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Thesis Information

A Master’s Thesis is a significant piece of independent scholarship conducted under the supervision of a Thesis Committee. The primary purpose of a Master’s Thesis is deepening and strengthening your grasp of your area of concentration. For this reason your thesis must be substantially related to the topical or regional sub-specialty in which you will receive your degree.

Thesis Committee

A Thesis Committee is selected by you and must consist of an advisor and a second reader, or of two co-advisors. There are two rules that govern the selection of your Thesis Committee:

  1. Both committee participants must be full-time members of the NSA faculty.
  2. The advisor, or at least one co-Advisor, must be a full-time member of the NSA faculty with a doctoral degree.

The first rule can be waived with the approval of the Department Chair. The second rule cannot be waived. Faculty from other NPS departments can serve on NSA thesis committees with the permission of the Academic Associate, and with the understanding that that person will serve as co-advisor or second reader alongside a full-time member of the NSA faculty who has a doctorate.

Faculty who serve as advisors or co-advisors help you develop a thesis proposal, review your work as it progresses, and generally offer suggestions for revision of individual chapters as you produce them. The responsibilities of a second reader are more limited than those of an advisor or co-advisor. A second reader must approve the thesis proposal, and exercises general quality control over the final thesis. Both members of the Thesis Committee must sign the thesis before it is submitted to the Associate Chair of Instruction.

Thesis Proposal

The first step in the execution of a Master’s Thesis is the development of a thesis proposal, which is a detailed written description of the research you intend to do. The proposal must be prepared in the format specified by the department. The thesis proposal must be approved by the two faculty members who will constitute the Thesis Committee, the Academic Associate, and the Associate Chair of Instruction. Such approvals must be obtained not later than six months prior to graduation.

Thesis-Related Courses

NS4080, Thesis Proposal (0-8), is intended to provide time for you to develop your thesis proposal in consultation with your Thesis Committee, whose members you will identify in the course of discussing your work with interested faculty. You must complete this course no later than six months prior to your anticipated graduation date. All thesis students are automatically pre-enrolled in NS4080 during their third-to-last quarter in residence. Successful completion requires that the proposal be signed by both members of your Committee, the Academic Associate, and the Associate Chair of Instruction. NS4080 is a Pass/Fail course, and incompletes are not allowed for any reason. Students who fail NS4080 must re-take it as an overload and pass it in order to graduate. The due date for proposals in NS4080, endorsed with all required signatures, is always graduation day of the quarter in which you take the course.

Students must take NS4080 before enrolling in NS0810, Thesis Research (0-8). Thesis students may take NS0810 up the three times during their final two quarters. Students who have failed NS4080 are allowed to take NS0810, though NS4080 must still be completed successfully in order to receive a degree.

Human Subjects Research

The Naval Postgraduate School requires that special care be taken in the conduct of research involving human subjects. NPS requirements are in line with national academic norms, and are intended to ensure that the privacy, safety, and other rights of individuals are protected.

Research with human subjects includes:

  1. Research employing surveys, interviews, observation, audio or video recording, and equipment testing involving human subjects, whether conducted in person, online via the Web or e-mail, or by telephone; or
  2. Research that reveals, directly or indirectly, private information about identifiable living individuals. Private information in this context includes both personal information that is normally treated as confidential (name, home address and telephone number, social security number, and so on), and descriptions of non-public behavior.

Research involving human subjects, as just described, requires prior review and approval by the NPS Institutional Research Board before research can commence. Additional information about research with human subjects, including information about the review process, all necessary forms and instructions, and a link to the required online training for all those engaged in such research, can be found at the IRB website.

Deadlines and Thesis Extensions

A complete draft of your thesis is due to both members of your Thesis Committee no later than four weeks prior to your intended graduation. The final thesis, endorsed by both members of the Committee, is due to the Department Chair no later than two weeks prior to graduation.

If you are unable to complete your thesis on time you may apply for a thesis extension. A thesis extension lasts for one year commencing on the date of your official separation from NPS, and requires the endorsement of your thesis advisor, your academic associate, the NSA program officer, and the Department Chair. Extensions are only available to students who have successfully passed NS4080 by submitting a complete and fully endorsed thesis proposal. The form required to apply for an extension may be downloaded here. An initial extension request must be completed prior to your departure from NPS.

The effect of a thesis extension is to maintain your candidacy for a Master’s degree after you leave NPS. Additional extensions, out to three years from your date of detachment, are possible with departmental approval, and require evidence of progress toward completion of the thesis. It is imperative that any subsequent extension be obtained prior to the expiration of the existing one. If your candidacy for the Master’s degree lapses for any reason, including a failure to obtain a necessary thesis extension on time, it can only be restored by action of the NPS Academic Council. The Council also has the power to issue a fourth and final extension, but will do so only under exceptional circumstances.

Thesis Processing and Other Requirements

NSA theses must conform to the formatting guidelines provided by the NPS Thesis Preparation Manual, which is available from the Thesis Processor’s Office. The treatment of notes and bibliography is an exception, because the Thesis Preparation Manual offers choices in this area that are not acceptable in our department. All notes and bibliographical entries in NSA theses and thesis proposals must follow the rules for the humanities described in the Chicago Manual of Style, 15th ed. (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2003). Either footnotes or endnotes are acceptable, but in-line “scientific” citations are not. Kate L. Turabian et al., A Manual for Writers of Research Papers, Theses, and Dissertations, 7th ed. (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2007), is a summary of the Chicago Manual intended for students, and highly recommended as a reference.

An NSA thesis must not exceed 30,000 words in length, including all normal apparatus, but excluding the executive summary, distribution list, and other material required by the Thesis Processor’s Office. A request to exceed the 30,000-word limit, endorsed by both Thesis Committee members and the Academic Associate well in advance of applicable deadlines. NSA theses may have only one author. Co-authored theses are not allowed.

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