Graduate Studies

Activities

Types of Culminating Activities

Most graduate programs require their students to complete a culminating activity to demonstrate their mastery of the discipline as well as their ability to integrate the learning from multiple courses. In some departments, students enroll in 699T or 699P units and complete a master’s thesis (699T), or a master’s project (699P). Graduate students should consult with their graduate coordinator for advising on their culminating activity options within their discipline. It is also highly recommended that each graduate student carefully review the requirements for their program in the University Catalog.

Defense

Students completing a thesis or project are required to complete an oral defense/examination related to their work.

Although the protocol varies between departments, the oral examination committee is usually composed of the members of the graduate advisory committee and may include the department graduate coordinator and additional faculty who have a research and/or teaching specialization closely related to the thesis/project topic.

Some departments use non-university specialists in the content area as members when appropriate.

Deadline for the oral examination is always the same as that for the submission of the thesis/project. However, orals should be scheduled well in advance of this deadline to allow for last minute content changes that might be required by the committee.

Scheduling the oral examination is initiated by the candidate. The committee chair should first be contacted to verify that the thesis/project has progressed to the point where it may be defended. With most departments, the entire work should be completed.

The candidate and/or chair will determine a time and date for the examination agreeable to all members of the graduate advisory committee and will announce this date to the department, college, and the Office of Graduate Studies at least a week beforehand. It is important that the Office of Graduate Studies be notified of the scheduled defense in advance so that a Final Progress Sheet (PDF) can be prepared.

Chico Digital Repository

The Chico Digital Repository should be the first place you visit before you start to write your thesis. The Chico Digital Repository (CDR) has replaced the bindery and microfilmer for final theses and projects. The CDR is a digital repository for scholarly work created by the faculty, staff, and students of CSU, Chico. Whereas the culminating activity used to be bound and shelved in the Library, now all culminating activities are on the CDR.

Every thesis and project that has been approved by the Office of Graduate Studies since fall 2009 is available here.

The CDR will present working examples—excellent models— of how to structure your thesis per the University format guidelines. The CDR is also an excellent resource to help you find other committee members who have the same interests as you and might be willing to serve on your committee. You can also see what kind of scholarship your peers have produced, and what kind of writing you will be expected to produce.

Warning: Do not attempt to follow the exact format of previously completed theses and projects on the CDR: guidelines are always changing. Further, not all theses and projects have the same structure. The University format should remain consistent and uniform for all disciplines.

Thesis

The California State University Education Code (Title V, Section 40510, p. 473) defines a thesis as follows:

The written product of a systematic study of a significant problem that defines a problem, states the major assumptions, explains the significance of the undertaking, sets forth the sources for and methods of gathering information, analyzes the data, and offers a conclusion or recommendation. The finished project [product] evidences originality, critical and independent thinking, appropriate organization and format, and thorough documentation.

While the Code delineates the technical differences between a thesis and a project, at times there is a fine line between the two. A thesis is distinguished by certain elements such as an introduction to the study, a review of the literature, a methodology section, results, summary, and recommendations for further research, while a project may not have these components. There is also a difference between the elements found in a quantitative thesis versus those found in a non-quantitative (qualitative) thesis, thus some sections of this description may not apply, and the format should only be used as a guide and not an unyielding outline.

Organiz­ing the research material in an outline based on this format—with five chapters in mind— will help to clarify thoughts and present information in a logical sequence. The following is offered to elucidate what is to be included in the various sections.

Abstract

An abstract must be submitted as part of every thesis. The abstract should contain all the essential information about the project and provide the reader with an overview of the study. It should be written in complete sentences and include statements of the problem, procedure or methods, results and conclusions. The abstract should include accomplishments, the most pertinent facts and implications of the study, and a brief explanation of the work, and should not exceed 250 words (approximately 1½ pages in length). Mathematical formulae, citations, diagrams, footnotes, illustrative materials, quotations, and acronyms may not be used in the abstract.

