Master of Science Degree: Thesis

Requirements for the Master of Science Degree

  1. 30 graduate credits, 6 of which must be research credits

  2. Completion of Master’s thesis

Time Limits for the Master's Degree

  1. Normal Minimum - 1 year

  2. Normal Maximum - 3 years; permission for additional time must be requested from the Graduate School via the Vice Chair for Graduate Studies.

  3. The policy regarding extensions beyond the three year time limit for the Master's Thesis: A six month extension will be granted if the rationale stated on the written request is acceptable. No meeting is required with the student. This six-month extension will be the only one given. If the Master's Thesis is not completed at the end of this period, the student will be recommended for termination.

The Master’s Thesis

The purpose of the master’s thesis is to help develop students’ research and scholarship skills. The Clinical Area wants students to use the writing of the thesis to build skills needed for publication. These skills include concise, focused conceptualization and writing. Accordingly, with the thesis committee, the student will determine a potential target peer reviewed journal for the thesis, determine the potential length of an appropriate article (between 25-35 double spaced pages), and write up the thesis in the appropriate format. Additional material, which can include a more detailed introduction/conceptual/ literature review section, results tables, and discussion considerations, as well as specific instruments and detailed psychometric information about them, would be placed in Appendices. In general, either the master’s thesis or the dissertation, but not both, may involve secondary analyses of existing data without collection of new data (as an independent project or as part of a collaborative project, such as one led by your advisor).

1.     Beginning with the incoming class of 2012-2013, a formal proposal for the thesis research must be presented to and approved by the student’s committee. We require both a formal proposal meeting prior to the master’s thesis, and a meeting to defend the thesis. All members of the committee must approve both the proposal and the final defense. The main purpose of the proposal meeting is to provide clarity and common understanding among committee members and the student regarding the scope, focus, and journal audience for the thesis. When circumstances preclude a full committee meeting to approve the proposal, an alternative can be acceptable with the approval of the Area Coordinator. The deadline for successfully defending this proposal is the end of the 3rd semester.

2.     All research that involves human subjects must be submitted to and approved by the Rutgers Institutional Review Board (IRB) prior to the collection or analysis of any data. Even projects that use existing data must be submitted to the IRB for prior approval.   Requirements, deadlines, and all forms are available at the website, All students must complete the Human Subjects Certification Program (HSCP) and successfully pass the HSCP exam before their research proposal will be approved by the IRB. Students are encouraged to take the on-line course during their first semester. Instructions to access the on-line course and exam can be found at the web site of the Office of Research and Sponsored Programs/IRB

3.     Timing of the thesis:

a.     Students should begin planning for their thesis research during the first year of graduate study. An ideal time to complete the proposal is during the summer between the first and second year.

b.     Students are strongly encouraged to complete their thesis research during the second year of graduate study and the deadline for completing the thesis is the end of the 5th semester.

4.     Procedures and Regulations governing the Master's Thesis

a.     Application for Admission to Candidacy

           Be sure that the original final transcript from your undergraduate school is on file in the Psychology Department, Room 207, Busch Campus by the end of your first semester.

b.     Master's Committee:

i.     The Committee normally consists of a Chairperson and two members. They must all be either members or associate members of the Graduate Faculty, according to the most current list of members maintained by the Psychology Department (accessible to faculty via the SAS Psychology Dept Sakai site and maintained by Donna Tomaselli, Senior Department Administrator). Students may nominate one additional member of the thesis committee who is not a member of the Graduate Faculty of Psychology. In this case, however, there must still be three members of the Graduate Faculty on the committee, bringing the total number of members to four. The student must submit a current curriculum vita of that person and a brief statement on the reason this person would be useful on the Committee. All outside Committee members must satisfy the criteria for associate membership on our Graduate Faculty. If fewer than two members of the committee are Psychology Department faculty, the committee chair must write a memo explaining why departmental faculty are not appropriate, and why selected committee members are appropriate and this must be approved by the Clinical Area Coordinator and Vice Chair for Graduate Studies.

ii.     Complete the Master's Thesis Committee form. This form can be obtained from the Graduate Psychology Office, Psychology Building, Busch Campus, or on line ( The completion of the form includes obtaining the concurrence and signature (to indicate that concurrence) of the Clinical Area Coordinator. The Graduate Director (Department Chair) will notify you of the approval of your Committee. The form is then filed in the office of the Vice Chair for Graduate Studies.

c.     Final Examination for M.S. Degree

i.     The clinical area requires an oral defense of the thesis. Prior to the defense, all members of the thesis committee must be given a written or electronic copy of the thesis for review and approval. Committee members must be given sufficient time to review the thesis (usually two weeks), and the student should anticipate feedback and recommendations for revisions from committee members at the defense.   All Committee members must approve the thesis before the thesis is considered completed.

ii.     The thesis defense affords the faculty an opportunity to focus on the students’ in depth understanding of the theories, mechanisms, methodology, research design, statistics, and/or research, theory, and practice implications of the research conducted. Thesis presentations should be limited to the typical 20 minute period of time given to research presentations at conferences, allowing more time for extended conversations about students’ understanding of what they have done and an assessment of their ability to articulate that understanding.

iii.     Obtain an Application for Admission to Candidacy form and submit it to the Chairperson of your Committee. (Be sure that you have completed at least 24 course credits and 6 research credits required for the Master's Degree.)  

iv.     The Chairperson will record the results of the final examination on this form signing Part II - A and C, or B. The “final examination” is the final decision of the Master’s Committee to accept or reject the thesis. Final acceptance or rejection of the thesis may be based solely on an evaluation of the written thesis, or an evaluation of both the written thesis and an oral defense of the thesis. It is then your responsibility to have it signed by the other members of your Committee.

v.     The Thesis title, Part II-C, must also be completed. Return to the Senior Graduate Administrator, Anne Sokolowski, for processing prior to obtaining the Graduate Director's signature. Completed forms must be filed with the Graduate School no later than three weeks before Commencement (no later than announced deadlines for October and January).

d.     Submission of the thesis to the Graduate School is done electronically. Your thesis must be converted to a PDF file and then submitted online Additionally, submission of one hard copy of the Master's thesis is required by the Department. A booklet entitled "Style Guide for Thesis and Dissertation Preparation" may be obtained from Room 203, Psychology Building, Busch Campus. You are required to submit an abstract not exceeding 350 words.

e.     A Diploma Application must be filled out. This online diploma application is available at:

5.     Deadline Dates (Listed in Bulletin of the Graduate School):
The exact deadline date changes by a day or so each semester so students should double check with the Senior Graduate Administrator, Anne Sokolowski, for exact dates. Also see