Students in the Psychology doctoral program are either (a) to complete a master’s degree or (b) to demonstrate research competence as one requirement for attaining candidacy status. The CNS Program expects that students will meet this requirement during second or at the latest third year in the program. The CNS program strongly recommends that students fulfill this requirement by completing the master’s degree, and it is expected that most students will do so. Guidelines for the master’s thesis are described below.

1. Master’s committee. The students’ master’s project will be advised by a three person faculty committee, comprised of the student’s primary mentor, one other faculty member in the CNS area, and one additional faculty member (faculty from other departments are acceptable in this role).

2. Proposal. The student should begin by writing a research proposal with the following sections. The document should conform to APA style throughout.

a. The Introduction should present a clearly specified research question. In it, the student should provide a comprehensive, but focused review of the relevant literatures, making clear the theoretical motivation and empirical basis for the proposed research. The literature review should be more detailed than a typical journal article introduction, but need not be as detailed as a typical review article. Another possibility is to write an introduction similar to that of a journal article, with a more detailed literature review contained as an Appendix.

b. The Methods section should specify the methods to be used and their appropriateness to address the question. This section should be written at the level of detail typically seen in a research grant proposal.

c. The Analysis Plan should specify the proposed analytic strategy, making clear the appropriateness of the plan to address the research question.

d. Proposal hearing. The written proposal should be distributed to the committee no less than 2 weeks prior to the proposal hearing. At the hearing, the student should review the proposed research in a brief presentation and then respond to questions from the committee. This hearing is intended to provide an opportunity for the committee to offer advice on the project. The committee’s decision to approve the proposal should be based on their evaluation of the merits of the research plan and the appropriateness of the project (in type and scope) for the master’s degree. If the committee does not approve the research proposal they can specify revisions to be made prior to their approval. Revisions can be evaluated individually by the advisor, or by each member of the committee. Alternatively, if the committee judges it necessary, a second hearing can be called.

4. Students are reminded that IRB approval is required for all research involving human subjects BEFORE the project begins.

5. Students are required to enroll for at least 6 credits of Psyc799 prior to defending the master’s thesis.

6. Final Written Product. Once the research is complete, the student should construct and defend a final report on the project. The written product can take the form of a traditional master’s thesis, with Introduction, Methods, Results and Discussion sections. Alternatively, the student can present a full journal article reporting the findings. Journal articles should be ready for submission (although students may decide to wait for the committee’s input before submitting the paper for peer review). In either case, the final written product should conform to APA style throughout.

7. Oral Defense. The final written product should be submitted to the committee no less than two weeks prior to the defense. During the defense, the student should present a brief overview of the project and its findings, and then address the questions of the committee. In accord with Graduate School guidelines, the defense will be open to other UMD faculty. If both the student and the advisor agree, the defense (either the presentation or the presentation and question period) may be open to other students and members of the UMD community. The committee will determine whether the project satisfies the M.A. requirement, and whether revisions are necessary. Revisions can be evaluated individually by the advisor, or by each member of the committee. Alternatively, if the committee judges it necessary, a second defense can be called.

8. Students are expected to familiarize themselves with the Graduate School’s requirements for committee forms and thesis submission and to work with the Psychology Departments’ Graduate Office to make sure that the necessary forms are completed on schedule.