M.A. TESOL Culminating Experience


Most M.A. TESOL students take the Culminating Workshop (LING 566). In this 4-credit course, you polish projects submitted in previous courses to develop a portfolio that demonstrates your professional work. Your portfolio will include a CV and examples to show both applied and academic skills, such as lesson plans you could use in an interview for a teaching position and an empirical research paper you could use as a writing sample in a doctoral program application.


Students who are interested in research, want to study one area in depth, and are strong writers can consider the M.A. thesis option. A thesis is an independent research project you conduct in consultation with a thesis advisor.  Thesis students take 6 thesis credits instead of the Culminating Workshop, so they complete the MA TESOL with 50 credits rather than 48.

Thesis advising & committee

Students must find a department faculty member who is willing to be their thesis advisor before beginning the thesis process. You will work closely with your advisor to develop a thesis proposal, which must be approved by your advisor and at least one other thesis committee member. Your advisor will continue to work with you as you submit human subjects paperwork, carry out the research, and write the thesis. Expect to work through multiple drafts of your thesis, revising based on your advisor’s feedback. The thesis is read and evaluated by your thesis advisor and two additional thesis committee members.  

Timing a thesis

A thesis is a substantial, time-consuming project, and thesis defenses must take place by the 6th week of the term of graduation. Therefore, most thesis students take at least one extra term to graduate. Students who plan carefully, work efficiently, and gather data quickly can often defend a thesis at the end of spring term in their second year, but their term of graduation is officially summer. Other students do not finish until into their third year. Make sure you consider your commitments and discuss timelines carefully with a potential advisor.

Thesis credits

Students must complete at least 6 thesis credits, but can take more if needed. Thesis credits are usually spread out over 2 or more terms, as agreed between you and your thesis advisor. You must be registered for at least one thesis credit the term you defend your thesis, and you should have thesis credits any term when your advisor is spending time working with you.

Thesis defense

Thesis defenses must be scheduled with your advisor’s and committee members’ approval. At the defense, you give a 20-25 minute presentation to your thesis committee and other department or PSU community members who choose to attend. You then answer questions from your committee and, if time permits, from audience members. You will receive comments about revisions you must make to your thesis before it is submitted to the Graduate School.

Deadlines & the Graduate School

The PSU Graduate School specifies policies, procedures and deadlines for theses. It is crucial that you submit required forms, meet deadlines, and follow formatting rules for your thesis. Carefully read all information on the links on the Graduate School website.

I am having a really good time working with my thesis because I have a lot of support from my advisor and also from my committee. I have been able to apply all the knowledge that I gained in all my classes. I have also been able to incorporate advice and ideas that other professors give me here in the department. That’s another plus of the department, that you can approach and access professors very easily. They are very friendly and very helpful because they are here to help you learn and grow.

--Santiago Gustin, MA TESOL 2019

Past student theses

Our MA TESOL students choose a wide variety of thesis topics reflecting their wide variety of interests. Theses may focus on specific language teaching applications, teacher or learner experiences, sociolinguistics, discourse analysis, language and the brain, or many other areas. Below is a sampling of Portland State MA TESOL theses from the last several years. See all PSU theses at PDXScholar.

Grammatical Errors by Arabic ESL Students: An Investigation of L1 Transfer through Error Analysis. Author: Aisha Saud Alasfour. Date: 07/2018

Verb Stem Alternation in Vaiphei. Author: Jesse Prichard. Date: 07/2018

Foreign Language Anxiety, Sexuality, and Gender: Lived Experiences of Four LGBTQ+ Students. Author: James Donald Mitchell. Date: 03/2018

College Student Rankings of Multiple Speakers in a Public Speaking Context: a Language Attitudes Study on Japanese-accented English with a World Englishes Perspective. Author: John James Ahlbrecht. Date: 02/2018

Multilingualism and Multiculturalism: Opinions from Spanish-Speaking English Learners from Mexico, Central America, and South America. Author: Cailey Catherine Moe. Date: 11/2017

