Dec 07, 2022  
2022-2023 Graduate Catalog 
    
2022-2023 Graduate Catalog

Milestone Examinations & Culminating Experience Requirements


Milestone Exams

Culminating Experience Requirements

Exams

Professional or Scholarly Papers or Projects

Prospectus Approval and Advancement to Candidacy for Master’s Thesis and Doctoral Students 

Thesis Guidelines

Dissertation Guidelines

Traditional vs. Three-Article Dissertation

Minimum Requirements of the Three-Article Publication Status

Three-Article Dissertation Sections/Chapters

Co-Authorship

 

 

Milestone Exams

Many graduate degree programs require students to successfully complete one or more qualifying, preliminary, comprehensive, and/or final examinations. For master’s students, the comprehensive or final examination is generally conducted during the last semester or term of enrollment in which a student intends to graduate. For doctoral students, exam requirements are during or immediately after completion of coursework. Doctoral students do not take final exams, as their dissertation or doctoral project and oral defense constitute the culminating experience. 

For doctoral students, qualifying exams are sometimes required early in the student’s academic career before continuing in the program. The comprehensive, or preliminary, examinations are generally taken after all course work, other than dissertation credits, has been completed and always before defending a prospectus and advancing to candidacy. The examination is intended to test the student’s knowledge of one or more areas of specialization and may be written, oral, or both at the discretion of the department, as specified in the program handbook. Qualifying, preliminary, and comprehensive exams are department requirements (as specified in the Graduate Catalog and detailed in the program handbook) and do not require a form to be submitted to the Graduate College, although your department may require submission of a form to document this milestone. Written department guidelines determine who prepares the exam(s), who reviews and scores the exam(s), the timetable on which the exams are given, and the consequences for failing to pass one or more qualifying exams. 

The Graduate College recommends that: 1) the student is assigned a faculty mentor or committee at least one semester in advance of testing to provide guidance on preparing for the exam; 2) there are at least three committee members who evaluate the exam, and 3) timely feedback is provided to students who fail the exam regarding what is needed to pass.

In most cases, the advisory committee must unanimously pass the student on required exams, but students should check their program handbook for guidance on this point. If a student fails a required milestone exam, the student, in consultation with their advisor, may request the exam committee to administer a second examination, depending on departmental policies and guidelines. Students should be placed on probation if they do not pass the exam the first time (See Probation and Separation ). Depending on department rules in their program handbook which may specify additional details, two failures of required exams shall lead to separation of the student from the program for failure to make adequate progress toward a degree.

Particularly in traditional, on-campus programs, the Graduate College encourages in-person milestone exam defenses, when required, with the defending student, committee chair, and other committee members present in-person. This defense format enables discussion of a student’s culminating experience and serves as an important landmark in a student’s professional development by presenting to a group of scholars and perhaps a wider community. However, advances in digital technology and variation in program delivery (e.g., online programs) warrant flexibility in how in-person vs. remote thesis and dissertation defenses occur. Student defense presentations must be public, although a private defense discussion between the student and committee members must also occur.

 

Culminating Experience Requirements

The most important component of graduate education is the student’s culminating experience. All graduate programs require a culminating experience of some type. This generally takes the form of a master’s thesis, a doctoral dissertation, a final scholarly research project, a professional paper, a capstone course, a performance, an exam, and/or an oral defense. The culminating experience demonstrates the student’s mastery of their research, scholarship, professional expertise, or creative abilities in their field of study, as well as their written and oral communication skills.

When the culminating experience is a professional paper, thesis, or dissertation (research, professional, or creative) the final document is intended to reflect the student’s research, scholarship, or creative activities, contribute in meaningful ways to the ongoing development of the academic discipline or profession they are in and have broader significance or impact. Other forms of culminating experiences generally assess the student’s specific knowledge, expertise, and/or professional skills and abilities.

 

Exams

For master’s students required to take final exams, the results should be submitted by completing the Culminating Experience Results Form (see Student Forms )

 

Professional or Scholarly Papers or Projects

Master’s students not pursuing a thesis option may be required to complete a professional/scholarly paper or project as part of the degree program. Students are encouraged to use The Guide to Preparing and Submitting a Thesis or Dissertation available on the Graduate College website when preparing a professional paper. Professional/scholarly papers or projects are not, however, reviewed, retained, or approved by the Graduate College. Some graduate programs require students doing a professional paper to have a graduate committee and to defend their work; other departments incorporate final papers into culminating experience/capstone courses or have other requirements. Please check with your department and review the program information and requirements herein for detailed guidelines regarding your own program requirements.

