Our M.S. degree is designed to be completed in two academic years (see the matriculation flowchart). In order to meet this goal, there are a series of important steps you’ll have to take.
1. Read the catalog. Be sure to read the catalog to understand the requirements of the degree and concentration you are seeking.
2. Selecting a capstone director. Your capstone director should be someone with expertise in the general field you want to study. During your first semester, you will be assigned to capstone hours with a faculty member serving as the Capstone Coordinator (for academic year 2022-23, Dr. Richard Milligan is the Capstone Coordinator). The Capstone Coordinator will help you select courses and think about possible capstone directors. If you have not already identified a capstone director through the application process, by your second semester, you should reach out to potential capstone directors. Make an appointment with potential directors, ask questions about what projects faculty members have ongoing, and discuss your professional and personal goals. You should select a capstone director by the end of your third semester. Please note that in some instances, faculty members do not have capacity to take on additional students. In our department, we have enough overlapping expertise that if one faculty member does not have capacity, you should be able to find another faculty member who does. And if you find that you change your mind on the area you want to study or the person with whom you want to study, it is perfectly acceptable to change capstone directors. If you do so, please notify your initial capstone director, your new director, and the Graduate Director.
3. Working with your capstone director. Your capstone director should help you select courses that may be appropriate to your area(s) of interest and future professional career goals. You will work closely with your capstone director to conceive a project idea that will constitute your capstone. Your director’s role may include, but not be limited to, discussion of ideas and their relevance to the field of study, recommendation of relevant research literature, and guidance on the development of relevant qualitative or quantitative analytical skills. As the student, it is your responsibility to lead this effort at project development, and to engage your capstone director as needed. It is your responsibility to maintain clear communication with your capstone director about your progress or any changes in your project you may be experiencing. Many students find biweekly or monthly meetings with their advisor a helpful way to ensure timely progress to the degree.
4. Your timeline. One of your first tasks is to identify the semester you wish to graduate (it really comes much faster than you might think!). Work with your capstone director on a timeline that will ensure that you can make that graduation date. Be sure to find out about university policies about applying for graduation (you must apply two semesters before you intend to graduate); be aware of the final ‘Non-thesis Master’s Capstone Final Approval form, all of which are available on the College graduate office website. The Graduate College, the College of Arts and Sciences Graduate Division, and the Geosciences Graduate Director will send you regular reminders about upcoming events and deadlines: be sure to check your gsu email!
5. Milestones. To maintain record-keeping (and to keep us all on track!) the College has developed a series of Milestones that should be met. Be sure to familiarize yourself with the forms and actions required along the way. For example, there is a “Foreign Language or Research Requirement” that must be met. Also, you should be able to see your progress in Degree Works. It is worth checking Degree Works periodically so that you can ensure that you and the university have the same understanding of your progress!
6. Coursework. All credits that are to apply toward the M.S. degree should be earned within seven years of the date of the degree, but our program is designed to be completed in two academic years. The actual courses you take will vary with your concentration (see the Catalog for an updated list of required and elective courses for each concentration). All students in the M.S. degree program are required to take GEOS 8002 Research Methods in the Geosciences and GEOS 6095 Colloquium in Geosciences.
- GEOS 8002: Research Methods in the Geosciences. You should take Research Methods in the Geosciences the first time it is offered following admission to the program. Typically, this course is offered during the spring semester so that if you enter in fall, you have a semester to get to know faculty and other graduate students to hone in on your research area.
- GEOS 6095: Colloquium in the Geosciences. In this one-credit course, which is typically offered every semester, the department invites scholars from area institutions to discuss their research. Once or twice per semester, we invite distinguished scholars to visit for a day or more and to give a colloquium presentation. This is an excellent opportunity for students to see the range of research questions that Geoscientists ask and to network with colleagues from other institutions. It is also an important community-building course, where you can get to know your classmates and other faculty members. While the course is only required once, it is recommended that graduate students take the course every semester.
- Other courses. You should consult with the Capstone Coordinator or your capstone director to identify courses (at the 6000 and 8000-levels) that equip you with the knowledge and skills you need to successfully complete your project and pursue your longer-term career goals. Ensuring that the course selections meet the credit-hour requirements for the degree program is ultimately your responsibility. Please note that if you are a GTA or GRA, you are not expected to fill up your required 12 hours with regular content-oriented courses each semester. Rather, you can include Geos 8990 (Capstone Research) in your 12 hours (you will need 3 hours of Geos 8990 to graduate, and this course can be repeated).
7. The capstone process. The capstone track provides an opportunity for graduate students to explore in more detail a particular area of study or problem and to develop a capstone project to reflect this specialized knowledge. In addition to a capstone project, capstone students are required to complete comprehensive exams.
- Developing and completing a capstone project. Once you have identified your capstone director, set up a meeting to discuss possible capstone projects. A capstone project is considerably more work than a final course paper or project but also significantly less involved than a thesis research project. It should be feasible to complete a capstone research project over a cumulative period of time equivalent to one semester, although the constituent activities may be dispersed over an interval of time longer than one semester. Capstone projects could result in one of a variety of different ‘products’ that indicate your expertise in an area. It is advisable for a student to imagine a capstone project yielding a product that they could advertise (in a portfolio or extended resume) to a potential employer in their desired professional field. Be sure you work with your capstone director to agree on a capstone idea, what the output will be, and a strategy for completion. Keep in mind that your capstone project may go through several drafts or iterations before it is approved by your director. Possibilities for a capstone project could include
- An extensive literature review about a particular topic, or
- A report that includes (primary) data collection and analysis, or
- Presentation of research at a professional meeting (e.g., a presentation or poster)
Once you have completed your capstone project, and your capstone director (listed as "primary advisor" on the form) has approved it, please fill out this form, which lets the College know that this portion of your graduate requirement is complete.
- Comprehensive exams. When you have completed your coursework, you should plan to take your comprehensive exams. These exams require that you select three questions from a list of questions that are furnished by each faculty member in the department. The exam is open notes, and you have approximately two weeks to take the exam. The Graduate Director will notify you of the exam period and will provide instructions. Each question is graded on a ‘pass/fail’ basis by the member of the Geosciences faculty who posed the question. In some instances, you could be asked to revise or expand answers before a final evaluation is made. If you fail the comprehensive exams, you can retake the comprehensive exams a second time the following semester. The exam is not administered over the summer, so summer graduates must complete the exam no later than in the spring semester.
8. Switching from capstone to thesis. If you were admitted as a capstone student but wish to change your track to thesis, you have until the end of your first year to make this change. You will require the support of your potential advisor to switch from capstone to thesis. If your advisor supports this change, you should notify the Graduate Director and be sure to update your Milestones.