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.
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. The student's adviser will often be one of the committee members. Each graduate student, with his/her adviser's approval, should ask two other 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. To receive approval of a committee composition, the adviser should send an E-mail to Ann Anderson at email@example.com listing the proposed committee members and their department. The E-mail provides a written record of the request and approval. An E-mail confirmation will be returned within five working days. A student 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. Generally, formation of the committee should take place in the semester before the preliminary conference.
To register for master's thesis, field study, creative work credits (or starred paper credits in some cases), the student 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. The student will need to enroll in subsequent semesters until the required number of credits required by the program of study are complete or in-progress.
When the student has completed all of the requirements for a culminating project, this includes the final defense and payment of the binding fee, the adviser then submits a mark of S (satisfactory). If the student has not met all of the requirements of a master's thesis, creative work, or a specialist degree field study by the end of the semester in which it was registered, the research is reported as IP (in progress).
An IP grade will remain on the student's 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. 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 still on their transcript, the IP will be changed to W (withdrawn).
Preparing for a Preliminary Conference
Prior to the scheduling of a preliminary conference, the student and the program adviser should:
- ensure the student has been fully accepted into a graduate program
- confirm the student has a grade point average of 3.0
- ensure the student's program of study has been approved by the graduate dean.
The student may need to contact Ann Anderson at firstname.lastname@example.org to verify preliminary conference eligibility.
For preliminary conference approval, the student or program adviser must also notify the School of Graduate Studies of the date of the preliminary conference and the graduate faculty who will serve as committee members. The Culminating Project Committee Meeting request form should be submitted at least two weeks in advance of the preliminary conference.
- It is the student's responsibility to schedule committee members for a preliminary conference and to ensure a room is reserved.
- When the preliminary conference is approved by the School of Graduate Studies, the student 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. One copy must also be distributed to Ann Anderson in the School of Graduate Studies, preferably two weeks prior to the preliminary conference.
- The format of the proposal or summary is determined by the committee chair or program adviser.
- The School of Graduate Studies will distribute a report of preliminary evaluation to the student's graduate adviser or committee chair via email.
- A student 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 Ann Anderson in the School of Graduate Studies.
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 student's final evaluation committee.
The student should contact the Husky Bookstore to purchase "A Manual for the Preparation of Field Studies and Theses." This affordable manual provides detailed information and instructions on the form and style used by St. Cloud State University. A copy of the manual is also available for download (PDF: 201K).
The format outlined in "A Manual for the Preparation of Field Studies and Theses," and an approved style manual specified by the program department, are the standards for the preparation of field studies and theses. When a conflict exists in standards, format, or style, the manual published by the School of Graduate Studies takes precedence over departmentally approved manuals.
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. Other than the form and style of the text, the binding must be accordance with the standard thesis requirements.
The statement of artistic attempt 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).
The student should contact the Husky Bookstore to purchase " A Manual for the Preparation of the Creative Work ." This manual provides detailed information and instructions on the form and style used by St. Cloud State University. A PDF copy of the manual is also available for download (PDF: 185K).
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.
The student should contact the Husky Bookstore to purchase " A Manual for the Preparation of Starred Paper(s) ." This manual provides detailed information and instructions on the form and style used by St. Cloud State University. A PDF copy of the manual is also available for download (PDF: 196K).
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. All candidates must notify their adviser of their intention to take the final written comprehensive examination at the beginning of the semester in which the completion of all degree requirements is anticipated.
The candidate's 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 in the student's major area of concentration.
The department may exercise the right to retain any or all materials prepared for the professional portfolio or project. It is import for students pursuing this option to submit the portfolio to the department well in advance of the final oral examination.
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 a culminating project is complete, a student is ready for a final conference/oral examination. The final conference should be scheduled six weeks prior to final examinations week to allow for reviewing and binding before the end of the semester.
It is the student's responsibility to schedule the final conference with committee members and reserve a room. Final oral examinations are required for all students whose programs require 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. The School of Graduate Studies must be notified of the date of the final conference so that an approval form can be forwarded to the student's committee chair/adviser. Send these final conference details via E-mail to Ann Anderson at email@example.com.
Committee members for the final oral examination are the same faculty representatives who served on the preliminary conference. Generally, two weeks prior to the final conference the student must distribute a final copy of the culminating project to each member of his/her committee. The specific format and requirements of the final oral examination/conference vary according to the nature of the project chosen.
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, a copy of the culminating project is submitted (with an abstract in the case of a thesis or field study), along with an approval page signed by all committee members, to Ann Anderson in the School of Graduate Studies.
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.
Binding a Field Study, Thesis or Starred Paper
Once the student has successfully passed the final evaluation conference, made corrections required by his/her committee, and received approval through the School of Graduate Studies, the field study, thesis or starred paper is ready for binding. The approval page must be signed by the committee members and the abstract must be signed by the committee chairperson.
Three copies of the thesis, field study or starred paper must be prepared on a minimum of 20-pound, 100 percent cotton paper and submitted to the School of Graduate Studies for binding three weeks prior to the end of the semester. The copies will be bound in black buckram covers with gold lettering on the front and spine. If a student desires a personal bound copy of the culminating project, one additional copy must be submitted for binding with the abstract for a total of four copies. The student is responsible for the binding fee of $10 per copy plus a one-time $10 microfilm fee. Payment should be made by personal check to SCSU and submitted in the School of Graduate Studies.
In addition to the abstracts submitted with each thesis, two additional copies of the abstract should be submitted to the School of Graduate Studies.
Thesis, Starred Paper, Creative Work Procedural Overview
- Independently select a project adviser/chair and topic
- Select thesis committee members and notify The School of Graduate Studies.
- Prepare a project proposal
- Verify preliminary conference eligibility and submit project proposal to the School of Graduate Studies
- Register for thesis, or creative work credits
- Schedule preliminary conference and distribute project proposal to committee members
- Attend preliminary conference
- Revise proposal, if necessary
- Consult with project adviser/chair and committee members as needed to complete the culminating project
- Revise completed work, where needed
- 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
- Notify the School of Graduate Studies of the date of the final conference/oral examination
- Submit one copy of the completed project to each committee member
- Attend final conference/oral examination
- Submit one copy of the completed and approved project (with abstract, if needed) to the School of Graduate Studies for format review and approval.
- Submit at least three copies of the project (with abstract, if needed) on 20-pound, 100 percent cotton paper for binding at the cost of $10 per copy