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MA TESOL - Culminating Experience


The final step in completing the MA TESOL degree is to complete a Culminating Experience. There are three options: a thesis, a project or comprehensive exams, all requiring six units of credit. Planning for the Culminating Experience is part of LING 560: Research Design and LING 561: Research Methods. 

MA TESOL Thesis Option

The thesis is an independent research paper on a topic determined by consultation with one’s thesis advisor.The six credits for the Thesis option are scheduled in consultation with the student’s thesis advisor. Some terms the LING 507 Thesis Writing Seminar is offered.  This course cannot count for your thesis credits.  However, it will help you write your thesis more effectively and finish more quickly.  

1. Thesis

6 credits, LING 503 Thesis
These 6 credits are usually spread out over 2 or more terms. You must be registered for at least one credit the term you defend your thesis, and any time you are working with your thesis advisor (your thesis committee chair). If you need to, you can take more than 6 credits.

Students must find an advisor willing to supervise them on a thesis before beginning this process. The student will work closely with the thesis advisor to develop a thesis proposal, submit human subjects’ paperwork, carry out the research, and write up the research. The thesis will then be read and evaluated by the thesis committee chair and two additional members of the thesis committee. 

2. Thesis Defense
At the end of your 6 credits
The thesis defense must be scheduled by the 6th week of the quarter, and must be scheduled with your advisor’s and the committee members’ approval. At the defense, you present your thesis to your thesis committee and the Applied Linguistics community. If they wish, other members of the PSU community may attend. This is a presentation of at most 20 minutes, followed by questions and discussion. It covers the major sections of your thesis plus your reflections on the process.

After your thesis defense, you will be asked to revise portions of the thesis, and have those revision approved by your thesis committee chair and/or other members. Once the revisions are approved, you must submit 3 copies to the Graduate School, according to their specifications. The final copies of the thesis are due in the graduate school by the end of Finals Week.

MA TESOL Project Option

The project option allows students to address a particular practical problem in the field of TESOL or applied linguistics. The project focuses on producing a solution to a language-related problem in a specific context. For example, the project could address the need for a new course in an existing ESL program, for a new assessment instrument to help a program’s administrators place students, for training materials for literacy volunteers in a particular program, or for a new technique for teaching pronunciation to specific adult learners. The six credits for the Project option consist of four credits from LING 507 Empirical Research Writing, a regularly scheduled course, and two credits from LING 506 Project, taken when the Project is presented, as determined in consultation with the student’s advisor.

1. Project Development
2 credits, LING 506 Res: Special Project

Work with your project advisor to develop your project (curriculum, workshop, journal article, assessment, or other project materials). The project includes an introduction of approximately 8-10 pages  giving the rationale, relevant background literature, context this was developed for, your reflections on the process and an overview of the project. The final project + revisions must be handed in after the project presentation, no later than the Monday of Finals Week.

2. Project Presentation
At the end of your 2 credits

Presentation must be given two weeks before the end of the quarter, and must be scheduled with your advisor's approval.

Present your final project to your committee and the Applied Linguistics community. Other members of the PSU community may attend, if they wish. This is a presentation of no more than 20 minutes, followed by questions and discussion. It covers the rationale and background, major points of content and your reflection of the process.

3. Empirical Research Writing
4 credit, 10 week course

Requires you to collect your own data and write up a research paper in full APA format, based on research questions you developed in Research Design/Methods. The paper will include: introduction, literature review, methods, results, and a discussion/conclusion.

    MA TESOL Comprehensive Examination Option

    “Comps” represent one of the three choices for the Culminating Experience for the MA TESOL degree in the Department of Applied Linguistics. The Comps consist of three two-hour sessions over one and a half days during the spring term of the students final year. In the exam the students are asked to synthesize their knowledge in the major areas of the degree: Language Education, Linguistic Theory and Analysis, and a third area, Language and Society or Language and the Mind, depending on the student’s choice of electives.  The six credits for the Comps option consist of four credits from LING 507 Empirical Research Writing, a regularly scheduled course, and two credits from LING 501 Exam, as determined in consultation with the student’s advisor.

    1. Exam Preparation
    2 credits, LING 506 Res: Comprehensive Exams

    Work with your exam advisor to develop a reading list and study for the exam.  You will prepare for questions in the areas of language education; language analysis and argumentation; and language & society and/or language & the mind.  Each question will combine theoretical and practical knowledge.

    2. Exam
    3 questions over 2 days

    Exam must be scheduled, in conjunction with advisor, at least a week before the end of the quarter.
    Exams will be graded, using a rubric, by 2 separate faculty members. Students must pass all three questions. Students will be allowed to retake questions only once if they do not pass.

    3. Empirical Research Writing
    4 credit, 10 week course

    Requires you to collect your own data and write up a research paper in full APA format, based on research questions you developed in Research Design/Methods. The paper will include: introduction, literature review, methods, results, and a discussion/conclusion.