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Graduate School

Obtaining a Graduate Degree

General Requirements for Obtaining a Graduate Degree
The student is responsible for becoming familiar with and completing the requirements for the degree being sought. The student may expect guidance from his/her advisor and committee and assistance from the Graduate School. Students are also encouraged to consult the Graduate Student Toolkit and refer to the Graduate School Website for the most current information. The responsibility for the following requirements rests fully with the student. The graduate degree will not be awarded until the Dean of the Graduate School is satisfied that all requirements have been completed. All forms referred to can be found on the Graduate School Website.

Admission Status
Admitted—Approved Status:
A student who has met all minimum requirements of the graduate school for admission and all program requirements for admission, has been recommended by the Program Director for admission, and has been approved by the graduate Dean for admission will be granted Admission—Approved Status.

Admitted—Provisional Status:
A student who has not met one or more of the graduate school and/or program requirements (i.e., low GPA, low test scores, lack of test scores) may be granted Admission—Provisional Status with the recommendation of the Program Director and the approval of the Graduate Dean. Students who are Admitted—Provisional Status due to low GPA will be eligible for advancement to Approved Status after accumulating nine (9) semester hours if their cumulative GPA is 3.00. Students with low or missing test scores will be given a specific deadline in their admission letter for submitting the minimum required score. Students who are Admitted--Provisional Status who do not meet the condition(s) specified in the letter of admission by the deadline will be dismissed from the Graduate School at the end of the semester when the condition(s) should have been met. *Students who have Admitted—Provisional Status may not be appointed as Graduate Assistants through the Graduate School and are ineligible for Graduate School scholarships.

Graduate School Policy on Deferred Enrollment
Admitted students may request their initial enrollment be deferred for up to one year from the semester they originally intended to matriculate. After one year, the student will be required to reapply for admission.

Program of Study
Admitted students are required to file an approved "Program of Study" in the Graduate School no later than the completion of their first nine semester hours. The Program of Study is a written plan for completing a degree. Completion of the Program of Study should involve consultation with the Program Director and/or studentís advisor. Because the Program of Study will be the basis of the graduation check, any deviations that are made must have written approval from the studentís advisor, department/division chairperson, and the Dean of the Graduate School. A Program of Study form for each degree program is available on the Graduate School website.

Graduate Committee
During the first year of graduate study, students should become acquainted with faculty in their department. From this faculty, the student will choose a committee chairperson to oversee his/her final thesis, project, or capstone course (if applicable). The student should consult with his/her committee chairperson in selecting additional committee members. This committee possesses both advisorial responsibilities and judgmental abilities regarding the thesis, options to a thesis, and the written and/or oral examinations.

For theses/major papers, graduate committees will include 3, 4 or 5 members. The majority of the committee members must hold terminal degrees. No more than one professional graduate faculty member OR one graduate faculty member under option #2 (master's) may serve on a student's committee. All committees, regardless of size, must include one faculty member outside the student's program. Generally, the committee consists of a chairperson (usually the studentís advisor) and at least two other faculty members within the discipline or related areas. A faculty member from outside of the studentís area of study is added to the Graduate Committee for the thesis, options to a thesis, and the oral comprehensive examination. This faculty member may be from the same department, but should represent a different discipline or focus of study. Some programs have different requirements for committee membership; students should review departmental information and/or consult with their program director for additional information. The program director and department chairperson and the Dean of the Graduate School must approve all persons on the Graduate Committee. The completed, signed Graduate Committee form should be filed in the Graduate School.

Comprehensive Examinations
(only pertinent to those programs that require written or oral comprehensive exams)

A. Written Comprehensive Examination
The written comprehensive examination represents one of the milestones in a graduate program. The student is challenged to focus all his/her knowledge, ability, skill, analytic, and interpretive techniques on problems, difficulties, and questions of academic and practical concern. The student should be prepared to demonstrate in writing that he/she understands specific knowledge and its application within the discipline.