Please click here for a Power Point about the Abstract (PDF). 

Chapter I: Introduction to the Study 

It is the primary function of the Introduction to introduce and give an over­view of the study. The following components should be included in the Introduction.

Background
The beginning of the chapter should serve as a carefully organ­ized lead-in to the problem under investigation. This section should include an overview of the historical evolution, the current status, the projected future dimensions of the prob­lem, or all three.

Statement of the Problem
Present the focal point(s) of the research. Introduce the “what” of the present investigation (i.e., clearly state what the study will examine or investigate). State the specific major question(s) and/or hypothesis(es) to be studied or tested. Make a precise statement of all minor questions to be explored.

Purpose of the Study
Justify the study. Why is the present investigation signifi­cant? Explain how it supports other studies, differs from previous studies, extends present knowledge and/or examines new issues.

Theoretical Bases and Organization
How does the present research correspond with other studies? What are the underlying theoretical bases upon which the study is constructed? One or more hypotheses should create the solid foundation upon which the conceptual framework is built.

Limitations of the Study
Discuss both content and methodological limitations of the investigation. How will the research work within or around these confines? 

Definition of Terms
Define any special terms used in the study and establish abbreviations that will be used throughout the text.

Chapter II: Review of the Literature

There are several ways in which this chapter may be structured: chronologically, categorically, or through related theoretical viewpoints. Emphasis should be placed on the reasons underlying the particular areas, topics, and periods selected for review. The chapter should:

  • Provide evidence supporting the historical, theoretical, and research background for the study.
  • Define how the investigation differs from other studies in the field.
  • Show how the study relates to other research studies in similar areas.
  • Theoretical foundations, expert opinion, and actual research findings should be included. Primary sources should be used whenever possible.

Chapter III: Methodology

This chapter describes the research design or approach in depth. This should be a detailed and clearly written description which permits a precise replication of the study. Several parts of this chapter apply mainly to a quantitative thesis, but may be ap­propriate to a non-quantitative thesis as well.

Design of the Investigation
Explain how the study is designed to investigate each question or hypothesis. If appropriate, identify all variables and how they are ma­nipulated. 

Population and/or Sample
Describe the principal characteristics of the popu­lation selected. If a random sample is used, describe the general population from which the sample was selected and the sampling procedure used. 

Treatment
Describe the exact sequence followed to collect and tabulate the data. Describe the instrument(s) used to collect the data and establish the validity of the instrument(s) via studies by other researchers. 

Data Analysis Procedures
Describe and explain data analysis procedures and/or statistical treatments used. Include descriptions of tests, formulae, computer pro­grams, and procedures.

Chapter IV: Results and Discussion

This section reports on and discusses the findings of the study. 

Presentation of the Findings
The results of the investigation are presented in narrative form and may be supplemented with graphics. Whenever appropriate, use tables and figures to present the data. 

Discussion of the Findings
The discussion of the results should be well argued in relation to each question or hypothesis. Inferences, projections, and probable explanations of the results may also be included. Discuss the implications of patterns and trends, and include any secondary findings.

Chapter V: Summary, Conclusions, and Recommendations

This concluding section should summarize the entire research effort. A suffi­ciently comprehensive overview should enable the intended audience to understand the entire study. At this point, it is appropriate to reacquaint the reader with the conceptual framework, the design of the investigation, the methodology, and the results of the study. This section should include the significance of the study and its conclusions, the limita­tions and weaknesses of the study, implications for future research, and recommen­dations.

References
Cite references according to the department style guide, and be sure to include every source cited in the study, including material that has been adapted for use in tables and figures.

Appendices
Material too detailed for inclusion in the body of the text, or material that cannot be effectively presented due to its length or size may be included in the appendices. Tables and graphs that have been introduced in the main body of the thesis are required to be included in the text immediately following the first reference. They should not be placed in the appendices. Appendices might include such things as questionnaires, raw data, maps, photos, artwork, letters of permission to reproduce material, and personal correspondence. 

