. Methods and Procedures (for primary research only)
  6. Discussion and Results
  7. Conclusion, Recommendations, and Implications
  8. References
  9. Appendix

The comprehensive exam is conducted online. It is composed of three questions to which written answers must be submitted within the allotted time.

  • One question focuses on research in the field of TESOL
  • One question focuses on teaching in the field of TESOL
  • One question is “self-generated”

To take the exam, students must be registered in TL 698. Contact your advisor before registering. You are responsible for confirming that you are registered and can access the Moodle page to complete the exam. The following must be done in the semester you plan to graduate:

During the first three weeks before comprehensive exam

  • Notify your advisor in writing (email) that you intend to take the comprehensive exam
  • Submit two “self-generated” questions to your advisor in writing (email)
  • Revise your questions if needed

Three weeks before comprehensive exam

  • Confirm with your advisor that your two “self-generated” questions are acceptable
  • Revise your questions if needed

One week before comprehensive exam

Check Moodle to confirm that you are able to access the page for the comprehensive exam and that you understand the guidelines and expectations of the exam.

Each question will be read for relevance, balance, development, organization, and use of sources. A failure of one question indicates failure of the exam. When providing a failing evaluation of an area of the exam, faculty will specify the problem area(s) needing to be corrected.

  • Knowledge of Research and Resources Tools
    • High Pass
    • Pass
    • Fail
    • Comments
  • Content Applied to Teaching
    • High Pass
    • Pass
    • Fail
    • Comments
  • Area of Special Interest
    • High Pass
    • Pass
    • Fail
    • Comments
  • Overall Evaluation
    • High Pass
    • Pass
    • Fail
    • Comments


Grauel 236
Department of English
One University Plaza, MS 2650
Cape Girardeau, Missouri 63701