School of Graduate Studies


Culminating Projects

As a graduate student, your culminating project, whether it is a thesis, starred paper, creative work, portfolio, or dissertation, is a demonstration of your ability to research, analyze, integrate, synthesize, and reflect your expertise in your chosen field of study.

You have spent years on your post-secondary education, and all of those challenges and efforts are represented through this document.

Along with your committee members and mentors, the School of Graduate Studies understands that your work also represents St. Cloud State University. One of our priorities is to ensure that you are as proud of your work as we are. Our guidelines will lead you to a successful completion and submission.

An electronic thesis and dissertation (ETD) submission into the Institutional Repository (IR) at St. Cloud State University is integral for your culminating project to be accessed throughout the world.

To this point, works from students have been downloaded in almost 100 countries with frequency. This means that you are a representative of the University and your work is being used as a catalyst for someone else’s research in a particular field or subject, so quality and accessibility are common goals of the ETD process.


Types for a Master's Degree

The graduate program you choose and are accepted to, will determine the type of culminating project you will complete.

Plan A: Thesis

A thesis is a document written in support of obtaining an academic degree. It is usually longer than a research paper and completed over the course of two or more semesters. Thesis research is completed by the student under the supervision of a graduate advisor.

A thesis requires the demonstration of individual academic research and the evidence of capacity for critical analysis. Choose a topic of interest that allows you to replicate existing research or design an original study to contribute to the body of knowledge in your field.

Plan A: Creative Work

A student interested in completing a creative work as may be required by a specific department, or in lieu of the traditional master's degree thesis, must show evidence of creative ability before being accepted as a candidate for the advanced degree. The creative work includes a written statement of artistic intent and such supporting materials as are applicable. Your statement of artistic intent may contain a description of the work undertaken; the technique(s) involved in the work, and related subject matter.

Plan A: Field Study

A field study examines a problem in educational administration and is completed as the culminating project for the Specialist Degree.

Plan B: Starred Paper

A starred paper provides constructive critical analysis of existing theories or viewpoints without necessarily offering any new ones. In short, academic requirements for a starred paper do not generally include original research.

A starred paper is an analysis or review of literature.

Plan B: Capstone

A capstone project is an assignment and other work completed for a capstone course.  The department determines the requirements in order to receive a grade for the capstone course.  This course is needed to complete the culminating project requirement for programs that end with a designated capstone course.

Plan B: Comprehensive Exam     

Written examination designed to demonstrate understanding and integration of learning in the program. May also be preparatory for state and national licensing examinations.

Plan C: Project/Portfolio or Internship/Portfolio

At a school, educational institute or university, a project is a research assignment given to a student that generally requires a larger amount of effort and more independent work than is involved in a normal essay assignment. It requires students to undertake their own fact-finding and analysis, either from library/internet research or from gathering data empirically. The written report that comes from the project is usually in the form of a report, which will contain sections on the project's inception, analysis, findings and conclusions. It could be an exhibition portfolio, or other project; written or electronically recorded documentation.

A portfolio is generally combined with a practicum/internship. Many times the portfolio is the final report upon the completion of a practicum/internship.  Each department may have its own requirements for the portfolio.


Overview of the culminating project process (approx. 45-60 minutes)

These seminars explain the processes for completing your culminating project.

  • View Recording (Coming soon)

Statistical Consulting Center Presentation

Formatting workshops

These online workshops include a short seminar on how to format your culminating project and question and answer time. More information and Zoom link in Huskies Connect.

School of Graduate Studies - Culminating Project Support is available in D2L-Brightspace as a self-registration course. This free course will publish important dates, centralize relevant resources, and provide need-to-know information for graduate students. Basically, this site has everything you need to know about your culminating project, whether it is a dissertation, thesis, starred paper, professional portfolio, or creative work.

Institutional Repository

Our searchable Repository archives culminating projects, which may be a thesis, dissertation, starred paper or creative work, depending on the candidate's program.

Distinguished Master’s Thesis Award

Each year the Faculty Association Graduate Committee and School of Graduate Studies recognize one outstanding thesis completed during the last academic year or summer.

This winner may also be submitted as St. Cloud State University's nominee for the Midwestern Association of Graduate Schools Distinguished Thesis Award.

Each master’s program with a thesis option is encouraged to select and submit one outstanding thesis.


  • Master’s degree-seeking candidates who completed a thesis during the past two academic years will be eligible.
  • For 2021 eligibility:
    • The thesis must have been completed and the master’s degree awarded between July 1, 2019, to June 30, 2021.
    • The thesis may not have been previously considered for the St. Cloud State distinguished thesis award.
  • Starred papers and creative works cannot be considered for this award.


