After taking the required courses, but generally before taking electives, a student in good academic standing is ready to move toward beginning the thesis. As early as the first year for M.A. students, students begin to identify a research area and select a faculty advisor. Decide what general area to pursue and have exploratory conversations with the professor or professors who do research in that area. They will give advice on further courses (if any) needed to prepare for research in that area. M.A. students submit the DECLARATION FORM to select the Thesis Option (or Non-Thesis Option) in the Fall Semester of their second year of coursework, listing the planned area of research, with the agreement of an advisor and approval of the DGS, and department head.
The main element of the thesis is sustained research under faculty guidance, involving a series of steps in which experts in the area of study guide the project through preparation and the examination process. Thesis examinations in the Department of Communication are not adversarial but mentoring in character. The official process begins at the end of coursework.
The following steps are a general guide, but details and regulations of the process leading to the final defense appear on the Graduate College web site. The individual student, not the advisor or Director of Graduate Studies, is responsible for meeting all graduation requirements.
Develop Research Proposal. Work with the advisor to choose on a research project and develop a proposal. Normally, the proposal includes the following sections:
- Literature Review
- Research Plan and Methods
- Justification or Importance and Limitations
The advisor provides guidance through the initial stages of developing the research proposal.
- Compose the Committee. To form a committee that will assist the advisor in supervising the progress of the research, propose the advisor and two other members of the department faculty to the Director of Graduate Studies. For guidelines, see Committee Composition section of the Graduate College site.
- Arrange a Proposal Meeting. When the advisor considers the proposal ready, arrange a meeting and provide copies of the proposal to committee members at least two weeks in advance. Prepare the PROPOSAL APPROVAL FORM and take it to the meeting. At the meeting, present the research plan to committee, which will evaluate the proposal and determine whether to approve the research or require additional work before you can proceed. A copy of the signed, completed PROPOSAL APPROVAL FORM must be in your file.
- Secure IRB Approval. Research involving human subjects (including secondary analyses of existing data from human subjects) requires approval from the Institutional Review Board (IRB).
- Proceed with the Research. Once the committee has approved the proposal and the campus IRB has approved the protocol, the research may proceed. The advisor guides the process with assistance from other committee members.
- Arrange the Oral Defense. After completing the research and getting approval from the advisor, submit the Committee Recommendation Form four weeks before the scheduled oral defense. Send copies of the written thesis to committee members for review not less than two weeks in advance. The written thesis should have been submitted to the iThenticate system with a zero percent result. Following a presentation and discussion of the completed thesis, the committee will evaluate the quality of the research and determine whether to approve it or, possibly, require additional work needed to make the research acceptable for the degree. Results are recorded on the Examination Report Form and returned to the Graduate College within 48-hours.
- All students who are graduating need to schedule a meeting with Christina to go over the protocol for Department format approval. The standard time needed review formatting for any thesis is a month before defending even if the content is not approved. During this time, the students will most likely be asked to correct the formatting multiple times sending different versions back and forth before obtaining a final draft that is acceptable for submission.
- Submit for Content/Format Approval. Before submitting the electronic version of your thesis to the Graduate College, be sure to send a copy of your thesis for “content approval” to the Committee Chair, and for “format approval” also send a copy of your thesis to Christina Zimmerman.
- Deposit with the Graduate College. Provide an electronic copy of a defended and content/format approved thesis with the Graduate College, together with all necessary paperwork.