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Geological Sciences M.S. Thesis Requirements

4.1 General Policy

Independent research will be a significant part of the training of every graduate student in the M.S. program. The results of this research will be presented in the form of a thesis. The term thesis shall mean an organized and original work, submitted in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the Master of Science degree. Graduate students will be advised and encouraged to prepare and submit their research work for publication, either during term of residence or as soon as practical after completing their thesis. Graduate students will be expected to attain a standard of excellence in research and in the presentation of their thesis that is acceptable by scientific journals. In fact, the option exists for students to prepare their thesis in part as a paper for publication. Consultation with the student's adviser on the exact details of journal submission is recommended.

4.2 Graduate Advising

Graduate students will be accepted for study at Ohio University by the entire faculty; however, for each student, a specific faculty member will serve as the student's initial adviser. If the student and the initial adviser do not develop a mutually acceptable thesis project during the first term, the student may wish to seek out and find another faculty adviser with whom the student can work. Upon arrival at Ohio University, entering graduate students will meet with their initial adviser to assess deficiencies and plan the first term's work. Subsequent course choices should also be made in consultation with the student's adviser. All degree-seeking students must have a faculty member that has agreed to serve as their thesis adviser to remain in the program. Failure to do so may result in dismissal from the program. Faculty members reserve the right to decide to serve as a student's thesis adviser and/or to remain as a thesis adviser.

4.3 Thesis Committee

The thesis committee is an important component of a graduate education and is composed of a minimum of three scientists, at least two of which are faculty members of the Geological Sciences Department. Students are encouraged to include a committee member from an external discipline, department or qualified profession who can bring valuable insight and talents to the student's committee and project. There is no maximum number of committee members; however, large committees can be unwieldy. During the first term, the student and adviser will work together to establish the thesis committee. The purpose of the committee is to provide guidance for the student with aspects of his or her research and to help the student place the research in the context of existing research. By working with a committee, the student has access to a variety of opinions in addition to those of the adviser. The adviser will help the student select committee members, but it is the student's responsibility to communicate with thesis committee members, formally invite them to participate as members of the committee, and schedule regular committee meetings.

The committee will review all documents before they are presented to the department and college. This is to ensure that the documents are of the highest quality and also to prevent unpleasant surprises during and after public presentations. The student should expect that during committee meetings he or she will be asked probing and difficult questions about his or her research, data and interpretations. Look upon the committee as an academic resource rather than as a hindrance to progress. The committee can help the student develop a reasonable and achievable timetable for completion of the research project.

4.4 Written Thesis Proposal

The written thesis proposal should demonstrate the feasibility and importance of the student's research project to a scientifically literate audience. The proposal must discuss the objectives of the project and their significance to the advancement of geologic knowledge. The proposal must clearly define the hypothesis or research questions the student plans to test, elaborate the methodology to be employed, and should include a detailed work plan sufficient to demonstrate that the proposed project can feasibly be accomplished in the time frame and with the financial resources available.

The purpose of the written proposal is to ensure that the research is focused and achievable within the two-year time frame imposed by funding constraints. The written proposal should be a standalone document of the highest quality. It is the student's first scientific introduction to the faculty and will set the tone for future interactions. The student should be prepared for critical review and editing of the proposal by the adviser and subsequently the committee. It is their goal that only the best and most defensible document be available for public consumption. As a courtesy to committee members, thesis proposals should be submitted no later than two weeks before the thesis proposal presentation.

The proposal (excluding cover sheet) should include approximately 10 pages of double spaced text (12 point, 2.5 cm margins), exclusive of figures, tables, and references. Single copies of up to three large maps or stratigraphic sections may be included as plates and displayed in the room where the proposal is to be orally defended rather than attached to the proposal. A sample cover sheet is included.

The thesis proposal must be approved no later than the middle of the first term of the second academic year of residence and must be approved by the thesis committee prior to submission. Acceptance of the proposal by the end of the first academic year of residence is required for students to be considered for the Geology Alumni Research Grants.

4.5 Thesis Proposal Presentation

The thesis proposal must be orally presented and defended before the Geological Sciences Department. The oral proposal to faculty, staff, students and other interested parties should communicate in a concise but detailed fashion, the information contained in the written proposal. It should provide the audience with background sufficient to evaluate the importance of the work and the feasibility of the project. The oral presentation should be approximately 20 minutes in duration and should be illustrated with slides in a format consistent with presentations at scientific conferences.

