The Masters Thesis Committee

Thesis, Prelims, & Dissertations:
How does it all work?
Brought to you by:
Sarah Ullrich-French
Brittany Rhoades Cooper
Your Resources
 The Prevention Science Student Handbook is your friend!
 Your peers
 Your advisor
 The Prevention Science Program Director
 Tom until July; Laura while Tom is on sabbatical next year
 The Graduate School website:
 Comic relief courtesy of PhD Comics:
Before we start, a note about residency
 If you are not already a resident of WA, you must complete the necessary paperwork to
apply for residency before your 2nd year in the PhD program. This can affect your
assistantship because we can only give you an out-of-state tuition waiver for your 1st year.
 Deadline = “No earlier than one month prior to the semester for which you are applying
and no later than the 30th calendar day of the semester for which you are applying. If you
want a decision before tuition is due, you should submit your questionnaire and supporting
documentation at least two weeks before the tuition due date, because it can take up to
three weeks to process.”
 See this link for more information:
And a note about the Program of Study
 It is extremely important that you are aware of the Graduate School deadlines and
 You will need to keep track of both the Masters Degree & Doctoral Degree deadlines –
they require separate Programs of Study forms
 The Masters deadline = one full semester before you plan to graduate with your MA
 The Doctoral deadline = by the end of your 3rd semester in the program
 See this link for details:
 If you have questions, contact Amanda Wudiri at [email protected] or 335-4825.
*All Graduate School paperwork should go through Diane so she can make the needed
copies for the Prev Sci program before sending on to the Graduate School.
The Annual Review
Annual Review Requirements
 All Prev Sci graduate students (in collaboration with their advisors) must complete an Evaluation
of Progress Toward Degree form each year.
 This form documents progress in required course work, thesis/dissertation, and other professional
development activities.
 You must also include an updated CV and a 1-2 pg. written statement of your
accomplishments from the reporting year and plans/goals for the next year.
 You should complete the required form, compile the associated materials, and schedule a
meeting with your advisor to discuss them prior to submitting your packet to the department.
 It is VERY important that you give yourself and your advisor enough lead time to complete this
process by the specified deadlines.
 Typically, you will receive an email from Diane in early March and the documents are due by
end of March (but this may change so keep your eye out for the email from Diane).
The Masters Thesis
Masters Requirements
 Prevention Science PhD students must complete an Masters thesis on their way to the PhD.
This is NOT a terminal Masters degree.
 Overview of the products/process:
 Written proposal  proposal oral defense  written thesis  thesis oral defense
 If a student enters the program with a Masters thesis from another program, he/she can
request it be approved for the Prevention Science PhD program.
 Student’s advisor creates review committee (2 Prev Sci faculty & the advisor)
 They evaluate the thesis to determine if it 1) is in the prevention area, 2) involves the collection of
quantitative or qualitative data, and 3) meets our quality standards
Masters Timeline
 Fall Year 1:
 Work in collaboration with advisor & in Prev Sci 513 to develop research questions/topic
 Select thesis committee (minimum of 3 members, including advisor)
 Spring Year 1:
 Draft and finalize thesis proposal (i.e., intro, lit review, methods, analytic plan)
 Conduct thesis proposal meeting – receive formal approval for thesis project
 Submit for IRB approval (for details see:
The Masters Thesis Committee
 After you have chosen your thesis topic, you must form a committee as follows:
 Advisor = committee chair (must be Prev Sci faculty)*
 Must include at least 2 other members
 At least half must be Prev Sci faculty (
 Members must come from at least two disciplines (e.g., HD & Psychology, HD & Communication)
 At least 2 must have PhD or equivalent
 Must be approved by Prev Sci Program Director
*If your advisor is clinical faculty (non-tenure track), you must have a tenure-track
co-chair who is on the Prev Sci faculty as well.
The Masters Thesis Proposal
 You must submit a fully written thesis proposal 2 weeks prior to your oral defense.
 It should include:
 Introduction: What did you do & why does it matter?
 Literature Review: How does the study fit in the existing research & literature?
 Methods: How will you conduct the research?
 Data Analysis Plan: How will you analyze your data?
 References
The Masters Thesis Proposal Defense
 At the proposal meeting you should be prepared to: 1) do a 20-30 minute presentation and 2)
respond to questions from the committee about your proposed project.
 After this, the committee will ask you to leave the room to vote on whether you “passed” the
defense and whether the project is approved.
 Final approval is given with a signed approval form (i.e., agreement between the student &
committee members regarding requirements for successful completion of the thesis).
 If there are major changes to this plan following the meeting, it may require re-approval from
the committee.
