Thesis Guidelines

 

MS CTS-Thesis Component Guidelines (8 credits)
CTSC 5108S

 

Fall 2011 Slide Show: Thesis Guidelines 2011

Introduction:
The MS CTS degree requires students to formulate a research question, investigate a problem/issue, report the results and discuss the findings and implications of the study. MS degree candidates are expected to design, implement, and complete a research project and prepare a thesis whose contents may be developed into a manuscript that is ready for submission to a peer-reviewed professional journal. The thesis phase culminates in an oral defense of the thesis.

The thesis is the most important document that the master's candidate will prepare during the course of graduate study. The thesis is an archival record of the scientific accomplishments that justify the awarding of the degree. It contains complete documentation of the candidate's approach to the research question, including a comprehensive review of the literature related to the thesis topic, discussion of the significance and potential impact of the focused question, the methods and measures used to address the question, the results and discussion of those results taking into account their strengths and limitations, how they fit with and extend existing knowledge, implications for future practice, and the next steps to be taken as a result of this research. The thesis represents the candidate's approach to an original question posed by the candidate. Ideally, the thesis could be used as a springboard for a subsequent grant application.

Thesis timeline
Thesis timelines may vary widely based on students’ other commitments and thesis proposal.  Students are thus encouraged to consult regularly with their faculty mentor and the program directors to ensure they are on schedule to graduate. Typically, the thesis phase of the MS CTS program will commence during the second year and continue until completion, preferably sometime within the second year.  Students must complete at least 8 credits of thesis work to graduate from the MS CTS program. 

Research Advisory Committee formation and function
A Research Advisory Committee will be formed to advise each student on his or her thesis. The Research Advisory Committee consists of the student's faculty mentor, who will serve as the Research Advisory Committee Chair, and two to three other faculty members, ideally including at least one clinician and at least one member from outside the department of the faculty mentor. The Program Director will aid in the selection of the faculty mentor and, in conjunction with the mentor, will assist the student in identifying committee members, obtaining their commitment to serve, and obtaining GSBS approval of the committee (click here for committee form). Generally, Research Advisory Committee members will be faculty with expertise in the given field/scientific area of the planned thesis project and presumably will have significant research experience. 

The Research Advisory Committee will need to meet formally to approve the thesis proposal and again for the thesis defense.  However, a student should meet regularly and no less than annually with his faculty mentor and other committee members as needed to ensure adequate progress during the course of the thesis work.  Students must meet with their Research Advisory Committee at least once annually; however the Program recommends that students meet with committee members (either individually or collectively) at least once per semester.  The student, faculty mentor, or any committee member can initiate a request for a meeting.  The meeting is formally documented by completion of the Annual Research Advisory Committee Meeting form.   If the student, faculty mentor, or any committee member has concerns about the function of the committee, they should contact the Program Director.  

Throughout the course of their studies, students may find that the composition of their Research Advisory Committee must change, usually because a faculty member can no longer serve on the Committee or the research has developed along another line of inquiry that would benefit from additional expertise on the Committee.  To change the members of the Research Advisory Committee, students must complete another Approval of Research Advisory Committee Membership form and obtain the approval of the CTS Program Director and the Graduate School.

Selection of thesis topic
An important goal of the MS CTS Program is that thesis research serves directly to advance the scientific and professional careers of the students. Therefore, students should choose a topic that will further their career objectives and, ideally, be publishable in their major field of interest. The thesis topic may require primary data collection or rely on secondary data analysis from an ongoing or completed study or another source of existing data. Students should work closely with their faculty mentors to select thesis topics. Generally, the student is expected to engage in a clinical or translational research project for his/her thesis work. 

Alternative thesis topic:  With prior approval from the Program, students may conduct a project that focuses on translating an idea from the laboratory into the clinic or from the clinic to the market.  Such projects might include writing a business and marketing plan or developing and implementing a commercialization plan for an “orphan” invention or technology.   These types of projects may not follow the standard thesis format as noted below but would require an extensive background section to explain the context and intent of the work.

Regardless of the type of project chosen, students are expected to conduct research and produce professional quality results. 

