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Major Research Paper Guidelines

The Major Research Paper (MRP) is an independent research project that presents an articulate, thoroughly substantiated argument on a topic within the field of Communication Studies. The MRP should demonstrate familiarity with the relevant academic literature and should be clearly situated in terms of one or more trajectories in Communication Studies research and theory.

MRPs should be 50-60 pages in length and follow the formal guidelines outlined below. Students may pursue any or all of interdisciplinary research, empirical research, and theoretical argumentation, and may also engage in creative projects (i.e. some students may want to create a film, web-based or print-based project that may be considered part of the MRP). Although the form and content of the MRP will vary between students, a typical MRP includes the following:

  • statement of the problem / issue
  • theoretical and methodological framework
  • literature review
  • analysis and argument
  • limitations of the project and avenues for further inquiry


  • Dec. 1-15: Students should arrange to meet informally with faculty throughout December. In consultation with the graduate director, each student will approach faculty members about supervising his/her MRP. Informal contact can be made during this time period, so that students may begin discussing their proposals with a faculty member.
  • Jan. 15: Outline of topic due. After preliminary research, students submit a brief (250 word) outline of their proposed topic to the graduate officer. The outline should briefly identify the primary issue(s) to be addressed along with the rationale for the project. Students may indicate their preferred supervisor and reader; however, the graduate committee is ultimately responsible for assigning these roles.
  • Feb. 1 to March 15: Announcement of supervisory committees. Advisors are formally assigned. Students begin working on their proposal with their advisor.
  • March 15: Proposal draft due. Students will submit the draft to their respective advisors for comment.
  • April 15: Final proposal due. The proposal is a substantial, well-researched, formal document which provides a detailed outline for the MRP (10-12 pages in length). To this end, the proposal must accomplish three things:
    • The proposal must identify the particular topic or issue(s) you are addressing and clearly situate it within the relevant academic literature. It is not expected that the student will have read all of the material cited in the proposal; instead, the proposal identifies both sources consulted and those that will be consulted as part of the project. The proposal will therefore include a working bibliography.
    • The proposal will document the personal standpoint, theoretical perspective and methodological approach, values and ethics pertinent to the proposed MRP, and will indicate, to the best abilities of the student, the assumptions and exclusions that the project makes. Note: Students who intend to work with human subjects must receive ethics approval and should consult with their supervisor prior to submission of the proposal.
    • The proposal will include a clearly articulated schedule of research and writing for the project which is in keeping with the timeline provided below.
  • May to August: Research, Writing, and Revisions. In continued consultation with the supervisor and guided by the proposal, students will research and write the MRP in spring and summer. It is important that students pay particular attention to the possibilities of racism, heterosexism, sexism and other forms of oppression within the language or the design of the MRP. An initial draft of the MRP is due to the supervisor on June 15. This draft should be a complete, formal document with full citations. It is expected that the supervisor and student will meet shortly after the submission date to discuss the draft and plan for subsequent research and writing. The final draft of the document should be submitted to the supervisor by July 15. At this point the supervisor will consult with the reader and, if they conclude that the MRP is defensible, will notify the student of a defense date by Aug. 1.
  • Early August: Oral defense. The oral defense is an opportunity for the student to present and defend their MRP research. Defenses are chaired by a presiding officer (typically the department chair or graduate officer or designated) and include the student, supervisor and reader. Defenses are also open to the Laurier community. The defense begins with a 10-15 minute presentation by the student, which should move beyond a simple summary of their project to situate the project within the student’s own intellectual growth and learning experience. This is followed by a period of formal questioning by the reader and supervisor respectively, after which questioning is opened to the audience. The defense committee will determine whether or not the MRP is to be passed, as well as the extent of revisions (if any), and will inform the student of the results at the conclusion of the defense.
  • Aug. 31: Final submission. The final copy of the MRP must be submitted directly to the Communication Studies office by Aug. 31. You must submit an electronic copy. Consult the department office for more detailed instructions. It is expected that this final copy will take into account the criticisms and suggestions made on the final draft of the MRP as well as in the defense. Note: The final copy of the MRP must be approved by the supervisor before submission to the department. It is therefore recommended that the document be submitted to the supervisor in advance of the deadline.

Formatting Guidelines

The MRP (or thesis) must be formatted according to these guidelines:

  • The MRP must be double spaced throughout and in 12-point font.
  • Paper used for the defense copies should be 8.5x11 inches and of any weight and can be double-sided, but the final copy must be 8.5x11 inches, 20 lb. bond paper and single sided. Acceptable printers include laser and ink-jet.
  • Margins must be one inch on each side, with the exception that the final copy must have a left margin of 1.5 inches to allow for binding.
  • The first line of every paragraph should be indented a standard five spaces.
  • Abbreviations may be used (if conventional in the particular discipline) but must be defined the first time they are used.
  • If there are alternative correct spellings of a particular word, either form may be used, but such use must be consistent throughout the MRP.
  • The pages should be numbered in consecutive order with Arabic numerals, starting with the first page of text and continuing through to the last page of the entire MRP, including endnotes/footnotes, appendices and references. Pages preceding the text, starting with the first page of the abstract should be numbered consecutively with lower-case Roman numerals.
  • The title page of the MRP must contain the Universal Copyright Notice©.
  • References and citations must follow either APA or MLA format.
  • The organizational sequence should be as follows:
    • Title page of the MRP;
    • Abstract;
    • Acknowledgments;
    • Table of Contents;
    • List of Tables (if appropriate);
    • List of Figures (if appropriate);
    • Text of the MRP;
    • Endnotes and/or footnotes (may be included in the text);
    • Appendices (if appropriate); and
    • References.
  • The title page must be organized as follows:

(full name of the author)©
(undergraduate degree, university, year)
Major Research Paper
Submitted to the Department of Communication Studies
in partial fulfillment of the requirements for
Master of Arts
Wilfrid Laurier University