Thesis project plan

how to write project proposal and how to write project background for thesis and thesis project plan sample
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MASTER’S THESIS/PROJECT GUIDELINES: ADVISEMENT HANDBOOK Department of Special Education, Rehabilitation, and School Psychology California State University, Sacramento Fall 2005 1 M.A./M.S. Thesis/ Project Guidelines A central part of your Masters degree is your culminating requirement in the form of a comprehensive exam, a thesis, or a project. This guide is designed to give you information about the process of developing a thesis or project, and guidelines for the development of the actual product. Goals and Objectives of the Thesis or Project It is expected that training for school psychologists, advanced special educators, or vocational rehabilitation counselors will culminate in the production of a research product (thesis or project) that evidences originality, appropriate organization, clarity of purpose, critical analysis, and accuracy and completeness of documentation. The work shall involve an analysis or study related to a professional area such as, but not limited to: an analysis of an educational policy or mandate; a particular public or private school/agency service program; a school-based service program; an innovative educational method or intervention technique; a service manual; a historical analysis; a curriculum; or a program evaluation. Goals: • To gain research experiences using quantitative or qualitative research methods in federal, state, county, and/or private run educational or rehabilitation services agencies, educational settings, school-based and community-based programs, and other related educational and human service programs. • To be able to apply research experience with sensitivity, understanding, and appreciation of the differences of culture, race, ethnicity, class, gender, sexual orientation, disability, and age. • To become a competent and independent researcher in an ethical and professional manner. Learning objectives. Students will demonstrate, through the written production of a Thesis or a Project, the ability to: • Select, conceptualize, and organize an appropriate researchable vocational rehabilitation, school psychology, or special education related concept/or problem. • Design studies to assess the need for individuals, families, groups, or organizations; and, competently draw conclusions from observing them in their natural environment. • Understand ethical issues pertaining to scientific inquiries/research. • Appropriately identify, select, and implement research concept(s) and methods in diverse settings, such as human assistance agencies, schools, and/or community- based agencies. 2 • Become self-reflective in the research and writing process so as to be able to organize the work, to structure time, and to successfully problem solve. • Prepare a research report with the quality of writing, format, and documentation that meets the styles formats appropriate for shelving in the CSUS library. Steps in Completing a Thesis or Project Typically, you will follow these steps. We have provided information regarding each step below. 1. Classification 2. Advancement to Candidacy 3. Select a Committee Chair 4. Determine whether to do a Thesis or a Project 5. Select a second reader (thesis only) 6. The Reservation/Registration process 7. Develop a proposal 8. As indicated by your Committee Chair, obtain permission from the Human Subjects Committee to conduct your research 9. Begin and complete your research 10. The written product 11. The approval process 12. Unbound projects 1. Be admitted to classified graduate standing by applying to the university in the appropriate graduate degree curriculum (e.g., M.A., M.S.). 2. Advancement to Candidacy. Before you begin a project or thesis you must have documentation that you are a candidate. Forms for advancement to candidacy can be obtained from the department office and a sample is included in Appendix A. You will have seven years to complete your degree. This seven years (14 semesters) begins with the oldest course you have listed on your Advancement to Candidacy. 3. Selecting a committee chair. You must select a faculty sponsor and the faculty member must agree to be your committee chair. Start this process early in case your first choice is unable to work with you at this time. To assist you in selecting a committee chair, we have provided a list of faculty with their areas of interest in Appendix B. You may choose to select your committee chair for a variety of reasons – their areas of expertise, the types of research they do, or simply because you feel you would work well together. The role of the committee chair is to work closely with you every step of the way. Specifically your committee chair will help guide the development of your research question or project idea, assist you as you write your project or thesis proposal, 3 supervise the implementation or your work (i.e., gathering thesis data or developing the project’s product), and approve the final draft of the written thesis or project. It is your responsibility to stay in contact with your committee chair on a regular basis, keep up with deadlines, and follow through with your commitments. Your committee chair will provide you with feedback on your writing and the organization of your product, but it is not the role of the committee chair to copy-edit your product for you. Thus, before you turn in any “draft” you should make sure it is ready to be evaluated. If a draft is filled with spelling, grammar, and/or style errors you can expect that your committee chair will return it without substantive comments. Regardless of how confident you are in your written product, you will want to give yourself ample time to turn in drafts of each section of your product, get feedback, and revise. 