Montana State University

The Graduate School

Montana State University
P.O. Box 172580
Bozeman, MT 59717-2580

Tel: (406) 994-4145
Toll Free: 1-800-255-7962
Fax: (406) 994-4733
E-mail: gradschool@montana.edu
Location: 108 Montana Hall

Dean:

Dr. Karlene A. Hoo, Dean

The Graduate School - Policies and Procedures

For Master's Students

Master's Degree Plans

Masters programs in most fields may be taken under two plans: thesis plan (Plan A) or a professional paper or project plan (Plan B).

Thesis (Plan A)
This is the research-oriented master’s degree. It is particularly recommended for the student whose educational and professional goals make early research experience desirable. In some professions, a master’s degree is the terminal degree.   In other professions, the master’s is a necessary step to the doctorate.  

Conversion of thesis credits to professional paper credits: When a Master’s student changes from a thesis plan to Plan B (professional paper/project plan), a maximum of six credits of thesis (department rubric 590) may be converted to six credits of Professional Paper (department rubric 575). The student must be able to show support of the change from the entire Committee: A memo/letter signed by all committee members would suffice.

Professional Paper or Project (Plan B)
This plan is designed to serve two types of graduate students.

1) In some study areas, a student needs coursework beyond the baccalaureate before being qualified to do acceptable research. Plan B allows the student to defer original research until enrolled in a doctoral program.

2) For students in professional or terminal degree programs, thesis research is not necessary. A professional paper or project is substituted for the thesis requirement.

3) A maximum of six credits of Professional Paper/Project (department rubric 575) may be included on a Plan B program.

Conversion of professional paper credits to thesis credits: If a student wishes to switch from a Plan B option to a Plan A option, professional paper credits may not be converted to thesis credits.

Second Master's Degrees

A candidate for a second or additional master's degree must fulfill all requirements for a master's degree.

A maximum of nine (9) semester credits completed during a master's degree program may be applied toward the requirements for a second or additional master's degree at MSU, with approval of The Graduate School and the student’s graduate Committee.

Dual Degrees

See Dual Degree Policy

General Credit Requirements for Master's Degrees

1. The minimum credit requirement for master's degrees is thirty (30) credits, individual degree programs may require more.

2. Only those courses listed on a graduate Program of Study are applicable toward graduate degree credit requirements.

3.Non-thesis credits: In all non-thesis programs, at least thirty (30) credits or more as determined by the department) must be for content coursework (not thesis credits).

4. Conversion of thesis credits to professional paper credits: When a Master’s student changes from a thesis plan to Plan B (professional paper/project plan), a maximum of six credits of thesis (department rubric 590) may be converted to six credits of Professional Paper (department rubric 575). The student must be able to show support of the change from the entire Committee: A memo/letter signed by all committee members would suffice. 

5. Conversion of professional paper credits to thesis credits: Professional paper credits may not be converted to thesis credits.

Registration Requirements for Master's Degrees

Students must register for a minimum of (3) credits the semester a comprehensive exam is taken.

Students must register for a minimum of three (3) credits the semester of intended graduation.

Course Limitations for Master's Degrees
General Guidelines

1. Undergraduate (MSU 4XX) courses for Plan A students: Up to 9 credits at the 400-level are allowed on a graduate Program of Study under two circumstances:

  • They were taken as a graduate student, or
  • They were reserved for graduate credit as a bachelor degree seeking student.

2. The number of 5XX level course credits must be at least 2/3 of total graded coursework, excluding Research credits (590) or Professional Paper credits (574, 575).

3. Repeating or challenging previously taken courses: Courses taken as an undergraduate or non-degree student may not be later repeated or challenged and then applied toward requirements for a graduate degree.

4. 3XX (or lower numbered) courses are not applicable to master’s degree requirements.

5. A maximum of three pass/fail credits, excluding thesis, may be used toward the minimum credit requirements for the degree.

6. Challenging courses: Master's degree students may challenge no more than six (6) credits for application toward a degree program.

