MS with or without thesis?

You may have the following question about doing your Masters.  "Should I do it with or without a thesis?"

This is a very important question to answer first to make sure you take the correct credits for your degree and second that you do not get into trouble with research and writing the thesis.

1. First let's tackle the credit issue:  Both the MS with and without thesis have a minimum requirement of 30 graduate credit hours.  Remember you cannot use undergraduate credit for a graduate degree program.

a. The MS without thesis comprises 30 hrs of classes.  You cannot use graduate research 490/6099 for this masters option.  You must take 2 more classes instead. 9 hrs of 6 thousand lecture classes must be included in the 30 hrs.  The industrial project class cannot be use in these 9 hrs.

b. The MS with thesis comprises 24 hrs of classes and 6 hrs of research for the 30 hrs.  In addition a masters thesis is required that has to be of an acceptable format and quality and approved by a committee comprising your adviser and at least 2 other graduate faculty members.  You are reasonable for the selection of your committee.

2. The masters without thesis is the easier option for the majority of people who are not research orientated and also for distance persons.  We recommend that you should only do the "with thesis" option if you are very self motivated and do not procrastinate.  The masters with thesis is more demanding and is discussed as follows:

a. To do a masters with thesis you must have a planned and accepted thesis research topic picked out in advanced.  Do not expect your adviser to pick one out of thin air.  The topic may be linked to sponsored research, if not you will have to perform the research without monetary compensation.  However, some money may be available for supplies etc.  In the choice of your research topic you should make sure you have facility and equipment availability.  I.e. it is physically available and you can reserve/share what equipment and test site you require.  You also have to follow procedures, rules and limits for our experimental mine and energetics research facility and have the blessing of the supervisory personnel over such facilities.

b. Research for distance students is more difficult because you are required to obtain your own access to research facilities unless you travel to S&T to do your own research, but research is very time consuming and can be drawn out.  However if you are working at a government lab for an explosives company or defense contractor who has such facilities and you have ready access to them then this is acceptable.  In such a case your research should be aligned to your employers needs.  The research has to be performed with guidance from your S&T adviser and committee.  The thesis should be unclassified to avoid problems with the review of the thesis and it's publication and access.  If it is classified then you will need an adviser and committee members with the appropriate security clearance.  S&T no longer has a facility clearance. A thesis may be restricted from public dissemination though.

c. You should not sign up for research just to obtain enough hours.  If you sign up for research you are expected to do research.  If you do not you will get an unsatisfactory grade and those hours will not count. If your research area/topic does not work out you will have to pick another one that is more suitable or change to the MS without thesis option, therefore you should thoroughly investigate and start your thesis research before you sign up for research hours.

d. We have experienced a high percentage of on site MS students who have re-joined industry before completing their research and have either subsequently delayed graduation significantly or dropped out.  S&T rules give a maximum of 6 years to complete a MS and this can present a problem.  We are required to graduate an average of 5 MS students a year in each 5 year period to meet minimum requirements for program continuation.  We therefore recommend that most students do the MS without thesis.

e. If you have finished your 30 hours before finishing your thesis, you are required to take further research hours.  If you have finished your research but are writing up and have left the campus you are required to take 1 procedures of continuous registration to be allowed to defend your thesis and complete.

f. Doing a MS with thesis is good experience for follow on to a PhD but is not necessary.  The Masters thesis must reflect a mastery of the subject area and the candidates ability to do quality research.  The PhD has additionally show application of significant philosophy to the subject area, furthering the understanding of the subject field, advancing both knowledge and theory.

g. If you choose the "with research" option you must take the research methods class 411/6292 in advance to prepare yourself for performing your research.