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Welcome to MALS

Welcome to the MALS Program and the beginning of a new intellectual adventure. The MALS handbook is designed to provide you with basic information about the MALS program in a handy format. Please refer to the menu to the left to find the information you need.

You can direct questions about MALS to the Program Director, Dr. Marie Tedesco and Dr. Jill LeRoy-Frazier, associate professor.

Both can be reached at the main Cross-Disciplinary Studies office number: 423-439-4223.

The MALS Student Handbook is now being distributed online exclusively. Should you prefer a paper copy, please download the pdf version of the handbook here for a printer-friendly version:     MALS Student Handbook (PDF version)




The Master of Arts in Liberal Studies is a flexible, interdisciplinary graduate program that offers students an alternative graduate education. Firmly grounded in the values of interdisciplinary learning, the program offers students the opportunity to design an individualized program of study in the arts, humanities, sciences, social sciences, and other fields. MALS permits students to pursue scholarly interests that cross disciplinary and departmental boundaries and allows them to seek degrees in areas for which individual courses exist, but for which there are no master's degree programs (e.g., Appalachian studies, women's studies, religion and spirituality).

Program Objectives


The Master of Arts in Liberal Studies (MALS) is housed in the Division of Cross-Disciplinary Studies in the School of Continuing Studies. The MALS director reports to the Chair for Cross-Disciplinary Studies. The current MALS director is Dr. Marie Tedesco and the current chair for Cross-Disciplinary Studies is Dr. Jo Lobertini.

The MALS director works with the MALS Faculty Advisory Committee on policy issues related to the MALS program. The Faculty Advisory Committee consists of six faculty members selected or drawn from the following colleges: Arts & Sciences, Education, and Business & Technology.


All ETSU graduate programs, including the Master of Arts in Liberal Studies, are accredited by the Commission on Colleges of the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools. ETSU also is a member of the Association of Graduate Liberal Studies Programs.

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Admission Requirements

Students must submit all admission materials to the School of Graduate Studies, which then forwards them to the MALS director for initial consideration. After the MALS director reviews the materials, the student will be contacted to schedule an admissions interview.

In addition to the submission of application materials required by the School of Graduate Studies, students must meet the following requirements to be admitted into the MALS program:

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Degree Requirements - Regular MALS

Master of Arts in Liberal Studies Core (13 hours)

MALS 5000: Foundations in Liberal Studies (1 hour)
MALS 5100: Introduction to Interdisciplinary Study (3 hours)
MALS 5200: Seminar in Liberal Studies (3 hours)
MALS 5400: Seminar in Interdisciplinary Research* (3 hours)
MALS 5950: Project Research OR
MALS 5960: Thesis Research (3 hours)

*With approval of the MALS director, student may substitute a disciplinary research methods course

Total MALS Core: (13 hours)

Elective Hours: (18 or 21 hours)

Total Hours:

Thesis Option: 31 hours
Non-thesis Option: 34 hours

In consultation with the MALS director, each student will design a plan of study consisting of 18 or 21 credit hours of approved coursework. The thesis option requires 18 hours; the project option 21 hours. The program of study must have thematic or subject commonality. Courses must be taken from at least two - preferably three - different academic departments; no more than one course may be taken from colleges other than the colleges of Arts and Sciences and Education without special permission from the MALS director. Where applicable, students must meet prerequisites for all courses.

The program of study must follow graduate school regulations, as final approval for the program of study rests with the School of Graduate Studies. Students may not take more than 30 percent of their elective credits in courses numbered 5xx7, that is, in courses colisted in the undergraduate catalog as 4xx7 courses. Likewise, students may not take more than 30 percent of their credits in independent studies courses (usually numbered 5900 in each academic department). Students may transfer no more than nine credits from another institution (with School of Graduate Studies approval) or from courses taken as a non-degree student. Each student has six years to complete her/his degree.

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MALS Core Course Descriptions

MALS 5000: Foundations in Liberal Studies (1 hour) - An introduction to graduate liberal studies and its theoretical framework for the student's educational plan in the MALS program. Students will complete a preliminary plan of study that includes area(s) of emphasis. (Unless so approved by the MALS director, must be taken during the first semester in the MALS program.)