7. Limit on age of courses: The age of courses at the time of graduation may not exceed six (6) years.

8. Once a course is taken, it cannot be removed from a Program of Study.

Limits on Specific Courses

1.Seminar (594), Independent Study (592), Internship (598) and departmental practicum courses may not comprise more than one-third (1/3) of the minimum required credits for a graduate degree.

2.Undergraduate Independent Study (492), Professional Development (588) and Graduate Consultation (589) courses or Undergraduate Seminars (494) are not allowed on a Program of Study and will not count toward requirements for the degree.

3. Graduate Consultation (589): Registration in ‘Graduate Consultation’ (MSU 589) is permitted only for master's degree students who have completed all of their coursework (and the thesis or the professional paper) but who need additional faculty or staff time to complete requirements for the degree. Registration in 589 (Consultation) does not count toward meeting degree credit requirements.

4. Special Topics (591): This course may be included in the graduate Program of Study. The total number of Special Topics courses for which a student may register is not limited.

5. Individual Problems (592): A total of four (4) credits of Individual Problems (592) courses may be included in the master's Program of Study on thesis plans; six (6) credits of Individual Problems may be included in non-thesis plans.

Major Professor (Committee Chair)

As of fall 2013, departments will assign each student a tenured or tenure-track faculty member to serve as the advisor upon admission. This professor is the student's graduate advisor, chairperson of the student's graduate committee, and acts as a channel of communication within the major department.

The department head or graduate coordinator may act as the advisor until a major professor is selected. In the event that the student does not select a major professor within the first term of attendance as a master student, the department head must appoint a temporary advisor. The faculty member will advise the student until a major professor is selected.

Master's Graduate Committee

The master’s committee advises the student on academic matters and is the examining committee for the master's comprehensive and/or defense-of-thesis examinations.

Committee composition
A master’s Committee is comprised of 3 to 5 faculty members. The chair must be a PhD, tenure track (or tenured) professor from the degree granting department. The majority of the committee should be made up of faculty from the degree granting department, but due to the interdisciplinary nature of many degrees, is not limited to the degree granting department.
The major professor and the department head recommend the committee which must be approved by The Graduate School on the “Program of Study” or “Committee Revision” forms found at www.montana.edu/gradschool/forms.html

Faculty affiliates and Non-MSU committee members
Faculty affiliates, faculty of other institutions and nonacademic experts may serve as additional committee members, but not as committee chair.   Committee members not holding faculty status at MSU must submit documentation of their qualifications, including a vita.  In some cases, faculty affiliates, faculty of other institutions or non-academic experts may act as co-chairs of a student’s committee.

Changes to the committee
The student has the right to make faculty changes to their committee, using the Committee Revision form. Changes in committee composition may not be made due to examination scheduling problems.

Committee appointment deadline
The committee must be appointed by the end of the second semester of graduate study. If the committee is not submitted by the end of the student's second semester of attendance, the student is seen as not making satisfactory academic progress, becomes ineligible for financial aid (including graduate assistantships, student work-study and student labor) and will be placed on college probation due to lack of identifiable satisfactory progress toward the degree.

Program of Study

The graduate committee and the student jointly develop a proposed Program of Study. The Program of Study defines the minimum requirements for the degree.   Other requirements as determined by the student's graduate committee may also be listed.

The Program of Study acts as a contract between the student and the University. It may be amended through the course of the student’s graduate education. Changes to a student’s program of study must be made though the “Change of Program of Study” form and approved by The Graduate School.

Program approval

The Program of Study must be approved by the student’s committee and department head. Final approval rests with The Graduate School.

Filing deadlines

The Program of Study must be submitted on an official ‘Program of Study’ form to The Graduate School by the end of the second semester of graduate study.  Students failing to submit a program by this date will have a registration hold placed on their account.  Exceptions to this policy will be granted only for extraordinary reasons. A fee is associated with the filing of this form.

When filed, attachments to the program must include transcripts of all non-MSU coursework. If the student obtained those required transcripts during the application process, they may be reused for program purposes. Changes in the program must be requested before or during the semester affected. Once a course is taken, it cannot be removed from the program.

A student must have an approved Program of Study and Committee form on file with The Graduate School prior to sitting for any portion of the comprehensive exam or defense.