4. Determine whether you will do a thesis or a project. In consultation with your committee chair, determine whether the topic you are interested in would best fit a thesis or a project. The difference between them is described below. Thesis. A Thesis is the written product of a systematic study of a significant problem. It clearly identifies the problem; states the major assumptions; explains the significance of the undertaking; sets forth the sources for, and methods of gathering information; analyzes the data; and offers a conclusion or recommendation. The product must evidence originality, critical and independent thinking, appropriate organization and format, clarity of purpose, and accurate and thorough documentation (CSUS 2004-2006 Catalog). Some examples of types of theses are outlined below: • A descriptive research study examining how school psychologists assess Southeast Asians in elementary school • A study examining the effectiveness of an innovative method to teach conversation skills using augmentative communication systems. • A study on the usage of the DSM-IV-TR by California vocational rehabilitation counselors. • A qualitative study on the friendships that develop between children with autism and their peers without disabilities in one elementary school. • A study evaluating outcomes of supported employment programs within one regional center’s service area. 4 Project. A Project is a significant undertaking appropriate to the fine and applied arts or to professional fields. It must evidence originality and independent thinking, appropriate form and organization, and a rationale. It must be described and summarized in a written abstract that includes the project’s significance, objectives, methodology, and a conclusion or recommendation (most recent CSUS Catalog). Some examples of types of projects are outlined below: • A comprehensive analysis on current program delivery policies that affect the well being of children through the Sacramento County Office of Education culminating in a proposed service delivery system • A project that examines factors contributing to homelessness among single parents receiving Vocational Rehabilitation services and culminates in a grant proposal for the creation of services for runaway youths. • A project that thoroughly examines effective system-wide approaches to positive behavioral support and culminates in an in-service and program development plan for one school district. 5. Select a second reader. If you have decided to do a thesis, with the help of your committee chair, select a second faculty member to be the second reader. If you have decided to do a project you will not need a second reader. The role of the reader is to provide a second opinion on the written product of your thesis. This faculty member will read and provide input after your committee chair has given you input. Your committee chair and the second reader have flexibility in this process. 6. The reservation/registration process. A sample reservation form is provided in Appendix A. You must complete this form for each semester of registration by the deadlines indicated. It is very important to discuss with your committee chair expectations on the length of time it will take complete your thesis/project. For instance, if you know that you can finish your thesis/project in one semester then you would register for the total number of thesis/project units required in your program. However, most students will need a minimum of two semesters to complete their thesis/project. Part of this discussion should entail what grade the committee chair will give you if you do not complete your thesis/project in a given semester and how you will register for any future semesters that are necessary in order to complete your thesis/project. 5 Continuous Enrollment: Please note that although the CSUS Office of Graduate Studies has paperwork to pay “continuous enrollment” fees http://www.csus.edu/gradstudies/forms.htm, this is not automatic in the EDS department. You will need to get approval from your thesis/project committee chair. Most of our faculty who chair projects/theses will require that you reregister, paying the University’s registration fees each semester until completion. 7. Develop a proposal. Before beginning the Thesis or Project you are expected to complete a proposal that clearly specifies what your culminating activity will involve. Sometimes your committee chair will want to see this document before he or she agrees to supervise your work. They may also require you to read and sign a Thesis/Project Agreement (see Appendix C). 8. Obtain approval from the Human Subjects Committee. If your work will involve the participation of human subjects, you must obtain approval from the Human Subjects Committee before you begin your study (before you collect any data and/or being to work with human subjects as a part of a thesis or project). The guidelines and forms for this approval process are attached to this document in Appendix D, and are also available on the website and in your department office. You must get approval prior to beginning your work. As stated above, the human subjects committee will require both the introduction and the methods sections as part of the approval process. 9. You are ready to begin your research It is important to plan enough time to complete your proposal, and get approval from human subjects if necessary, before beginning your work in the field. Once your research study or project has been organized, the literature review complete, and your methods prepared, you will have a much easier time completing the actual work you have designed to do. While collecting your data or working on your project, keep in touch with your committee chair on a regular basis to evaluate progress, discuss your concerns, and make any changes as necessary. Don’t expect the sponsor to contact you. You will need to take the initiative. Do not wait until it is too late - this may cause a delay in the completion of your thesis or project, or the need to start over. 10. The written product. Your project or thesis must follow the formatting of the Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association (most recent edition) and the CSUS thesis/project format requirements. There are only three things that differ between the CSUS thesis/project format requirements and the APA Guidelines. In these cases you should comply with the CSUS requirements. These instances where CSUS requirements are different from APA style are as follows: 6 APA Style CSUS Requirement APA: space once after a period at the CSUS: space twice after a period at the end of a sentence end of a sentence APA: use running headers CSUS: do not use running headers APA: appendices are labeled on first page CSUS: use appendix title page of actual item APA: references follow end of the last CSUS: references follow the Appendixes chapter Please refer to the following sources as well as the useful templates we have provided in Appendix E: • CSUS Thesis Format Requirements/CSUS Project Format Requirements online at http://www.csus.edu/gradstudies/forms.htm • Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association (latest edition) obtainable at the Hornet Bookstore, or online at http://http://www.foundation.csus.edu/bookstore/ • APA Style Guide from the CSUS Library online at http://library.csus.edu/guides/blackmer/APAstyle.htm Margins. Note that your manuscript must have the following margins: One inch from top, right, and bottom, one and a half inches from the left. This means that for the top margin your page numbers must be one inch from the top right margin and your text will be 1 " from the top. An easy way to create this is to do your page numbers in a header. Ask for help if you don’t know how to set up your document. Please see instructions on pp. 8-9 for page setup procedures on your computer. Table of Contents. The table of contents is particularly difficult for some students. Please take time to format it so that all the pages numbers are in alignment. One way to do this is to leaving make a table within invisible lines. Spacing. Double space the entire text. However, you have the option to use single spacing in the Appendixes if your product will look more presentable if you review it for spacing at the bottom of your page. For example, if you end up with a heading at the bottom of a page, you might want to move it to the next page leaving an extra line at the bottom. 7 Citations and quotes. Use your APA manual, the most recent edition, to help you with citations and quotes. The rules and formats change periodically, so keep this manual handy and use it frequently. The index is very helpful. Pay attention to the rules for things like when to use et al., the ampersand symbol, and spacing. Ultimately it is the student’s responsibility to learn and apply the format requirements and not that of one’s thesis/project committee chair or typist. Overall, the Thesis or Project will have these distinct parts: • Blank Page • Title Page • Copyright (optional) • Approval Pages (original plus one copy; the original must be on 50% or higher rag content, 20 lb. Bond paper). • Format Approval Page (original plus one copy; the original must be on 50% or higher rag content, 20 lb. Bond paper). • Abstract (original plus one copy; the original must be on 50% or higher rag content, 20 lb. Bond paper). • Preface, Dedication and or Acknowledgement Page (optional). • Table of Contents with page references • List of Tables • List of Figures • Chapter 1-The Problem/The Issue • Chapter 2-Review of the Literature • Chapter 3-Methods/Methodology • Chapter 4-Findings/Outcomes/Results (different for a Project) • Chapter 5-Conclusion, Summary & Recommendations • Appendices • References • Blank Page (required) The following provides procedures for Page Setup using Microsoft Office. The rest of this document gives you an example of APA style and provides you with information regarding each part of your Thesis or Project. 8 Procedures for Page Setup in Microsoft Word XP and Word Mac 2000 (See Note on p. 2) Chapter 1, p. 1 through Bibliography Cover Pages (exceptions noted) File • Page Setup Margins Top: 1.5" 1" Left 1.5 Bottom: 1" 1.5" Right: 1" Layout • Header Footer 1" 1" • Click on OK Insert • Page Numbers Position: Top of page (Header) Bottom of page (Footer) Alignment: Right Center • Format Page numbering Start at: 1 • Click on OK 10 11. The approval process. Each and every semester that you register for the Thesis/Project, you will receive a letter from the department office giving you registration information and important deadline dates if you plan to graduate that particular semester (i.e., graduation application, date Thesis/Project is to be delivered to the graduate coordinator and date for submission to the Office of Graduate Studies). Below is a step-by-step Approval Process: • Thesis: Once your Committee Chair and second reader deems your Thesis to be complete, they each sign the approval page and the Committee Chair also signs the abstract on regular or cotton paper. • Project: Once your Committee Chair deems your project to be complete, he/she signs the approval page and abstract of the project on regular or cotton paper. • This copy is then taken to the Graduate Coordinator (EUR-316) who will be reviewing the Thesis/Project for format. If the thesis/project is in the proper format, he/she will sign the format approval page on regular or cotton paper. • The student will be informed when the Thesis/Project can be picked up in order to deliver it to the Office of Graduate Studies located in River Front Center, rm. 206 no later than the established semester deadline. • Prior to delivery to the Office of Graduate Studies, the Thesis/Project will need to be copied on 24 lb. (100% cotton) paper. In addition, one extra copy of signature pages (format approval, approval page, and abstract) on regular or cotton paper, three copies of the Thesis/Project Receipt form and one paid Microfilming and Binding Receipt are to accompany the Thesis/Project. 