MALS 5100: Introduction to Interdisciplinary Study (3 hours) - An introduction to the nature and value of interdisciplinary study. Literature, a movie or play, science and/or social science, history, and philosophy may be brought to bear on the study of a topic. (Unless so approved by the MALS director, students should take MALS 5100 during their first semester in the MALS program.)

MALS 5200: Seminar in Liberal Studies (3 hours) - An examination through an interdisciplinary approach of a major issue, historical period, or thematic study in the liberal arts. The particular subject will vary from semester to semester. May be cross-listed with another academic department. (Students may repeat MALS 5200 if the topic changes).

MALS 5400: Seminar in Interdisciplinary Research (3 hours) - Prerequisite: MALS 5100. An introduction to and exploration of interdisciplinary research with an emphasis upon qualitative methodologies. Students may develop proposals for MALS 5950: Special Project in Liberal Studies or for MALS 5960: Thesis. (Students are strongly encouraged to take MALS 5400 within the first two or three semesters of their graduate programs).

MALS 5900: Independent Study (1-6 hours) - This course provides for independent study under the direction of an appropriate faculty member. Significant research grounded in interdisciplinarity required.

MALS 5950: Special Project in Liberal Studies (3 hours) - Written application of knowledge and understanding gained in the MALS Program. A creative or performance component is acceptable. Prerequisite: MALS 5400 or equivalent.

MALS 5960: Thesis (3 hours) - A research project developed and documented in the form of a thesis. Prerequisite: MALS 5400 or equivalent.

MALS 5990: Readings and Research (1-3 hours) - Students who are not enrolled in other coursework but require the use of university facilities and/or faculty guidance for studies, research, or preparation of a prospectus, thesis, or dissertation MUST enroll for at least one hour of readings and research. Variable hours (1-3) of readings and research may also be used, as approved by the student's advisory committee, in conjunction with other coursework, to recieve credit for such activities as development of research and scholarly skills that would not be appropriately covered by other types of independent study. Grading of readings and research will be either satisfactory (S) or unsatisfactory (U). Please note that 5990 hours do not count toward fulfilling the 31 or 34 credit hours necessary for the degree program.

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Degree Requirements: Concentration in Archival Studies

The concentration in archival studies within the MALS Program offers students a cross-disciplinary program of study consistent with recommendations of the Society of American Archivists. Students take core courses in liberal studies, as well as core courses in archival studies. Electives come from three categories: library science, management, and a subject field. A practicum at a local repository is an elective option.

MALS Core for the Archival Studies Concentration

MALS 5000: Foundations in Liberal Studies (1 hour)
MALS 5100: Introduction to Interdisciplinary Study (3 hours)

Either of the following courses:

MEDA 5800: Information Networks-Resource Sharing (3 hours)
MEDA 5850: Managing Content on the Internet (3 hours)

MALS 5400*: Seminar in Interdisciplinary Research* (3 hours)
MALS 5950: Project Research OR
MALS 5960: Thesis Research (3 hours)

*With approval of the MALS director, may substitute a disciplinary research methods course.

Total MALS Core: 13 hours

Archival Studies Core Courses

AVST 5310: Archives History and Issues (3 hours)
AVST 5311: Archives Theory and Practice (3 hours)
AVST 5312: Archives Conservation (3 hours)
MEDA 5750: Information and Records Managment (3 hours)

Total Archival Studies Core: 12 hours


Students will choose one of the following Library Science courses:

MEDA 5000: History and Philosophy of Educational Media and Educational Technology (3 hours)
MEDA 5720: Organization of Library Media (3 hours)

Total Library Science: 3 hours

Students will choose two courses (6 hours) from the following management courses:

MGMT 5010: Essentials of Management (3 hours)
BADM 5160: Information Infrastructure (3 hours)
PMGT 5160: Introduction to Public Administration (3 hours)
MGMT 5020: Legal and Social Enviroment of Business (3 hours)
PMGT 5200: Administrative Law and Practice (3 hours)

Total Management: 6 hours

Students will choose six credits from subject fields. The following are examples of courses that may be taken. Courses must be approved by the Archival Studies Coordinator.

