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2016-2017 Graduate Studies Bulletin (Archived Copy) 
  May 19, 2024
2016-2017 Graduate Studies Bulletin (Archived Copy) [Archived Catalog]

Geography, M.A.

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Learning Outcomes

  • Students will demonstrate fluency in key concepts and debates in different subfields of the discipline, including physical/environmental geography, human geography, and geographical techniques.    
  • Students will formulate and execute an original research project in the form of a master’s thesis. 
  • Master’s students must complete at least one GIScience or quantitative methods course in the Geography Department as part of breadth requirements.  Advisors may require students to take additional methods courses in Geography or other departments depending on the intended area of research.  All courses that appear on the Program of Study must be passed with a grade of B or higher.  
  • In order to demonstrate their preparedness for professional careers or doctoral study, students should participate in at least 2 professional development activities prior to graduation, including (but not limited to) presentation of a paper at a conference, attendance at teacher-training events and/or career workshops, community, departmental, or university volunteer service, submission of an application for research funding or academic fellowship, submission of a paper for publication, submission of a report to an agency or organization, completion of an internship or other work experience  completion of language or other skill training.     

Degree Requirements

The following requirements are applicable to the M.A. or M.S. degree with thesis. They are applicable also to students pursuing the M.S. degree non-thesis option, except that 37 credit hours of graduate coursework are required and one expanded research paper must be submitted in lieu of the thesis. All candidates must pass the comprehensive examination consisting of an oral defense of the thesis document.

Geography M.A. and M.S. Program Requirements

A. Coursework

Minimum of 25 credit hours, with at least 13 at the 700 level

1. Core Courses (1 credit hours)

2. At least one course in each of the following cluster areas (9 credit hours)

Please see the listing of courses below which fall into each of these three categories. The content of GEOG 510  will determine the cluster in which it belongs. Students cannot use GEOG 595 , GEOG 705 , GEOG 706  and GEOG 805  to fulfill course cluster requirements for the Master’s degree.

3. Specialized Coursework (12 credit hours)

The Department offers opportunities for students to work in a wide range of systematic, technical, and regional areas, as indicated by faculty interest and expertise. Each student will be assigned an interim advisor who will provide guidance on the initial selection of courses, but students should select a permanent advisor during their first semester of residence in the Department.

4. Research Coursework (1-6 credit hours)

Thesis preparation.

5. Thesis

B. Residence Requirement

The minimum residence requirement for the Master’s degree is two regular semesters of approximately 16 weeks each or the equivalent in summer sessions. Three to six semester hours of work in a five-week summer session constitute a full load; nine to twelve hours of course work constitutes a full load in a regular session. The department considers six-thesis credit hours per semester to be a full load. Students on assistantships are expected to be enrolled for a minimum of nine hours of course work during the semester they hold the assistantship.

Six years is the maximum time allowed for completion of the Master’s degree. If more than six years are spent in the program, Special arrangements must be made with the Graduate School to revalidate credits in courses taken. Comprehensive examinations are valid for two years prior to completion of all degree requirements. Students who do not complete the program within the six year period become subject to changes in degree requirements adopted up to a date six years prior to his/her completion of the program.

C. Thesis

As soon as possible, normally following the second full semester of coursework, the candidate who follows the thesis option begins the thesis phase of the program. The student’s advisor serves as thesis director and, in consultation with the student, selects the second and third members of the Thesis Committee.


The student then submits a formal thesis proposal to the committee prior to the defense date. The proposal includes the topic to be investigated, the purpose of the study, the research design; and familiarity with literature in the area. At the proposal defense, the student, with agreement from the committee, may request either the traditional or manuscript style thesis. The request for a manuscript style thesis shall include the journal name and brief justification explaining the journal selection. Students seeking the manuscript option shall discuss their intentions with their advisor prior to the thesis proposal defense.

Students are encouraged to complete their thesis proposals as early as possible. Students are not allowed to register for GEOG 799  without the committee approval of a thesis proposal. Any student on assistantship who has not had the proposal accepted but the end of the third semester (or semester in which 25 hours of coursework are completed, if student had been part-time at some point) is not eligible for further funding by the Department. Thesis committees normally do not meet during the periods between semesters or sessions, nor during the first or last week of any semester or session. The student, therefore, should bear in mind that failure to submit an acceptable proposal well in advance of the end of a semester may lead to a serious delay in obtaining committee approval of the thesis proposal.

Thesis Format

Theses must follow the formats defined by the Graduate School ( The manuscript style thesis will be composed of at least one manuscript. The content of the manuscript is as typical for submission to the refereed journal article (identified in the proposal) and formatted (i.e. abstract, List of tables/illustrations, page numbering) as defined by the Graduate School. The formal requirements include required chapters in the table of contents where these ‘chapters’ may be sections of the manuscript. The student must be first author on any manuscript(s) in the thesis. A manuscript style thesis may include additional chapters (e.g. expanded literature review or appendices).

Availability of Defendable Thesis

The thesis is distributed to the committee members at least two weeks (three weeks for the manuscript style) before the scheduled defense and is available for public review in the department office at least one week prior to the defense.

Thesis Defense

A public defense of the thesis is required before final committee approval and it must be held at least 30 days prior to graduation. Deadlines for the deposit of approved theses at the Graduate School arc subject to University regulations, and students should consult the published University academic calendar for such deadlines. To graduate during a given semester, it is necessary for a first draft to be submitted to the thesis committee no later than about the mid-point of that semester.

Degree Specification

The M.S. degree is awarded when the student’s program of study includes a majority of course work in the technical and physical/environmental areas of discipline. The M.A. is awarded when the student’s program of study consists of a majority of course work in human geography or regional analysis.

Academic Progress

A student must demonstrate satisfactory academic progress at the end of each semester and maintain a minimal “B” average in all courses and a “8” average in courses at the 700 level and above. Any student who receives less than a “B” in a graduate course will be on probation for the next semester. See the Graduate Program Director for a more detailed document on the minimum expectations for maintaining satisfactory progress. Financial assistance is terminated or reduced for a student who is on probation or who is not progressing satisfactorily. During the preparation of the thesis any student who wishes to use University facilities or to confer with the faculty must be enrolled officially in GEOG 799 .

A serious or repeated failure to make satisfactory academic progress will result in a student being terminated from the master’s program. The student should become familiar with the criteria that determine whether satisfactory progress is being made and whether a student should be placed on probation as they are detailed in the document titled Minimum Expectations for Maintaining Satisfactory Progress in the Masters Program. A student will be notified of termination, in writing, prior to the beginning of classes for a semester.

Listed below arc the more likely causes for termination:

  1. All requirements for previous degree not completed by the end of the first semester.
  2. Failure to pass the comprehensive examination.
  3. On probation for two consecutive semesters.
  4. Failure to have an academic advisor at all times.
  5. Receiving a total of three grades lower than B.
  6. Failure to have an approved thesis proposal or research paper topic by the end of the fourth semester for full -time students or by the end of the semester in which the 36th credit is earned for part-time students.

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