Ohio University

The Thesis

Thesis research represents an attempt to answer a research question or test a research hypothesis that has some significance to the discipline. The work is conducted under the guidance and mentoring of the student's thesis committee. The written thesis is the culmination of the student’s research. It communicates the research problem, its significance, its context within the literature, the methods used to conduct the research, data and results, how the results fit into the larger perspective, and references cited.

Thesis Committee

A student's thesis advisory committee is composed of his or her thesis supervisor (also called their adviser, thesis director, or committee chair) and two other tenured or tenure-track faculty members from the department. A thesis supervisor is chair of the student's thesis advisory committee and should be determined early in the program, ideally by the middle of the second semester. Students may choose to include one additional (a fourth) committee member from outside the department, usually an Ohio University faculty member from the most relevant cognate field. In that case, the optional fourth member of the committee will vote on committee decisions if they are a member of the graduate faculty in their home department. Alternatively, a student may select as a fourth committee member an emeritus or a non-tenure-track professor in the Geography Department to serve in an advisory (non-voting) capacity. In all cases, the optional fourth committee member must have at least a master’s degree. Only tenured or tenure-track faculty from the geography department can serve as a thesis director or as one of the other two main members of a thesis committee. Each student must successfully defend the thesis proposal, and later the final thesis, in front of this committee. It is expected that the members of the thesis committee remain the same from proposal to thesis defense, but substitutions may be made under exceptional circumstances.

Thesis Proposal

Students should plan to defend the thesis proposal by the end of the second semester. This schedule gives students time to conduct their thesis research. If a defense by this date is not possible, students may use the break after their second semester to prepare for a proposal defense early in their third semester. Students must have their thesis proposal defended no later than the end of the fifth week of their third semester. Submit the signed Thesis Proposal Defense form to the administrative specialist when the committee approves this proposal.

Students are expected to follow the instructions of their adviser as to the content and length of their thesis proposal, but most proposals are 15 to 20 pages long and include an introduction, the statement of a research question or research hypothesis, a discussion of the significance of the research, context of the problem within the literature, methods, time table, and references cited. Once a proposal meets the adviser’s approval, it is distributed to each committee member at least one week prior to the scheduled proposal defense meeting.

The Written Thesis

Like the proposal, the thesis is written with the advice and guidance of the adviser. The thesis defense occurs only after the adviser has approved the thesis and agrees that it may be distributed to the thesis committee. The thesis must be given to committee members at least one week prior to the thesis defense.

Virtually all students have some revisions to make to their thesis after the defense. Once the revisions are completed and the committee has given final approval to the thesis, students must submit an electronic copy of it to the Thesis and Dissertation (TAD) Services office of the Graduate College. The adviser or the graduate chair then submits the signed thesis defense form to the College of Arts & Sciences. Formatting, submission, and other guidelines for the thesis are posted on the TAD Services part of the Graduate College.

Proposal and Thesis Defenses

When the adviser agrees that a student's proposal or thesis is ready to be circulated to his or her committee and defended, the student can schedule a defense for a time that is acceptable to his or her committee. Every attempt should be made to schedule defenses during the fall or spring semester. Faculty members may not be available for defenses during summer, other break periods, or holidays. The defending student is responsible for arranging a time and room for each defense. Scheduling a two hour block of time is recommended, especially for the thesis defense. Consult with the department’s administrative specialist in the main office to reserve a room and time for the defense. Once your thesis defense is scheduled, prepare a flier that lists the student's name, thesis title, a photo or illustration relevant to the thesis topic, and the date, time, and location of the defense. Post these around the department to notify the rest of the Ohio University geography community about the thesis defense. Submit the Arrangement for the Oral Defense form to the administrative specialist when the day/time is arranged.

Both the proposal defense and the thesis defense begin with an approximately 20-minute presentation in which the student summarizes the essential aspects of the proposed or completed study. The committee members and other interested faculty and graduate students attend the presentation. After questions from the general audience, the adviser excuses the general audience to begin the part of the defense reserved for the student and committee alone. Unanimous approval by the voting members of the committee is required to pass a proposal or thesis defense. With additional preparation as directed by the student’s advisory committee, a proposal or thesis that was not successfully defended can be redefended for possible approval.

Students should be sure to take the required signature form, part of which they fill out, to both the proposal and the thesis defenses. The forms are available from the geography department’s graduate student information webpage. The committee chair keeps the signed thesis oral defense completion form until the committee is satisfied with the final, revised version of the thesis.