Completing Your Thesis

  1. With program director, complete a tentative plan for a course of study in the concentration that you plan to enroll. In total you need to complete 34 credits with a grade of "B" or better -- 20 credits must be at 700 or above.

  2. Determine if you'll complete Option 1 or Option 2 of the Research Preparation. Option 1 requires two intense research courses. Option 2 requires a Plan A (thesis) or Plan B (problems) paper.  Plan A (thesis): Requires a Research Committee and Chair. A thesis committee must have a minimum of three members, one of whom must be from another department. A person from outside the university can serve as a 4th member, if the program director provides a memo and a resume. Plan B (problems): Requires one Research Adviser.

  3. For Option 2, complete the introductory research course (Research Foundations or Organizational Research Methods) and begin chapters 1-3 of your thesis. Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association 6th Ed. is recommended and is found in the Library. Recommended Web sites include PurdueOWL and the UW-Madison Writing Center. Use the Research Paper Template located on the Graduate School website.

  4. Meet with thesis chair and committee (Plan A, 6 credits) or problems adviser (Plan B, 2 credits) from the graduate faculty who have interest/knowledge in the topic. Complete the Appointment of Research Advisor/Chair and Committee form; see Graduate School website. Obtain all signatures on the Appointment of Research Adviser/Chair and Committee form (this form provides the approved thesis topic); which must be turned in before enrolling in the thesis credits using the section number of the thesis chair/adviser.  

  5. Guidelines for seeking faculty for thesis chair/adviser advisement, preliminary research, and documents needed by the research adviser.

    1. Establish time frame for process of thesis writing, survey tool development, Human Subjects training, IRB approval, data collection, data analyses, and meetings with adviser. Allow at least 8-9 months from time adviser is selected or from start to finish of process. Ensure this time frame is shared with adviser or chair/committee and be aware that most faculty do not have summer contracts if you are planning on defense, final thesis revisions and graduating in August. This must be agreed upon ahead of time with your committee members. Please do not expect faculty to work when they are not being compensated.

    2. Before determining the final topic of research, conduct an in-depth literature review to identify the gaps in the research and/or the need for your research study.  Ask yourself the following questions?

      1. Where does the gap about this concept exist in the literature?

      2. Why is this topic important to study?

      3. What am I trying to discover?  What is the research question?

      4. What will my methodology consist of for qualitative, quantitative or a blended study?  What is the research design?

      5. What has been studied in the past about this specific area?

      6. Does my study require use of any special equipment?  Does the department or another department own this equipment?  What additional resources, if any, are needed for this study?

      7. What type of budget is needed?  Will you need to submit for a student research grant through research services?  Have I prepared a draft idea for a grant to fund the study?

      8. Who will be potential subjects? Are they accessible to you?  Are there any special human subjects’ guidelines that apply to this group (i.e., if less than 18 years, consent from the individual, their parents and from the school is required)?  

      9. What sample size is needed? Conduct your own sample size calculation and demonstrate understanding of this process. The Statistical Consultant at Budget and Analysis can help you with sampling techniques, generating a random number and sample size. Fill out a Student Services Request online. Select "Next," then check the box “Statistical Analysis Sample Size.” All services offered by this office for graduate students are found at this URL. However, it is important for you to understand the statistics you need to utilize in analyzing your own results. For Qualtrics survey, 715-232-5367, Bowman Hall, Room 116.

      10. Visit the librarian at UW-Stout to assist with your database search. The library staff are extremely helpful in locating terms for you to find published research and supporting materials

      11. Identify four peer-reviewed journals and/or scientific meetings for publication of the results of your research.  

      12. Conduct preliminary research to determine where variables are and how to control for them, potential sources of error, etc., since the goal in the preliminary research stage is to narrow things down and narrow methodology, sampling, etc., for subsequent data collection.

    3. Provide the following to thesis advisor and subsequently the committee members

      1. A written problem statement. This statement would cover many of the questions you have already listed, and would also provide the prospective advisor an idea about the student’s writing skills and integration abilities. The following should be included in the problem statement.

      2. Proposed Thesis Title

      3. Research Objectives or Research Questions

      4. Rationale and Significance — Use the literature review to document previous relevant studies (what has happened in the past), the gaps that exist, and the need for the proposed topic/research.  Describe the importance of the topic and the potential benefits of the research outcomes.

      5. Methodology — Describe methods planned to accomplish objectives/research questions including sample size, type of data to be collected for measuring each objective, and procedures for data collection and analysis.

      6. List of references cited in the Problem Statement, using the most recent APA format

      7. Reference list for the in-depth review of literature completed by the student

  1. Preparing for and Conducting the Research
    1. Mandatory Training — All instruments (surveys or questionnaires) should be designed to make data collection and data entry easier. The Statistical Consultant at Budget and Analysis can help you with layout and ordering of questions, sampling techniques, and generating a random number and sample size.

