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MA Thesis & Comprehensive Examination

It generally takes one full year or more to complete the total thesis process (from thesis sponsor selection to submitted thesis). Very few students are able to complete their thesis in one semester. Therefore, students should start the process as soon as possible after matriculation in order to avoid delay and added costs in completing the degree requirements.


Thesis Sponsor

Because the thesis sponsor has the major responsibility for guiding a student through the thesis project, the "official" sponsor should be chosen from among the regular (full-time) faculty of the department. Faculty and professional personnel from other institutions may be unofficial sponsors and members of the thesis committee. Given the student's particular interests, potential sponsors can be identified from classroom and other contacts with faculty, and from a knowledge of faculty research activities and interests. The Graduate Director can also assist in identifying appropriate faculty members that may be approached. However, the student is responsible for making personal contacts with faculty members in order to arrange for a thesis sponsor.

It is the student's responsibility to meet regularly with the thesis sponsor, and to meet calendar deadlines for completion of the degree requirements (including the comprehensive examination), and formal submission of the approved thesis.


Thesis Topic

The "thesis topic" is the delineation of the research area for the thesis; it is not a research proposal, and does not outline the theoretical or empirical issues involved, or present a research design. It is a very brief statement identifying the research question that will, at a later point, be elaborated into a thesis proposal. The student and the thesis sponsor jointly determine the thesis topic.

Approval of a thesis topic by a sponsor must be obtained before any further work toward the thesis is carried out. (It is not always possible to find a sponsor who will approve research that the student has previously initiated.) As soon as the thesis topic is approved by the sponsor, the Graduate Advisor should be notified in writing so that the next step in the thesis process can be arranged.


Thesis Committee

The thesis committee is constituted to guide the student, and it must approve the thesis proposal, conduct the comprehensive examination, and approve the final draft of the thesis. This committee is composed of the thesis sponsor, and at least one additional faculty member from Hunter College (or another institution) appointed by the Graduate Director in consultation with the thesis sponsor. This is done after the approved thesis topic is submitted.


Thesis Proposal

Once the thesis committee is established, the student, in consultation with the sponsor and/or the thesis committee, should prepare the thesis proposal. This is a formal proposal of an original empirical research project that will be carried out by the student for presentation as the MA Thesis.

NOTE: The research may be a replication study if that can be justified. However, a literature review is not acceptable. The proposal must be written in APA style (Publication Manual of APA, 5th Edition), and should include the following:

  1. Title
    1. Introduction - a review of the theoretical and experimental literature from which the research problem is derived
    2. Hypothesis
  2. Method - a detailed research design including the procedures for selecting subjects and collecting data (as appropriate)
  3. Data Analysis Plan - an outline of the method(s) for analyzing observations that will be obtained
  4. Implications or Significance of Possible Results - only required by some sponsors or committees

The thesis proposal is submitted to each member of the thesis committee. The student, with the sponsor's help, should also prepare, if appropriate, an application for approval of the planned research by the Hunter College Committee for the Protection of Human Subjects or the Institutional Animal Care and Use Committee. Application forms are available in the Office for Research Administration, Room 1424 Hunter East.


Thesis Research (Psych 707.01 & 707.02)

707.01 and 707.02 are designed for students working on their thesis project. Students work closely with their thesis sponsor, meeting at times to be arranged. In order to register for Psych 707.01, the student must obtain a sponsor's written approval in advance.

At the discretion of the thesis committee and with the approval of the MA Program Director, the student may register for Thesis Research in one or two separate semesters to receive either 3 or 6 credits toward the 30 credits required for the Masters Degree. In order to register for Psych 707.02, the student must have a formally approved Thesis Proposal.

Thesis Draft

After the thesis research has been completed, the student should prepare a complete thesis draft (Title, Abstract, Introduction, Method, Results, Discussion, References) in APA style, and submit a copy to each member of the thesis committee. After reviewing the draft, the committee will, after meeting with the student, decide to:

  • Approve the draft as presented
  • Approve with Minor Changes, and delegate the sponsor to supervise the recommended changes
  • Not Approve the draft as presented; major changes are recommended, and the committee will meet again to reconsider a modified thesis draft.


Comprehensive Examination (Thesis-Area Defense)

Soon after submission of the completed thesis, the sponsor will schedule a meeting of the thesis committee and the student, to assess the student's knowledge of the literature related to the thesis topic, and to assess the adequacy of the student's preparation for the MA degree. This overall evaluation constitutes the Comprehensive Examination (Thesis-Area Defense) for the MA in Psychology.

The results of this examination will be expressed as follows:

  • Pass
  • Incomplete - requiring further study involving reading and/or course work, or modification of the thesis. Re-examination will be scheduled for a later date.
  • Fail - the student is considered seriously unprepared for the MA degree. Note: A second failure on the Comprehensive Examination will terminate a student's degree candidacy.

The sponsor will notify the Graduate Advisor, in writing, of the date and result of the comprehensive examination.


Thesis Submission

All graduate thesis must be deposited online through CUNY Academic Works. The approval from all advisers and readers must be entered through the CUNY Academic Works by the deposit deadline. For the thesis guidelines please click here.