Escalating Language at Traffic Stops: Two Case Studies. Author: Jamalieh Haley. Date: 09/2017

Loanwords in Context: Lexical Borrowing from English to Japanese and its Effects on Second-Language Vocabulary Acquisition. Author: Andrew Michael Sowers. Date: 09/2017

An Analytical System for Determining Disciplinary Vocabulary for Data-Driven Learning: an Example from Civil Engineering. Author: Philippa Jean Otto. Date: 03/2017

Lexical Bundles in Applied Linguistics and Literature Writing: a Comparison of Intermediate English Learners and Professionals. Author: Kathryn Marie Johnston. Date: 03/2017

Teacher and Student Perceptions of World Englishes (WE) Pronunciations in two US Settings. Author: Marie Arrieta. Date: 01/2017

Wiki-based Collaborative Creative Writing in the ESL Classroom. Author: Rima Elabdali. Date: 12/2016

The Effect of Extended Instruction on Passive Voice, Reduced Relative Clauses, and Modal Would in the Academic Writing of Advanced English Language Learners. Author: Audrey Bailey. Date: 08/2016

A Study of the Intelligibility, Comprehensibility and Interpretability of Standard Marine Communication Phrases as Perceived by Chinese Mariners. Author: Lillian Christine Holland. Date: 08/2016

Identity Construction and Language Use by Immigrant Women in a Microenterprise Development Program. Author: Linda Eve Bonder. Date: 06/2016

"That's the test?" Washback Effects of an Alternative Assessment in a Culturally Heterogeneous EAP University Class. Author: Abigail Bennett Carrigan. Date: 05/2016

Perspectives on the College Readiness and Outcome Achievement of Former Intensive English Language Program (IELP) Students. Author: Meghan Oswalt. Date: 09/2015

Empowering All Who Teach: A Portrait of Two Non-Native English Speaking Teachers in a Globalized 21st Century. Author: Rosa Dene David. Date: 06/2015

The Cognitive Development of Expertise in an ESL Teacher: A Case Study. Author: Lyndsey Roos. Date: 06/2015

Identity and Investment in the Community ESL Classroom. Author: Jennifer Marie Sacklin. Date: 06/2015

Sound Effects: Age, Gender, and Sound Symbolism in American English. Author: Timothy Allen Krause. Date: 05/2015

A Corpus Based Analysis of Noun Modification in Empirical Research Articles in Applied Linguistics. Authors: Jo-Anne Hutter. Date: 02/2015

Latino Men Managing HIV: An Appraisal Analysis of Intersubjective Relations in the Discourse of Five Research Interviews. Authors: Will Caston. Date: 11/2014

Explorations into the Psycholinguistic Validity of Extended Collocations. Author: J. Arianna Morgan. Date: 09/2014

The Impact of Wiki-based Collaborative Writing on English L2 Learners' Individual Writing Development. Author: Gina Christina Caruso. Date: 08/2014

Emerging Lexical Organization from Intentional Vocabulary Learning. Author: Adam Jones. Date: 08/2014

Self-Efficacy in Low-Level English Language Learners. Author: Laura F. Blumenthal. Date: 01/2014

L1 Influence on L2 Intonation in Russian Speakers of English. Author: Christiane Fleur Crosby. Date: 07/2013

The First Year: Development of Preservice Teacher Beliefs About Teaching and Learning During Year One of an MA TESOL Program. Author: Emily Spady Addiego. Date: 06/2013

The Role of Expectations on Nonnative English Speaking Students' Wrtiting. Author: Sara Marie Van Dan Acker. Date: 06/2013

Hypothetical Would-Clauses in Korean EFL Textbooks: An Analysis Based on a Corpus Study and Focus on Form Approach. Author: Soyung Yoo. Date: 03/2013

English Loan Words in Japanese: Exploring Comprehension and Register. Author: Naoko Horikawa. Date: 01/2013