Thesis Credit Requirements

1.At least ten (10) thesis credits must be successfully completed for thesis plan programs. An unlimited number of 590 credits may be taken to complete a thesis; however, only ten thesis credits may be applied toward degree requirements.   As such, “Plan A” students must include ten thesis credits on the graduate program.   The remaining twenty credits (or more as determined by the department) on the graduate Program of Study must be content coursework.

2. Registration in Master's Thesis (590) credits is required during those terms the student is working on the thesis, using faculty time, and or university facilities.

3. When registering for thesis credit, the minimum registration is one (1) credit for a semester.

4. Thesis credits are taken pass/fail only.

Master's Thesis

A thesis, written by the student seeking the degree and based on original research is a requirement for all thesis plan (Plan A) master’s degree programs. The thesis is usually the result of research by the candidate and is an original contribution to knowledge.  

Committee composition for thesis plan students

Three members of the student's graduate Committee will be designated to guide the thesis. The graduate advisor is chairperson of the thesis committee.

Submission of the final thesis

The thesis must be submitted in final form to The Graduate School by published deadlines (usually no later than fourteen (14) working days before the end of the term in which graduate work is completed. )

One-credit extension

If a thesis is submitted after the published deadline and the student is currently registered for three credits, the student may choose to make all corrections/changes before the first day of the following academic term and be eligible for a one-credit extension for the following term (instead of the mandatory three-credit registration the term of graduation). Students who choose and are eligible for this option, will be certified to graduate the following term.   If more time is needed beyond the first day of the following term, the student will be required to register for at least three credits to be eligible for graduation that term.

Thesis approval requirements

The thesis must meet all requirements set forth in The Graduate School ‘Guide for Preparation of Theses, Dissertations and Professional Papers’. Final authority for approval or rejection of a thesis or professional paper rests with the Graduate Dean.

The Graduate School will require all students to submit the electronic version of their thesis or dissertation to The Graduate School instead of paper copies. These documents will be placed on the internet for worldwide access. Exceptions for reasons that have not been addressed within the Montana State University ETD initiative will be considered on an individual basis. Internet access allows the student’s work to be viewed freely by anyone on the World Wide Web, restricted to only the MSU campus or a mixed restriction (where parts of the student’s thesis or dissertation may not be seen by the World Wide Web or MSU campus because of patent or publishing issues). Students may view the choices for restricting access by reading the Certificate of Approval form at http://www.montana.edu/wwwdg/forms.shtml. The ETD initiative also provides students with a unique opportunity to learn more about publishing. Please read about publisher issues at www.montana.edu/etd/PublisherIssues.shtml.

Copy quality, punctuation and spelling, as well as consideration of the subject researched and completeness of the research is the responsibility of the student's department.   The Graduate Dean has authority to deny final approval of the thesis on grounds of unsatisfactory grammar, formatting, or overall quality of the thesis.

Submission of the thesis to the MSU Library

MSU has the authority to require graduate students to submit the graduate thesis to the MSU Library. The Graduate School will transmit all theses and dissertations to the MSU Library following approval of the document by the Graduate Dean. A thesis is considered complete when accepted by the Library.

Thesis Patent Policy

Patent requests should be submitted to the U.S. Patent Office well ahead of submission of the thesis to The Graduate School. If a patent request is submitted late and the contents of the thesis or any part thereof is still in the process of being patented, the student, major professor and department head may submit a written request to The Graduate School to request withholding the thesis from the ETD website. This hold may be for a period of not more than six (6) months during which time the patent request may be submitted to the U.S. Patent office. Upon receipt of notice from the Patent Office that the patent request has been received, the department head shall inform The Graduate School the thesis is to be released for public access on the ETD website.

If The Graduate School is not notified to release the thesis prior to the expiration of six (6) months, the thesis will automatically be released to the library at that time. Under special circumstances a request for an extension of time may be granted at the discretion of the GraduateDean. The Graduate School will make every attempt to keep thesis information confidential.

Master’s Qualifying Examination

To test the student’s preparedness, a qualifying examination may be administered by the major department.   The student usually takes the examination during the first year of attendance.  

