Graduate Thesis Handbook

Introduction: What is a Thesis?

A thesis provides an opportunity to engage in research and to conduct an in-depth study in a specific area of scholarship.  The thesis and accompanying oral defense demonstrates the an ability to:  

  1. critically read the literature,
  2. extract principal ideas  and concepts,
  3. integrate and synthesize information from various sources,
  4. be creative in the development of hypotheses and ideas,
  5. conduct research using appropriate methodologies and sources,
  6. appropriately describe research findings,
  7. draw appropriate inferences from the research, and
  8. effectively communicate ideas in written and oral form.

 Acceptable research may take many forms including:

  1. historical research,
  2. descriptive research,
  3. archival research,
  4. developmental research,
  5. case study and field study research,
  6. qualitative,
  7. correlational research,
  8. causal - comparative research,
  9. experimental & quasi-experimental research,
  10. empirical research,
  11. theoretical research, 
  12. literary & rhetorical research, or 
  13. any combination of the above.

Selecting a Thesis Topic

When identifying a thesis topic, choose an area of scholarship that is of interest.  It is important to keep in mind that several months will be spent working on this project.  By selecting a topic of interest and relevance to future career or professional plans, it will be more likely that one will remain highly motivated and possess the stamina necessary for successful completion of the thesis.

Writing of a thesis is a long yet rewarding process. During undergraduate and early graduate coursework one may find there are several areas of intellectual inquiry that would be interesting to pursue.  These areas of interest are good sources of potential research topics.  Many students develop ideas used in course research papers during their master's study.  Select a topic of interest and develop general ideas of how to go about conducting the study.  The ideas should be written down and reviewed by the faculty member who may direct the thesis.  The professor will most likely provide additional information, especially as it relates to the specific topic, title, and procedures. Faculty members may also provide direction to relevant literature.  Early ideas for research projects should evolve over time.  Be prepared for such changes and recognize that this is an integral part of planning research.

Individual schools or departments may require specific coursework that must be completed before pursuing the thesis.  Students should speak to their advisor or graduate coordinator. Regardless of requirements, the graduate research methods course is very helpful.  

Selecting a Thesis Director

The thesis director is an important resource person during the development of a thesis.  It is essential to identify a professor who is interested in the topic chosen for study.  While not required, consulting with the department chair or academic advisor for assistance in choosing a faculty member with scholarship interests in the field of study to be explored can be helpful.  The thesis director will guide progress on the thesis and may assist in identifying the other thesis committee members.  The thesis director must hold permanent graduate faculty status in the department of the student's major area of  study and must be approved to guide theses.  It is the student's responsibility to check with their graduate advisor for verification that an individual professor is eligible to serve as a thesis director.  

Present the thesis topic to a prospective thesis director and be prepared to discuss the proposed research.  The professor who serves as the thesis director should be interested and knowledgeable in the proposed area of study.  A professor may choose to serve or not serve as a thesis director.   

Selecting a Thesis Committee

The thesis committee is responsible for providing feedback to the student during all phases of proposal and thesis development. The thesis committee will determine when a thesis has satisfactorily met standards for acceptable research.  A minimum of two graduate faculty members must serve on the committee.  Including the director, there must be an odd number of committee members serving on the committee.  One member of the thesis committee must be a Cameron University graduate faculty member from outside the student's department of study. 

Check with your graduate advisor to verify that faculty selected are eligible to serve on the thesis committee.

  All thesis committee members must be approved by the Graduate Advisor for the degree program and the Dean of the School.  

Submission of Thesis Topic and Thesis Committee Form

Before enrolling for thesis credit or conducting research the Thesis Topic and Thesis Advisory Committee Form, signed by all thesis committee members and the thesis director, must be submitted to the Graduate Advisor and the Dean of the School.  The form is available online at the Graduate website.  Before continuing with the thesis, you must have written approval of the thesis topic and of the thesis committee.  This approval will be a signed copy of the committee form.

Any changes in the thesis topic or membership of the committee must be submitted on a new Thesis Topic and Thesis Committee Form signed by all thesis committee members and the thesis director. Further, any change in thesis topic or membership of the thesis committee must be approved at least thirty days prior to the thesis oral defense.  When changes are made, written approval from the Graduate Advisor and the Dean of the School must be received before further work may continue on the research project.  A faculty member can be removed from a committee if  the faculty member wishes, agrees to be removed, or is incapacitated and cannot participate on the committee.  Actions concerning committee member changes must be documented, forwarded to, and approved by the Graduate Advisor and the Dean of the School.   

Preparing a Thesis Proposal


  1.   the title of the research, 
  2.   introduction, 
  3.   review of relevant literature, 
  4.   statement of research questions or hypotheses, 
  5.   description of the research approach or methodology, 
  6.   discussion of  the approach for analyzing results, and
  7.   formulation of conclusions. 

