M.A. Thesis Requirements
This notice describes the process for fulfilling the thesis requirement: Selecting a topic, and a thesis committee, preparing the proposal, conducting the research, and preparing the thesis. In particular, it discusses the two documents which must be found acceptable before a student has satisfied the Psychology Department's thesis requirement: A thesis proposal and a completed thesis. You should remember that this is a general guide. Questions regarding particulars of your thesis should be directed to the Graduate Coordinator or to your major professor.
Students are advised that once a student has registered for Psyc 770, they must continue to register for Psyc 770 for each semester that the thesis is in progress. Although only 6 hours of Psyc 770 will count towards the degree, students are required to continue registering for thesis until it has been completed. The student will receive a grade of IP (In Progress) until the thesis is completed or the progress on thesis becomes unsatisfactory.
The purpose of the thesis requirement is that a student demonstrate: (a) a thorough knowledge of some area of research; (b) the ability to design, justify, and carry out a research project which has the potential for furthering the knowledge of this area, and (c) the ability to report this research in a clear, professional manner using the guidelines set forth in the American Psychological Association Publication Manual (5th Ed, 2001).
II. The Topic
Generally speaking, students are encouraged to limit their research to areas in which Psychology faculty members are actively working. The student should make himself/herself aware of the expertise available in the Department. Appendix A provides a rough guide to the Faculty's main area's of expertise. It is not an exhaustive list.
The only limitations on the methodology to be used are: (a) the major professor and two other Psychology faculty members find this style of research acceptable, (b ) it follows APA ethical guidelines, and the project is approved by the Institutional Review Board (IRB).
III. Thesis Committee
The student will be supervised by a thesis committee consisting of the major professor (thesis Chair) and a minimum of two other members from the Psychology faculty. The thesis Chair must be a full-time, tenured or tenure-track member of the Psychology faculty and must meet the requirements for member graduate faculty status. The other two required thesis committee members must meet the following requirements:
1. Full-time employment in the Psychology department.
2. A tenured, tenure-track, Visiting appointment (Assistant, Associate, or Professor)
3. Member, Temporary, or Restricted graduate faculty status.
Committees may include one member drawn from outside the Psychology Department in addition to the required three members from the Psychology Department. However, the three required thesis members must approve any additional thesis committee members. The thesis committee should be chosen by the student in consultation with the major professor. Faculty recommended for the committee should not be asked to serve until the student and the major professor have agreed on the exact topic for the thesis as well as the methodology to be used.
The student should select a major professor by consulting the faculty and obtaining the consent of one faculty member. However, faculty are limited to the number of thesis committees that they can chair. A faculty member is limited to chairing three thesis committees at a time, with no more than two in the pre-proposal stage.
A faculty member agrees to chair a thesis committee based on the assumption that the project will be completed in a reasonable period of time. After 2 semesters, if the thesis proposal has not been accepted, the major professor’s commitment to the project ends. In addition there is overall time limitation on the thesis project of 2 years. If the entire thesis project has not been completed in 2 years, the major professor’s commitment to the project ends.
In the event that a student goes past one of the thesis deadlines it may be necessary to change major professors. Students are warned that with a change of major professor, it may be necessary to change the thesis topic (this applies even to students who have had thesis proposals approved). Although the time limitations may appear harsh, they are necessary due to the rapid advances in psychological research. Delaying a research project for over two years often reduces a once promising project to a meaningless exercise.
In addition to the above faculty initiated changes in major professor, students also have the option of changing major professors. After consulting with the Graduate Coordinator, a thesis student at any stage of the thesis process may choose to change major professors. However, again students are cautioned that any change of major professor may require a change of thesis topic.
IV. The Thesis Proposal
The proposal must be written according to APA format. The following is a very rough guide concerning the length of the proposal:
1) An introduction (5-15 pages)- describing the topic in its historical and theoretical context, and outlining the design and the most likely results.
2) A method section (3-10 pages)-describing the essential characteristics of your subjects, apparatus, and procedure. This section should be written in journal article style; however, complete description of all stimulus material, instructions to subjects, tests, questionnaires, etc. should be included in Appendices.
3) A results section (1-2 pages) describing the statistical tests that will be employed.
4) References, appendices, etc.
It should be expected that a number of drafts of the proposal will be necessary before the major professor approves submitting copies to the other thesis committee members. The thesis proposal document must be submitted to all thesis committee members at least one week prior to a thesis proposal meeting (there will be no exceptions). If during this 1-week period a committee member has major concerns about some aspect of the proposal, he/she should voice these concerns with the major professor. It will be the major professor’s responsibility to work with the student on any major issues raised by members of the committee.
At the meeting, the student is expected to present a brief description of the proposed research and answer questions posed by the committee. The committee will then decide, in private, whether or not to approve the proposal. Once a proposal has been accepted, no changes (e.g., running fewer or greater number of subjects, adding a control condition, etc.) can be made without the approval of the committee.
Note: There will be no thesis proposals nor defenses during the last week of classes in any semester (there will be no exceptions).
V. The Research
Once the proposal has been approved by the thesis committee, it must also be approved by the university’s Institutional Review Board (IRB). See your major professor for the appropriate forms. After obtaining IRB approval, one may begin the research project.
VI. Writing the Thesis
The thesis must be written according to APA format. It would be wise to examine several previously accepted theses to get a concrete idea of what is required. They are available from the Graduate Coordinator The following is a very rough guide concerning the length and content of the thesis.
1) A title page
2)An acknowledgment page with committee members mentioned. (Optional)
3) An abstract (100-300 words).
4) An introduction. (same as proposal)
5) A methods section (same as proposal)
6) A results section (2-10 pages) - Here you should present your main results, with statistical analyses, as briefly and clearly as possible. (The creative use of tables and figures is encouraged since it allows this section to be shorter and clearer. Minor and problematic (confusing) results should be presented after the main ones. Post hoc hypothesis and statistical analysis must be identified as such.
7) A discussion section (5-15 pages) - You should present the conclusions based on your data and discuss their implications for future theory/research. Flaws and/or possible improvements in your design should be pointed out.
8) References, appendices, footnotes, tables, figure captions, and figures. Include appendices explicitly describing the details of your method: measures, tests, specific instructions given subjects, non-standard consent forms, stimulus materials, equipment, etc.
VII. The Thesis Defense
When both the student and the major professor are satisfied with the thesis write-up (this will undoubtedly require several drafts), a formal "thesis defense" meeting should be scheduled. The formal defense of the thesis will take place no sooner than 1 week after the student has presented a copy of the thesis to each committee member AND at least 2 weeks before the end of the semester in which the student is to graduate. Also, a student may not propose and defend a thesis in the same semester (there will be no exceptions).
The thesis defense is an open meeting that anyone (e.g., other faculty, other graduate students, etc.) can attend. In the meeting, the student will briefly outline the research conducted, its rationale and results, then respond to questions posed by the committee members. After questioning the student, the committee will decide (in private) whether the thesis is acceptable and, if so, recommend revisions to be incorporated in a final version. These final revisions must be accepted by the committee before the last day of classes, or the student will not be able to graduate that semester. The members of the thesis committee will indicate final approval of the thesis by signing a Thesis Report , which must accompany all copies of the thesis listed in the next section.
VIII. A Permanent Record
The student will be responsible for providing a bound copy of the thesis for the University library, The Office of Research and Graduate Studies, the Psychology Department, and the major professor. The thesis binding policy is available in the The Office of Research and Graduate Studies.