The thesis is a research project carried out by the student and directed by the student’s major professor. Students interested in pursuing a master’s thesis should meet with the Human Factors faculty to discuss research interests and determine an appropriate fit.
All master's degree programs require a minimum of 30 credits. Students enroll in course 500 for thesis credits. Credit in course 500 (Master’s Research and Thesis) cannot be counted toward a non-thesis master's degree. Although no limit is imposed on the number of credits that may be earned in course 500 (Master's Research and Thesis) for degrees with thesis, only a maximum of 10 credits in course 500 in the major of the degree can be used to fulfill master's degree requirements (a lower limit may be set by the program). Up to five credits of course 599 are allowed to count towards a non-thesis master's degree.
The thesis committee consists of three faculty, two from the student’s department (chair and inside member) and one from outside the department (outside member; a faculty member with an adjunct appointment would be considered an inside member). The chair of the thesis committee is the student’s major professor. The major professor must be part of the graduate faculty and at least one of the other members must be on the graduate faculty.
The major professor and student determine the selection of committee members. The inside member is typically a faculty member who has expertise on the thesis topic. The outside member is someone who can provide useful feedback on the thesis. A faculty member in statistics, for example, may be chosen as the outside member if the thesis involves complex statistical analyses. Usually, this person will have a general familiarity with social science research methods and/or interests in areas related to the thesis topic.
The thesis proposal refers to the introduction, methods, and proposed analyses of a research project (the exact format may differ across faculty; consult with your major professor regarding what they expect the proposal to include). The proposal should be in the format specified by the College of Graduate Studies (see Handbook for Preparing & Submitting Theses and Dissertations). The thesis proposal typically requires numerous drafts before it is ready. Your major professor will tell you when the proposal is ready to be presented at the thesis proposal meeting.
A formal thesis proposal meeting is not required by the College of Graduate Studies. It is common practice in our department to hold a thesis proposal meeting. It provides an opportunity to get feedback from one’s committee regarding the project. This allows for changes to be made prior to collecting the data and, thus, greatly enhances the likelihood of successfully defending one’s thesis.
The thesis defense meeting occurs after completing your thesis project. Your thesis will consist of an introduction, methods, results, and discussion. When your major professor is satisfied with your paper, you will be given permission to schedule your thesis defense. You will distribute final copies of your thesis (check with the Graduate Handbook Preparing & Submitting Theses and Dissertations to ensure format is correct) to all your committee members and find a two-hour block of time when everyone can meet. It is customary to give committee members two weeks to review your thesis before the meeting is held.
Before your defense meeting (typically a few days before the meeting), you will need to get the signatures of your major professor and all committee members on the “Request to Proceed with Final Defense of Thesis/Dissertation” and submit this form to the College of Graduate Studies. They will issue you a “Final Defense Report,” which you should give to your major professor.
Typical Timeline to Complete a Thesis
- 1st Semester (Fall)- Learn about faculty research programs and begin work in a research lab (typically for PSYC 599 or PSYC 502 credit or as a paid research assistant). This will provide you with experience in research techniques and introduce you to faculty research interests.
- 2nd Semester (Spring)- Continue gaining pre-thesis research experience, arrange a thesis advisor (major professor) who will aid you in determining your thesis topic, and begin drafting your thesis proposal.
- Summer-session - Continue gaining pre-thesis research experience and working on proposal.
- 3rd Semester (Fall) - Finish and defend your thesis proposal. Aim to have a completed first-draft of your proposal to your advisor by the end of September and to defend the proposal by November. Start data collection by mid-November.
- 4th Semester (Spring) - Finish data collection and analysis by the end of February, complete thesis by the end of March, defend thesis in April.