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Spring 2021: Sherrill and Moriarty Library are closed as part of the Lesley University COVID-19 response.  Please visit us online through our library website and via our Ask-A-Librarian service,and see our Remote Services Guide.

MFA Visual Art Research

A research guide created for students in the MFA program at Lesley University College of Art and Design.


1) Watch the videos below and browse some sample MFA theses

2) Create a mind map of your work (there's a video with an example)

3) E-mail me a pic of your mind map if you want some feedback! Reply to my e-mail, it was the one with the Subject: Library's Thesis Toolkit from


If you want a refresher of the library orientation just click on Group 1 in the lefthand menu!


Thesis Writing: An Overview

Mind Mapping an MFA Thesis

Dissection of an MFA Thesis

Thesis Outlines

If you aren't sure how you want to organize your thesis, try reading other MFA theses to see how other people do it!  I've linked some below, but click on Find Dissertations & Theses under Resources in the menu on the left for ways to find and publish theses. 

Abstract vs. Practical

Notice how all the examples below compare in their organization (check out their table of contents!), even when dealing with a similar topic or medium!


Notice how the two theses below both center around art and trauma, but how they organize their thesis is different. 

Process-Based Art

If your art is very focused on your process, you may want to find a way to put more focus on that in your thesis. You can have a section of your thesis about your process but for some people their work is very process-based so they speak to process throughout the thesis.

How to Discuss & Cite Work of Others

If you don't have any concerns about writing about your own work, you just want to see how scholars discuss/cite the work of others, check out art history theses. Remember that these students aren't focusing on their own artwork, the way that you should, so they are a good place to find references to other artists to research.

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