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Developing the Thesis Project
Human Subjects Review
Implementing and Completing the Study
Writing the Thesis Report
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Thesis Guidelines

200 - Course Requirements

  1. Completion, submission and advisor approval of the Thesis Proposal is required on or before October 25h. The research advisor will review the thesis proposal using the Formative Evaluation tool (See Appendix U1 & V1) to indicate what components of the proposal and the first substantive chapter are clearly or strongly addressed as well as noting those components that need additional work and list the needed revisions.
  2. Data collection should be completed on or before April 15th. The research advisor will review all written material using the Formative Evaluation tool (U2 & V2) as a checklist of completed and remaining work that will guide the student toward submitting a final draft of all chapters due in mid-May.
  3. Completion, submission and advisor approval of the Thesis Draft is required on or before May 9th. The research advisor will review the thesis proposal using the Formative Evaluation tool (U3 & V3) to indicate approved final chapters and/or extent of work remaining.
  4. The summative and final grade for the thesis will be reflected on the evaluation form completed and submitted by the research advisor on or before July 5th and will count for 90% of the final grade (See Appendix U.4 & V.4). A passing final grade (P) will be given if 80% or more of the checklist components (N=33-41) are substantively or clearly addressed. A marginal pass (MP) will be given to those theses that total 29-32 components that are substantially or clearly addressed. A failing grade (F) will be given to those theses who have less than the minimum of 29 components that are substantially or clearly addressed. This is the grade that will appear on the student's transcript upon completion of #4 below.
  5. The requirement for dissemination must be completed on or before August 1st and will count for 10% of the grade. Students must submit the Confirmation and Evaluation form that should be completed by the moderator, second reader, etc. (See Appendix U.5 & V.5).

200.1 - Specific Thesis Requirements

The final typed thesis for MSW students must be submitted on or before noon on Friday, June 27, 2014. The thesis must be typed and submitted according to standards set forth in these Guidelines. In order to meet this deadline, students should have four substantive chapters (empirical) or five substantive chapters (theoretical) approved by the advisor plus drafts of the remaining chapters submitted by May 9, 2014.
**Please note that some advisors may require the submission of chapters other than those listed below.

In addition to meeting the final submission deadline and format requirements, there are other interim requirements that must be met by students. These are that each student:

  1. meet with the research advisor (in person, via web cam, by telephone, or email) at a minimum of one time during the following four time periods, mid-September-mid-October, early December through mid-January, early March to mid-April and mid-May to late June. Students must use their Smith email address when communicating with their research advisor and all other SCSSW staff and faculty.
  2. submit written material to the advisor 10 days prior to each meeting describing the current status of their work,
  3. submit the thesis proposal and Human Subjects Review Planning sheet by October 25, 2013 for approval and notify Marjorie Postal, research analyst if you plan to use her services for quantitative data analysis,
  4. work on the human subjects review for Smith or at an agency as indicated,
  5. submit a second and substantive draft of the literature review (empirical theses) or draft of the phenomenon chapter (theoretical theses) to research advisor by December 6, 2013 (This version should incorporate all revisions and additions made by the research advisor on the first draft.),
  6. submit completed drafts of acceptable quality of the introduction or methodology chapters (empirical thesis) or the first theory chapter (theoretical thesis) to the research advisor by January 24, 2014 at the latest. (the introduction and methodology will probably need to be revised as changes occur during the course of the study),
  7. the Human Subjects Review application and related materials should also be completed, approved and submitted to the Human Subjects Review Committee on or before January 24, 2014
  8. submit all materials (codebook and instruments) to Marjorie Postal, research analyst, by February 1,  2014 if you are going to be using her services.
  9. empirical projects - submit quantitative data to Marjorie Postal (include codebook, instruments and database) on or before April 15th. For qualitative projects all data should be transcribed, organized and analyzed in preparation for completion of the findings chapter. For theoretical projects, submit a completed, substantive second theory chapter.
  10. submit approved drafts of all or most of the thesis (minimally, chapters 1, 2, 3, & 4 plus references for empirical projects and chapters 1,2,3, 4, & 5 for theoretical projects, plus references) to the winter research advisor as well as initial drafts of the remaining chapters by Friday, May 9, 2014,
  11. as a result of (j), students will have submitted a complete draft of the entire thesis prior to registration for Session V,
  12. continue to meet as necessary with the research advisor, and
  13. submit the final copy of the entire thesis manuscript with advisor’s sign off documents by 12 noon, June 27, 2014
  14. undertake and document some method of dissemination of the project in Session V. Due date is August 1, 2014.

