“I do not know which is harder: solving all of the world's environmental problems or choosing one to focus on for my thesis.”
— Brittney Relerford, Graduate Student (2012)
Contact the Graduate Program Coordinator
For more information about the Master of Science degree in Environmental Studies, please contact the Graduate Program Coordinator at firstname.lastname@example.org.
- Plan A with Thesis
- Plan B with Project
The core of the Master of Science Program in Environmental Studies is the completion of an original Master's thesis. The focus of the thesis is determined by the interests of the student and may range from qualitative research in the social sciences to quantitative research in the physical and life sciences. The thesis is based on original research conducted by the student under the guidance of a Thesis Advisor and approved by a three-member committee. Prior to beginning the thesis research, each student must complete a thesis proposal signed by the Thesis Committee, as well as the Graduate Coordinator. The following guidelines are a supplement, not a substitute, for the Graduate Studies thesis guidelines. All students should consult with their Thesis Chair for additional instructions.
Carefully follow instructions, including pagination, from the Graduate Studies Thesis Guidelines [PDF]:
- Title Page (title is no more than 80 characters, including spaces and punctuation)
- Copyright Page (thesis only)
- Thesis Committee Page
- Abstract (one double-spaced page maximum)
- Acknowledgments (thesis only)
- Table of Contents
- List of Figures
- List of Tables
Should include the following:
- Motivation/Scope (1-2 pages)
Importance of the problem, big picture.
- Background (1-2 pages)
Broad logic leading to specific choice of research questions.
- Literature Review (10-15 pages, with 30-45 references)
Organized from the general to specific, subheadings reflecting internal organization may include:
- Theoretical basis
- Related research
- Similar research methods
- Problem Statement (< 3 pages)
Concise statement of central problem culminating in the:
- Objectives — 1 to 3 sentence summary of overall goals of research
- Hypotheses — 3 to 5 specific testable predictions (active or null/statistical hypotheses)
Methods (10–15 pages)
- Study Site/Sample Frame
- Study Design — organized by research objective(s) and hypotheses
- Data Collection — organized by research objective(s) and hypotheses
- Data Analysis — organized by research objective(s) and hypotheses
Results (thesis only)
Organized by research objective(s) and hypotheses
Discussion (thesis only)
Conclusions (thesis only)
Applications/Recommendations (thesis only)
Budget (proposal only)
Timeline (proposal only)
Curriculum Vitae (proposal only)
Appendices (if appropriate)
Citations and Referencing
The reference and citation style required for your thesis and thesis proposal is determined by your Thesis Advisor. Your advisor may require that you adhere to a specific style guide, or they may ask you follow the citation guidelines for a research journal in your field. In either case, citation style and format must be precise and consistent throughout the document. All references should be peer-reviewed academic journal research papers or other primary sources in your field. Internet-only sources should be avoided unless absolutely necessary.
Design of Research Project (2-3 months)
- Meet with your Thesis Advisor to determine the focus of your research and discuss potential Thesis Committee members.
- Review literature on your thesis topic and on the research methods used in your field of interest.
- Develop a research design in consultation with your complete, three-member Thesis Committee. Note: It is a good idea to schedule a meeting with all of your committee members at this stage.
Proposal Review and Revision (2-3 months)
- Submit your complete thesis proposal to your Thesis Committee (be certain to follow the format instruction discussed in the previous section).
- Revised the document as requested by the committee members.
- Repeat the first two steps until the proposal is signed by all three members of the committee.
Preparing the Thesis (3-12 months)
- Data collection/field work.
- Analyze data and interpret results.
- Write and edit your thesis. Note: It is strongly advised that students ask colleagues or hire a professional editor to review their manuscripts before submitting them to their Thesis Advisor.
Submitting, Revising, and Defending the Thesis (3-6 months)
- Write the first draft of thesis and submit it to your Thesis Advisor.
- Revise thesis as per Thesis Advisor comments.
- Submit thesis to your full committee (following Thesis Advisor's approval of revision).
- Revise and revise again, until full committee approval is reached.
- Present your findings in your thesis defense.
- Submit thesis to the Graduate Studies office.
- Revise if necessary.
- Submit final draft to the Graduate Studies office.
Bound Thesis Copy
All graduate students are required to submit a bound copy of their thesis to the Environmental Studies Department upon completion.
In highly unusual circumstances, when a student's interests do not lend themselves to the Master's Thesis format, the department may approve a Master's Project. The Master's Project is not a shortcut to graduation; it is reserved for those students working in the creative arts or other fields where the demonstration of expertise requires an unusual format (i.e. film, art, photography). Students approved for Plan B will be required to go through the same proposal and approval process as students working on a thesis. In addition, Plan B students will be required to take a set of comprehensive exams on the major themes in Environmental Studies and the student's specialty area. The topics of the exams will be determined in consultation with the student's Project Advisor, the Graduate Coordinator, and the Department Chair.