 

Prospectus Approval and Advancement to Candidacy for Master’s Thesis and Doctoral Students 

Students required to complete and defend a dissertation or doctoral document must write and successfully defend (in an oral defense setting) a prospectus describing the nature of their proposed research, scholarship, or creative activity, their methods, and other relevant details prescribed by the student’s disciplinary practices. Once the prospectus is written, successfully defended, and approved by the student’s entire GAC, students must submit the Advancement to Candidacy Form via Grad Rebel Gateway. Students must attach a written statement describing their proposed dissertation topic, methodology, and approach to their form. The successful defense in front of the student’s GAC and submission of the Prospectus Approval Form with the proposal attached must be done prior to beginning work on their dissertation (for research doctoral programs) or doctoral project (for professional doctoral programs).

Please note the Graduate College designates the Advancement to Candidacy status to doctoral students, only. Doctoral students are advanced to candidacy upon successful completion of all coursework; passing all required qualifying, preliminary, and/or comprehensive exams; completing and successfully defending the dissertation prospectus; and submitting the Appointment of Advisory Committee, Plan of Study Parts I and II, and the Advancement to Doctoral Candidacy Forms to the Graduate College. Once a doctoral student has advanced to candidacy these students are recognized to be “ABD,” or “all but dissertation.”

After the prospectus is defended and accepted by the GAC and the student has submitted their Advancement to Candidacy Form (doctoral), students may then proceed to enroll in dissertation credits and work on their final document. If the nature of the research deviates from the written description submitted to the Graduate College, then a new prospectus defense must be held and a new Advancement to Candidacy Form must be submitted along with a brief written statement describing the new research. Students may not enroll in dissertation credits until they have completed all required coursework and exams, and their submitted Advancement to Candidacy Form is approved in Grad Rebel Gateway.

 

Thesis Guidelines

Research master’s students are generally required to complete a master’s thesis in which they conduct original research or engage in innovative scholarship. Theses are formal documents that must be professionally presented, well-written and edited, and reflect appropriate ethical and academic standards of the discipline.

Prospectus Approval Students required to complete and defend a thesis must write and successfully defend (in an oral defense setting) a prospectus describing the nature of their proposed research, scholarship, or creative activity, their methods, and other relevant details prescribed by the student’s disciplinary practices. Once the prospectus is written, successfully defended, and approved by the student’s entire GAC, students must submit the Prospectus Approval Form via Grad Rebel Gateway. Students must attach a written statement describing their proposed thesis topic, methodology, and approach to their form. The successful defense in front of the student’s GAC and submission of the Prospectus Approval Form with the proposal attached must be done prior to beginning work on their master’s thesis.

After the prospectus is defended and accepted by the GAC and the student has submitted their Prospectus Approval Form, students may then proceed to enroll in thesis credits and work on their final document. If the nature of the research deviates from the written description submitted to the Graduate College, then a new prospectus defense must be held and a new Prospectus Approval Form must be submitted along with a brief written statement describing the new research. Students may not enroll in thesis credits until they have completed all required coursework and exams, and their submitted Prospectus Approval Form is approved in Grad Rebel Gateway.

Theses must also meet Graduate College standards according to The Guide to Preparing and Submitting a Thesis or Dissertation. The Graduate College and advisory committees expect students to give careful attention to the style and format of the final scholarly or creative documents.

 

Dissertation Guidelines

Doctoral dissertations and documents reflect the highest level of expertise and scholarship in a field of study. Final doctoral dissertations and documents must be academically rigorous; be original work; reflect the standards, ethics, and best practices of the discipline; and be well written and professionally presented. Students’ GACs must unanimously support the rigor and quality of the document and the adequacy of the final defense before they may recommend a student for conferral of the doctoral degree.

 

Traditional vs. Three-Article Dissertation

Traditional dissertations have certain characteristics in common. They have a sole author; consist of a series of sequential chapters, each of which presents the student’s literature review, methodology, theoretical framework, research findings, or discussion of the findings, and advances the student’s thesis; reflect original ideas and new contributions to the field; and constitute a single, generally linear narrative on the topic at hand. In contrast, the three-article dissertation consists of a minimum of three articles (submitted and under-review, in-press, or published, depending on the field and GAC requirements) on related but not necessarily identical topics, with introductory and concluding chapters to link the papers and contextualize them in the existing literature and discuss the implications of their findings. The latter format must be approved by the department or school offering the degree and by the student’s GAC; details follow below.

