CMM MS Thesis Information

CMM MS Thesis Information

Writing a Graduate Thesis is a personal process very different from most other academic writing experiences.  Unlike most other school papers, the process of writing a thesis is iterative and involves a substantial amount of back-and-forth with your Thesis Committee.  The following recommended deadlines are important so that there is sufficient time to create a document worthy of being called a Masters Thesis.  This is not a process that can be done quickly!

Note: Students are required to enroll in and successfully complete 5 units of CMM 910: Thesis.  Students entering our program after Fall 2018 may not take all five units in a single term.  The final unit(s) should be taken in the semester in which you intend to defend your thesis.

  1. By the beginning of the semester during which you intend to defend your thesis you should have formed a Thesis Committee.  This committee must be approved by the Graduate College. Thesis Committee Member Expectations and Duties:
  2. It is your responsibility to find, and communicate to your committee members, the University's deadlines for completion of degree requirements.
  3. Early in the semester during which you intend to defend your thesis, your committee should be given a summary or outline of your proposed thesis.
  4. At least 7 weeks before your thesis defense date, your thesis draft should be turned in to your committee members.
  5. 5 weeks before your defense date, your thesis committee will return the edited thesis draft to you.
  6. 2 weeks before your defense date, your final thesis draft should be turned in to all members of your Thesis Committee.
  7. Your thesis defense will involve the following;
  • At the Defense, you will start by making a presentation, with slides, that gives an overview of your thesis topic; this should be approximately 15 minutes.
  • The committee will then ask you questions about your thesis as well as  material from your courses that is particularly relevant to your thesis; this portion will last up to 60 minutes.
  • The committee will then ask you to step out of the room while they discuss and vote; about 5 minutes.
  • The committee will then bring you back in and tell you their decision.
  • The committee may still ask you to make additional changes to your thesis following the defense, but only if something is really unclear.

CMM MS Thesis Handbook

The Graduate College also has requirements for the Master's Thesis.  They can be found at this link.

Leave enough time between your Defense and the end of the semester to make any additional required changes to your Thesis document.

If you have any questions, please contact your Thesis Advisor well in advance if these deadlines! 

Once your thesis has been approved by your committee, please send a PDF of your final thesis to both Lonnie Lybarger, the Director of Graduate Studies for CMM, as well as your Graduate Coordinator for the program archive.

About Writing

Writing a thesis is hard work, and takes a lot of thought and time.  We strongly suggest that every prospective thesis writer read the following excellent paper on scientific writing:  Gopen, G. D. and Swan, J. A. (1990). The science of scientific writing. Am. Scientist  78:550-558. 

Some basic guidelines selected from the paper above are:

  1. In general, provide context for your reader before asking them to consider anything new.  In other words, place appropriate “old information” (material already stated somewhere earlier in document) in the first sentence of any paragraph and then build upon that information.
  2. Follow a grammatical subject as soon as possible with its verb.
  3. Place new information at the end of the paragraph, in the stress position; this helps your reader to remember.
  4. Try to ensure that the relative emphases of the substance coincide with the relative expectations for emphasis raised by the structure.

The structure laid out above will look like:

Familiar information-> verb-> new information.  Do this over and over to build a train of thought linked together in a series of understandable steps.

Some final tips:

  • Keep your language as simple as you can to be accurate. It makes for easier reading.  Always think of the reader. 
  • What is the main point of a sentence or paragraph or section?  Each one should have a single point. Have you conveyed your points clearly?  Do not write to impress, but instead, to inform or persuade.
  • Avoid jargon!  All fields have their own set of important words, but it is important to make sure that these are clearly defined and/or explained early in the document.  Always remember to define abbreviations, too.  
  • Make a clear presentation of your ideas that any smart person could follow and understand without additional knowledge.  Remember, your reader is unlikely to be an expert in the field that you are writing about.

Last but not least...

  • Most academic writing takes several substantive revisions. Finding a good editor to help you identify and fix problems is invaluable.  Need a helping hand?  The UA Writing Skills Improvement Program may be able to help!