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Psychology Graduate Handbook

V. THESIS GUIDELINES Thesis Overview
A masters thesis consists of the design, implementation, and reporting of the results of a research project. The project is carried out under the direction of a major professor and the thesis committee. The thesis option will be of special benefit to those who plan to seek a doctoral degree. The thesis is less universally expected of an applicant to a Psy.D. program. Why do a thesis? A thesis is a means to demonstrate interest and competence in scientific and scholarly work, which is what most doctoral programs are interested in instilling in their students. A thesis requires effort and organizational skill. The decision to do a thesis should follow a realistic assessment of the time, energy, commitment, and financial resources necessary to complete the project. Full-time students take anywhere from one to two years to complete a thesis. Graduate students who pursue a thesis option for the Master of Science degree should first spend some time becoming acquainted with the faculty. Faculty interests can be seen by, a) viewing faculty web pages, b) reviewing research articles posted in the front of the psychology department offices, or c) looking up a faculty member on PSYCHINFO. It is a good idea to ask fellow students about faculty members and look at the number and nature of theses that a faculty member has directed in the past. Being accepted into the program does notguarantee a student access to a thesis director/major professor. Students must find a faculty member who is willing to work with them.



Research Methodologies
Students can develop their own topic and approach a faculty member, or they can ask a faculty member if she or he has a project in mind that could be used as a thesis. Research projects suitable for theses are not restricted to experimental studies. Past theses in the psychology department have utilized historical, experimental and correlational designs. Single-case experimental designs, quasi-experimental designs, multivariate designs, and surveys are all acceptable methodologies. Replication and extension of previous scientific research is also acceptable and original contributions to the scientific literature are strongly encouraged.

Thesis Registration and Coursework
A student who decides to do a thesis must register for PSYC 6902-Independent Study credit. Students typically register for 6-hours of Independent Study before the thesis proposal


Psychology Graduate Handbook meeting. Students must have completed the proposal in order to receive a grade. Until then, an In Progress (IP) grade will be assigned. Students are not advised to sign up for all 6 independent study hours in one semester. A student who begins a thesis and then decides to switch to the practicum track must do enough work to receive credit for the independent study hours for which they registered while in thethesis track. Additionally, it is advantageous for students to take PSYC 6190 (Research Methods) and 6290 (Research Statistics) as early as possible in the program of study if they plan to pursue a thesis. The Psychology Department will allow students to use reusable testing materials and laboratory equipment in our supplies as long as such use does not conflict with faculty teaching. The cost of any other expendable supplies is the responsibility of the student. Students can apply for a Student Research Fellowship. Information on the fellowship can be accessed at the AUM Research Council’s web site (https://www.aum.edu/Faculty_Staff/Councils/Research_Council) Laboratory space will also be provided by the department whenever available.



Thesis Construction
The full thesis consists of the following chapters: Review of Literature, Statement of the Problem, Methods, Results and Discussion. A reference list is required and appendices are usually necessary. The full thesis should be presented at the thesis defense meeting.

The Proposal Meeting


The proposal meeting requires a written thesis prospectus. The theses prospectus includes the Introduction, Literature Review, Statement of the Problem (hypotheses), Methods, proposed statistical analyses and references. These sections are subject to revision at the proposal meeting, but should be written as final products. The students should also bring the IRB materials and the proposed informedconsent form to this meeting. Once a student has secured the cooperation of a faculty member to serve as a thesis director they should begin writing a prospectus. Once the student has made significant progress on the thesis prospectus, the student and professor should select a thesis committee. Two members of the graduate faculty in psychology may be asked to serve as committee members. Occasionally, it may be appropriate to select a committee member from the graduate faculty of another department, especially if their expertise complements the research area. The proposal meeting will include the student and the thesis committee members. The student should prepare an oral presentation, approximately 20 minutes in length that includes an outline of the relevant literature and an explanation of the hypotheses. The student should be


Psychology Graduate Handbook prepared to respond to questions from the committee members who may also make additional recommendations and suggestions at this time. It usually takes about a full year’s worth of work to write a prospectus.

I.R.B. Approval
Students who plan to use human subjects should also allow time for the university Internal Review Board Committee on Human Research to review and approve the proposal. The IRB application (also available on the Research Council web page: https://www.aum.edu/Faculty_Staff/ Councils/Research_Council) should be submitted after the committee approves the proposal.

AfterThe Proposal (Data Collection and Analysis)
Once the student has secured the approval of the Human Subjects Committee, data collection may commence. Research participants may be drawn from the undergraduate classes with the consent of the instructor. Research done in other institutions (e.g, schools, prisons, hospitals) usually requires the approval of a review board at that institution. Copies of all letters of approval should be included in an Appendix in the completed thesis. Data analysis is typically conducted with the assistance of the thesis director. Once the data has been analyzed, the student should write the Results and Discussion chapters. Once the thesis director gives her or his approval, the full thesis should be circulated to committee members. The meeting for the purpose of defending the thesis can be scheduled at this time. The student must be registered for a course called thesis during the semester of the defense. “Thesis” is not a credit bearing course. It is what allows the student’s AUM transcript to indicate that a thesis project was successfully completed.

Thesis Defense
The thesis defense will follow the same format as the proposal meeting except that any interested person in the university community may attend. Once the meeting time is set, an announcement must be distributed by the student to all faculty in the Department of Psychology, the Dean of the School of Sciences, and the Vice-Chancellor for AcademicAffairs. One copy must be posted on the departmental bulletin board. These final thesis should follow Auburn University’s Graduate School Thesis and Dissertation Guide. In addition to the material from the prospectus it should include a title page, outline, discussion, appendices, the complete methods and results sections, and any other sections required by the guide.


Psychology Graduate Handbook The student should prepare an oral presentation consisting of a brief summary of the hypotheses, methodology, data analysis, results and discussion. This presentation should take 20 minutes. As at the proposal, the committee members will ask the student questions. Questions may also be asked by those in attendance. Following a reasonable question and answer period, the committee and the student will meet for further discussion, if needed. The committee will then meet in private to recommend approval or disapproval. Granting approval or disapproval is subject to the three-person committee alone. Immediately upon the completion of this discussion, the student will be informed of the outcome (i.e., whether she or he passed). Any final changes in the thesis will be discussed with the student. Once corrections are made, the cover sheet will be signed by the committee members and the Vice-Chancellor for Academic Affairs. The committee may agree to sign the thesis cover sheet at the time of the defense and leave the changes up to the thesis advisor andthe student.



Post-defense Administrative Requirements
Upon receiving signatures from all of the committee members and having made all requested final edits to the thesis, a student should: 1. Submit a single copy of the thesis along with all of the original copies of the signature page (already signed by the committee) to the Vice Chancellor of Academic and Student Affairs, where it will be reviewed and signed. 2. Take a copy to the library to have formatting of the thesis reviewed. The completed thesis should conform to the Graduate School Thesis and Dissertation Guide published by Auburn University and available in the bookstore or at the following web page: https://www.grad.auburn.edu/cs/thesis_guide.html. References should be cited in accordance with the Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association. 3. Once the Dean of the Library has approved the formatting, the student must make copies of the thesis on 100% rag content paper. The student should then take the copies back to the Dean of the Library and submit them for binding. There is a binding fee of $10 per copy payable at the library. The student must provide 1 bound copy for the department and 2 copies must be deposited with the AUM library. Additional bound copies may also be ordered. Students typically order at least 1 copy for themselves. 4. Students should also remember to apply for graduation during the semester they expect to complete their thesis defense.




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