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The Master’s Degree – M.A. Closure

PSC 590, the Closure Exercise, is required of all students in the Master’s Program.  There are three ways to complete PSC 590: the M.A. Thesis, the Participant/Observer Case Study, and the Comprehensive Examination.

Students must have completed 32 hours in order to register for PSC 590; exceptions require a petition.  Once a student registers for the course, he or she must continue to enroll for one credit hour, PSC 591, until the exercise is completed (Summer semester is not included).  The only alternative is to take a leave of absence.

COMMITTEE FORMATION AND PROPOSAL

A supervising committee is required for all three options. All of the options require a written proposal.  Approval of the proposal by the committee is required prior to the student being given permission to register for PSC 590.  It is expected that the proposal will be written, defended, and approved by the committee prior to the semester the student enrolls for PSC 590.

SPECIFIC GUIDELINES

The links below provide the specific guidelines for each closure option:

Thesis    

Participant/Observer Case Study     

Comprehensive Exam

ORAL DEFENSE

The oral defense is an integral portion of the closure exercise.  It is not a formality.  Committee members will withhold evaluative judgment on the written component until after the oral defense.  The oral component will allow the student to clarify and amplify the written component. Inadequate oral responses to questions may cause members to question the quality of the written product. The committee may request further revision of the closure exercise based on the oral defense.

GRADING

The final grade (CR/NC) is based on the student’s performance on all components of the closure exercise, including the oral defense. All committee members must approve the closure exercise in writing, using the standard College closure form.

M.A. THESIS

The thesis should address a question in political science, demonstrate the ability to conduct independent research, reflect the ability to engage in critical and analytical thinking, and exhibit knowledge gained from substantive coursework and research methods classes taken in the program.  The thesis may serve to create new findings or analyze an existing body of knowledge.  The idea for the thesis may originate from coursework, the student’s personal or professional interest, or from discussions with a faculty member.

The topic, proposal, and writing of the thesis should be done in close consultation with the committee members.  There are no specific page-length requirements or minimum number of bibliographic entries, however the thesis is considered a major exercise and the bibliographic references should reflect a thorough reading of the literature surrounding the research question.  Traditionally, thesis texts of about 30-40 pages have been acceptable in the program, although page-length is dependent on the nature of the question and type of research design utilized.

THESIS PROPOSAL

The thesis proposal is required and must be acceptable to all members of the committee.  The proposal should include:

  1. Title Page; including student’s name, thesis title, and names of committee members.
  2. Statement of research problem or question
  3. Research objectives
  4. Theoretical foundation
  5. Research approach, design, and methodology
  6. Expected results and potential significance
  7. Initial list of references

Approval of the proposal by the committee is required prior to the student being given permission to register for PSC 590.  It is expected that the proposal will be written, defended, and approved by the committee prior to the semester the student enrolls for PSC 590.

COMMITTEE FORMATION

The thesis committee must consist of two members, including the chair, who must be from the graduate faculty of the department of political science and one member from outside the department.

FORMAT

The thesis will be:

  • written in standard English
  • double-spaced
  • page-numbered
  • formatted in 12-point, Times New Roman font
  • a Word document
  • The format of the bibliography must follow the style manual of the APSA.

ORAL DEFENSE

The oral defense is an integral portion of the exam.  It is not a formality.  Committee members will withhold evaluative judgment on the thesis until after the oral defense.  The oral component will allow the student to clarify and amplify the thesis. Inadequate oral responses to questions may cause members to question the quality of the thesis. The committee may request further revision of the thesis based on the oral defense.

GRADING

The final grade (CR/NC) is based on the student’s performance on the thesis and the oral defense. All committee members must approve the thesis in writing, using the standard College closure form.

If you want to see what a thesis in political science looks like, there are examples of recently completed theses available for review in the department office. A list of masterís theses completed by UIS students in all departments is available at the information desk in the library. There are also Guidelines giving detailed advice available in the Political Science office, PAC 350.

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Participant/Observer Case Study

The participant/observer case study closure option is a variation of the thesis closure option which is available to students with extensive personal experience in some aspect of practical politics, i.e. political campaigns, legislative process, lobbying, administrative policy making.  This closure option has two components: the written case study and the oral defense.  Both components are essential, and the final grade will be based on the performance in total.

APPROPRIATE LEVEL OF EXPERIENCE

Because the student’s experiences and perceptions are a key part of the data which is being presented and analyzed in the case study, the level and amount of experience a student has should be more than a single internship experience or casual participation in a single political event. The key criterion is meaningful participation. In making a proposal to the supervising committee the student must make the case that their experience translates into practical, applied knowledge that can be presented in writing and subjected to rigorous analysis that seeks to either test theory or build theory.

PARTICIPANT OBSERVER/CASE STUDY PROPOSAL

As with the thesis closure option, the student will submit a written case study proposal to the committee. Approval of the proposal by the committee is required prior to the student being given permission to register for PSC 590 Closure.

The proposal should include:

  1. Title Page; including student’s name, thesis title, and names of committee members.
  2. Statement of research problem or question
  3. Research objectives
  4. Theoretical foundation
  5. Research approach, design, and methodology
  6. Expected results and potential significance
  7. Initial list of references

CASE STUDY PRESENTATION

The participant observer/case study will be presented in one of two basic ways: as theory testing or as theory building

Theory Testing

In this approach, the student will seek to test a theory based statement which is grounded in the political science literature. The development and presentation of the framing, literature review, and theory statement will be identical to a thesis project using quantitative data to test a theory-based hypothesis. The difference is that in this option the student will be testing theory by drawing theoretical inferences from a case study with an extensive experiential component which is personal. The student’s knowledge is an essential part of the data which is being used to test the theory. Students should consult a text such as Yin’s Case Study Research, (3rd ed.) for an explanation of the methodological foundation of this approach.