Project

In many departments, graduate students have the option of producing a project instead of the traditional research thesis. A project is defined by the California State University Education Code as:

A significant undertaking appropriate to the fine and applied arts or to professional fields. It evidences originality and independent thinking, appropriate form and organization, and a rationale. It is described and summarized in a written abstract that includes the project’s significance, objectives, methodology, and a conclusion or recommendation. (Title V, Section 40510, p. 473)

Whereas a thesis is an empirical scholarly research study, a project is distinctly more creative in nature. Often, projects will be based on a compilation of comparative analysis of the works done by other researchers. Although such material provides the study with substance, culminating projects must evidence originality, critical thinking, and reflect the scholarly or artistic capability of the candidate. While requirements for various creative projects will vary, there will be certain elements common to each project.

Types of Projects

The type of project is limited only by the creativity, capability, and budget of the graduate student. The graduate advisory committee will be most concerned with the manner in which the material is researched, organized, developed, and presented. The content and format guidelines are much more flexible for a project than for a thesis. Often, as in cases where the project is a manual or handbook, the project itself is placed in the appendix, while sections in the main body of the text are tailored to introduce, justify, and validate the study or creative effort.

Organization of the Project
An abstract must be submitted as part of every project. The abstract should contain all the essential information about the project and provide the reader with an overview of the study. It should be written in complete sentences and include statements of the problem, procedure or methods, results and conclusions. The abstract should include accomplishments, the most pertinent facts and implications of the study, and a brief explanation of the work, and should not exceed 250 words (approximately 1½ pages in length). Mathematical formulae, citations, diagrams, footnotes, illustrative materials, quotations, and acronyms may not be used in the abstract.

Because of the uniqueness of projects, the introductory sections in the main body will vary in number. The following presents some of these sections and their respective elements commonly found in master’s projects. This outline is only a recommendation and should be adapted as necessary. As a general rule, however, projects will contain at least some descriptive sections selected from the following

Chapter I: Introduction to the Project 

The primary function of this initial section is to provide a comprehensive overview of the project.

Purpose of the Project
A statement of the purpose of the project explains why the project was attempted. Include personal interest as well as other identified needs that the project will help satisfy. Why is the project significant?

Scope (Description) of the Project
Define what the project is in terms of con­tent and format. Include specific information regarding the subject matter, the intended audience, how the project is to be used, and the results or effects expected.

Significance of the Project
Explain the significance of the project in the field of study. What new dimensions or concepts have been presented? Emphasize the impor­tance of the project in its use of techniques and specify the intended effects. If the project is designed to be informational, persuasive, or instructional, specify the effects in terms of behavioral objectives. 

Limitations of the Project
If applicable, present and discuss the content limi­tations with regard to resources, time, and so forth.

Definition of Terms
Define any special terms and establish standard abbrevia­tions that will be used throughout the text. 

Chapter II: Review of Related Literature

This section constitutes the major research effort of the project. It provides the source material for the content and puts the present project in context of existing infor­mation in the field. Review and cite related studies and discuss their strengths and weaknesses pertaining to the purpose of the project. Discuss the theories or techniques examined and their respective implications for the present study. Summarize the review with a synthesis of the literature identifying the various approaches and themes. This section ultimately justifies the need for the project.

Please click here for the thesis editor’s workshop on the Literature Survey and Review (PDF).

Chapter III: Methodology

This chapter describes in depth how every aspect of the project was con­ducted, compiled, or created. It should be significantly detailed and should describe the format and technique used in presenting the material. Techniques, questionnaires, inter­views, study sites, and material used to accomplish the study should be described here.

Chapter IV: Results

There may or may not be a results section, depending on the type of project. If there are findings to report, they should be synthesized for inclusion in this section. Material too detailed to be included in the body of the text should be presented in the appendices.

Chapter V: Summary, Conclusions, and 
Recommendations

Summary
Present an overview of the previous sections and how the final pro­ject addresses issues which have been raised. Reacquaint the reader with the conceptual framework and the design of the study. This section summarizes the entire project effort.