HIST 5097: Emergence of the Modern United States (3 hours)
HIST 5107: Recent United States - 1933 to Present (3 hours)
CSCI 5250: Database Design (3 hours)
SOAA 5357: Mass Communication and Popular Culture (3 hours)
SOAA 5807: Modern Social Theory (3 hours)
AVST 5570: Archives Practicum (3 hours)
MALS 5900: Directed Studies (3 hours)

Total Subject Field Courses: 6-7 hours

Total Program Credit Hours: 40-41 hours

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Graduate Certificate in Archival Studies

The Graduate Certificate in Archival Studies is an 18-credit hour program designed for individuals who need, or want, archival training, but for whom the full degree program is not a necessity. Employees of a museum, historic site, or business may benefit from the certificate, as may history or English students who desire to complement their undergraduate or graduate degree. Individuals who must organize church or family records will also benefit from the certificate program. Admissions requirements for students pursuing the certificate are the same as those for students entering the MALS program. The certificate may be taken completely online or may be taken as a combination of online and in-person classroom experience. All three of the core AVST courses are online courses, with the conservation course being offered during the three-week summer intersession.

Required Archival Studies core courses:

AVST 5310: Archives History and Issues (3 hours)
AVST 5311: Archives Theory and Practice (3 hours)
AVST 5312: Archives Conservation (3 hours)

Total Archival Studies: 9 hours

Electives: students must select three courses from the list below. Please note that asterisked courses are offered online. Double asterisked courses may be offered in person or online.

PMGT 5100: Introduction to Public Administration** (3 hours)
MGMT 5010: Essentials of Management** (3 hours)
HIST 5950: Introduction to Historical Research (3 hours)
SOAA 5627: Ethnographic Fieldwork (3 hours)
MEDA 5720: Organization of Library Materials (3 hours)
MEDA 5750: Information and Records Management* (3 hours)
MEDA 5000: History & Philosophy of Educational Media and Educational Technology* (3 hours)
CSCI 5011: Internet Technology I* (3 hours)
AVST 5570: Archives Practicum (3 hours)

Total Electives: 9 hours

Graduate Certificate Program Total: 18 hours

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Archives Core Course Descriptions

AVST 5310: Archives History and Issues (3 hours) - Introduces the student to archives and the archival profession. The course provides an overview of the development of record-keeping systems, types of archival repositories, the mission of the archivist, legislation and regulations influencing archival work, and contemporary concerns of the archival profession.

AVST 5311: Archives Theory and Practice (3 hours) - Covers the following topics: archival theory and the nature of archives; appraisal and documentation strategies; acquisition and collection development; preservation of archival records; arrangement and description of collections; and reference, access, and outreach functions.

AVST 5312: Archives Conservation (3 hours) - Focuses on the physical nature of archival documents and their preservation, regardless of the documents' formats. Paper, audio and videotape, film, photographic prints and negatives, and electronic formats will be studied, as will causes and prevention of deterioration, preservation microfilming, digitization, and disaster preparedness.

AVST 5570: Archives Practicum (3 hours) - Prerequisities: AVST 5310, 5311, and 5312. A directed work experience that allows students to apply archival knowledge and skills learned in a classroom setting to an archival setting. With the approval of the Archival Studies Coordinator, the student will work under the supervision of a professional archivist at a local repository.

MEDA 5750: Information and Records Management (3 hours) - An introduction to the role and functions of the information manager in educational organizations with emphasis on use, retention, and management of information and records.

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The MALS Portfolio

The MALS portfolio is a collection of materials (documents, videotape, software, scores, products, etc.) that serves as a purposeful, holistic picture of the student's study. The portfolio serves as "an exhibit of individual efforts, progress, and achievement" in the MALS program (Weidmer, 1988, p. 586). It may be in hard copy or electronic (digital) format. The MALS portfolio will be presented, along with the student's Special Project or Thesis, as the culminating experience for MALS students.

Required Components:

  • Table of Contents
  • Resume
  • Transcripts
  • Program Descriptions and Goals
  • Self-Evaluation of Program

Examples of Portfolio Entries:

  • Research papers developed in courses
  • Class syllabi
  • Important class handouts/materials
  • Photographs and visual documents
  • Tests
  • Case studies prepared for class
  • Instructional products produced for classroom use
  • Reflective journals
  • Reading lists and bibliographies
  • Creative work

Your MALS portfolio should address the following questions:

  • Why is this an interdisciplinary program?
  • What are the connections between your courses, content, and program of study?
  • Is this a coherent, quality program?