 

Minimum Requirements of the Three-Article Publication Status

The three-article dissertation must include a minimum of three under-review, in-press, or published articles reporting on research or scholarship undertaken as a doctoral student at UNLV (prior research, scholarship, creative activity, articles or publications may not be used in a UNLV dissertation). In addition to the articles, this format requires an introductory chapter, a concluding chapter, and bridge sections introducing and linking each of the articles to form a cohesive document.

The three-article dissertation is not an option for all programs. The degree-granting department must indicate in their program handbook whether the three article dissertation format is an approved option for that program of study. Program handbooks are available online through the UNLV Degrees Directory. The department may impose more stringent requirements than those delineated in this document, but additional requirements must be described in the program handbook. If this format is an option provided by the department, the student and their committee may then decide whether or not to use a three-article dissertation format and indicate the intended dissertation type at the time of the dissertation proposal. In this model, an under-review, in-press, or published manuscript serves as a chapter within the larger dissertation. If the committee and department accept this dissertation format, the dissertation must adhere to Graduate College guidelines pertaining to this type of dissertation.

 

Three-Article Dissertation Sections/Chapters

The three-article dissertation must have a general introductory chapter that provides an introduction to the student’s topic and a review of the relevant literature and presentation of research questions. Each article chapter must include a contextual explanation of the significance of the article chapter ahead as a “bridge” at the beginning of the chapter to link it to the broader study of which the chapter is a part. This format must also include a concluding chapter that puts the multiple papers in a broader context and explains their significance to the field, as well as offering suggestions for future research. These introductory and concluding chapters ensure that the multiple papers have a general coherence and constitute a singular whole that is greater than the sum of its parts.

For three-article dissertation chapters that are published or in press, the student must secure the appropriate copyright from the publisher to include the chapter contents in the dissertation. These must be included in an appropriate Appendix per Graduate College formatting guidelines.

All dissertations must adhere to Graduate College formatting and stylistic guidelines (e.g., acceptable font, use of headings, margins, spacing, tables, appendices, page numbers, etc.), regardless of whether they are presented in a traditional format or a multiple (three or more) article format. The three-article dissertation must have a general abstract; whether abstracts are included for respective chapters are at the discretion of the committee and department. References may be presented at the end of individual chapters or in a single reference section at the end of the dissertation. Acknowledgements should not be given at the end of each chapter, but in one place for the dissertation as a whole; proper placement is outlined in the Graduate College formatting guidelines. Appendices should be given near the end of the entire dissertation, as outlined in the Graduate College formatting guidelines, rather than at the conclusion of individual chapters. Article chapters must be included in the appropriate Graduate College format, consistent with the Introduction and Conclusion chapters. Students may not simply “add-in” a journal article reprint to serve as a dissertation chapter.

 

Co-Authorship

For co-authored articles or chapters used in three-article dissertations and approved by the GAC for inclusion, the student must obtain written permission from co-authors, including a statement on each author’s roles and contributions. Co-author approvals should be noted in the dissertation, either in the general Introduction or in introductions to respective co-authored chapters, and written permission should be included in a separate Appendix.

For co-authored articles or chapters in three-article dissertations, the student must have made a substantial, original, and documented contribution to all stages of the collaborative work in order to include it in the dissertation. In practice, this should be acknowledged by the student being the lead author on a manuscript. If not the first author on an article, the student should have made substantial contributions to the research design, execution of the study, analyses, and/or write-up and these must be documented, as well as reviewed and approved by the student’s committee. Quantifying the requirements of “substantial” can be challenging, with best practices in leading peer-reviewed journals (such as PLoS ONE, Nature) offering guidelines for determining sufficient contribution for journal publication authorship, and in turn for inclusion in a dissertation. A student’s contribution to co-authored chapters should be noted and clearly explained either in the general Introduction or in introductions to respective co-authored chapters. A three-article dissertation may not include more than one co-authored article/chapter in which the doctoral student is not the first author unless it is included as a fourth or subsequent additional chapter.

 

 

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