Thesis Information - Department of National Security Affairs
A master’s thesis is a significant piece of independent scholarship conducted under the supervision of a thesis committee. It's main purpose is deepening and strengthening your grasp of your area of concentration, and it must be substantially related to your curriculum's subject matter.
A thesis committee consists of either one primary and one secondary advisor (or “second reader”) or two co-advisors. It is your responsibility to approach and secure potential advisors; advisors are not assigned to you.
Primary and co-advisors work closely with you to review your work as it progresses and provide feedback. The responsibilities of a second reader may vary and are sometimes limited to general quality control. Both advisors hold approval authority over both the thesis proposal and the thesis itself (your Academic Associate provides final approval of the proposal; the Associate Chair for Research provides final approval of the thesis).
Until a thesis proposal is signed, a student may change advisors. After the proposal has been approved, the NS Department has a formal process for when a student or either advisor wants to remove and replace a committee member. The issue goes to a three-person board for review: the Academic Associate for the student’s curriculum, the Associate Chair for Instruction, and the Associate Chair for Research. All read the material in question, as well as advisor–student email exchanges, etc., and make a reasoned judgment on how to proceed.
The primary advisor, or at least one co-advisor, must be a full-time, non-emeritus, Ph.D.-holding member of the NSA faculty. With AA approval, your second advisor may be an NPS faculty member who falls outside this category (please e-mail your AA to request approval and provide brief justification, cc’ing your primary advisor and the NS4080 instructor).
NS4079, “Pre-Thesis Proposal,” requires you to attend a small number of course meetings, identify a primary advisor (or one co-advisor), and submit a thesis research question approved by that advisor, using the template found here. NS4079 is taken in one’s second quarter (or, for 12-month students, in one’s first quarter) as a pass/fail “overload” course alongside one’s four regular courses. Students who fail NS4079 must re-take and pass it the next quarter before taking NS4080; incompletes and extensions are normally not allowed.
NS4080, “Thesis Proposal,” provides time for you to write your thesis proposal, a detailed thesis research plan, in consultation with your advisors. It requires you to attend occasional course meetings, identify a second advisor, and submit a completed proposal approved by both advisors and by your AA, using the template found here. NS4080 is taken in one’s third quarter (or, for 12-month students, in one’s second quarter) as a pass/fail course. Students who fail NS4080 must re-take it the next quarter as an overload (but this does not require you to postpone NS0810 segments); incompletes and extensions are normally not allowed. Students who fail to complete NS4080 by their final quarter become ineligible to receive a thesis extension or eventually graduate.
NS0810, “Thesis Research,” provides time to write the thesis in consultation with your advisors. It involves no meetings or interim deliverables other than any informally required by your advisors. Up to three NS0810 segments may be taken after one’s third quarter (or, for 12-month students, after one’s second quarter); upon consultation with your advisors, their exact placement in your matrix may be adjusted through the standard PYTHON process. You are not allowed to take directed study courses (NS3079 or NS4079) to provide extra thesis research time.
Deadlines and Thesis Extensions
A complete draft of your thesis is due to both advisors four weeks before your intended graduation. Advisors may informally require interim deliverables before this. The final thesis, approved by both advisors, is due to the Chair two weeks prior to graduation.
If you have passed NS4080 but cannot complete your thesis on time, you may apply for a thesis extension, using the form available here, before departing from NPS. An extension lasts for one year from the date of your official separation from NPS and maintains your degree candidacy. It requires the approval of your primary advisor (or one co-advisor), AA, Program Officer, and the Chair. Additional extensions, out to three years from your date of detachment, require evidence of both progress toward completion and obstacles to even further progress, and must be obtained before the prior extension lapses. The NPS Academic Council 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 here.
A thesis will normally be between 15,000 and 20,000 words, including footnotes (about 50-65 pages); deviations above and below these limits are possible, but must be approved by the student’s thesis advisors. NSA theses may have only one author; co-authored theses are not allowed.
For additional thesis guidance, see this document.
Human Subjects Research
NPS requires, in line with national academic norms, that special care be taken in the conduct of research involving human subjects. Research employing surveys, interviews, observation, and recording of human subjects, or otherwise revealing private information about identifiable living individuals, is among the research that falls into this category. Such research requires approval by the NPS Institutional Review Board (IRB) before your research process can begin. Additional information can be found at the IRB website and is provided as part of NS4079. The IRB Student Research Checklist can be found here.
More detailed information on all the items above is provided as part of NS4079 and NS4080 and available upon request from those courses’ instructor, who also serves as a cross-curriculum thesis process POC after you complete NS4080.