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Thesis Proposal and Defense Meetings in Experimental Psychology

It is highly recommended that a student have an approved thesis proposal by the end of the Spring Semester of the student's second year. The purpose of this policy is to ensure that students make appropriate progress toward completion of the thesis by the completion deadline; that deadline is the last day of classes in the Spring Semester of the third year.

During the first year, a student and his or her adviser will carry out a research project to provide the student with experience conducting research and to help him or her develop a research area. This project will be a major step forward toward preparing the thesis proposal. Students also should take advantage of course requirements to develop or hone possible thesis ideas. Finally, most students are offered a summer stipend each year, giving them the summer following their first year to work on a thesis proposal.

Here are a few pointers on getting ready for either the thesis proposal meeting or the meeting for defending the completed thesis.

  • These meetings are normally two hours in length.
  • Start trying to schedule the meeting three weeks in advance of when you want it to occur. People are busy, and it may take you several days just to schedule the meeting.
  • Do not set up a meeting until your thesis director says that you can.
  • Also, your thesis director must approve the final copy of your paper before it can be distributed to other members of your thesis committee, which should be at least two weeks prior to the scheduled meeting.

Data collection prior to a proposal meeting should be carried out with caution. Committees tend to provide input that changes design elements of a research project, meaning students should not assume that data collected prior to a meeting can be used in the project. Likewise, students should hold off submitting to the university's IRB (Institutional Review Board) until after the proposal meeting because revisions to the protocol can be extensive (although modest changes to an approved IRB can be an amendment). On the other hand, pilot work prior to proposal meetings is often encouraged. In these cases, data collection must be overseen by the student's adviser (or committee chair) as well as the IRB. This includes data collected in preparation for a study as well as data collected for the proposed study.