Theory Building

In this approach, the student will develop a basic topic question appropriate to their experience, present the participant observer/case study, and then examine the literature of political science using the case study as a frame. The assumption is that the case study constitutes knowledge. The questions then become (1) are there models or theories that help the student conceptualize or better understand what they know or (2) does the student’s experiences suggests that modifications or elaborations of existing models or theories would make those models or theories more powerful or more comprehensive? This approach is well within the standard methodology of qualitative approaches to behavioral science research. Students should consult a text such as Creswell’s Research Design (2nd ed.) for an explanation of the methodological foundation of this approach.

In the preceding discussions, the word theory is broadly construed and should be taken to include, but not limited to, positivist, post-positivist, constructivist, critical social theory,  post-modern, and pragmatic research methodologies.

CASE STUDY CONTENT

A participant observer/case study will have the following components:

Theory Testing            `                                   Theory Building

Introduction and problem statement              Introduction and problem statement

Literature review and theory presentation      Case Study

Case Study                                                      Literature review and theory presentation

Data Analysis and Conclusion                        Application of theory to case study and/or

Bibliography                                                   Application of case study to theory

Bibliography

FORMAT

The written participant observer/case study will be:

  • written in standard English
  • double-spaced
  • page-numbered
  • formatted in 12-point, Times New Roman font
  • a Word document
  • The format of the bibliography must follow the style manual of the APSA.

ORAL DEFENSE

The oral defense is an integral portion of the exam.  It is not a formality.  Committee members will withhold evaluative judgment on the written case study until after the oral defense.  The oral component will allow the student to clarify and amplify the written case study. Inadequate oral responses to questions may cause members to question the quality of written case study. The committee may request further revision of the case study based on the oral defense.

GRADING

The final grade (CR/NC) is based on the student’s performance on written case study and the oral defense. All committee members must approve the case study in writing, using the standard College closure form.

A copy of the guidelines for this closure option is available in the Political Science office, PAC 350. It contains detailed instructions regarding the proposal, as well as the ending product, what is expected and what is not acceptable.

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The Comprehensive Examination

The comprehensive exam consists of four components: the proposal, the annotated bibliography, the written exam, and the oral defense.  All four components are essential, and the final grade will be based on the performance in total.

COMMITTEE FORMATION

The comprehensive exam committee must consist of two members, including the chair, who must be from the graduate faculty of the department of political science.

PROPOSAL

The Comprehensive Exam proposal should consist of a clear statement of the exam topic.

The proposal should include:

  1. Title Page; including student’s name, thesis title, and names of committee members.
  2. Statement of research problem or question
  3. Initial list of references

Approval of the proposal by the committee is required prior to the student being given permission to register for PSC 590.  It is expected that the proposal will be written, defended, and approved by the committee prior to the semester the student enrolls for PSC 590.

ANNOTATED BIBLIOGRAPHY

The annotated bibliography will consist of a significant number of citations (books, articles, and documents), that cover the breadth of the exam topic.  The total number of citations may vary depending of the epistemological approach and the nature of the literature surrounding the question.  Each citation is followed by a brief (usually about 150 words) descriptive and evaluative paragraph. The purpose of the annotation is to inform the reader of the relevance of the material to the exam topic.  The format must follow the style manual of the APSA.

WRITTEN EXAM

The written exam questions should reflect the following considerations:

  • What does the literature tell us?  What do we know in the field?
  • What are the theoretical perspectives and lines of thought in this literature?
  • How do these pieces of research relate to one another?
  • What do we not yet know in this field, and why do we need to know it?

The written exam will consist of multiple essay questions; usually with a choice to the student (e.g. choose to answer 3 out of 5 questions).

FORMAT

The annotated bibliography and the written exam will be:

  • written in standard English
  • double-spaced
  • page-numbered
  • formatted in 12-point, Times New Roman font
  • a Word document (contact your committee chair immediately if you need to use another format)

The written exam will:

  • use in-text references, e.g.: “Some have argued that…(Smith 2003; Kingdon 1993).”
  • have references collected in a single “Reference” section for all essays, using APSA reference format
  • consist of approximately 30-45 pages

ORAL DEFENSE

The oral defense is an integral portion of the exam.  It is not a formality.  Committee members will withhold evaluative judgment on the written exam until after the oral defense.  The oral component will allow the student to clarify and further explicate inadequate written responses; likewise, inadequate oral responses may cause members to question the quality of written responses.

LOGISTICS

The annotated bibliography must be turned in to the committee prior to the taking of the written examination.  The written exam is usually given over a weekend, Friday at 8:00 am to Monday at 5 pm.  If other arrangements are made, they should approximate this length in time.  The oral defense should take place after the committee members have reviewed the bibliography and read the written exam.

GRADING

The final grade (CR/NC) is based on the student’s performance on the bibliography, written exam, and oral defense.  If the bibliography is viewed as inadequate, the student is allowed to revise it.  If the student fails to receive a passing grade on a single question of the exam, they may be offered an opportunity to re-take that part of the exam or to write a response to another question.  That response is graded and defended just as the responses for the original exam.  Students who receive a failing grade on more than one component have failed the exam in total.  If the student fails the exam in total on the first attempt, they will need to re-take PSC 590 if they wish to graduate.  No student is allowed to take the exam more than twice.  Failure to pass on the second round requires the student to retake PSC 590.

 

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