An announcement indicating the proposed thesis title, and the date, time, place of the defense, and a list of committee members must be posted in the department one week before the defense. Responsibility for posting these announcements lies with the student and must be approved by the thesis adviser. Requests for a classroom reservation must be made by the student to the departmental administrative associate two weeks in advance of the planned defense date. Defenses will normally only be allowed during the 14 academic weeks of a semester. Finals week and academic breaks are not an acceptable times to schedule a defense.

The oral proposal is usually the student's first public presentation and should be of the highest quality. The purpose of this presentation is to introduce the department to the research project and for the student to receive feedback from others. The oral proposal should be well rehearsed and its content should come as no surprise to the thesis committee. The student should expect to receive public questioning regarding the content and feasibility of the proposal for 10 to 15 minutes after which the public will be excused and the thesis committee will continue the questioning. Thesis committee questioning typically lasts for 60 to 90 minutes and may address the project's assumptions, methodology, and the relationship of the work to and its dependence on auxiliary sciences. This session is designed to 1) evaluate the scientific validity of the proposal, 2) assess the student's understanding of the concepts and background of the research project, 3) evaluate the student's ability to successfully complete the research, and 4) advise the student on subsequent coursework and project development.

It is the faculty's expectation that our graduate students be sufficiently well-rounded that they can make a well-reasoned attempt to answer any geologic question. The student should expect tough questioning and should not be surprised if he or she is pushed to the limit of their knowledge. At the conclusion of the questioning session the student will be asked to leave the room. The thesis committee will evaluate 1) the feasibility of the proposal, 2) the quality of the presentation, and 3) the ability of the student to answer the questions posed. The student will pass this examination if the committee feels he or she has met these three requirements. If one or more of the three requirements have not been met satisfactorily, the faculty will propose specific remedies which will be discussed with the student.

The thesis proposal will become a part of the student's record. Final approval of the proposal will be made by the student's thesis committee and the graduate chair on the basis of the presentation and oral defense. At the conclusion of the oral proposal, the committee will sign a document indicating whether the student passed or failed, as well as any specific recommendations by the committee. This document and a copy of the approved thesis proposal must be turned into the department office no later than the middle of the first term of the second academic year of residence.

4.6 Registration for Thesis Research

The Graduate College requires continuous registration during the academic year for students who have successfully defended their research proposal and are actively engaged in thesis research. Every graduate student working on a thesis needs to register for thesis research hours (GEOL 6950). The actual number of credit hours should be determined by consultation with the student's research adviser and should correlate with the amount of thesis research actually undertaken during the term. Whether the student is on campus or not, he or she must register for at least one credit hour, including the semester in which he or she completes his or her degree requirements. No credit will be recorded for thesis research in progress. The student's record will show only registration for a given number of credit hours of research. During the student's final term, usually the term of the thesis defense, the student must register for at least one credit hour and also officially apply for graduation from the university.

4.7 Writing the Thesis

Following (or coincident with) completion of the research objectives established in the thesis proposal, the student will generate a written thesis. A thesis is a scientific document, similar in many respects to articles published in scientific journals, albeit typically of greater length. A thesis must include an introductory section that introduces the research project, hypotheses or research questions and places the project within a disciplinary context. Methods, data, and analyses must be clearly described. Results are explained concisely and are separated from the interpretations. Interpretations and discussion are clear, incorporate related work, and linearly inform the conclusions section. The Graduate College has specific guidelines for document formatting and templates are available online. It is the responsibility of the student to obtain from the Graduate College the guidelines for thesis format and deadlines that must be met in order to graduate.

Completion of a master's thesis is an involved process, during which the student should expect to submit many versions to his or her primary thesis adviser for critique, discussion, and subsequent revision. Many students underestimate the time required to construct a high quality thesis document. Thesis writing, revising, and defense typically requires nearly an entire semester. Students and advisers work collaboratively throughout the thesis research and writing.

Note: If you have built a strong collaboration by striving to work diligently and efficiently throughout your graduate career, you should expect your thesis adviser to work efficiently to return edited drafts, and vice versa. Remember that although thesis writing will be your primary job during your final semester, it is not your adviser's sole responsibility.

Following completion of a draft of the thesis that has been accepted by the student's research adviser, the student will present copies to other members of his or her thesis committee at least two weeks prior to the defense date. This provides committee members sufficient time to read, consider, and edit the thesis document. Students should inquire whether committee members prefer a digital or paper copy of the thesis document(s).