No later than four (4) weeks before the student intends to take the written comprehensive examination, the student must inform the appropriate divisional/departmental chairperson in writing of his/her intent to write the comprehensive examinations. The chairperson then notifies the studentís Graduate Committee which, in coordination with the chairperson, is responsible for writing and evaluating the examinations. The student must file a "Permit to take the Written Comprehensive Examination" in the Graduate School no later than 12 noon, two weeks prior to the exam. The examination dates are published in the calendar section of this catalog.

In preparation for the examination the student should expect

  1. To be tested on all required course work, all related areas, all prerequisite materials and communication skills,
  2. To take the test that is structured by faculty with whom the student has studied and/or faculty who have expertise in the given areas,
  3. To be graded by the professors of record or faculty members with the necessary competence in the discipline,
  4. To review a delineation of expectations, grading, and guidelines for passing found in the appropriate department.

A student who does not pass the written comprehensive examination will be permitted a second (final) attempt on the regularly scheduled date in any subsequent semester within the prescribed time limit. The student must file a second permit in the Graduate School office no later than 12 noon, two (2) weeks prior to the exam.

B. Oral Comprehensive Examination
An oral comprehensive examination is designed to simulate the circumstances of debate or professional discussion among colleagues. The oral examination should present a lively interplay of ideas, thoughts, and reasoned opinions between the candidate and committee. When scheduling an oral comprehensive examination, the student will contact the members of the Graduate Committee to determine an agreeable place, date and time for everyone involved. The student is to file the "Oral Comprehensive Examination Notification" in the Graduate School no later than one (1) week prior to the exam.

The oral comprehensive examination must meet the minimal time allowance of approximately one hour in length. The individual can expect questions from the committee which address the following:

    The breadth, depth, and integration of the studentís knowledge in the area of specialization.
  1. The ability of the student to react and communicate in an oral situation.

A student who does not pass the oral comprehensive examination will be permitted a second (final) attempt during any subsequent semester within the prescribed time limit. The student should schedule the second attempt in consultation with the Graduate Committee and file another notification in the Graduate School no later than one (1) week prior to the exam.

Each student using a thesis option must submit a thesis to the Graduate School as partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree. A thesis represents the studentís capacity for detailed, in-depth research or advanced scholarship. The design of a thesis may be varied to fit the specialized needs of the discipline; however; no multiple authorships are accepted. A thesis must demonstrate the studentís ability to clearly define a worthwhile problem, conduct a thorough investigation, organize and logically present the information, and draw defensible conclusions.

Credit is give for the writing of the thesis and for the research which was completed and incorporated into the thesis. The amount of credit varies and shall be determined by the departmentís concerned but usually is 1 to 6 semester credits.

When writing a thesis it is the studentís responsibility to consult frequently with the Graduate Committee Chairperson during all phases of the thesis process including planning and preliminary activities, meet with the Graduate Committee members and solicit input from them, prepare the thesis in a scholarly manner as shown in the Guidelines for the Preparation of Thesis and Major Papers available on the Graduate School website, and meet the thesis deadlines as printed in the calendar section of this catalog.

Thesis Proposal
One of the first steps when writing a thesis is devising the thesis proposal. The thesis proposal is a detailed outline of the proposed research and includes an introduction, review of the literature, problem description, statement of objectives or hypotheses, listing of possible tests or measures to be used in the study, descriptions of the proposed sample, research design, chronological description of the procedures to be used in carrying out the project, and plans for analyzing the data.

When the student and the Committee Chairperson agree that the Thesis Proposal is ready for committee review, the student schedules a thesis proposal meeting at a place, date, and time agreeable with the members of the Graduate Committee. At least seven (7) days prior to the proposal meeting, the proposal is presented individually to the Graduate Committee members for their consideration. At the proposal meeting the student seeks approval of the thesis concept and suggested methodology.

Questions from the committee members will vary and appropriate questions may include examining the following: general purpose and rationale for the study; review of the literature; organization of the proposal, methods, techniques, and research design to be employed; and chronological description of the proposed techniques.

At the conclusion of the thesis proposal meeting, the Graduate Committee members evaluate the proposal in the absence of the student. The committee may approve or reject the proposal. The student is notified immediately by the committee of its decision. The committee will discuss the rationale for the decision with the student. If the committee approves the thesis proposal, members should sign the student-prepared "Thesis Major Paper/ Project Proposal" form. The program director also will sign this form and then submit the form to the Graduate School.

