Master's Thesis and Capstone Exam
The thesis requirement affords students the opportunity to become proficient in framing a research question and carrying out an independent investigation on a topic of their choosing. Building on skills developed through course work and working closely with a faculty advisor, students present a well-reasoned analysis of a significant policy or planning problem. These may be technical studies, policy analyses, theoretical papers, evaluations, research studies, or planning documents. They are often an outgrowth of the student's internship experience. The department encourages applied theses that are solidly grounded in theory and informed by the existing literature. The master's thesis generally ranges in length from 60-80 pages and can be worth the equivalent of one or two classes.
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The capstone exam will be offered as an option parallel to the thesis and is designed to be both a substantive learning experience and a competency measure. It provides an opportunity for responding to the breadth of UEP students’ professional and intellectual needs, whereas the thesis has historically allowed students to explore a particular planning or policy subject in great detail. The capstone exam is not intended as a curriculum review of all of the core material acquired for the program, but instead represents a topic-based assessment of an individual student’s interests in the fields of policy and planning. Students choose major and minor topics in collaboration with a faculty advisor and reader(s) in a fashion similar to the selection of a thesis topic. There is also a comparable timeline for completion, although it is conceivable that the capstone exam could be completed in one semester; however, unlike the thesis, the capstone exam may only be worth the equivalent of one class. While student peer review and discussion of topic selection is encouraged, satisfactory completion of the capstone is solely an individual effort and will be determined on a pass/fail basis.