 There are two conditions under which a student will not “pass” the proposal defense:
 1) The student did not adequately prepare the materials and/or fails to demonstrate that he/she is
ready to move forward with the research.
 2) The committee recommends significant changes during the course of the proposal meeting.
Masters Timeline Continued
 Fall Year 2:
 Collect/analyze data (as applicable)
 Continue drafting & revising thesis chapters in consultation with advisor & committee
 Submit application for Masters degree & Masters Program of Study to Graduate School (if completing Masters
degree following semester)
 Submit Doctoral Program of Study to the Graduate School (must be done during your 3rd semester of study)
 E.g., Admitted Summer/Fall 2013: Must submit by October 1, 2014
 Spring Year 2:
 Schedule oral defense with committee members
 Submit written thesis to committee and final exam scheduling form to Graduate School 2 weeks prior to defense
 Deliver hard-copy of thesis to HD main office, email Prev Sci faculty, & put up fliers in department announcing
your defense
 Following the defense, make needed revisions and submit FINAL version of thesis to Graduate School
The Masters Thesis Document
 The length of the written thesis varies, but is often
40-70 pages long (excluding references, tables, figures, etc.)
 It should include all of the sections from the proposal, plus:
 Results: What did you find?
 Discussion: What do your findings mean?
 See pgs. 14-17 in the Graduate Handbook for a detailed description of each section
 See Graduate School website for other requirements, including thesis formatting; uploading
thesis to database; completing other required forms
The Masters Thesis Defense
 Proposal & final defense meetings should be scheduled in different semesters.
 Same process as proposal defense, except it will take longer (e.g., 30-45 min presentation
instead of 20 minutes) and…
 This meeting is open to the entire University community.
 You must announce the meeting to Prev Sci faculty & students 2 weeks in advance
 You must complete the necessary scheduling form, get signatures from all committee members,
& submit the form to the Graduate School before the final defense can be scheduled (at least 2
weeks in advance).
*The committee may stipulate changes to the written document at the defense meeting. The student
must make the required written changes and give copies to the committee before they “sign off” and it
is officially submitted to the Graduate School.
Masters Tips & Strategies
Masters Tips & Strategies
 Make a calendar of deadlines for yourself and set a timeline
with goals; track your progress; start paperwork early
 Pomodoro technique (app available on
 Assume things will take longer than you think; block longer times for
difficult tasks (writing, data analysis, etc)
 Make note of deadlines and paperwork and plan well ahead
 Establish a paper trail of questions asked and responses
(especially with the graduate school)
 Write down questions / seek answers and move on
 Seek clear expectations / guidelines from your committee
 Do something related to your thesis EVERY DAY
Masters Tips & Strategies
 Research /writing is an iterative process don’t let perfection or
anxiety paralyze you
 Attend student defenses
 Practice presenting and answering questions
 Approach thesis as a conversation or opportunity rather than
a threat
 Allow meetings to be productive (see them as developing your
 Involve your committee early on
 "Always remember that your committee is on your side."
The Preliminary Exam
The goal is to establish that you are prepared to conduct your dissertation.
Prelims Requirements
 After you have completed your thesis & core coursework (usually by the end of the 5th
semester), you will take your preliminary doctoral exam (aka “prelims”).
 You must be registered for at least 2 hours of PREV SCI 800 credits during the semester you
take the exam.
 You must schedule the exam with the Graduate School at least 10 working days prior to
the exam.
 You can take the exam in any semester (except during Final Exam week); summer exams
are only allowed if all of your committee is available.
Prelims Timeline
 Fall Year 3:
 Complete last of required coursework
 Identify specialty area for Prelims
 Select Prelims/PhD dissertation committee in collaboration with advisor
 Develop reading list in collaboration with advisor/committee
 Submit reading list, research statement, and 3 example questions for your specialty area to the
Prevention Science Graduate Director for approval from the Prevention Science Graduate
Prelims Timeline Continued
 Spring Year 3:
 Complete reading for Prelims
 Schedule Prelims exam dates with committee
 Submit scheduling form to the Graduate School two weeks prior to exam date
 Complete written exam (you have two weeks to write) and oral defense (no more than two
weeks after completion of written exam)
The Prelims/Dissertation Committee
 Your Prelims & Dissertation committee should be the same
 This committee:
 Has at least 4 members (including your advisor/chair)
 The chair & at least half of your members must be members of Prev Sci graduate faculty
 Members must come from at least 2 disciplines (preferably 3)
 At least 3 members must have a PhD or equivalent
 Must be approved by Prev Sci Program Director
The Reading List
 The readings must cover the three core components of Prev Sci (~20-30 readings each)
 Developmental Epidemiology & Public Health
 Research Methods
 Program Development, Implementation, & Institutionalization
 And your identified specialty area
 You will develop a draft of this list in close collaboration with your advisor/chair.
