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General Thesis Timeline

This timeline assumes that you will be defending your thesis in a future semester with each date set to before the final semester starts. Students who fall behind this schedule are unlikely to be ready to defend. Often, students will work on these milestones in a cohort. If a student is not meeting with a cohort group, they should still meet these deadlines.

Before your final Semester

The department strongly encourage students to work on their projects early and continuing to refine them as time progresses. There is no penalty to working ahead and there can be a significant advantage to being ahead of where you ought to be. Think of these guidelines more as minimums as to where students ought to be.

Eight months prior to final semester

Students will be expected to identify a topic and research question this month in meeting with their faculty advisors. The research question will animate their work and will be of interest to students, both intrinsically and in terms of “plugging a gap” that is identified in the research literature.

Seven months prior to final semester

Students will identify at least twelve academic sources that will serve as the beginnings of a literature review. The sources should be peer-reviewed articles, and book and book chapters published by recognized academic presses.

From this endeavor, as well as identifying the topic and research question, students will generate hypotheses that can be tested based on collected evidence and utilizing proper analytical procedures. The hypotheses will address the gap that students have identified in the research literature.

Six months prior to final semester

Students will write an annotated bibliography of at least six sources with the guidance of their faculty advisor. An annotated bibliography will state the research question of the work, as well as identify hypotheses, data and methods used, and conclusions reached.

Students will also write a draft of their research proposal that will include the topic, research question, hypotheses, likely methodology, and an annotated bibliography of at least six academic sources

Five months prior to final semester

If students need to acquire IRB approval for their data collection and analysis, then they should make their applications at this time. IRB approval is required for human subjects research such as original surveys and interviews. An IRB application will include a survey instrument and interview questions.

Students will meet with their faculty advisors to present their draft research proposals for feedback and further refinement. The Political Science Department must approve all research proposals during the followingmonth before students can complete their theses.

Four months prior to final semester

Students who need IRB approval for their thesis research should receive notification by this time, and if revision of their proposal is necessary before IRB can approve, then revision and resubmission to IRB will occur at this time.

As for students who need IRB approval and receive it, as well as students who do not need IRB approval for their thesis research, they should proceed to begin to collect the data that they will need for their analysis.

Three months prior to final semester

Students will write the remainder of their annotated bibliographies, thus gaining an enhanced appreciation of the literature, as well as complete data collection for their thesis research

Students will identify and refine their research methodologies, quantitative and qualitative, with which they will conduct their empirical inquiries, in close consultation with their faculty advisors.

Two months prior to final semester

Students will conduct their data analysis using their identified methodologies and identify key findings from their analysis.

One months prior to final semester

Conclusions and fixing outstanding issues.

Final Semester

This is a typical schedule students will work through during their final semester (this may vary to some degree by instructor/advisor). Students usually must defend by the seventh or eighth week of the final semester; please consult the current Graduate Catalog for specific deadlines and details. Each section will be turned in to both the faculty member running the 6-credit course of POLS 593 as well as the student’s advisor.

Week 1—First Draft of Literature Review and Methods

Students will lay out their methodologies and literature review in a first draft.

Week 2—First Draft of Introduction and Key Findings

Students will add to their Week 1 draft with an introduction section that presents their research question and brief rationale for addressing this question, and key findings from their data analysis.

Week 3—Feedback and Analysis of First Draft

Students will constructively critique each other’s first drafts.

Week 4—Refine First Draft and Add Preliminary Conclusion

Students will revise their first draft and add a preliminary conclusion that summarizes their findings and situates the significance of their research work in the overall literature.

Week 5—Feedback and Analysis of Second Draft

Students will again offer constructive criticism, this time on the second draft thesis.

Week 6—Refine Second Draft

Students will revise their second draft.

Week 7—Third Complete Draft and Public Presentation

By the end of the seventh week, students will have made a public presentation of their thesis.

Week 8-10—Finalized Copy

After a successful defense, students will have between 2-3 weeks to make any revisions as suggested by their committee and turn in the final copy of their thesis to their advisor. The advisor will sign a final form approving the copy and the student will then turn that into the graduate college. No substantive or editing changes should occur after this stage. Students may receive the thesis back to correct any formatting errors.

Week 11+ —Correct Outstanding Issues

The Graduate College will send back the thesis with any final corrections that must be made. The student will do this and, once finished, will be done with their thesis.

Formatting | Defense Expectations

Thesis | Table of Contents