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Culminating Experience for Graduate Programs 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/Artistic Performances 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: The committee must be comprised of three members, one of whom will serve as the committee chair. At least two committee members must be full-time faculty from your department. You may have one part-time faculty member or off-campus committee member, however the part-time faculty member or off-campus committee member cannot serve as the committee chair. The part-time faculty member or off-campus committee member must meet 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 your 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 their institution or agency.

Once you have formed your committee, you 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 your committee chair, department graduate coordinator and the Associate Vice President of Graduate Studies.

Graduate Project/Artistic Performances 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/Artistic Performance 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.