A formal written thesis proposal must be prepared.  This is done with guidance from the thesis director and the thesis committee.  There is no single acceptable form for a thesis proposal.  There are, however, conventions that must be followed.  Some academic disciplines require the use of the American Psychological Association (A.P.A.) format, others may use Chicago Style Manual or Modern Language Association (M.L.A.) guidelines.  The format for the proposal and the thesis must conform to an established format accepted by the discipline in which the student is working.  Check with the thesis director to ensure that the appropriate format is followed. 

Regardless of format or style, the proposal must include at least seven elements:  

A proposal without all of these elements is incomplete and not acceptable.  The proposal must be well-written.  Each proposal must be approved by the entire committee before being submitted for ethical review.  Committee members should be cognizant of the required elements, ethical issues, and writing style when reviewing the research proposal.  Input from experts external to Cameron may be sought at this time to ensure due consideration has been given to relevant variables and issues in the field of study.  Some theses may require that more than one experiment be conducted in order to accurately cover relevant issues.  It is important to note such expectations in the proposal.

Further, it is valuable to realize that having a good proposal will aid in the completion of a final manuscript.  Thus investing time at this stage will result in a better product.  The proposal should cover the relevant sections of the final thesis, but not be identical to the thesis.  With respect to the depth and breadth of coverage, the proposal should be abridged compared to the final thesis but adequate to convey an understanding of relevant issues.   

Ethical Review and NIH Training

  1.   a completed application form,
  2.   a description of the research study, and
  3.   subjects' informed consent forms for participation in your study.

All research must be reviewed to ensure established ethical guidelines are being adhered to. The Graduate Advisor will conduct an initial review of the proposal to determine if it falls within an exempt review category.  If your proposal involves human subjects, you will be required to submit a certificate indicating successful completion of a free NIH (National Institute of Health) training module available on-line.  All proposals involving human participants will be reviewed by an Institutional Review Board (IRB).  IRB submissions must include three parts:

Guidelines and forms for the three parts listed above are available at the IRB website.  Under no circumstances may a student begin to collect data until the ethical review is completed and the student has received written approval of the research project from the Graduate Advisor.  The review process typically takes one month or longer to complete. The IRB may request additional information or require changes to be made in order to address ethical concerns that arise from the proposal.  It is the student's responsibility to provide a copy of the approved IRB to their Graduate Advisor.

Enrolling for Thesis Credit

Six credit hours are provided for a thesis.  Although these credits are customarily taken over two semesters, with the approval of the Graduate Advisor and the individual school's chair and/or Dean, a student may take all six credits in a single semester.  Enroll for thesis credit through the Graduate Advisor after receiving IRB approval.  Students continuing to work on their thesis after they have completed the required 6 hours of thesis must enroll in a one hour thesis course each semester that they conduct research, request advisement, or plan to defend.

Collecting Data and Analyses

Sources of data and their analyses should be identified in the research proposal.  Students collecting behavioral data may wish to use the human subject pool; guidelines regarding its use must be followed.  Students should work closely with their thesis director when analyzing data. 

Writing the Thesis

  1. present an in-depth discussion on the research topic by selecting and incorporating appropriate elements from theoretical or conceptual constructs,
  2. be focused and well organized,
  3. use language fluently with proper sentence structure and appropriate vocabulary,
  4. present a well-conceived analysis of the research topic, and
  5. present a thorough discussion of conclusions based upon the research study.

The thesis draft presented to the committee should reflect ones best scholarship.  A thesis must reflect a logical and scholarly approach to the topic being researched.  The elements identified earlier as essential for a proposal must also be included in the thesis document and discussed in detail.  The results and conclusions sections of the document should thoroughly and directly address the purpose of the research and the stated research questions.  Take advantage of  the committee's expertise by consulting with each member regularly.

A common problem and unacceptable flaw found in many thesis drafts is the failure to fully integrate the purpose of the study, review of literature, statement of research questions, research approach, and discussion of results and conclusions.  Take care not to make this mistake since it may result in the thesis committee judging the thesis as unacceptable and requiring comprehensive changes.

The thesis should reflect graduate level scholarship.  The draft should:  

The thesis text must be double spaced and printed on one side of the paper.  The format style should be consistent throughout the document, including the reference or bibliography section.  Copies of the title and signature pages of the thesis are provided at this link Sample Title & Signature pages . 

The draft document taken to the oral defense should be as complete as possible.  Nevertheless, expect the thesis committee to specify changes that will need to be made.  This is common practice and should be anticipated by the student.  This is an especially important consideration if graduation is approaching and a deadline must be met.   

The Research Abstract

  1.   the title of the research, 
  2.   introduction of the problem, 
  3.   review of relevant literature, 
  4.   statement of research questions or hypotheses, 
  5.   description of the methodology, 
  6.   discussion of  the results, and
  7.   formulation of conclusions. 