12. Unbound Projects. Some departments do not require projects to be bound and shelved in the University Library. In addition, some projects do not lend themselves to binding and shelving (e.g., web-based, art piece). In these instances, a Project Completion Approval Form may be submitted upon approval by the faculty advisor and department graduate coordinator. These unbound projects are submitted and retained in the department. This information is from the “Project Format Requirements” of Graduate Studies. EDS does not typically accept unbound projects. If you are considering a project of this nature, please talk with your committee chair and the department office very early in your decision-making. Some projects might have an unbound portion, such as a CD as an appendix. 11 Content of the Thesis/Project The following section, which describes the components of the thesis/project, also demonstrates APA format (with the exception of the page numbers which continue from the start of this guide). In your thesis/project, start with “1” in the upper right-hand corner on the first page of Chapter 1 and number consecutively through the last page of your References. In addition, Appendix E provides templates for your use in constructing accurate formatting. 12 Chapter 1 INTRODUCTION The researcher has the task of presenting and defining the problem so that it is clearly understood, is not trivial, and can be investigated using the tools of commonly accepted research methods. In this regard, this chapter has been divided into nine possible subsections that, taken as a whole, meet the criteria for a well-articulated presentation of the problem that students are studying. This section introduces the reader to the general problem, also known as the research concept. It tells the reader what the problem is. Subjective elements such as personal experience or anecdotal materials may be used to illustrate the nature of the problem, its extent, manifestations and seriousness. The idea is to get the reader interested and involved in the general world of the problem. What is it that you are going to be studying? Is it child abuse, mental health, homelessness, adoption, or what? At the end of this section the reader should have a clear idea of what the problem is. Statement of Collaboration If a student is working with another student on a co-authored research project, a clear statement in the Introduction and Abstract as to the responsibilities of each collaborator is required. 13 Background of the Problem This section has two purposes: (a) to begin to be more specific about the problem; and, (b) to convince the reader that what you are studying is truly a problem. Use evidence and logical arguments to assemble materials to document that what you are studying is in fact a problem: where did it come from; how long has it been with us; how big is it; how extensive it is; what are the costs of not resolving the problem, etc. It helps to relate your specific research problem to a larger, more general problem; amass evidence to show that the more general problem is indeed a problem; then show that your specific problem is a subset of the more general problem. Do not take it for granted that the reader is automatically going to agree with you that what you are studying is a problem. Cite sources from your library research and from interviews with authorities having knowledge of the problem to document your assertions. Be sure to provide references (citations) for all facts. In order to construct an accurate and complete reference list and format it correctly in APA style please refer to the Reference section in the latest edition of the APA Publication Manual. Pay close attention to the correct usage of the ampersand since it is often misused. Statement of the Research Problem Up to now the researcher has talked about the general problem; now, the researcher will state what aspect of the general problem s/he is going to be dealing with in 14 the research project. This is the research problem. State it in a short, concise manner not more than a paragraph or two. Although it is all right to argue that the research problem is the lack of something or a deficiency in something, it is the underlying reason or impact that leads to the lack of research. Instead of saying "the research problem is that there is a lack of current, readable, organized knowledge about community counseling resources for non-English speaking families;" presenting the research problem as "the inability to access linguistically appropriate counseling services is associated with the on-going increase of family violence within this ethnic community. Although local schools and human service agencies have tried out a variety of approaches to address the issues of accessibility and cultural competency, all have identified the need for some culturally specific and linguistically appropriate outreach and advertising materials which are currently not available." In sum, describe the “central issue” of the study. Purpose of the Study Tell the reader what your research project is going to do about providing a resolution for the identified research problem. "This study aims to …" Distinguish between the primary purpose and secondary purposes. The primary purpose is to do something to directly resolve the research problem identified in the previous section: in this case, it could be to produce, for example, a multi-lingual handbook about community counseling resources. Secondary purposes are practical applications of your research project to resolve some local, community, or global problem. A secondary purpose might 15 be to increase the number of bilingual counselors at a particular agency, or to prepare a grant or get money budgeted for this purpose by an agency. In sum, talk about the “measurable objectives” identified in the Purpose of the Study. Theoretical Framework Describe the research problem using one or several theories or paradigms. First, select the appropriate theories or paradigms and write about them with enough detail so that the reader has a clear understanding of the theories/paradigms. Then, using the language of the theory/paradigm describe the research problem. By this time in your professional field of endeavor you should have a good working knowledge of some vocational rehabilitation, school psychology, or special education theories, issues, programs, service delivery, and treatment modalities. Definition of Terms Provide both conceptual and operational definitions for any key words or phrases that are either important or may be unclear to the reader. Note the term key words. We do not ask that the student researcher define all the research terms. See Appendix G for format. Assumptions These are the premises upon which the researcher bases the logical arguments implicit and/or explicit in the research effort. List the premises that the researcher wishes the reader to accept as true without further proof or evidence. 