Students pursuing a master’s degree leading to certification in speech pathology may choose to do a master’s thesis.  Students who do a thesis may choose to: 1) not do the master’s comprehensive examination; and 2) complete one internship rather than two.  The faculty must approve your request to complete a thesis, based on your standing in both your clinical work and your coursework.  The MA-Research degree requires a thesis. 

Why do a thesis?

A thesis allows you to conduct your own research project, start to finish – a rewarding intellectual challenge.  This allows students the opportunity to experience the creation of new scientific knowledge.  It involves disciplined thinking, inquiry, and problem-solving.  If you are considering pursuing a Ph.D., a master’s thesis will allow you to explore your interests and talents in research as well.  Many Ph.D. admissions committees typically view a master’s thesis as a very positive indicator of future success in doctoral study.  It may position you for research funding.  Many Ph.D. programs accept a master’s thesis in lieu of a preliminary examination.  For example, in SLHS, students who enter the doctoral program with a master’s thesis do not have to take the preliminary examination at the end of the first year.  However, even if you do not anticipate pursuing a Ph.D., a master’s thesis will provide the opportunity to learn research skills that may have applicability in many other domains. You will gain skills in critical thinking, data analysis, and writing. A thesis requires good organizational and planning skills.

When do I need to decide?

If you are interested in pursuing a master’s thesis, you should start discussions with your potential advisor early in your program, preferably in the first semester of graduate study.  Parts of the process, such as obtaining human research approval, can take time.  It is difficult to fast track a thesis. You must have your thesis and committee approve your thesis proposal by the end of your first year in graduate school.  The meeting must be documented, using the Thesis Proposal Meeting Documentation.

How do I decide a topic?

Find an advisor in an area that interests you and talk with that person about potential topics that interest you.  A common misconception is that a student must have a research question in order to talk with a potential advisor.  For a master’s thesis, it is perfectly appropriate for an advisor to suggest a topic, sometimes with data that already exists.  An advisor can also help you shape your ideas into a researchable question.  So step one – talk to a faculty member.

What steps do I take?

The Thesis Steps and Checklist document will lead you through the steps and documentation that must be completed.  A current version of this document should be in your student file in the Graduate Program Assistant’s office.

You should also carefully review the Graduate School's website for information on Thesis & Dissertation Submission requirements. 

How do I choose an advisor and committee?

Your advisor must be a full-time faculty member in SLHS with a Regular Graduate Faculty appointment. A good place to start is the Research Tab on the SLHS website. If you are uncertain who qualifies, talk with the Coordinator of the Graduate Program, Dr. Anu Sharma.

Your thesis committee should consist of your advisor and at least two other SLHS faculty who have Graduate School appointments.  This typically includes all faculty who teach or supervise clinical practice. Committee members must have at least a master’s degree, but a Ph.D. is not required.  You and your advisor may also consider faculty outside SLHS or even outside the university, if the individual is qualified to be appointed to the Graduate School. Please email the Grad Program Manager if you have questions about who qualifies.

How do I get approval to write a thesis?

You and your advisor should complete the form, Permission to Write a Master’s Thesis.  Your advisor will bring this to a faculty meeting where the entire faculty, including clinical faculty, will vote on your request.  Students must be in good standing in clinical training and coursework and must have a GPA of at least 3.5.

How do I get human research approval?

All research, even with existing data, requires approval of the Internal Review Board (Human Research).  If your advisor has an existing approval, you need to be added using a Request for Modifications (on the IRB website).  You also need to complete IRB training, which for CU consists of formal training, call CITI Training.  You must have a certificate of completion.  You may not contact potential subjects, collect data, or analyze data unless you have formal approval. The university checks whether you have HRC approval when you deposit your thesis and they will not accept a thesis if necessary HRC approval is missing. In short, prepare your proposal early and follow all the rules.

What are the thesis deadlines?

There are deadlines established by the Graduate School regarding when a thesis must be defended and deposited in order to graduate in a given semester.  You should let the Graduate Program Manager know about your projected schedule.  She will insure that you have all the completed paperwork and approvals to defend and deposit your thesis on time. Keep track of your deadlines using this checklist and give a new copy to the Graduate Program Manager EACH time it is updated or revised.

How do I format and deposit my thesis?

There are guidelines for how your thesis should be prepared.  Typically, before the thesis is completed, it must be checked to insure that it meets these guidelines.  Your text can change after it is approved – they are mostly interested in margins, page numbers, table of contents, etc., and not in what you say.  There is a deadline to have your thesis checked, so be sure to check the calendar. You must submit your thesis online.

What else should I know?

Here’s where we are direct. Students who tend to procrastinate and turn things in at the last minute make the thesis process into a bit of a headache for an advisor. Advisors and committees need time to read. In general, negotiate with your advisor about when you should turn documents in. Don’t expect quick turnarounds. Two weeks is average.

Your committee will need your document two weeks before your defense date. Your advisor and you will probably have multiple drafts before that. Schedules are essential and it is essential to stick with your schedule.

In addition, it is important for students to know that many faculty and staff are not paid for summer work. If you plan to defend during the summer, you need to find out if people will be around. Be considerate. If your advisor works with you during the summer, it is volunteer work. Faculty are not paid during the summer.

Try to attend to formatting and scheduling details yourself and don’t expect your advisor to remind you about deadlines and to edit your formatting. You will learn a lot about managing a research project if you get advice from your advisor, but then try to do as much as you can on your own.