Master's Comprehensive Examination

The major department may administer a comprehensive examination, which may include oral or written sections, to assure that the student has attained sufficient mastery of their program of study, including sufficient knowledge of pertinent literature, academic background, training, and ability to conduct research.

Comprehensive Examination and Thesis Defense
On thesis plans, the defense-of-thesis examination is also required.  The comprehensive examination and the defense of thesis may be combined and offered at the same time. 

Professional Licensure/Certification Examinations
Examinations for professional licensure or certification may not be used for, or in place, of the comprehensive examination.

Comprehensive Examination Deadline
The last day to take the comprehensive examination or defend a thesis, if you plan to graduate during the same semester, is on or before the fourteenth (14th) business day prior to the end of the semester. A student must have an approved Program of Study and Committee form on file with The Graduate School prior to sitting for any portion of the comprehensive exam or defense.



Minimum Registration to take an Examination
A student must be registered for a minimum of three (3) credits at Montana State University during the term in which an examination is taken.  
If a student wishes to sit for the comprehensive exam during the intersession (i.e., the time between terms), a student must be registered for a minimum of three (3) credits in the term prior to the intersession or the term immediately following the intersession.

Grading of the Comprehensive Examination
The comprehensive examination is graded with either a passing or failing grade determined by a majority committee vote.

Reporting of Results of the Comprehensive Examination
The committee and department head are responsible for submitting written notice of the results of the comprehensive examination to the student and to The Graduate School no later than one (1) week after the examination is held or after each section is administered.  If the written and oral sections are given at separate times, the results of each section must be reported in writing to the student and to The Graduate School no later than one (1) week after each section is completed by the student. The report is to be submitted to The Graduate School by the department, not the student

Failed Examination
A student who has failed the comprehensive examination may be reexamined once more by the department.  At least two (2) months must elapse before the second examination may take place.  Failure to pass this examination results in termination of graduate study and dismissal from the academic program.  Students who are dismissed from the program due to a failed comprehensive examination are ineligible to reapply to the same degree program at any time.  

It is the student’s responsibility to ensure that all Committee members are available when scheduling an exam.

Video Conferencing during Comprehensive Exam
The Graduate School allows for students to video conference with committee members using the following requirements:

  • Must be a two-way video
  • Conference process is initiated and completed by the student and/or department
  • All costs incurred are the responsibility of the department and/or student
  • If communication is broken during the examination and cannot be retrieved, the examination must be terminated and rescheduled to a later time/date
  • In the case of the student not being present with any other committee members, a proctor must be present at student’s location throughout the entire examination
  • The proctor must confirm their presence in writing by submitting an email or letter to The Graduate School

Defense of Thesis

On thesis plans, the defense-of-thesis examination is required.  The comprehensive examination and the defense of thesis may be combined and offered at the same time.  

Minimum Credit Registration to Defend the Thesis
A student must be registered for a minimum of three (3) credits at Montana State University during the term in which the thesis is defended.  
If a student wishes to sit for the thesis defense during the intersession (i.e., the time between terms), the student must be registered for a minimum of three (3) credits the term prior to the intersession or the term immediately following the intersession.

Scheduling the Thesis Defense
The last day to defend a thesis is on or before the published deadline (generally on or before the fourteenth (14th) working day prior to the end of the semester).

Advertising the Defense
The student and the academic department are responsible for submitting an announcement to the Montana State University calendar system; http://www.montana.edu/calendar containing the following information:

  • the name of the candidate, 
  • title of the doctoral dissertation,
  • time and place of defense, and
  • the place where a copy of the dissertation may be obtained for inspection.

Posting the above information is not mandatory for Master’s students.

Committee Representation at the Thesis Defense
If a masters student chooses to have more than the minimum of three members on his/her graduate committee, all members must be present at the comprehensive and/or the defense of thesis.  Last minute committee changes based on scheduling conflicts must be approved by The Graduate School.  

Invalid Defense of Thesis
A defense of thesis held in the absence of the chair (or both individuals in case of co-chairs) will be considered invalid and the exam will have to be rescheduled.  The chair and/or co-chairs must be present throughout the entire defense.  Examinations held with only two committee members present will be invalidated.