Thesis Defense
At the conclusion of the thesis research and writing process, the student schedules a thesis defense, in compliance with the dates given in this catalog. It is the studentís responsibility to schedule the defense with the Graduate Committee at an agreeable place, time, and date.

At least seven (7) days prior to the defense, the student presents the thesis individually to the Graduate Committee members for their review. The student must file the "Thesis Defense" notification form in the Graduate School at this time. This form includes the defense place, time, and date. Thesis defense meetings are open to the MSU community and the information about the defense will be posted to the University calendar and announced in Public Information.

Although questions from the committee members will vary, the defense shall not be concerned with mechanical problems. Typographical problems and grammar shall be dealt with prior to the defense. Appropriate questions are typically directed at the following: major discoveries or interpretations, potential for future research, strengths and weaknesses of the study, implementations of research tools and methodology used, publication potential, and contributions to the field of knowledge.

At the conclusion of the thesis defense, the Graduate Committee members evaluate the defense in the absence of the student. The committee may approve or reject the thesis. One member of the committee may have a dissenting vote, and the thesis will be considered approved. The student is notified immediately by the committee chairperson of the committeeís decision. If the thesis is approved, members should also sign the student prepared "Thesis or Project Defense" form. A committee member who has a dissenting vote must indicate this on the "Thesis Project Defense" form. The program director will also sign the form and he/she should then submit it to the Graduate School.

See "Archiving" for instructions for final printing and publication of the Thesis.

Thesis Grading
The chairperson of the Graduate Committee grades the thesis at the end of the term. If the student has not successfully completed the thesis, including the defense, the commitee chairperson shall award an "X" (in progress) grade. The chairperson will replace the "X" with the appropriate grade upon completion of the project. These grades are submitted to the Registrarís Office. A student receiving an in progress grade is expected to register for Continuing Enrollment each consecutive semester including summer until the thesis is complete.

Options to a Thesis
Some degree programs offer students the option of completing a final project or major paper(s). Students completing projects or papers will follow procedures similar to those outlined for completing the thesis. Students completing projects or papers should consult the section in the catalog pertinent to their specific degree. Credit is awarded for these options. The amount of credit varies and shall be determined by the departments concerned, but usually is 1 to 4 semester credits.

Capstone Course
The Master of Science in Management and the Master of Science in Information Systems require capstone courses that are taken at the end of each program. The instructor of the capstone course, following departmental guidelines, establishes the requirements of the course and the grading mechanisms. Capstone courses are typically designed to address significant program learning outcomes and usually involve some type of project or other deliverable.

Theses and masterís projects have value as records of scholarship at MSU. Therefore, the University preserves and makes available theses and project reports to scholars and the public by maintaining an archival collection and a circulating collection. Every approved thesis and project completed by an MSU student is permanently preserved in the University Archives, and a copy is available for public access and circulation as part of the Gordon B. Olson Library thesis/project collection.

After the individual passes the defense, the student shall proceed to make any minor corrections required by the committee and shall then submit the corrected thesis or project to the committee for their signatures on the signature page of the original thesis or project. A clean copy of the thesis should be submitted to the Graduate School for review of format prior to printing. Projects or parts of projects that are interactive and not amenable to printing, such as software, must be submitted on a CD or DVD (or alternative format as approved by the Graduate School).

Upon successful format check and approval by the Graduate School, the student will be notified. The student should file the original and four (4) copies of the thesis or project in final typed form in the Graduate School. The Division of Science requires one additional copy. At the time the thesis or project copies are submitted, the Graduate School requires a receipt from the Business Office showing that the binding fees and mailing costs for the bound paper copies have been paid.

After binding, the original and one copy are placed in the University library, one (1) copy placed in the Graduate School, one (1) copy is sent to the chairperson of the Graduate Committee, and one (1) copy will be sent to the student. For Science theses, an additional copy is sent to the Division of Science.