Portfolio Scoring Rubric


  • Entries represent exemplary graduate-level work, are of exceptional quality, and are very well organized; clear evidence of planning
  • Entries demonstrate a thorough understanding of program concepts and content
  • Entries provide evidence of comprehensive knowledge gained from the program of study
  • Entries provide evidence of a high degree of insight regarding the connections and linkages between courses making up the program of study.
  • Entries demonstrate sustained effort, reflection, and growth by the student.


  • Entries represent graduate-level work, are of high quality, and are well-organized.
  • Entries demonstrate satisfactory understanding of program concepts and content
  • Entries provide evidence of basic knowledge gained from the program of study
  • Entries provide evidence of insight regarding the connections and linkages between courses making up the program of study.
  • Entries demonstrate sustained effort, reflection, and growth by the student.

Not Acceptable

  • Entries do not represent graduate-level work, are of poor quality, or are poorly organized.
  • Entries do not demonstrate satisfactory understanding of program concepts and content
  • Entries do not provide evidence of basic knowledge gained from the program of study
  • Entries do not provide sufficient evidence of insight regarding the connections and linkages between courses making up the program of study.
  • Entries do not demonstrate sustained effort, reflection, and growth by the student.
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Selected MALS Theses and Project Titles


  • "Harbingers of Change: Women and War, 1861-1865" (Project: support paper, directing of readers' theater play, journal documenting play production) Darcy Martin
  • "Making Do and Making Over: The Feedsack Connection. An Ethnographic Study of the Use of Textile Bags in the Cosby Valley, Tennessee." (Project: support paper and exhibit at the B. Carroll Reece Museum) Lina McConnohie
  • "Living in the Mountains: A Study of Life in the New River Communities of Tennessee" (Project: DVD, support paper, and interview transcripts) Leslie Burrell Smith
  • "Mining a New Life" (Project: support paper and exhibit in B. Carroll Reece Museum, with DVD to document exhibit) Dusty Hibbs
  • "Playboys, Single Girls, and Sexual Rebels: Sexual Politics from 1950-1965: A Trilogy of Significant Developments" (Thesis) Amy Dolinger
  • "An Analytical Overview of Country Rock Music and Examination of Some Unexplored Chapters in its History" (Written Project) Ajay Kalra
  • "Synesthetic Sensor Fusion Via a Cross-Wired Artifical Neural Network" (Thesis) Stephen Seneker
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Thesis and Project Guidelines

MALS Students have a choice of pursuing either the thesis or project option. Students electing the thesis option must complete 31 hours of credit, including MALS 5960: Thesis Research, while students electing the project option must complete 34 hours of credit, including MALS 5950: Project Research. Depending on when in her/his program a student takes MALS 5950 or 5960, she/he may begin work on the project or thesis, but in most cases more than likely will not finish the project or thesis while taking the course. (Please note that completing MALS 5950 or 5960 is not synonymous with completing the project or thesis). Work completed in MALS 5400: Seminar in Interdisciplinary Research, may become part of the thesis or project, depending on whether or not the student has a good idea of what she wants to pursue as a thesis or project topic.

    • Graduate Advisory Committees
    • Thesis
    • Project
    • Proposals, Revision of Work, and IRB
    • Formatting Information

Purpose of the culminating work (thesis or project). Regardless of the format, the culminating work represents the capstone of the student's MALS program and as such must tie in with the content of student's coursework. Thus, it will not be acceptable, for example, for a student to take the bulk of courses in Appalachian-themed topics and then to write a project on the poetry of Wallace Stevens. A student who takes courses in the social sciences should not then attempt a culminating project on bluegrass music. The thesis or project must make connections to the student's program of study.

The student also needs to be careful not to choose a project that is appropriate only to a specific discipline. Topics that are not interdisciplinary or which belong to a discipline that offers a master's program are inappropriate. A thesis or project in the area of marketing, finance, or accounting belongs in business; storytelling in reading; education in one of the education departments; and criminal justice in that department. Both thesis and project-option students must complete an oral defense of their culminating work, together with a defense (discussion, really) of their MALS program of study.