 Once you have a solid draft, you will share with the rest of your committee for their input.
 Along with the reading list, you must also write a ~1 page description of your specialty
area and develop 3 example questions.
 The Prevention Science Graduate Committee will review & make modifications (if
necessary) before approving your list.
The Prelims Questions & Exam
 You will answer 4 questions: 3 which cover the Prev Sci core areas & 1 which covers your
specialty area
 See pgs. 8-9 in the Handbook for a list of key concepts that will be addressed in the exam
 Every student’s questions will be different; your prelims committee is responsible for
developing them
 You will have two weeks from the day you receive your questions (by email from Diane) to
write your responses
 Responses should be about 10-15 pages for each question (not including references)
 Double-spaced, 12 point font, APA style references
The Prelims Defense
 Oral defense must be held within two weeks of submitting your written responses.
 You should inform all Prev Sci faculty of the date, time, location of the meeting.
 All members of your committee should be present to vote (other Prev Sci faculty may be
present and can also vote).
 The meeting will last about 2 hours (with about 30 minutes allocated for faculty discussion
before and after the defense).
 You must pass each prelim question.
 If you don’t, you will be given one additional chance (at least 3 months later) to answer
new question(s) in the area(s) you did not pass. If you don’t pass the second exam, your
enrollment in the Graduate School will be terminated.
Prelims Tips & Strategies
 Start organizing your reading list early (like yesterday!)
 Use the outline in the handbook
 Discuss with each committee member
 Plan well in advance for a good time to do the preliminary exam. Pick a time with minimal
distractions and conflicts
 Study on a regular basis; don’t cram; know the readings and resources
 Budget your time while completing prelims; include time for formatting and references
 Keep working between completing the written responses and oral defense; you can always
revise/clarify or even adjust your responses in the oral defense meeting
 The meeting with your committee is a opportunity to clarify and expand your ideas
 Remember, the committee is still on your side
 Talk to Ashley
Dissertation Requirements
 Once you have passed your prelims exam, you are officially ABD (“all but dissertation”)
and a doctoral candidate, and therefore you can begin working on your Dissertation.
Dissertation Timeline
The timeline for the dissertation varies, but the following is typically completed in the 4th-5th year in the program:
 Draft and finalize dissertation proposal (i.e., intro, lit review, methods, analytic plan)
 Conduct proposal meeting – receive formal approval for thesis project
 Submit for IRB approval (for details see:
 Collect/analyze data (as applicable)
 Draft & revise dissertation chapters in consultation with advisor & committee
 Submit application for doctoral degree in semester prior to scheduling final dissertation oral defense
 Schedule final dissertation oral defense with members of committee
 Submit written thesis to committee and final exam scheduling form to Graduate School 2 weeks prior to
 Deliver hard-copy of dissertation to HD main office, email Prev Sci faculty, & put up fliers in department
announcing your defense
 Following the defense, make needed revisions and submit FINAL version of dissertation to Graduate School
Dissertation Proposal Defense
 The only difference between thesis and dissertation proposal defenses is that other
interested students and faculty can attend the dissertation proposal defense.
 Following the public presentation/discussion of your proposal, non-Prev Sci faculty
members will leave and the student will take questions from the dissertation committee
and any member of the Prev Sci faculty who choose to stay.
Dissertation Document
 The dissertation generally follows a similar format as the thesis:
 Introduction: What did you do & why does it matter?
 Literature Review: How does the study fit in literature?
 Methods: How will you conduct the research?
 Results: What did you find?
 Discussion: What do your findings mean?
 References
 You do have the option of choosing a “three manuscript” format, which consists of:
 3 related manuscripts in journal publication form (each with separate intro, methods, results, and
discussion sections in APA format) PLUS an overarching introduction and conclusion section that ties the
3 manuscripts together.
 Talk to your advisor to see if your proposed project would fit this option
Dissertation Defense
 Same as Masters Thesis defense (see slides above).
Dissertation Tips & Strategies
 Be mindful of creating a coherent line of research in developing your dissertation
specialty area and in designing your study (plan for next steps and future directions)
 Create a timeline and set short, mid, and long-term goals; create accountability; work
DAILY on something related to the dissertation
 No one will know your dissertation as well as you do; this is your way to assert some
independence in your scholarship; take ownership of it; YOU are the expert; don’t propose
something you cannot carry out
 Consider feasibility and realistic expectations for completing the dissertation. This is not
going to be your last chance to save the world
 Give adequate time for your advisor to read drafts and expect there to be many, many
 Have patience with yourself and others; learn to meditate or run (or other healthy ways to
re-center yourself)

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