Steady and consistent work is expected on the Thesis project. Adhering to these interim deadlines will ensure that the final deadline will be met. It should be noted that the October, January, and May deadlines represent the last possible moment for completion if the work is to be comfortably completed by the final deadline. Research advisors are required to notify the Thesis Coordinator and the student in writing by email and/or letter if a student fails to meet the October, December, January, April or May interim deadlines.

200.2 - Dissemination of Knowledge Requirement

Provisions are made for the reporting and collegial sharing of each project. Students must elect to present their work during the final term in a colloquium, poster session, present to a class which has relevant content (with permission of the instructor), discuss the work with a second reader selected from faculty and other appropriate professionals, agency staff presentation, or professional social work conference. When the dissemination occurs away from Smith, a confirmation and evaluation of dissemination must be sent to the Administrative Assistant. This can be a letter confirming your agency presentation typed on agency letterhead and signed by your supervisor or agency directory; or, a copy of the conference schedule where you presented will also be acceptable and is attached to the Dissemination Confirmation and Evaluation form.

Students who enroll in the course on “Writing for Professional Publication and Presentation” 581) may elect to fulfill the dissemination requirement by presenting their work in that class. Colloquia and poster sessions have proven to be an especially rewarding experience for students who with characteristic ambivalence risk themselves before their peers and interested faculty. Poster sessions involve creation of materials for visual display -- posters, pictures, related items, for display. A summary handout and brief bibliography is also presented along with the posters. These are accompanied by a specified period of time (one two hour period, usually an evening shared by several presenters) in which the author describes the study and materials in greater depth. Almost without exception, their experience is a positive one where their ideas and efforts are applauded and criticism is constructive and educational. Those who don't select this forum for dissemination often wish they had.

NOTE: Students can complete the dissemination requirements off campus (i.e. at their field placement or another agency) before submission of the complete thesis. However, the student must have completed the findings chapter and present implications for their findings. The dissemination form must be signed by a person with an M.S.W. or higher degree.

Documentation of the dissemination requirement must be filed with the Research Sequence Administrative Assistant, who has the responsibility of ensuring that all seniors meet this requirement before graduation. Colloquium and Poster Session instructions are available from the Administrative Assistant for arrangement/planning purposes. There is a "Dissemination Confirmation and Evaluation" form (Appendix U4 & V4.) to complete for each option: class presentation, colloquium, poster session, and on campus second readers. The deadline for submission of the Dissemination Confirmation form is the first Friday in August.

An abstract of each project is published in the Smith College Studies in Social Work. Articles based on the project occasionally are selected for publication. Articles are submitted for publication to journals from a number of disciplines following completion of the “Writing for Publication” course offered by the Sequence.

200.3 - Resources

While these requirements emphasize the obligations of the student, the School and the Research Sequence also undertake certain obligations to support students' thesis work. These are to provide:

  1. Classroom instruction in research methods in Session III, at a level commensurate with each student's background in research;
  2. A research advisor in Session IV who will meet with each student at least twice in person or via web cam, as well as having additional telephone and correspondence (email or hard copy) contact to guide and support each student's individualized work;
  3. Data processing and other technical resources for statistical work;
  4. Formal and informal problem resolution, through the Thesis Coordinator;
  5. Summer research advising in the first term of Session V, for revising, editing and preparing the manuscript for submission;
  6. Guidelines and other written materials to assist students in meeting requirements, such as the Worksheet for Thesis Submission; and
  7. Assistance to students in planning for dissemination of study results.

