The writing of a thesis is a highly valued academic exercise especially suitable for students who wish to continue their graduate education in pursuit of a doctorate degree after completing the master’s degree. The thesis is traditionally regarded as the culminating activity in a master’s degree program. Students may earn up to six hours of graduate credit for writing a thesis, earned through fixed or variable credit courses, depending on the graduate program offered. Continuous enrollment for an additional one hour is possible, with the approval of the thesis committee chair.
Students should carefully plan their activities, in order to ensure that they develop a workable proposal, conduct the research, write the thesis and get it approved by the thesis committee, in a timely manner. A copy of the completed thesis should be submitted to the major adviser no later than six weeks prior to the date of Commencement. College dean should receive a copy for final approval no later than three weeks prior to the day on which the degree is to be conferred.
Candidates should consult their major adviser in forming a thesis committee and clarifying the role of the committee members in the research and writing process. The primary responsibility for directing the thesis resides with the adviser. The committee should consist of a minimum of three approved graduate faculty, including the major adviser in the discipline area. It is advisable to include additional faculty member(s) from outside the discipline, as faculty external to the discipline can bring fresh perspectives or provide valuable assistance in the conduct of research.
The candidate must register for the appropriate thesis course to begin the process of developing a thesis proposal. Registration allows the student to receive advice from a faculty member and to utilize University facilities to prepare for the thesis. While enrolled in this course, the student is expected to actively work on developing a formal proposal related to an area of research interest, under the direction of a faculty member who will be the major adviser or the Committee chair.
At minimum, the research proposal should identify the problem, clarify the thesis statement, select an appropriate research methodology (including the data gathering instruments and data analysis techniques) and provide an effective overview of the scholarly literature. The following general outline may be helpful in developing a proposal.
- Key concepts and definition of the project. Concisely and clearly state what the project intends to accomplish. What are the basic questions to be explored?
- Significance of the study. Why should the scientific community be interested in this study? What contribution will it make to the discipline, the profession and society?
- Review of relevant literature. How does your research relate to the work of others? Where are the gaps in literature? What do you hope to add to the literature?
- Methodology. How do you plan to approach the subject? What is your methodology and what instruments or procedures will you use to gather the data/information that you would need to address the questions? What is the justification for the use of this methodology? Do you have the resources to conduct the study, such as access to people, data, archives, collections, time, etc.?
- Plan of work and timetable. Present a realistic timetable including specific dates by which you plan to complete specific facets of the research. It will help you and the Committee to decide if you can realistically complete the project.
- Bibliography. Present a working bibliography that includes scholarly books and articles. You will revise and expand this bibliography as you continue with your project.
Proposal Defense and Submitting the Proposal to the dean of the College
When the proposal is ready for defense, the student must work with the Committee chair in setting a date for the proposal defense. The defense must be conducted at least one semester prior to graduation and the proposal must be submitted to the dean of the College once it is approved by the chair and all members of the Committee.
Submitting the Proposal
The student must work with the Committee chair in submitting the proposal to the Committee members for their approval. Once approved by the Committee, the chair will forward the proposal to the dean of the College at least one semester prior to the semester in which the student is expected to graduate.
Human Subjects Protection and IRB Review
In preparing the thesis proposal, students must be aware that any research which involves human subjects must be approved by the Institutional Review Board of the University in order to ensure compliance with applicable federal regulations and University policies. The proposal must be reviewed and approved by the IRB according to the University procedure. Failure to gain the IRB approval will result in denial of the proposal. It is a violation of the procedures to contact human subjects prior to the IRB approval of the proposal. It is highly recommended that the IRB approval be received prior to the submission of the proposal. Additional information related to the IRB may be found at www.park.edu/irb.
Following the approval of the thesis proposal, students may begin data gathering. Data may be collected using qualitative, quantitative, participatory, documentary or action research methodologies, as may be appropriate. The writing of the thesis may then begin, with the guidance of the Committee chair. Students are encouraged to consult the chair regularly, to ensure that they receive timely and useful feedback throughout the research and writing process.
An oral defense of the thesis must be satisfactorily completed and approved by the Committee, and the result of the defense must be submitted to the dean of the College three weeks prior to graduation. Thesis defense is open to the University community.
Enrollment in XX 799 (1 cr.)
When additional time is needed to complete the thesis work, enrollment in XX 799 is permitted, in consultation with the chair. For additional information on the thesis procedure, please consult the director of your graduate program.