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Culminating Experience Options for MA degree in Psychology

Central Connecticut State University Department of Psychological Science

As part of the requirements for earning a Master of Arts degree in Health Psychology, Community Psychology, or General Psychology at Central Connecticut State University, the Department of Psychological Science offers two culminating experience options. These options are explained below.  To determine which option is appropriate consult with academic thesis advisor.

Option A: Research Based Empirical Thesis
This option typically involves an empirical, data driven research project designed to test theory or hypotheses, and/or to examine an applied issue in psychological science. We recommend this option strongly for students who are considering further study at the doctoral level, who are planning research oriented careers or for anyone interested in achieving more research training.

  • Content: The thesis project is intended to advance the knowledge within an applied or basic area of study in psychological science through the development and completion of original scholarship completed under the supervision of a faculty thesis advisor. The format of the empirical thesis should include standard research report sections such as a comprehensive introduction/literature review that provides the context of the study and builds study hypotheses, as well as detailed method, results and discussion sections. The thesis will typically take the form of an expanded version of an empirical research report that might be published in a standard refereed journal in psychological science.

  • Process: The student will choose a thesis advisor as soon as practically possible and work to develop the thesis research study. This involves enrolling in PSY 591 with your thesis advisor. In consultation with the thesis advisor, the student will select two additional thesis committee members, typically from the Department of Psychological Science. These committee members will serve as project evaluators for the thesis proposal and final thesis project. With the permission of the primary advisor, committee members with particular expertise in the project area may be selected from beyond Department faculty.

Once the topic is chosen, students will put together a proposal for review by both the advisor and the committee members. This proposal should include a title, statement of purpose, and stated hypotheses or research questions to be addressed in the thesis.  In addition, students should provide an initial review of pertinent research to give the committee members a better understanding of the project and how it will advance knowledge in the field. Finally, the student should propose a detailed outline with major subheadings, possible limitations of the project, and a beginning bibliography for review by the committee. Of particular interest for the proposal is a well-developed and detailed proposed methodology section, accompanied by a statistical treatment and analysis plan. A formal thesis proposal meeting will be scheduled among the student, thesis advisor and committee that will allow for critical discussion and feedback. At this point, the thesis advisor in consultation with the committee, will determine whether the thesis research may move forward.

Once the proposal is approved, the student will proceed with the thesis research under the supervision of the thesis advisor that should result in a completed empirical research report, written in APA style. Should your topic or the scope of your project change for any reason a new proposal must be submitted and approved.  Although there is no absolute thesis length, the final paper should be an intensive effort (e.g., typically no less than 30 pages, excluding references and supporting materials). After receiving approval from the advisor, in consultation with the committee, a public defense of the thesis will be held. Students are expected to summarize the thesis idea, method, findings and implications, as well as to answer questions from the committee and advisor at the presentation. The advisor and committee will assess the quality of the thesis and defense and determine whether the thesis meets the required academic standards.

Students intending to complete a thesis should consult The Master's Thesis Handbook, available in the School of Graduate Studies Office and also at the graduate website for additional guidance.

Option B: Capstone Project - Extensive and Integrative Analysis of Literature
This option does not typically involve data collection, but rather incorporates a critical evaluation or synthesis of scientific articles that have been previously published. This may be an option for students who are planning a career in human services, who are obtaining an MA for advancement in a specific career line, or who are not planning to continue their education at the doctoral level.

  • Content: The Capstone project is intended to advance the knowledge within an area of study or an applied area of psychological science. The written portion of the capstone project involves an intensive theoretical paper, integrative research review, or position paper on an emerging topic or issue of contemporary relevance within the field. Students choosing the capstone option will gain experience in reviewing and critically evaluating appropriate literature in order to achieve one or more of the following:

    1. to frame and constructively critique a topic area in psychological science;

    2. to examine connections between areas of research;

    3. to evaluate applied psychological interventions or programs; or

    4. to explore the interface of psychological science and society. Within the project, students are expected to clearly define an area for investigative evaluation, summarize pertinent research, identify gaps and inconsistencies in the literature, and offer insight into what might help to address the limitations (Bem, 1995). The format might be similar to a review that would be published in Psychological Bulletin, Psychological Review or other similar outlet.

  • Process: The student will choose a capstone advisor as soon as practically possible and work to develop the topic ideas related to the capstone project. In consultation with the capstone advisor, the student will select two additional capstone committee members, typically from the Department of Psychological Science, to serve as capstone committee members who will serve as project evaluators for the project proposal and final paper. With the permission of the primary advisor, committee members with particular expertise in the project area may be selected from beyond Department faculty.

Once the topic is chosen, students will put together a proposal for review by both the advisor and the committee members. This proposal should include a title, statement of purpose, and stated hypotheses or research questions guiding the targeted and investigative evaluation of the literature. In addition, students should provide an initial review of pertinent research to give the committee members a better understanding of the project and how it will advance knowledge in the field. Finally, the student should propose a detailed outline with major subheadings, possible limitations of the project, and a beginning bibliography for review by the committee. A formal proposal meeting will be scheduled among the student, capstone advisor and committee that will allow for critical discussion and feedback. At this point, the capstone advisor in consultation with the committee will determine whether the project may move forward.

Once the proposal is approved, the student will proceed with the project under the supervision of the capstone advisor which will result in a completed paper, written in APA style. Should your topic or the scope of your project change for any reason a new proposal must be submitted and approved. Although there is no absolute paper length, the final project should be an intensive effort (e.g., typically no less than 30 pages excluding references and supporting materials). After receiving approval from the advisor, in consultation with the committee, a public defense of the capstone project will be held. Students are expected to summarize the content of their written project as well as to answer questions from the committee and advisor at the presentation. The advisor and committee will assess the quality of the written paper as well as the student’s understanding of the issues raised in the paper and determine whether the capstone meets the required academic standards.

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