200.4 - Research Advising

Research advising assignments are determined according to the advisor’s knowledge, skills and experience in research methods. They are not always made on the basis of knowledge in a specific substantive area.

Once the field placement period begins, the student should take the initiative to contact the research advisor by telephone or letter. Be reminded that it may take some time for agency address/telephone information to reach the advisor. Students and advisors should use their Smith address for all communications via email.

PLEASE NOTE: Long-distance (over a 2 hour drive) advising will be done via web cam and/or telephone only. In-person visits can occur for those advisors/students that are matched by proximal location.

The research advisor and student should discuss and establish the frequency and type of contact that works best for both parties. The purpose of these working conferences is to assist the student in selecting a focus for inquiry, developing a design, implementing a project and preparing a report of his or her work. The advisor reviews and comments on written work submitted periodically during the interval from September through May, including helping the student to meet formatting requirements. Resources for instrument design and data analysis also are available during field practice period and the first four weeks of Session V.

Local Advising: The research advisor and student should discuss and establish the frequency of in-person meetings that works best for both parties. The research advisor and student should also identify the location of these in-person meetings. Additional telephone and email contact may supplement the in-person meetings. The student and the advisor will communicate most often through mail or email, as drafts of the thesis are mailed out and sent back for revisions. 

Long-distance Advising: All long-distance advising will be done via web cam, email and/or telephone. Advisors who are assigned students who live further than a two hour drive are considered as long-distance advisors. It is up to the advisor and student to negotiate whether they will use the web cam as a device for visual/audio communication in addition to the telephone and email. The research advisor and student should discuss and establish the frequency and type of meetings that works best for both parties.  Advisors who need to purchase web cams will be reimbursed by SCSSW. Students who have long-distance advisors can sign out a Logitech web cam from SCSSW prior to leaving campus at the end of their second summer.

The web cam is a device that either sits on top of your computer or, for new models, is built in to your computer. Web cams are relatively inexpensive and can be purchased (for desk top or laptop computers) at any computer store or Staples. There are several models, the most common being the Logitech brand. As web cams increase in price, there are more “bells and whistles”.

All web cams operate through Windows Live Messenger, Yahoo, AIM or Skype. These are software platforms that enable communication via web cam. All are free downloads. You must have DSL or Broadband in order for the web cam and software to work. Instructions for installation and communicating via Skype can be found in Appendix Q.

Advisors offer additional consultation to students on their return to campus for the senior summer session. During the first four weeks of the summer, an advisor consults with the student on a regularly scheduled basis. Winter advisors retain their advisees in the summer, although in rare circumstances it is necessary for some students to transfer advisors. Consultation can be done in person, on the telephone, by email and/or regular mail correspondence.

Should any advisor or student feel that there are difficulties concerning the pacing or quality of the thesis or in the advising relationship, they should communicate this to one another first and then to the Thesis Coordinator as early in the process as seems reasonable. The point is to allow time to remedy the situation, rather than waiting until spring or summer when it may be too late. The Thesis Coordinator will work with the student and advisor to resolve any difficulties or to provide additional resources. Should problems or difficulties persist, the matter will be referred first to the Sequence Chair and then to the Academic and Field Work Performance Committee of the School for additional consultation. Ordinarily, problems are easily resolved through consultation with the Thesis Coordinator, especially when the advisor and student are able to identify them early in the thesis process.

A research analyst is available through Smith during the field placement period and in the beginning of the first summer term for consultation with advisors and students. Students who plan to work with the assistance of the research analyst must contact the analyst by October 26, 2012. Coding of data is the student's responsibility and there will be no assistance for data entry. The Coding and Data Analysis Handbook, located on Moodle SSW997,covers this process in detail.

Thesis advisors normally work with students throughout the full course of the thesis project, from September to completion in late June. The term of the summer advisor's employment begins with the first day of classes. However, the Thesis Coordinator and the research analyst are available during routine office hours.

Updated 4/5/13