Theses and Dissertations
Philosophy. The department envisions master's theses to be demonstrations of a student's ability to formulate a geographic research problem, collect and analyze relevant data or appropriate literature, arrive at logical conclusions, and present the entire exercise in an acceptably professional form. Theses are more often learning experiences than substantive contributions to the field. The Ph.D. dissertation, on the other hand, is a major research effort designed to contribute significant new knowledge to geography.
Guidelines for Proposals. Although a dissertation proposal is necessarily more elaborate than that for a M.A. thesis, all proposals are expected to contain three basic elements:
- Problem statement—the research problem and/or questions presented in concise terms.
- Relevant literature—a demonstration of how the proposed research relates to existing knowledge.
- Outline of methodology—an outline of the general methodology if not specific techniques to be utilized in solving the research problem or answering the basic research questions.
- A projected timeline for completion.
While these are the minimum content requirements for all proposals, students should consult with their advisor early in the proposal writing process with regard to specific format, length, or content requirements. It is expected that the student will consult closely with the advisor during the development and drafting of the proposal and that the student will receive the advisor's approval of the proposal before submitting it to committee members and scheduling the M.A. thesis proposal defense or the Ph.D. oral exam.
Thesis and Dissertation Format. Because of the diversity of Geography as a discipline, the Department does not specify a required format for theses and disssertations. The preferred format varies from subfield to subfield and from advisor to advisor; therefore, you should consult with your advisor early in your graduate studies with regard to your advisor's required format. In all cases, of course, the thesis or dissertation must meet University guidelines.
Submission of Thesis/Dissertation for Committee Examination.
Students should submit theses and dissertations directly to their advisors, and this advisor's approval must be received before a “clean and complete” version of this document is passed on to other committee members and the final oral defense is scheduled. A "clean" manuscript is typed in legible fashion with a minimum of handwritten corrections and is "complete" in the sense that the entire text is provided, together with table of contents, notes, bibliography, appendices, and supporting materials such as tables, graphs, maps, and illustrations. Graphics and maps should be carefully laid out with complete information in a format (size and shape) that is appropriate for inclusion in the final document. The thesis/dissertation need not, and in fact should not, be in final form for binding. The presumption is that some changes will be necessary and these are easier to recommend and implement if the copy is "clean and complete" but not "final." Five weeks before the intended date of a student’s final oral examination, the student (with approval of the committee chair), will submit a complete draft of the thesis or dissertation to all committee members. The advisor and committee members have a responsibility to provide timely evaluations. Within two weeks of this submission, committee members must indicate whether or not the thesis or dissertation is defendable by signing a “Permission to Schedule Defense” form.
Public Presentation. All M.A. and Ph.D. defenses must have a public component, which typically will involve an oral presentation by the student. These defenses must be announced via departmental email, the departmental Web page, and flyers posted in Lindley Hall. Once the presentation has been given and the public has been given a chance to ask questions, the public will be required to leave, and committee members will be able to ask questions in a private session.
Publication of Thesis and Dissertation Research. It is an expectation of the Department of Geography that all thesis and dissertation research be of publishable quality. All graduate students, under the guidance of their advisors and graduate committees, are strongly encouraged to develop a plan to publish their research in peer-reviewed journals, edited books, or other appropriate venues. Elements of that plan may include publishing abstracts and making presentations at scholarly conferences, submitting conference proceedings papers, and structuring the thesis or dissertation so as to facilitate publications.