Grading of the Thesis Defense
The defense of thesis is graded with either a passing or failing grade determined by a majority committee vote.

Reporting of Results of the Thesis Defense
The graduate committee and department head are responsible for providing written notice of the results of the defense to the student and to The Graduate School no later than one (1) week after the defense is held. The report is to be submitted to The Graduate School by the department, not the student

Failed Defense
A failed defense may be repeated one (1) time.  At least two (2) months must elapse before the second defense takes place.  Failure to successfully pass the defense of thesis results in termination of graduate study and dismissal from the academic program.  Students who are dismissed from the program due to failure to pass the defense are ineligible to reapply to the same degree program at any time.  

Video Conferencing during Defense of Thesis 
The Graduate School allows for students to video conference with committee members using the following requirements:

  • Must be a two-way video
  • Conference process is initiated and completed by the student and/or department
  • All costs incurred are the responsibility of the department and/or student
  • If communication is broken during the examination and cannot be retrieved, the examination must be terminated and rescheduled to a later time/date
  • One member of the committee, not including the Chair or Graduate Representative, is allowed to videoconference
  • In the case of the student not being present with any other committee members, a proctor must be present at student’s location throughout the entire examination
  • The proctor must confirm their presence in writing by submitting an email or letter to The Graduate School

Application for Advanced Degree

The semester of intended graduation, the student must file an ‘Application for Advanced Degree’ with The Graduate School. Students must also enroll in at least three (3) credits, the semester they intend to complete their degree.  If a student fails to meet semester deadlines, they must file an Application for Advanced Degree the next semester in which they expect to graduate.  The deadline for filing the application is

         September 20 for Fall Semester

         February 5 for Spring Semester

         June 10 for Summer Semester.  

The form is available at www.montana.edu/wwwdg/forms.html. Review of program and degree requirements begins on the 11th class day.  Students can expect to receive email notification from the Graduate Program Officer once the review is complete. A fee is associated with the filing of this form.

“One Credit Registration”

If an ‘Application for Advanced Degree’ is submitted after the published deadline and the student is currently registered for three credits, the student may submit the application for graduation for the next term and be eligible for a one credit registration the following term (instead of the mandatory three-credit registration the term of graduation).  To be eligible for the one-credit registration, the student must complete all degree requirements before the first day of the subsequent term.   The student will be certified to graduate the following term.   If more time is needed beyond the first day of the following term, the student will be required to register for at least three credits to be eligible for graduation that term.

Commencement

Eligibility to participate in commencement

Diplomas are dated the last day of the semester in which the requirements for the degree are completed. Degrees are conferred twice a year at December and May commencement.

Montana State University allows only those graduate students who have completed all requirements for the degree (all coursework, examinations, and final papers, including approval of the thesis or dissertation by the Graduate Dean) and who have applied to graduate by the deadline to participate in commencement exercises. Graduate students utilizing the one credit extension and have documentation from their committee chair of the student’s assured completion of degree requirements by the one credit extension deadline may walk in the previous term’s ceremony.

All students should log into MyInfo and update "Graduation" section for diploma mailing address and legal name on your diploma. Students who participate in commencement must purchase academic robes and hoods. These may be purchased from the MSU Bookstore.

Students listed in Montana State University’s commencement book are those candidates who have identified themselves as eligible to graduate. The degree will not be awarded until all requirements for the advanced degree are met and the candidate has been certified to graduate by The Graduate School. Being listed in the commencement book does not imply completion of the degree.

For more informationon the commencement ceremony, please see http://www.montana.edu/commencement/

For instructions on how to wear your hood or how to be hooded, please view our Commencement Tutorial Video for graduate students

Satisfaction of Financial Obligations

All candidates for degrees must fully satisfy their financial obligations to the University (or make arrangements with MSU for doing so) as a condition for completing their degree programs. Candidates failing to comply with this requirement shall not be eligible for graduation, diplomas, degrees or any transcripts of their records.

Back to Graduate Catalog of Policies and Procedures