Graduate Advisory Committee. Regardless of whether a student chooses the thesis or project option, she/he will conduct research under the direction of the Graduate Advisory Committee (GAC). Composition of the committee consists of a chair, a second reader, and a third reader. The student chooses the committee members from among faculty members whom the student has had in courses throughout her/his program of study, including those who have taught MALS core courses. Faculty members must be on graduate faculty to serve on a student's committee. If the student requests assistance, the MALS director will provide help and advice on committee composition.

It is crucial to make wise choices concerning committee members, especially in regard to who will chair the committee. The student will work closely with the chair, so it is essential to choose someone who is knowledgeable in the student's field of study and who is willing to provide the guidance necessary for the successful and timely completion of the thesis or project. The second and third readers also provide valuable assistance and guidance in subject field, organizational, and compositional matters. Following the ideal of an interdisciplinary thesis or project, the student must choose GAC members from and least two different academic deparments. The MALS director may serve on a student's GAC as the chair or as a reader. The GAC form is available in the MALS office or on the School of Graduate Studies Forms Page.

Thesis. The traditional thesis is suitable for a number of fields of study undertaken by MALS students. Anyone seriously considering doctoral studies should consult pertinent doctoral programs to determine if they prefer the thesis or the project. The thesis consists of an approximately 50 to 100-page scholarly manuscript that must include research in primary sources. Primary sources vary depending on the nature of the research, but typically include, for example, oral interviews; reports on participatory observation; ethnographic fieldwork notes; archival records; federal population census reports; federal, state, or local government documents; and newspaper reports contemporary to an event.

Usually a thesis is divided into chapters, typically four or five. An introduction and conclusion must be part of the thesis. In regard to style sheet, please note that although the style sheet used in MALS core courses is Turabian (Chicago) notation style, the style sheet a student will follow for her/his thesis will depend on which format is preferred by the GAC chair.

Theses at ETSU must be approved not only by the student's GAC, but also by the School of Graduate Studies (SGS). Students must adhere to SGS guidelines in writing their theses and must adhere to SGS deadlines for oral defenses and electronic submission of the completed manuscript. All theses must be electronically submitted. Every semester the SGS conducts electronic submission workshops designed to help the student with electronic submission. At the beginning of the semester of graduation, the thesis student should plan to attend an electronic submission workshop. For information on electronic theses and dissertations, consult the School of Graduate Studies' ETD Manager Web site.

Project. A project may consist of a work that is entirely textual (written project) or in may consist of a combination of a textual support paper, together with a non-textual component. Like the thesis, the written project should be from 50 to 100 pages in length. A combination project may take the form of a musical performance by the student; a play directed by or acted in by the student; an exhibit of artwork, photographs, or other materials; a CD, DVD, video, or Web site project. The support paper in a combination project must be 25 to 30 pages in length.

Textual (Written) Project. The textual project can take a number of forms. It may consist of a creative work (e.g., a collection of poems, a novella, a short play; a collection of short stories) accompanied by a scholarly support paper; an investigative work based on field research; interdisciplinary educational units for secondary schools, accompanied by a scholarly paper; or an analysis of a problem, theme, or written work (for example, a discourse on slavery in the western world, 1450-1700; an analysis of changing views of mental illness in the western world, 1900-2000; a discourse on gender bias in Eastern religions; changing interpretations of Ayn Rand's Atlas Shrugged; the impact on scientific thought of Thomas Kuhn's The Structure of Scientific Revolutions).

Purely practical works are not suitable for a written project. For example, an instruction manual or a computer software program are not suitable written projects. While the textual project needs to be unique, it does not necessarily have to depend on primary research, as does the thesis. A creative work (e.g., poetry, novella) needs to be accompanied by an analytical segment or a literature review.

The written project should be from 50 to 100 pages in length and, where appropriate, should utilize a standard style sheet, as approved by the GAC chair. The most commonly used style sheets are Modern Language Assocationa (MLA); Chicago (Kate Turabian, A Manual for Writers of Term Papers, Theses, and Dissertations); Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association (APA); and the ASA Style Guide. The written project will include a literature review and a bibliography of sources cited.

Combination Project. The combination project consists of two parts: a written scholarly support paper and a non-written element. Directing a play; putting together a museum exhibit of artifacts, artwork, or photographs; performing musical selections; producing a video, DVD, or CD; developing a Web site; or conducting oral interviews are examples of the types of work that may comprise the non-written portion of the combination project. The non-written segment of a combination project must be accompanied by documentation (video or audiotapes, performance programs, slides or photographs, CD, or Power Point presentation, for example).