    2. When developing your survey tool or data collection tool, identify if it is an existing validated tool or a new tool that you are developing, validating and piloting. 

      1. How do you know that your tool measures what you intend on measuring or discovering?

      2. Determine what statistics will be used to analyze the data collected. Do the statistics answer your research question?

    3. Everyone even those completing a food science thesis must complete Human Subjects Training prior to beginning any type of research.

    4. Everyone must submit Protection of Human Subject’s Training in Research (IRB) form (typed). Review an IRB sample proposal and necessary attachments of surveys, consent forms, dialogue used with study participants and other forms before you write your IRB proposal.  

    5. The IRB form, survey, consent form and you and your advisor’s certificates of Human Subjects Training must be submitted to Research Services (152 Vocational Rehabilitation Bldg.) for IRB approval before any data collection occurs.

    6. Only begin conducting the data (Chapter 4 of paper) following IRB approval. IRB approval is only good for one year.  No data can be utilized in a thesis if IRB approval is missing.

    7. Registration can be accomplished online at the Graduate School for problems or thesis credits (Make sure to use advisor’s section number of the course). Incompletes are not automatically assigned but are determined in consultation with research advisor. An "I" not removed within one year results in an "F." An "IP" expires in one year.  A NC grade is given if the student makes no progress to complete the thesis.  In both cases (IP or NC) the student must re-enroll and repay the fees to obtain credit for the research paper.

    8. Funding for graduate student research is provided on a competitive basis. Awards for a Small Research project will be up to $500 (between 16 and 25 proposals funded per year). These are intended to fund smaller scale projects or dissemination of research findings. Larger research projects may be funded up to $2,000 (up to five funded per year). Anyone awarded $500 or more must publish their research in the UW-Stout Research Journal. Applications are accepted only once each regular semester.

  1. Writing and Defending the Thesis
    1. Statistical analysis consulting can be obtained with Budget and Analysis. They can help you with Excel spreadsheet and statistical analysis. Allow at least 2-4 weeks for Budget and Analysis to conduct data analysis.  

    2. Read at least two theses papers from former students in the nutritional and food science area.  Note whether these are written in APA format and consider how your formatting will be different using APA 6th edition or the most recent edition.  How might your limitations differ from these other theses?  

    3. Provide an outline of your Literature Review for your chair so that they may determine what you have reviewed prior to their first review of your initial three chapters.

    4. Be prepared to write several drafts of your first three chapters before asking your chair to review them. You may not hand in the template with your paragraphs “sketched” into them.  

    5. Format paper – follow template guidelines for title page, abstract, table of contents, headings and sub-headings, list of references (using correct formatting style), and appendices. The document should be double-spaced. Obtain copyright permission, if required, and scan appendix materials into document. For a fee, experts, including our own Vicki Weber, are available to help with formatting.

    6. Allow for 2-3 week turn-around time frame for your committee to read revised chapters, review data collection, data analysis and the completed thesis before thesis defense.  Submit revised paper to committee (at least 3-5 weeks prior to graduation – check with committee to see about how much time is needed; generally allow at least three weeks prior to defense for committee to review the research paper).

    7. It is the student’s responsibility to ensure that the thesis is grammatically correct and follows an acceptable style for technical writing.  Professional editors are available.

    8. Oral Defense is scheduled for Plan A thesis only. Students are encouraged to invite their peers and faculty.  If a student’s written thesis is acceptable and the oral defense successful, the committee will approve the final copies of the thesis. If the thesis and/or defense are not acceptable the student will be asked to make changes, resubmit the thesis and sit for a second oral defense. Plan B must be approved by thesis advisor. 


  1. Graduation
    1. Complete the Application for Degree Candidacy and submit the final program plan during the next to last semester. (If there is a deviation after the final plan is submitted, a revision must be submitted by you and your program director to the Graduate School).

    2. Complete online request for graduation within the first two weeks of the semester in which you intend to graduate (check Graduate School website for deadline). This form also allows you to walk in ceremony if all courses are completed except for thesis.

    3. Submit your paper (Absolute deadline is 4:00 p.m. on the final day of class in the term in which you wish to graduate).  

    4. See the Graduate School website for additional graduation information (cap, gown, fees).


Please refer to the Graduate School website for any other questions.

  • Applying for Graduate Study, Policies and Degree Progress, Research Information, and Graduation Information.

  • Financing Graduate Study offers ideas to help finance your research here at UW-Stout.

  • Also check out the monthly Graduate Newsletter for additional tips for your research.