Thesis/Project Guidelines




Plan A with Thesis

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.


Back to Plans


Thesis and Thesis Proposal Outline


Below are two thesis templates you can utilize for both your thesis proposal and final thesis:

    1. Thesis Proposal Front Pages Template [Word Doc]
    2. Thesis Front Pages Template [Word Doc]

Front Pages

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)

(10–15 pages)

Generally including:

  • 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

(thesis only)
Organized by research objective(s) and hypotheses

(thesis only)

(thesis only)

(thesis only)

Literature Cited

(proposal only)

(proposal only)

Curriculum Vitae 
(proposal only)

(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.


Back to Plans


Thesis Roadmap and Timeline

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)

  1. In the first week of the semester you hope to graduate:
    • Submit the first draft of your thesis to your Thesis Chair
    • Set a schedule for revisions and thesis defense with your Thesis Chair and committee:
      • Faculty members need a minimum of two weeks, sometimes more time, to review theses and give comments
      • Some faculty prefer hard copies over electronic drafts
      • Set the projected Defense date with your Chair, your Committee and the faculty member responsible for department seminar series (ENVS 210)
      • Communicate frequently with your Chair and committee throughout the semester
  2. After receiving comments from your Chair:
    • Revise draft
  3. Following Thesis Chair’s approval of revisions:
    • Submit revised thesis draft to your full committee
    • Revise and revise again
  4. With initial committee approval:
    • Present your findings in the public Thesis Defense in the ENVS Department Seminar series
    • Revise thesis based on comments and feedback from defense
    • Submit final thesis with all revisions to full committee for official signatures
  5. Submit thesis to the College of Graduate Studies by the deadline for the semester you hope to graduate 
    • Revise in response to final comments from the College of Graduate Studies as needed
  6. Submit final draft to the College of Graduate Studies by final deadline given by Graduate Studies reviewers


Bound Thesis Copy

All graduate students are required to submit a bound copy of their thesis to the Environmental Studies Department upon completion.


Back to Plans


Plan B with Project

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.


Back to Plans