Each master’s program with a thesis option is encouraged to select and submit an outstanding thesis.

  • The thesis and nomination letter of no more than two pages from the program or department must be submitted to the School of Graduate Studies no later than 1 p.m. on Oct. 14, 2021. 
  • Programs in the Biological/Life Sciences and Humanities are particularly encouraged to submit deserving theses for consideration.
  • The thesis must have been completed and the master’s degree awarded between July 1, 2019 to June 30, 2021.
  • A thesis may be submitted for consideration once, so please do not submit any theses previously submitted for consideration.
  • The thesis and letter of nomination should be submitted electronically in PDF format to the SGS Graduate Assistant at 


Submit nomination materials to the School of Graduate Studies by 1 p.m. on Oct. 14.

Bryce, Formatting and ETD Graduate Assistant
School of Graduate Studies
101 Administrative Services Building
720 Fourth Avenue South
St. Cloud, MN 56301-4498

Selection and announcement of awards

  • The School of Graduate Studies forwards the theses and letters of support to the chairperson of the Distinguished Master’s Thesis Award Committee.
  • The committee selects the Distinguished Master’s Thesis.
  • If eligible, the St. Cloud State thesis is submitted to the Midwestern Association of Graduate Schools for its annual competition.
  • The St. Cloud State award recipient will announced in early February.
  • The individual whose thesis is selected will receive a framed certificate, and an award of $200 in a joint presentation (usually scheduled early in Spring semester) by faculty representatives, the president, and the dean of the School of Graduate Studies.

MAGS Distinguished Thesis Award

Each university in the Midwest is allowed to submit one thesis in each category (2022 categories are Biological/Life Sciences and Humanities).

From these, the Midwestern Association of Graduate Schools Distinguished Thesis Award is chosen.

If selected by MAGS, the student receives a $750 honorarium and travel expenses to attend the annual Midwestern Association of Graduate Schools conference.

Three-Minute Thesis

Post-proposal graduate students are invited compete to in the Three-Minute Thesis Competition (3MT) during the Huskies Showcase.

The 3MT competition allows graduate students to showcase their works to non-specialist audiences and challenges them to communicate the significance of their research projects (dissertations and theses) in just three minutes by demonstrating their abilities to effectively explain their research in interesting and engaging manners. 

Students will be asked to publicly present their 3MT during this event and the winners will be announced at that time.

Students enrolled in either a master's or doctoral program may compete. A student’s program of study must contain an original research project.  The degree program need not formally require a thesis or dissertation, however the presentation topic must cover the original research project.  

Eligibility requirements

Eligible graduate students must be enrolled in a doctoral or master’s program and must have passed their proposal defense during a previous semester. They must also have been enrolled at some time during the current academic year.

Each student's presentation will be videotaped and an edited copy made available to the student to include with the Institutional Repository submission of the thesis.

3MT application package

Due March 30, 2020. A complete package includes:

  • Completed registration for the Huskies Showcase 
    • Advisors/Committee Chairs will need to sign the Project Submission approval form submitted with the Huskies Showcase registration.
  • A single, static slide that visually represents the research
  • Student’s curriculum vitae (maximum of three pages)
All of the above must be combined into a single PDF file and submitted via e-mail to with the subject line: 3MT.

Competition rules

The following rules must be adhered to by the presenters:

  • A single, static PowerPoint slide is permitted. No transitions, animations, or movements of the slide content are allowed.
  • No additional electronic media (sound or video files) are permitted.
  • No additional props (e.g. notecards, scripts, pointers, costumes, musical instruments, laboratory equipment) are permitted.
  • Presentations are limited to three minutes. Any competitor going over the time allotment will be disqualified.
  • Presentations are to be spoken word. No poems, raps, or songs are permitted.
  • Presentations must be on the stage from start to finish.
  • A presentation is considered to commence at the time a competitor begins through movement or speech.
  • The decisions of the judging panel are final and void of rebuttal.


  • Patrick Jackson, M.S. Information Assurance, Long-Term Assessment of Object Strength in a Web Service as Managed by the Garbage Collection in Java Based Services

  • Jaclyn McGrath, M.S. Applied Behavior Analysis, Behavioral Sensitivity to Progressively Thinning Reinforcement Schedules in a Token Economy

  • Shana Rogan, M.S. Cell and Molecular Biology, Herbal Remedies and Type 1 Diabetes- A Cautionary Tale -- First Place - St. Cloud State 2018 3 Minute Thesis Competition

  • Christopher DeSpain, M.S. Special Studies-Sport Psychology, St. Cloud State Kinesiology Department

  • University of Queensland, Australia