In lieu of 6 course credits, students may opt to complete a thesis. There are two options for the thesis: 1) an empirical thesis based on research done under the supervision of a faculty mentor, or 2) a literature review thesis written with the advisement of a faculty mentor. Content requirements for each are described below. Note that students can only be exempt from taking the Masters comprehensive exam if 1) they complete an empirical (not literature review) thesis, and 2) their GPA is 3.7 or higher in the first 18 credits earned in the program (or cumulatively up to the semester they decide to graduate).
For both empirical and literature review thesis options, the faculty mentor and student must agree on a thesis committee of three people: the faculty mentor (who should have some expert knowledge of the topic of the thesis), and two additional faculty ‘readers’ from the Psychology Department. This committee will read and review the thesis. After they have reviewed it, the student must arrange a one-hour meeting with the committee at which the student orally presents the thesis to the committee and the committee has the opportunity to ask questions about it. The student must make sure to give the committee at least four weeks to review the thesis before this meeting is held. Upon approval of the thesis by the committee, all members of the committee must sign a committee approval form. This form should be submitted together with a final version of the thesis to the Head of the General MA program no later than one week after the last day of finals the semester in which the student plans to graduate. The Head of the program will in turn submit a departmental thesis approval form to the Office of Graduate Studies.
1. Empirical thesis content requirements
The empirical MA thesis should be an APA-formatted paper summarizing the research the student has done under the supervision of a faculty member in the Psychology Department. This thesis is usually the culmination of a minimum of one year’s worth of research (often more) done in collaboration with the faculty mentor. If the thesis culminates in publication in a peer-reviewed journal, the student should be a co-author on the paper (if not the primary author), and a committee and review of the thesis by a committee (see below) is not required. The publication must be accepted for publication by one week after the last day of finals in which the student plans to graduate.
2. Literature review thesis content requirements
The literature review MA thesis should be a focused review paper similar to those found in the Psychological Bulletin. In coordination with a faculty advisor, students choose a topic of moderate breadth that addresses a particular issue in the field of psychology. The paper is typically from 25 to 30 double-spaced pages in length (not including references). As described in the journal, “Psychological Bulletin” publishes evaluative and integrative research reviews and interpretations of issues in scientific psychology. Integrative reviews or research syntheses focus on empirical studies and seek to summarize past research by drawing overall conclusions from many separate investigations that address related or identical hypotheses. A research synthesis typically presents the authors’ assessments of (a) the state of knowledge concerning the relations of interest, (b) critical assessments of the strengths and weaknesses in past research, and (c) important issues that research has left unresolved, thereby directing future research so it can yield a maximum amount of new information. Both cumulative and historical approaches (i.e., ones that organize a research literature by highlighting temporally unfolding developments in a field) can be used.”
Although not required, students may choose to have their final thesis bound by the library. Details on how to do this can be found here.