16 Justification State how your research project will benefit your profession, for example, how the outcomes of this research study can be used to accomplish the aims of the profession. Limitations Describe what the researcher is doing that the reader might think she/he is not going to be doing. This section helps to clarify the problem by delineating the boundaries of the problem, thus providing a contrast. 17 Chapter 2 REVIEW OF THE LITERATURE The purpose of this section is for the researcher to tell the reader what others have found out (or said or conjectured) about the particular problem s/he has chosen to do his/her research on or about a similar problem (the results of which s/he can, by analogy, apply to the problem). Organize the findings by themes. Do not present the findings in the form of an annotated bibliography. Begin the review of the literature with an introduction telling the reader how the review is organized, the themes to be used, and why they were chosen (i.e., their relation to the research problem). Typically, the literature review starts with broad concepts that orient the reader to the topic at hand. It then becomes progressively more specific. End the review with a summary highlighting the major findings. Use headings of: Introduction; Themes (i.e., the actual names that describe your themes); Subthemes, if any (i.e., the actual names that describe your subthemes); and Summary. Be sure to provide page numbers for direct quotations. A note on quotations: Quotations should be used sparingly They should be used to highlight a point, and only when the authors exact words are needed. You should use your own words to summarize material from the literature. Never use phrases like "The author states or says" without providing an explanation of why the author is "saying" the quoted material and pointing out what its relevance to the theme is supposed to be. Do give some details about the methodology of the actual research referenced, and do not shy 18 away from making judgments about how sound a study’s methods are. This enhances the reader's ability to judge the quality of the research. Also, review current literature (typically within the last 10 years). Most of the researcher’s literature review should come from the periodical literature. Only some should come from books and the Internet. This is the literature that will help orient your readers to the broader topic(s) under study. Sponsors will not accept material that uses more than a few quotations, uses them inappropriately, or that is a close paraphrase of a referenced work There are no specific requirements for the length of this chapter or the number of sources that need to be considered. However, our experience has found that the Review of the Literature will generally have a minimum of 20 appropriate references and be approximately 20 pages long. Please do not give your committee chair anything to review that does not meet these minimum requirements The sponsor will, of course, be more than happy to meet with the student to give feedback on draft material to make sure the student research is on the right track, and/or to help the student identify appropriate literature for review. Finally, it is essential that we mention that the University catalog makes the policy on plagiarism very clear. This policy is taken very seriously in this department. You may not copy another person’s work in any amount. Quotations and their citations are discussed above and in the APA manual. Plagiarism is easily detected. If you have any questions about what this means or what constitutes plagiarism, talk to your committee chair/advisor and consult the University’s policy statement. 19 Chapter 3 METHODS/METHODOLOGY (Note: Choose one of these two as the chapter title) Students Doing a Thesis Describe the study design, sampling procedures, independent and dependent variables (if appropriate), data collection procedures, instruments used, procedures to ensure reliability and validity, data analysis approaches, and any organizing principles used in gathering the materials and assembling them into the final product. Typically, headings used in this chapter will include (a) “Participants,” (b) “Measures” and/or “Materials,” and “Procedures” for quantitative studies. Have a separate section on protection of human subjects in which the student researcher states that the Protocol for the Human Subjects Committee was submitted and approved by either the University or EDS Human Subjects Committee as “exempt” research, posing “no risk” or “minimal risk,” or being “at-risk.” If the research was no risk, minimal risk or at-risk, describe the procedure you used to reduce the risk to an acceptable level. For all research, state how voluntary participation was ensured and how subject confidentiality or anonymity was insured. If animals were used in the research, the student researcher must follow and file the Protocol for the Protection of Animals. 20 Students Doing a Project Describe how the information for the project was gathered, the individuals you collaborated with in the field, and the procedures you used in the development of the actual product (i.e., handbook). The actual product should be included in an appendix.