Conclusions
Conclusions presented should validate both the need for the study and explain how the present study responded to that need.

Recommendations
Recommendations should include comments regarding content, technique, and the process of creating a master’s project of this type.

References
Cite references according to the department style guide, and be sure to include every source cited in the study, including material that has been adapted for use in tables and figures. 

Appendices
As a rule, the project itself is placed in Appendix A. This will allow more freedom in the format of the work. In addition, material too detailed for inclusion in the body of the text may be placed in the appendices. 

The Non-Print Media Project

With the approval of both the Non-print Media Review Committee (NPMRC) and the candidate’s advisory committee, graduate students have the option of producing a non-print mediated product instead of the traditional research thesis or project. A written component is also required.

Non-print projects may be pursued only when the student has previously demonstrated technical competence in the medium chosen. For purposes of documentation, students may choose to use the Instructional Media Center, other campus offices, or outside technical services. However, all candidates wishing to pursue non-print mediated projects will be required to obtain project Non-print Media Project Policy approval from the Non-print Media Review Committee (NPMRC) prior to commencing the project. Non-print mediated projects that have not been approved by the NPMRC will not be accepted as part of the culminating activity. Figure 1 (PDF) outlines the review and approval process for non-print media projects.

Non-print Media Project Description
Non-print media projects are acceptable as a component of the culminating activity of a Master’s program. Such projects may be pursued only where the student has previously demonstrated competence in the medium chosen. Non-print projects shall be pursued within the format of graduate-level 699P Master’s Project coursework. It is University policy that no co-authored projects are allowed as a culminating activity for the master’s degree.

The Non-print Media Project Proposal
Please click for a PDF of the proposal. (PDF)

A project proposal must be approved by the student’s Graduate Advisory Committee and submitted to the Non-print Media Review Committee within thirty days of the approval. The proposal should include the following:

  • A statement of the purpose of the proposed project, the need for the project, and the student’s personal interest.
  • A statement of the content and format of the project, including specific information regarding the subject matter, the intended audience, how and where the project is to be used, and the anticipated results or effects.
  • A statement of the intended method of production. A detailed written plan should be developed which outlines the major steps to be performed and procedures for the production. This would include such things as required talent resources (dancers, singers, etc.), time required for the various aspects of the project, and an estimate of technical support necessary for production, including personnel, equipment, and facilities. A production script would be appropriate here.
  • A statement substantiating the need for such a study/project. An extensive review of existing materials and literature should demonstrate that the project does not duplicate the efforts of others. This section should convince the Non-print Media Review Committee of the merit of the project.

Project Approval Process by the Non-print Media Review Committee
Within thirty days of approval of the project proposal by the student’s graduate advisory committee, the student must meet with the NPMRC chair. If the chair determines that the student possesses the qualifications to advance with the proposed project, the student will be given a Request for Non-print Media Proposal Review application to complete and submit to the NPMRC for their approval. This completed form, the written proposal, and required examples must be submitted to the Graduate School for NPMRC review. The student, the student’s graduate advisory committee, and the program’s graduate coordinator will be notified of the Non-print Media Review Committee’s recommendation. Figure 2 (PDF) outlines the non-print media project submission process.

Non-print media projects must be significant, evidence originality and independent thinking, and follow appropriate form and organization. They are comprised of the following: 

The Written Component of the Non-print Media Project
An abstract must be submitted as part of every written component of a non-print media project. The abstract should contain all the essential information about the project and provide the reader with an overview of the study. It should be written in complete sentences and include statements of the problem, procedure or methods, results and conclusions. The abstract should include accomplishments, the most pertinent facts and implications of the study, and a brief explanation of the work, and should not exceed 250 words (approximately 1½ pages in length). Mathematical formulae, citations, diagrams, footnotes, illustrative materials, quotations, and acronyms may not be used in the abstract.