Thesis proposal and approval
Each student must prepare a thesis proposal and have it approved by their Research Advisory Committee, preferably before research begins. The thesis proposal consists of three elements:

1. A literature review demonstrating the student has sufficient background knowledge to pursue the proposed work and can use this knowledge to craft a rationale for the proposed specific aims. The literature review also will form the basis for the first chapter of the written thesis.

2. A statement of specific aims for the proposed work, in which the aims address one or more important scientific questions and are feasible within the scope of a master’s thesis.

3. A set of skeleton (“mock”) tables and/or figures that will serve as the basis for the presentation of results.

There are no page requirements or limitations for the thesis proposal.   However, a typical proposal might include 10 to 15 double-spaced pages of literature review and figures and tables as appropriate. The Research Advisory Committee must convene and formally approve the student’s thesis.

Thesis components
Students are encouraged to approach thesis preparation as an expanded manuscript preparation process, which facilitates submission of their work for publication. This preferred approach requires a three chapter thesis. The first chapter includes a detailed literature review that builds on the literature review presented as part of the thesis proposal. The second chapter takes the form of a journal article to be submitted upon completion of the thesis defense. The third chapter contains ancillary analyses and an expanded discussion that often includes suggestions about future research to address remaining questions. Students have the option to complete a traditional thesis. This would include four chapters: Introduction, Methods, Results, and Discussion. While the Introduction of the traditional thesis would be comparable to the first chapter of the preferred approach, the other chapters would be expanded versions of chapters two and three of the preferred approach.

Thesis format
The thesis must be neatly presented, error free, and consistently and clearly organized. Students should refer to the guidelines published in the student handbook regarding the required format and style of the thesis document, as well as requirements for review of the master’s thesis format by the GSBS. In the guidelines documents, students should take particular note of instructions regarding the physical appearance of the thesis document, presentation of illustrations, and contents of the opening (prefatory) pages. Students approaching the thesis as an expanded manuscript (preferred approach) should include the chapters mentioned above rather than the traditional chapters mentioned in the Graduate School guidelines.

Final examination and examination committee
The final oral examination is a public forum in which the student presents his research to an Examination Committee (EC) and then takes questions from the audience.  All EC members must be present at the defense. The examination will cover the student’s knowledge about the thesis and related areas. The defense generally opens with an approximately 30 to 45 minute presentation of the thesis work by the student, followed by a question and answer period. After the public forum, the EC may choose to meet with the student in a closed session for additional questions. The student is then dismissed and the EC grades the examination. Only one dissenting vote is allowed for a "pass." In the case where a student fails the exam, the EC will recommend a course of remedial studies that should be undertaken before the student retakes the exam. The final oral examination may be taken no more than twice and must be retaken within six months. Failing the exam twice will result in dismissal from the master's degree program.

Students must submit an Approval of Examination/Dissertation Defense Committee Membership form to GSBS prior to the defense of their thesis.  The Examining Committee Chair polls the committee members 10 days before the defense examination to determine the acceptability of the thesis for defense and runs the oral examination. After the student has passed the final oral examination, all members of the EC must sign a form indicating that they are satisfied with the student's work product and that the final corrections to the thesis have been made. The GSBS will not certify completion of degree requirements until the final thesis has been submitted for binding.  

For the purposes of the CTS program, the EC is comprised of the same membership as the student's Research Advisory Committee.  Unlike some other graduate programs, the student's faculty mentor can serve as the chair of the student's EC as well as his/her Research Advisory Committee.

Thesis completion
For the MS CTS program, the thesis represents a capstone experience in which students demonstrate the competencies they have acquired during their coursework. The opportunity to prepare and hopefully publish a first authored manuscript for their thesis also provides students an entrée to their independent research career. Students must complete their thesis within two years of finishing their coursework, with an option to request a one-year extension from the MS CTS Program Director. Thus, the absolute maximum time allowed in the program is four years. Acceptable reasons for an extension will vary and may include delays in acquiring desired data or departure of a thesis mentor from the faculty. Extensions must be requested before the end of the semester in which the student otherwise would be required to complete their thesis. This policy applies to all students who matriculated in the MS CTS Program as of its inception in the fall semester of 2009.

Thesis information for students

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Faculty associated with the CTS program

 

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