4.8 Plagiarism

The text of a student's thesis, as well as all other written documents, must be original and free of plagiarism. Plagiarism is a serious academic misconduct and can result in expulsion from the program and university. (See University's website on academic misconduct.)

Plagiarism is defined as the presentation of the ideas or the writing of someone else as one's own. Reference to prior work is a fundamental component of scientific writing, and students may initially be unsure where the line falls between proper citation and plagiarism. It is important that all students familiarize themselves with the distinction. Additional information occurs at Ohio University offers programs to check student writing for plagiarized content.

4.9 Defense of Thesis

Each M.S. thesis will be defended by the student in a public forum. Defenses will normally only be allowed during the 14 academic weeks of a semester. Finals week and academic breaks are not an acceptable times to schedule a defense. The final defense of a student's thesis must be scheduled during the regular academic year, unless special permission is obtained from the student's committee for a summer or intersession defense.

The oral defense of the thesis will be scheduled no less than two weeks after the student has provided an adviser-approved copy of the thesis document to thesis committee members. An announcement indicating the proposed thesis title, and the date, time, place of the defense, and a list of committee members must be posted in the department one week before the defense. Responsibility for posting these announcements lies with the student and must be approved by the thesis adviser. Requests for a classroom reservation must be made by the student to the departmental administrative associate two weeks in advance of the planned defense date.

The thesis defense is open to the public and the examination will cover material concerning or pertaining to the student's research. The student will begin the defense with a concise but detailed summary of the information contained in the written thesis. This oral presentation should be approximately 30 minutes in length and will be followed by questions from the floor. Following the open question session, the general audience will be excused and the student's thesis committee will continue questioning. The student should expect tough questioning and should not be surprised if the validity of the interpretations is challenged. The student should be able to offer data or a rationale by which to defend the interpretations. The results of the defense of thesis will be determined by the student's committee. These may be as follows:

  1. Pass with minor or no revisions necessary and immediate preparation of the final draft recommended.
  2. Pass with substantial revision which must be approved by the student's committee prior to preparation of the final draft.
  3. Fail, requiring major revisions of the thesis and another scheduled defense of thesis.
  4. Fail, requiring withdrawal from the program, assuming the candidate has used number 3 above.

After the defense, the student should allow up to six weeks for revisions and preparation of the final draft. Upon completion and approval of the final draft, the thesis must be signed by all members of the student's committee, Graduate Chair, Department Chair and submitted to Thesis and Dissertation Services (TAD). Normally this must be done electronically at least two weeks before the date of commencement. Deadlines and guidelines are clearly posted on the TAD website. TAD often requires students to reformat aspects of their submitted thesis file, so do not plan to submit the thesis on the final deadline date.

4.10 Research Materials

The department is responsible for ensuring that research done under its auspices can be reviewed and used by other scientists both within and outside of the department. Because of this, materials (rocks, fossils, thin sections, air photos, stratigraphic sections, raw data, etc.) used for the preparation of departmental theses must be accessible to the Geological Sciences Department even after students who prepared these materials have graduated. Typically, this requirement is fulfilled by leaving with the faculty adviser a suite of samples cited in the thesis such as thin sections, rocks, or rock powders. In addition, it is appropriate to leave with the faculty member copies of critical field notes, field maps, geophysical data or raw analytic data when interpretation of material contained in the thesis requires that these primary sources be consulted. These materials will be catalogued and will become part of the departmental collections. The graduate student must either catalogue these materials or participate in their cataloguing while he or she is still in residence here. These catalogued materials may be loaned to a former graduate student or to other qualified persons who wish to carry out further research on these materials at other institutions.

If the materials or equipment were paid for by departmental funds, faculty grants or grants awarded to the student (e.g., AAPG, GSA, or Sigma Xi) as part of completing a thesis, the materials will typically remain resident in the department unless the faculty adviser gives explicit permission for materials to leave with the student. If the student paid for research materials such as air photos or thin sections out of his or her own pocket, then arrangements should be made with the supervising faculty member or department chair to duplicate pertinent materials in such a way that these important data can be retained by the department.

4.11 Authorship & Data Ownership

The question of authorship of papers and abstracts resulting from research pursued cooperatively between students and faculty should be discussed explicitly by the student and his or her adviser at the beginning of the project to prevent later misunderstandings. Advisers differ in their policies regarding inclusion on student-authored abstracts. In every case, a person whose name is included on an abstract or paper must be consulted before submission of the document. The best approach to authorship is open discussion before and during paper and abstract preparation.