Skip to main content

Comprehensive Examination vs Thesis

photo of students studying

All Criminal Justice Master’s students default to the comprehensive examination option, but can apply to complete a thesis instead after their first semester in the program. The thesis option is generally reserved for students who intend to pursue a doctoral degree and have performed well in the areas of research design, statistical analysis, and writing. Students interested in doing a thesis should get in contact with the graduate coordinator about applying.

Credit Hour Differences and Similarities

Both thesis and comprehensive examination students are required to complete 33-34 credits (33 if in the 2019-2020 catalog or earlier; 34 if in the 2020-2021 catalog or later). However, students who complete a thesis are required to take 3 credits of electives (typically one course) and register for a minimum of 6 thesis credits. Students choosing the comprehensive examination are required to take 6 credits of electives (typically two courses) and register for 3 comprehensive examination credits. In addition, as indicated in the Graduate Catalog, if students have not completed the work for their thesis by the time they have completed their required thesis credits, they will need to enroll in at least one credit of thesis each semester until the work is completed, defended, and accepted by their committee.

Comprehensive Examination Requirements

The comprehensive examination requires students to answer six essay questions covering five of the Foundation Series courses and one Seminar Series course of the student’s choice. The comprehensive examination extends an entire semester and the exams are administered online across three weekends (two questions approximately every five weeks). The examination is graded on a Pass/Fail basis and requires students to achieve a Pass on all exam questions in order to pass the entire examination. It is expected that students will sit for the comprehensive examination in their semester of graduation, but the comprehensive examination cannot be taken until after the student has successfully completed all Foundation Series courses and at least one Seminar Series course.

Thesis Requirements

As noted above, students wishing to complete a thesis must apply to do so. Applications are reviewed by the graduate faculty after which the student will be notified of the decision. Thesis work typically requires the development and execution of original research or the analysis of existing data. A typical thesis will have some form of the following chapters: Introduction, Literature Review, Methods, Results, Discussion, and Conclusion. Theses typically range in length from 75 to 200 pages.

A thesis must be polished and of publishable quality. It must conform to the style requirements of the Graduate College at Boise State University. The Graduate College provides a thesis template that contains all required content and formatting. Further information about these requirements can be found on the Thesis and Dissertation webpage.