This is an archive of the 2015-2016 University Catalog.
To access the most recent version, please visit

This is an archive of the 2015-2016 University Catalog.
To access the most recent version, please visit


Culminating Experience (Graduate Policy)

A culminating experience is required for completion of a master’s or doctorate degree program. The University recognizes the following types of culminating experiences: Theses, Dissertations, Graduate Projects and Comprehensive Examinations. Each graduate program permits one or more of the culminating experiences as described below. Where more than one option is offered, the specific type of culminating experience is identified on the student’s formal program.

A Thesis/Dissertation is an original scholarly contribution to the student’s field based on a systematic study of a significant problem or issue. Although it may be part of a larger research program, each Thesis is unique and written by a single student. The Thesis typically explains the problem; sets forth the methodology used to address the problem and the limitations of the methodology; reports the results, whether those are an analysis of data or a presentation of theory; and explains the significance of the findings in the context of previous work on the topic.

Thesis/Dissertation Project Committee Selection: A minimum of three individuals must serve on a student’s thesis committee. Two of the committee members must be tenured or tenure-track CSUN faculty. The chair of the thesis committee must be a tenured or tenure-track CSUN faculty member from the program. Faculty participating in the Faculty Early Retirement Program (FERP) are considered active faculty members and, as such, can function as the thesis chair. Any part-time faculty or off-campus committee member must be a recognized expert in the subject matter of the thesis and must have a masters and/or doctoral degree in a related field. The student may have one part-time faculty or off-campus committee member; however, the part-time faculty or off-campus committee member cannot serve as the committee chair. The part-time faculty or off-campus committee member must meet all of the following minimal qualifications to participate on the committee:

  1. Hold a M.A./M.S. degree (some programs will require a Ph.D.) in the field or in a related field or equivalent degree.
  2. Have experience in the topic or area of the student’s Thesis/Dissertation/Project, such as employment with an established institution or agency as a staff member or consultant.
  3. Demonstrate professional recognition through publications, reports, papers or membership in a national professional organization and/or working committees in his or her institution or agency.

Once the student has formed his or her committee, the student will need to register through the Electronic Thesis and Dissertation (ETD) website. A curriculum vitae of a part-time faculty member or off-campus committee member must be uploaded electronically on the ETD website for approval by the student’s committee chair, graduate program coordinator and the Associate Vice President of Graduate Studies.

Graduate Projects are a significant undertaking of a pursuit appropriate to professional fields and fine arts. It must represent originality and independent thinking, appropriate form and organization and a rationale. A Project may be an individual or group effort. Examples of appropriate projects include the development of curriculum, a market research study for an organization, the testing of a therapy on a particular population or the design of an electronic device. In the arts, examples could include a music recital, a music composition, direction of a theatrical performance or a gallery showing of works of art. The results must be described and summarized in a written document with an abstract.

A Comprehensive Examination will test the range of subject matter covered in the student’s graduate program. The purpose of the examination is to allow students to demonstrate their ability to integrate content, knowledge, independent thinking and critical analysis. At least three committee members must certify to the success or failure of the student in the examination.