For MSIS and MEd-Business projects, students may submit their approved project report on CDs or DVDs. CD/DVDs for projects should be labeled with the project title, studentís name, date of completion, and "MSU." CD/DVDs should be submitted in cases; case spines should be labeled with the project title, studentís name, date of completion, and "MSU." At least six copies should be produced. Three copies should be submitted to the Graduate School, two of which will be placed in the University Library; one copy will go to the graduate program director; one copy will go to the committee chairperson; and one copy will remain with the student.

Application for Graduation
The student must file the current Application for Graduation with his/her advisor no later than the beginning of the second week of the semester of graduation. Students planning to graduate summer semester must submit their application on the spring deadline.

Posting and Conferring of Graduate Degrees
Official degree completion ("conferring" of the degree) occurs when all degree requirements are met, including the committee chairpersonís filing in the Graduate School the Recommendation for Awarding of the Degree, the committee chairpersonís changing of an "in progress (X)" grade to the earned grade, and the graduate studentís submission of at least five copies of the approved thesis/project with signed signature pages along with a receipt for payment for the binding fees. Students are reminded that the Graduate School requires all thesis/projects be approved by the Graduate School prior to submission of the final five copies.

Graduate Degrees are conferred at the end of each semester. The degree is conferred the semester in which all student and committee chairperson responsibilities are met, as indicated above.

Degrees are posted (entered by the MSU Registrarís Office into the system) the last business day of each month. Students will receive a letter from the Registrarís Office stating that their degree has been posted as of the day entered into the system and that the official date of the degree (when it is conferred) is the last day of the semester.

Continuing Enrollment will be required if the studentís degree is not posted by the first day of the new semester.

Upon successful completion of all Graduate School and program requirements with a cumulative grade point average of at least 3.00, the student is awarded the graduate degree. Degrees are conferred at the end of each semester.

Students are eligible to participate in the commencement ceremonies after they have enrolled in their capstone course, presented their project or thesis proposal, or defended their thesis or project paper. The Graduate Hooding Ceremony and the MSU Commencement Ceremony are held each year in May. Eligible students who are completing their studies in summer or fall may elect to participate in either the prior or the following spring ceremony.

All graduating students are encouraged to participate in commencement exercises. Those students participating in the ceremony are required to wear appropriate academic regalia. Cap, gown, and hood purchase is available through the MSU Bookstore.

Graduate School Citation for Excellence
The Citation for Excellence is awarded by the Graduate School in recognition of outstanding achievements by students completing graduate programs at MSU. Students selected for this honor will exemplify excellence in areas consistent with the mission of the MSU Graduate School including critical inquiry, creativity, discovery, and leadership.

Graduate program directors may submit nominations for the Citation for Excellence in the form of a letter to the Dean of the Graduate School. Supporting documentation and other evidence describing achievements beyond typical expectations should accompany the letter of nomination. This information should be filed in the Graduate School Office by March 15.

Nominees will be reviewed by a committee* of the Graduate Council who will award the Citations for Excellence based on the criteria specified below. The number of Citations awarded each year will be at the discretion of the committee and will reflect the qualifications of the pool of nominees. The Graduate School will release the names of recipients of this award to the graduate programs by April 15.

Those students nominated for the award must meet ONE of the following enrollment criteria.

  1. Currently enrolled in a graduate program
  2. Applied for graduation, or
  3. Completed the degree within two semesters of the semester in which they were nominated.

Nominees must have a continuous cumulative GPA of at least 3.75 for required courses in their major. Nominations should include documented evidence of superior accomplishments during the studentís program of study at MSU which "extend beyond the usual expectations' of the respective graduate programs.

Examples of superior accomplishments which exceed the usual expectations of the graduate program may include, but are not limited to:

Examples of accomplishments within the usual expectations of a studentís graduate program and therefore do not constitute reasons for nomination include:

Students selected for this award will receive a plaque from the Graduate School and will be recognized during the Graduate School hooding ceremony which is held prior to commencement on each year.

*The Citation for Excellence Committee will consist of five members selected from and approved by the Graduate Council. Membership will include the Dean of the Graduate School and when possible, a student representative to the Graduate Council. The remaining committee members will be selected from the Graduate Council at large.