Guidelines for Master's Thesis and Ph.D. Proposals

Guidelines for Master’s Thesis and Ph.D. Dissertation Proposals
(note: see also more general details in Graduate Student Handbook)

Graduate students should begin investigating potential research areas and discussing the feasibility of possible topics with appropriate faculty as soon as is practical after beginning their graduate careers.  The ideal situation would be for a student to have chosen the general research area and to have received an indication from a faculty member that he or she would be willing to serve as advisor to the student before the end of the first semester in residence.  It is recognized that commonly this will not occur until the second quarter in residence.

Under the guidelines for “Normal Progress”, a M.S. student must have an approved Thesis Proposal completed by the end of the second semester or, for a Ph.D. student a completed Dissertation Proposal by the end of the second year (4 semesters) at OSU.

Only members of the Graduate Faculty (Status M or P) can serve as advisors at the Master’s level.  Only members with Status P can serve as Ph.D. advisors.  All regular faculty in the School of Earth Sciences qualify, as well as Emeritus faculty who have petitioned to retain Graduate Faculty status.  Associated faculty, including adjuncts, may serve on master’s and doctoral examination committees upon petition by the Graduate Studies Committee of the student’s program and approval by the Graduate School; however they do not count towards the Graduate School minimum requirements for Graduate Faculty (2 for the M.S. Examination Committee, 4 for the Ph.D. Candidacy Exam, and 3 for the Final Ph.D. Oral Examination).

To formalize this agreement between the student and faculty advisor, the department requires that a Thesis/Dissertation Proposal be submitted to the Graduate Studies Committee for its approval.

The procedure for preparing and submitting the proposal is given below.  It is expected that the text of the M.S. proposal will be approximately 3 to 5 pages, not including references.  The Ph.D. proposal is expected to be approximately 5 to 9 pages, not including references.

1.         The student develops a proposal that meets the approval of his or her advisor and which addresses the following points:

a.         nature and significance of the problem;
b.         description of the procedures the student will use to solve the problem;
c.         timetable for the work; and
d.         estimated budget which shall include; i) stipend and its duration and anticipated source of funds (GRA, GTA); ii) analytical costs and technician time; iii) computer hardware and software costs; iv) fieldwork costs; v) illustration expenses; etc.

2.         The student in conjunction with his or her advisor selects two additional faculty members for an M.S. (note that this minimum of 3 Committee members is 1 greater than the Graduate School minimum of 2), or three additional faculty members for a Ph.D., who are willing to serve on the committee and who approve the written proposal. All faculty committee members sign and endorse the proposal TITLE PAGE before final submission to the Graduate Coordinator who then sends this on to the Graduate Studies Committee.

3.         The Graduate Studies Committee will review the proposal, after which it may a) return the proposal to the student for clarification, amplification, or rewriting, or b) approve the proposal as written.  Approval of the proposal is accompanied by filing of the proposal in the student’s folder in the Departments Graduate Records Office, and notification of the student of these actions.  It shall be incumbent upon the Graduate Studies Committee to take action on Thesis/Dissertation Proposals as quickly as possible when they are submitted during the regular academic year.

For a student in the M.S. program, the committee will serve as the Master’s Examination committee.  The Ph.D. student’s committee will serve as the Ph.D. Candidacy Examination committee, and also typically the Ph.D. Final Examination committee (although changes can be made between candidacy and the final thesis defense).  If a member of such a committee cannot be present for any Examination, the Chairman of the Graduate Studies Committee should be informed and in consultation with the student’s advisor, a substitute for the Examination will be appointed.

Please note that:                                                         

1.         A student should have an approved Thesis/Dissertation Proposal before enrolling in GS 8999 (Thesis/Dissertation Research).|
2.         If a student does not have an approved Thesis Proposal by the end of the second semester or a Dissertation Proposal by the end of the second year (4 semesters) at OSU, then under the guidelines the student is not making “Normal Progress”.  The Graduate Coordinator and Graduate Studies Committee must be made aware of the reasons for the delay, expected timeline for completion, and a meeting may be requested with the student and advisor to discuss the circumstances.|
3.         Students are encouraged to apply for small grants (e.g., Sigma Xi, AAPG, GSA, etc.) when the necessary financial support for research expenses is uncertain.  The deadlines for these proposals are normally in January or early February, requiring early planning for thesis/dissertation research.