All non-print media projects must be accompanied by a written component. It must be more than the presentation of a mere outline, plan, description, or demonstration. The text should describe the project, summarize its significance, objectives, and method-ology, and present a conclusion and/or recommendation. This written component should include such things as scripted choreography, text documentation of script writing, production notes, and/or other appropriate documentation. This component will be bound and shelved in the university library.

While the non-print media presentation demonstrates the creativity and quality of the technical and artistic aspects of the project, the written component should be a significant contribution to others in the field who wish to learn from or expand upon this accomplishment. The following outline is a guide to the written component.

Following is a suggestion of how to structure the written portion:

Chapter I: Introduction 

The primary function of this initial section is to provide a number of introductory statements regarding the proposed non-media project. 

Problem Statement
Briefly indicate what prompted an interest in the project. Include any historical background, current technology, and/or future dimensions in the field of study. The introduction should provide a setting and focus for the project.

Scope of the Project
Explain the project in terms of content and format. Specify the audience to which it is directed and the context in which it is to be presented.

Significance of the Project
Present the purpose of the program and the significance of the project. What new dimensions or techniques are being applied to the media or the subject which make the work unique? Emphasize the importance of the project itself in relation to techniques, support of information, or instructional needs. 

Intended Effects
List the expected users of the program and discuss the intended effects of the presentation on its audience. If the project is designed to be informational, persuasive, or instructional, specify the anticipated effects in terms of behavioral objectives. 

Limitations of the Project
Discuss any limitations in relation to the content and technical aspects, including resources, time, and abilities. 

Chapter II: Review of the Literature

This portion constitutes the major research effort of the project. It provides the source material for the content and defines how the project differs from other media productions in content, format, or techniques. A description of how the work fits in relation to existing media with a similar purpose will provide a rationale for the approach and techniques chosen for the project. Related media productions should be cited and evaluated. Discuss the techniques used and their applicability to the present study.

The review should be summarized with a synthesis of the literature and products. Identify the various approaches and themes as a basis for justifying the treatment selected.

Chapter III: Treatment

This section provides an in-depth description of how each aspect of the project was conducted. The explanation must be sufficiently detailed to permit the writing of a production script, and should be organized in the same manner as the completed production.

If the content of the project is the focus, most graduate advisory committees will be concerned with evaluating the manner in which the research, organization, and development of the subject has been done (i.e., what novel ways have been developed for presenting the context?). This section should contain all the information to be included in the content with a narrative description of the way it is to be mediated. It is not necessarily presented in script form, but it should describe the format and technique of presentation. If the originality and creativity of the project rests in the manner and quality in which the content is presented, the major emphasis will be on the production quality of the medium chosen. In such cases, the treatment of the content will be the major effect of the study.

Explain how the project will be executed. Specify the techniques and methods which will be used to achieve the anticipated goals of the project. How and/or why will these tools be effective?

Chapter IV: The Production Script 

This is the blueprint from which the media project is produced. It is detailed, comprehensive, and describes the dialogue, set requirements, props, equipment, etc. The script should follow the standard technical format common to productions using similar media. Post-production work necessary to complete the project should be included.

Chapter V: Summary, Conclusions, and Recommendations

This final section should summarize the entire project. It should be written with the intention of evaluating the entire process of production from concept to final product. The summary should present an overview of the project, reacquainting the reader with the purpose, design, and results of the study. Both negative and positive conclusions found as a result of the study should be discussed. Describe the areas in which the study could have been improved and how problems encountered along the way could have been solved or avoided. 

Recommendations should include comments regarding content, technique, and the production process as a whole. This section will provide the reader with valuable information for future media productions.

References
Cite references according to the departmental style guide, and be sure to include every source cited in the study, including material that has been adapted for use in tables and figures.

Appendices
As a general rule, the project itself is placed in Appendix A. This will allow more freedom in the format of the work. Material too detailed for inclusion in the body of the text may also be placed in the appendices.

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