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.


The requirement for the MLISc degree under the thesis option is a minimum of 39 credit hours of approved graduate study. At least 33 credit hours must be taken in LIS and approved ICS courses, including a minimum of 6 credit hours in LIS 700: Thesis Research. Up to 4 credit hours of LIS 699 Directed Reading and/or Research may be applied toward the 6 credit hour LIS 700 minimum requirement. Students may not take more than total of 6 credits of LIS 699. Students may also not count more than a total of 9 credit hours in LIS 699 and LIS 700 to meet the minimum number of credits required. Students must be enrolled in at least 1 credit hour of LIS 700 Thesis Research in the semester they intend to graduate.

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

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

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

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.

What is the timeline for completion?

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. 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 Office of Graduate Education’s 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. The UHM Office of Graduate Education 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 theses have previous LIS students completed?

Recent theses include:

  • 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.