Students must submit a research abstract to their Graduate Advisor,

hard copy as well as electronic copy,

1 Nov - Fall
1 Apr - Spring
15 Jun - Summer

The abstract is to be less than 250 words and must contain the following:

Thesis Oral Defense

In addition to writing the thesis document, an oral defense must be successfully passed .  At the same time the student turns in their abstract, the Graduate Advisor  will consult with the thesis director and committee to schedule the date, time, and location for the defense.   The Graduate Advisor will offer invitations to graduate faculty and other interested parties to attend the defense.

The thesis defense must be completed before April 20 for Spring, July 20th for Summer, or Nov 20th for Fall. 

During the oral defense examination, the committee may ask questions relating to the thesis and cognate areas.  The thesis director may also allow questions from guests attending the defense.

At the end of the defense, the thesis committee will meet in closed session to evaluate the thesis document and student's performance during the oral defense.  A majority vote of the thesis committee will determine if the student has passed, failed, or needs to make modifications to the thesis document. All modifications required are to be documented in writing and given to the thesis director.  The thesis director in turn informs the student of required modifications and will be responsible to ensure the modifications are made before submission of the final copy.  Be prepared to make modifications to the thesis. 

Similarly, a majority vote of the thesis committee will determine if the student has passed or failed the oral defense. If the student does not pass, the thesis committee may require the completion of additional course work, directed study, or research before the oral defense may be taken a second time.  Permission to take the oral defense a second time and the additional requirements, if any, are subject to approval by the student's thesis committee.  An oral defense can be taken only twice.  The second defense date cannot be less than thirty calendar days from the previous defense date.

In the event that a second oral defense is necessary, the Graduate Advisor must be notified as the first time with an abstract and will conduct scheduling and notification as previously stated.

The thesis director will provide a written report of the committee's decision to the Graduate Advisor within three working days after the thesis oral defense.  The written document must include the committees' determination regarding the thesis and the oral defense.  

Binding the Final Copy of the Thesis

When the thesis has been approved by the thesis committee, deliver a minimum of three originally signed copies to the binding company of your choice.  The original thesis must be on 20 pound, 25% cotton paper and the print should be laser quality.  Binding costs are the student's responsibility.  The student is responsible for assuring that all three copies are delivered to the Graduate Advisor's office.  The Graduate Advisor will ensure distribution of one copy to be retained by the thesis director,  a second by the School, and a third by the Library.  A diploma cannot be delivered to the student until all copies of the thesis have been received by the Graduate Advisor.

The following is an approved binding company that is accessible, quick, and knowledgeable on the requirements: 

Ace Bookbinding Co.
2618 Classen Blvd
Oklahoma City, OK   73106

phone (405) 525-8888
toll free (800) 525-8896
Timeline Summary

  •  Select a topic of interest and approach eligible permanent graduate faculty members in an effort to find a thesis supervisor.  With the assistance of the supervisor, identify and ask other potential faculty to serve on the thesis committee.
  • The Thesis Topic and Thesis Advisory Committee Form is submitted and approved by the Graduate Advisor and Dean of the School before the thesis proposal is written.
  • Review the literature, hold meetings with your thesis committee and develop a formal written thesis proposal.
  • Submit the formal proposal to the thesis committee, who may submit it to an external expert for review.  Modify the proposal based upon concerns from the committee and reviewers.
  • Submit the proposal for ethical review to the Graduate Advisor.  If human subjects will be involved, submit evidence of successfully completing the on-line training from NIH, and include the three parts of the IRB application materials. The ethical review may take a month or longer before approval is granted.  Students are not permitted to proceed until approval is granted.
  • After approval is granted, enroll for 3 hours of thesis credit through the Graduate Advisor.
  • Collect data, analyze results, and write the first thesis draft.  Maintain close contact with the thesis supervisor during this stage. 
  • Enroll in the final 3 hours of thesis credit through the Graduate Advisor.
  • Preliminary drafts are written and may at the discretion of the supervisor be submitted to other members of the committee for input prior to the penultimate draft. 
  • The penultimate draft which is to be defended is submitted to the thesis committee.
  • The research abstract is submitted to the Graduate Advisor and the date, time, and location for the oral defense will be determined.  
  • The Graduate Advisor distributes the abstract around campus, and invites permanent graduate faculty and other interested parties to the oral defense.
  • The oral defense must be held by November 20, April 20 or July 20.
  • Make all required modifications to the thesis and submit the final draft to the thesis director for approval before sending three copies to the binding company.

Students should expect to spend approximately one full academic year working on their thesis.  Initial preparation for the research should be completed prior to enrolling for credit and can be expected to take approximately one full semester.  Depending upon the complexity of the research, setting up materials and stimuli, collecting information, and analyzing the data can be expected to take a minimum of a semester.  The final session will consist of writing drafts, and conducting your oral defense in accordance with timeline requirements. 

If required, a second oral defense is not to be scheduled less than 30 calendar days following the previous examination date and must follow the timelines outlined previously.