Master’s Thesis

In consultation with their faculty advisor, students may choose to undertake and present original research as a culminating experience via the thesis option.


As part of the 39 required credits, thesis students must take 6 credit hours in LIS 700 Thesis Research and 3 credit hours in an approved research methods course. To advance to candidacy and become eligible to enroll in LIS 700, students must complete at least 15 credits of coursework, and defend a thesis proposal in a private meeting with their thesis committee. While it is strongly suggested that all committee members physically attend the thesis proposal defense meeting, remote participation is permitted. Upon approval of the committee, students advance to candidacy, conduct their research, and present their results at a public defense.

The thesis option is introduced in the First Semester Seminar, supported in coursework and regular advising sessions throughout the program, and completed in LIS 700 Research.

Note: Dual degree students may only pursue the thesis option if LIS is their primary degree.

Plan A students may not count more than 6 credits outside of LIS to meet the minimum number of required credits for the degree. One of these courses might be the research methods course.

Students who opt to write a thesis are further governed by the “Plan A” regulations and procedures of the UHM Graduate Division.

For complete information, including a sample course plan, procedures, committee membership requirements, and thesis evaluation criteria, please download and review the Thesis Policy PDF and the Thesis Timeline PDF.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is a thesis?

A thesis is a piece of original research that addresses a question in a formal way. It demonstrates your ability to articulate a problem of interest to the LIS community, apply and critically analyze relevant literature, design and execute a research plan, analyze the data you found, and discuss its implications.

Why should I consider doing a thesis?

Not everyone should. You might benefit from the thesis experience if you are considering a Ph.D. or another advanced degree with a research component. Also, if you plan to work in an academic library you may be required to conduct and publish research. On the other hand, if you are interested in a particular topic and wish to explore it in depth, you should probably start with an independent study project via LIS 699, which is much more flexible. If it turns into a thesis project, up to 4 LIS 699 units can be applied toward the LIS 700 Thesis Research requirement.

By when do I have to decide if I will do a Plan A thesis or a Plan B e-portfolio?

You must inform your advisor of your intent to present a thesis as your culminating degree work by your second semester in the program. This early start is due to the fact that you will also need to take three credits of research methodology and six credits in LIS 700 Thesis Research — in addition to the MLISc degree-required courses.

What is the timeline for completion?

Please view the Thesis Timeline for detailed description. This varies by student, thesis project and committee, but a completion timeline should be part of your proposal defense, and it is the student’s responsibility to keep committee members informed of any changes to the agreed-upon timeline. Main steps include pre-candidacy, proposal defense, conducting research/writing the thesis, thesis defense, and revision and submission of final thesis.

Note: You must be enrolled in at least 1 credit of LIS 700 Thesis Research in the semester you intend to graduate. Your committee must receive your final thesis document at least two weeks before the thesis defense, and all thesis requirements must be completed by the Graduate Division deadline, which is well before the end of each semester.

How long does it have to be?

A thesis is much more in-depth than a class paper or research article, and while expectations are very much project-dependent and set by the thesis committee, most theses range between 60-150 pages.

Who do I work with?

A thesis is developed and undertaken under the supervision of a committee consisting of three or more faculty members. A majority, including the chair, must be LIS faculty.  Graduate Division maintains a list of faculty who are eligible to chair and serve on thesis committees.

How do I get faculty members to work with me?

Faculty members participate on thesis committees at their discretion. Just like students, they have different interests, philosophies and time demands that may preclude them from working with you. The best thing you can do is to articulate your interest in considering a thesis as early as possible during your time in the LIS Program, and not later than two semesters before you plan to graduate. Your advisor can steer you toward courses that will demonstrate your ability to conduct research, and faculty members who may be receptive to working with you.

What if I start a thesis and then want to switch to an e-portfolio instead?

There is precedent for this, but you will have to discuss this with your committee chair and advisor first. You will not be refunded for any LIS 699 or 700 courses you have taken as part of your thesis work.

What theses have previous LIS students completed?

Recent theses include:

  • Jason Ford (2022). Indigenous Voices Informing Academic Information Literacy: Critical Discourses, Relationality, and Indigeneity for the Good of the Whole.
  • Holiday Vega (2019). Public Libraries and Homelessness: Connecting Vulnerable Patrons to Needed Resources.
  • Laila Brown (2018)Enacting Critical Feminist Librarianship: Examining LIS Book Clubs as a Means of Collaborative Inquiry and Professional Value Formation.
  • Valerie Shaindlin (2018)Ruth Horie: An Oral History Biography and Feminist Analysis.
  • Amy Trimble (2017). Exploring Personal Connections in a Digital Reading Environment.
  • Shavonn Matsuda (2015). Toward a Hawaiian Knowledge Organization System: A Survey on Access to Hawaiian Knowledge in Libraries and Archives.
  • Valancy Rasmussen (2014). The Manuscripts of Timbuktu: Armed Conflict and Preservation of Memory.
  • Matthew C. da Silva (2014). Censorship Glossarchive Project: Phase One: Developing Metadata Scheme for Cryptic Circumlocutions in Chinese Social Media.
  • Nicolita Garces (2013). Meeting the Information Needs of Students in the Ilokano Language and Literature Program: Assessing Hamilton Library’s Philippine Collection at the University of Hawai‘i-Mānoa.
  • Sarah Vornholt (2013)Visualizing the Article: An Exploratory Study of Undergraduates’ Educational Reactions to Images in Scholarly Articles.
  • Michael-Brian Ogawa (2012). The Role of School Librarians in Establishing and Facilitating Professional Learning Communities.
  • Joshua Mika (2012)Discriminating Tastes: Editing Siam’s Patrimony and the Birth of the ‘National Library,’ 1905-1925.
  • Matthew Yim (2007)A Discourse on Shadows: Archive Ideals and Ideal Archives. How Access and Preservation Shape the Performance of Archival Discourse.

We encourage students to submit their completed thesis to the university’s ScholarSpace institutional repository.