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Culminating Project

Planning a Culminating Project

The majority of graduate programs require students to complete a thesis, starred paper, creative work or professional portfolio. Planning for a culminating project must begin well in advance of graduation. Each is a process that will take a minimum of two semesters. Before the completion of 16 graduate credits, students are normally required to complete a program approval process with a program adviser. The adviser selects with the student which culminating project to complete at that time.  

Committee Selection

The most important consideration when beginning a thesis, starred paper, creative work or portfolio is the selection of at least three graduate faculty members to serve as committee members. Your program adviser may serve as a committee member of may advise you as you identify three graduate faculty members with expertise or interest in your research area. Each graduate student, with his/her adviser's approval, should ask two or three graduate faculty, based on each member's potential value in the area of research undertaken, to serve. The student's selected committee must be comprised of:  

  • The program adviser or committee chair
  • A graduate faculty member from the program department
  • A graduate faculty member from a related department (outside reader)

These committee members must be approved graduate faculty members. A listing of graduate faculty members is available on-line here. You will need to seek committee approval prior to holding the preliminary conference meeting by submitting the Culminating Project Committee Approval form. The form must be submitted at least twenty (20) business days prior to the preliminary conference meeting. An email response will be sent to you and your committee chair within 10 business days. You will need to meet with the committee at least twice in two separate semesters, once for a preliminary conference and again for a final conference and oral examination.

Registration

To register for master's thesis, field study, creative work credits (or starred paper credits in some cases), you will register for the appropriate course in the department and for the agreed upon number of credits. If the course is not listed in the online course listing, please contact the department office or your adviser. The credits for thesis, field study or creative work may be spread over more than one registration period as directed by graduate program policy or the adviser. You will need to enroll in subsequent semesters until the required number of credits required by the program of study are complete or in-progress. Please remember that you will be required to be registered for at least one graduate credit in the term in which you graduate.

Grading

When you have completed all of the requirements for a culminating project, including the final defense and submission of the culminating project, the adviser submits a mark of S (satisfactory).  If all of the requirements of a master's thesis, creative work, or a specialist degree field study are not complete by the end of the semester in which it was registered, the research is reported as IP (in progress) or as RC (research continued) based on the length of time required to complete the project.  

An IP grade will remain on your transcript for one year, and if the completion of theses, creative works, field studies, some independent study projects, and certain special courses are not completed by the end of that time, the IP grade will change to an F grade. An RC grade will remain on the transcript until the faculty adviser submits a grade change or until the seven-year timeframe for completing the degree has passed. A culminating project must be completed within the seven-year time limit set for the completion of a master's degree.  If the student has graduated, changes plans and graduates with an IP or RC still on their transcript, the grade will be changed to W (withdrawn).

Preparing for a Preliminary Conference

Prior to the scheduling of a preliminary conference, you and your advisor/committee chair should:

  • confirm full acceptance into a graduate program;
  • confirm a grade point average of 3.0; and
  • ensure the program of study has been submitted and approved by the School of Graduate Studies.

Eligibility can be confirmed by reviewing your degree audit available in e-Services.

A preliminary committee meeting must be held at least one semester prior to the final defense/final committee meeting.

  • It is your responsibility to schedule committee members for a preliminary conference and to ensure a room is reserved. Department Office Managers may be able to assist with scheduling department conference rooms or make suggestions on available spaces.
  • Two weeks prior to the preliminary meeting or as directed by your adviser/chair you should distribute to each committee member a thesis or starred paper proposal, if applicable, or in the case of a creative work or professional portfolio, a summary of the proposed project.
  • The format of the proposal or summary is determined by the committee chair or program adviser.
  • The program adviser/committee chair will access the preliminary committee meeting form online under Faculty Forms.
  • You may continue with Plan A, B or C when each committee member approves the proposed project by signing and returning the preliminary evaluation report to the School of Graduate Studies (AS 121) or by email to graduatestudies@stcloudstate.edu

Plan A: Writing and Formatting a Field Study or Thesis

Preparation of a master's thesis or field study is carried out under the supervision of the committee appointed during the preliminary conference. This committee also comprises the membership of the final evaluation committee. If the committee composition changes, this must be communicated to the School of Graduate Studies via submission of a new committee approval form or via petition.

You and your committee chair and culminating project committee must agree to one disciplinary based style guide to follow for preparation of the culminating project. APA, MLA, and Chicago are the most commonly used style guides. These guides are available through the Library or the Husky Bookstore.

Plan A: Preparing a Creative Work 

A student interested in completing a creative work must show evidence of creative ability before being approved for this option. Copies of this evidence must be shown to selected committee members. 

The creative work includes a written statement of artistic intent and such supporting materials as are applicable.

The statement of artistic intent may contain such information as a description of the work undertaken, the technique(s) involved in the work and related subject matter. In certain areas of the fine arts, a student may be required to produce evidence of creative skill by submitting critical reviews, letters of recommendation, and/or demonstration(s).

You and your committee chair and culminating project committee must agree to one disciplinary based style guide to follow for preparation of the creative work. APA, MLA, and Chicago are the most commonly used style guides. These guides are available through the Library or the Husky Bookstore.