All combination projects, as previously noted, must be accompanied by a scholarly written support paper of at least 25-30 pages in length. The support paper will include a literature review and a critical analysis by the student. The support paper will vary according to the nature of the project, but the paper must be a scholarly one. A literature review and a bibliography of works cited must be part of the written component. The GAC chair will determine which style sheet the student will use in her/his project.

Project Proposals. All MALS students must submit a project proposal to the GAC chair and to the MALS director. (At times, GAC and MALS director will be the same person.) The proposal needs to outline in fairly detailed form the nature and intent of the project and the sources the student will use to accomplish the goal of the project. The proposal must be approved by the advisory committee chair before the student can proceed with the project. Projects and theses often change, so that it is not uncommon for a student to shift course while working on the thesis or project. The student needs to be sure to get approval from her/his chair for any changes in the project or thesis.

Revision of Work. Students need to be aware that their work is subject to revisions, as suggested by the GAC. Each member of the committee must see the project or thesis as the student is working on it. The committee chair is the person who is most responsible for setting the direction of the student's work and for suggesting revisions of the student's work. But other committee members play a vital role, too, in helping the student complete her/his work. Please be mindful of completing revisions in a timely fashion, so that appropriate deadlines may be met.

Institutional Review Board (IRB) Students intending to conduct fieldwork interviews for their theses or projects must first complete the online IRB course, "Responsibility in Human Subject Research," and then have their projects approved by the board. The online course takes about 4-5 cumulative hours to complete, and may be completed in sections. It is strongly suggested that students complete this course before beginning work on their thesis or project. Please check the IRB Web site for information on the course, course registration, IRB procedures, deadlines, and research submission forms. The IRB office is located in the Earnest House between Wilson-Wallis Hall and Lucille Clement Hall on the western end of campus.

Format of Thesis. The format of the thesis must follow SGS guidelines. For thesis format, please consult the SGS Thesis and Dissertation Forms Web Page. You will find the guide for preparation of electronic manuscripts, checklist of requirements, and other relevant forms.

Format of Textual Project or Support Paper for Non-textual Project. The title page of the student's written project or support paper must adhere to the following guidelines (see also sample title page):

Element Format Requirements
Title Centered, uppercase letters, single-spaced within the title, 10 spaces from top margin_
by Double-spaced under title
Author's Name Upper- and lowercase; centered; double-spaced under "by")
A Project (Support Paper) Submitted to the School of Graduate Studies Five spaces under author's name; one line; then double-space
East Tennesse State University One line, then double-space
In Partial Fulfillment of the Requirements for the Degree of One line, then double-space
MASTER OF ARTS IN LIBERAL STUDIES one line, then triple-space
Date of Submission  


Order of Components of the Written Project or Support Paper*

When appropriate the following order should be followed:

Component Page Numbering Requirements
Preface or Acknowledgements Number pages with lowercase Roman numerals
Table of Contents Continue numbering with lowercase Roman numerals
Literature Review Begin numbering with Arabic numerals.
Main body of work  
Endnotes (If using a style sheet that employs endnotes. Some style sheets, such as MLA and APA, use in-text citation, while others (e.g., Turabian) use footnotes).
Figures and Tables You may place figures (charts, graphs, etc.) in the appropriate place in the main body of the text or you may group them together at the end of the paper, depending on the requirements of the style sheet employed.
Works Cited (or other appropriate title as recommended by the preferred style sheet)

*For the support paper, adapt the order of components as they fit the nature of the support paper.


Number of Copies/Binding. Students are required to present to the MALS program one copy of the written project. This copy will be retained by the MALS program in its own library and will be available for other students to peruse or to use in research projects. With the student's written permission, MALS may donate the project to the Archives of Appalachia located in Sherrod Library. Copyright rules apply for any research usage of written projects or components. Titles of completed theses and projects may be posted on the MALS Web site or used in MALS program brochures. Students are not required to have their written project or support paper bound in book format, but they must present the written document in either a notebook or spiral-bound format. Accompanying disks, slides, or photographs should be neatly attached or encased separately in their own enclosures.

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