Plan B: Writing and Formatting a Starred Paper 

Certain Plan B programs require starred papers be written. The starred paper(s) include a research requirement different in nature than a thesis. Ordinarily, a thesis is oriented more toward original research, data gathering with statistical analysis, theory testing and theory building, whereas the starred paper is oriented more toward the usage of secondary research sources. 

You and your committee chair and culminating project committee must agree to one disciplinary based style guide to follow for preparation of the starred paper. APA, MLA, and Chicago are the most commonly used style guides. These guides are available through the Library or the Husky Bookstore.

Programs which do not require a starred paper(s): Students who complete Plan B programs that do not require a starred paper are required to satisfactorily complete a final written comprehensive examination or a program designed capstone course integrating program knowledge and experience. If you will be completing a final written comprehensive examination you must schedule this with your adviser at the beginning of the semester in which the completion of all degree requirements is anticipated. 

In many cases your adviser is the chairperson of the examination committee. The examination committee is appointed by the department chairperson and consists of at least three members. A majority vote by the committee is required to pass the final written comprehensive examination. A candidate who fails in the first attempt may, with the approval of the adviser, take the exam a second time, but the candidate may not retake the examination during the same semester in which the exam was failed.

Plan C: Preparing a Professional Project/Portfolio

Plan C programs require that a significant professional project or a portfolio of projects be prepared in conjunction with approved graduate courses or internship(s) in the student's major area of concentration.

Each program determines the format of the portfolio/project. Please consult with your program adviser/committee chair. The department may exercise the right to retain any or all materials prepared for the professional portfolio or project.

Plans A, B and C: The Final Conference and Oral Examination 

A candidate for the specialist or master's degree completing a culminating project generally complete the final conference or oral examination during the last semester of the graduate program. Students who have earned less than a 3.0 average over the entire program and in all graduate credits are not permitted to complete the final evaluation. 

When you and your program adviser/committee chair have determined your culminating project is complete, you may schedule a final conference/oral examination. The final conference should be scheduled six weeks prior to final examinations week to allow for reviewing and electronic submission or off-site binding before the end of the semester. See the recommended completion deadlines for each term.

  • It is your responsibility to schedule the final conference with committee members and reserve a room. Final oral examinations are required for the completion of a thesis, field study, starred paper(s), creative work or the professional portfolio. The final and preliminary conference cannot take place in the same semester.
  • Committee members for the final oral examination are the same faculty representatives who served on the preliminary conference or new members as approved by petition.
  • Two weeks prior to the final conference you must distribute a final copy of the culminating project to each member of your committee. The specific format and requirements of the final oral examination/conference vary according to the nature of the project chosen. 
  • The program adviser/committee chair will access the final committee meeting/final oral examination form online under Faculty Forms.
  • A majority vote of the committee is required to pass the final oral examination/conference. A candidate who fails the final oral examination in the first attempt may, with the approval of the adviser, take the examination during the same semester in which the exam was failed. A third chance to pass the examination is not permitted.
  • When the final evaluation committee has approved the research in its final form and the written project is eligible for electronic submission to the Repository for final format review or final format review prior to binding or the final portfolio/project document has been provided to the department, the program adviser or committee chair will send/deliver the signed final meeting form to the School of Graduate Studies (AS 121).

Final written comprehensive examinations may be required by other program plans and is at the option of individual departments. The examinations are developed, administered and evaluated by members of the faculty responsible for the graduate program.

Final Submission of a Field Study, Thesis or Starred Paper 

Once you have successfully passed the final evaluation conference, made corrections required by your committee, and received format approval through the School of Graduate Studies, the field study, thesis or starred paper is ready for final electronic submission or binding.

If selecting paper submission, One (1) copy of the thesis, field study or starred paper must be printed on a minimum of 20-pound acid free or 100 percent cotton paper and bound in black buckram covers with gold lettering on the spine. In addition, you must submit a plain paper copy and the $10 microfilm fee. Payment should be made by personal check to SCSU and submitted in the School of Graduate Studies. Bound paper copies must be submitted by the deadline for the term as listed on the completion deadlines.

Thesis, Starred Paper, Creative Work Procedural Overview 

  1. Independently select a project adviser/chair and topic;
  2. Select committee members and notify The School of Graduate Studies using the Culminating Project Committee Approval form;
  3. Prepare a project proposal;
  4. Verify preliminary conference eligibility and submit project proposal;
  5. Register for culminating project credits as required (thesis, starred paper, comprehensive exam, project/portfolio);
  6. Schedule preliminary conference and distribute project proposal to committee members;
  7. Attend preliminary conference;
  8. Revise proposal, if necessary;
  9. Consult with project adviser/chair and committee members as needed to complete the culminating project;
  10. Revise completed work, where needed;
  11. At least one semester following the preliminary conference, schedule a final conference/oral examination with committee members at least six weeks before the end of classes;
  12. Submit one copy of the completed project to each committee member two weeks in advance of the final committee meeting/final oral examination;
  13. Attend final conference/oral examination;
  14. Submit one copy of the completed and approved project to the Repository for format review and approval;
  15. Submit the final approved electronic document to the Repository or submit one bound and one plain paper copy with the $10 microfilm fee to the School of Graduate Studies; and
  16. Remind the program adviser/committee chair to return the signed approval of the final conference document to the School of Graduate Studies and to submit the final grade.