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Requirements for the Master's Degree

Faculty Advisor

Immediately after a degree-seeking student enters the UAB Graduate School, a member of the faculty of the graduate program to which the student has been admitted should be assigned to serve as the student’s advisor. The assignment may be a temporary arrangement. The student and the advisor should confer about courses and any special work to be taken on the basis of the student’s previous experience and the requirements of the graduate program.

Graduate Study Committee

As soon as possible, a specific plan of study should be developed. Traditionally, graduate study is highly flexible and individualized, and a graduate study committee is appointed, chaired by the student's advisor, to guide the student toward the degree. (Some graduate programs, particularly where flexibility in the course of study is limited by accreditation and other external constraints, do not always use a graduate study committee for Plan II students.) When used, the committee should consist of at least three Graduate School faculty members, one of whom should be from outside the student's graduate specialization and each of whom should be able to bring some relevant insight and expertise to guide the student. Recommendations for graduate study committee membership are submitted by the advisor and the student to the graduate program director, who subsequently submits these recommendations to the Graduate School Dean. Graduate study committee appointments are made by the Graduate Dean, who is an ex officio member of all graduate study committees.

Plan I or Plan II

The Graduate School recognizes two principal paths, known as Plan I and Plan II, that lead to the master's degree. One or the other of these plans may be appropriate in particular circumstances, and in some programs a choice is available.

Plan I requires the completion, in good academic standing, of at least 24 semester hours of appropriate graduate work and 6 semester hours of thesis research, with the presentation of an acceptable thesis embodying the results of original research work.

Plan II may not require research and does not require a formal thesis, but a minimum of 30 semester hours of appropriate graduate work must be completed in good academic standing. Although thesis research is not required as part of a Plan II course of study, the student is often expected to gain insight into the techniques of problem posing and problem solving and to use these insights to prepare a written report. A plan of study/course curriculum outline is required for all Plan II master’s students when submitting the application for degree (before graduation).

Where both Plan I and Plan II are available within one graduate program, an early and meaningful choice should be made by the student, in close consultation with the advisor. A change in choice of plans requires the approval of the program director and the Graduate School Dean.

Transfer of Credit

Previously earned graduate credit that has not been applied toward another degree (either at UAB or elsewhere) is eligible for transfer into the student's current degree program. (Ordinarily no more than 12 semester hours of transfer credit can be applied to a degree program.) All transfers must be initiated by the student and require the approval of the graduate program director and the Graduate School Dean. An application for transfer of credit will not be considered until the student has completed at least 9 semester hours of graduate credit in the current UAB program and is in good academic standing. Once transfer credit has been accepted, it will be included in the calculation of the grade point average in the student's current UAB program.

Graduate credit earned with a grade of B or above while a graduate student is in another accredited graduate school may be considered for transfer. In programs offered jointly by UAB and other universities, all graduate credits earned in the program at a cooperating university are eligible for transfer to UAB. If a student earns credit in one UAB graduate program and is later admitted to another program, unused credits from the previous program are eligible for consideration for transfer into the current program.

Additional Program Requirements

In consultation with the faculty, the director of each graduate program will specify any additional requirements, such as a reading knowledge of a foreign language or a working knowledge of statistics, which are considered essential to mastery of the academic discipline. Such requirements become conditions for the completion of the degree. The program may also adopt a system of examinations that the student must pass at various points in the program.

Candidacy for Degree

Admission to candidacy is a formal step recommended by the student’s graduate study committee and approved by the graduate program director and the Graduate School dean, acknowledging that the student has been performing well and is likely to complete the degree. For Plan I students, admission should occur when the student has obtained an adequate background (although not all coursework need be complete) and has provided the committee with an acceptable proposal for thesis research. Students must be in good academic standing to be eligible for admission to candidacy, and admission must take place no later than one semester before the expected graduation. Before being admitted to candidacy, students must complete a Research Compliance Verification form and attach photocopies of the appropriate assurance letters and/or forms. Students must be admitted to candidacy before they can register for thesis research hours (i.e., 699). Forms are available online at http://www.uab.edu/graduate/online-forms

IRB or IACUC Approval

If the research involves human or animal subjects, approval from IRB or IACUC must be documented before admission to candidacy can be approved and must be kept current until the research is completed (please refer to Tip Sheet for Students Involved in Research Involving Human or Animal Subjects located at the end of the Handbook). The student’s name must appear on the IRB approval form. The IACUC form must display the appropriate protocol number.

Application for Degree

Each candidate for a master’s degree must signify the intention to complete the requirements by a particular graduation date by submitting a completed Application for Degree Form. Because this form is used to check completion of requirements, order the diploma, and enter the student in the commencement program, the form must be received in the Graduate School Records Office by the posted deadline for the semester of expected graduation. A plan of study/course curriculum outline is required for all Plan II master’s students when submitting the application for degree (before graduation). See deadline dates (http://www.uab.edu/graduate/deadline-dates) located on the Graduate School website. However, because each graduate program may have an earlier deadline, the student should check with his or her program office for those deadlines as well. Students must be registered during the semester in which degree requirements are completed. If degree candidates are covered by the student health insurance policy, hold an assistantship, or have student loans, it may be necessary to maintain at least half time registration status of 5 credit hours to retain these benefits. Check with the appropriate office if these are concerns. Forms are available online at www.uab.edu/graduate/forms.

Thesis

The thesis required under Plan I should present the results of the candidate’s original research and the interpretation of those results. The document should also demonstrate the candidate’s acquaintance with the literature of the field and with the proper selection and execution of research methodology.

Signatures of committee members and program directors on the approval form indicate their assurance that they have examined the document and have found that it is of professional quality from all standpoints, including writing quality, technical correctness, and professional competency, and that the document conforms to acceptable standards of scholarly presentation. The Graduate School is responsible for ensuring that the final version of the thesis meets the physical standards required of a permanent, published document and for adherence to the requirements stated in the UAB Format Manual, available online at http://www.uab.edu/graduate/images/acrobat/forms/theses/FormatManual.pdf

No later than 2 weeks (10 business days) following the public defense, the completed document, as a single file PDF, must be submitted to ProQuest for Graduate School final review. Master’s students submit the Approval Form, signed by each committee member and the program director. Additional information concerning completing the final steps of the publication process is available online at http://www.uab.edu/graduate/theses-and-dissertations-at-uab.

Additional assistance is available for students registered in GRD 704 (offered every semester by the Professional Development Program).

If in the opinion of more than one member of the thesis committee, the student has failed the thesis defense, there is no consensus to pass. The chair of the committee shall advise the student that the thesis fails to meet the requirements of the program. The chair shall notify the student in writing about the reason(s) for failure. If the student resubmits or submits a new thesis for consideration by his/her graduate program at least two members of the new examining committee shall be drawn from the original committee. If the modified or new thesis fails to meet the requirements of the program, the student shall be dismissed from the graduate program.

In the event that only one of the three committee members dissent, that individual must submit a letter in which he/she outlines the reasons for their dissent to the student’s advisor. The advisor and student may then prepare a rebuttal statement that is submitted, along with the letter of dissent, to the advisory or executive committee of the program for review. The advisory committee can then decide to accept or reject the rebuttal statement. If the rebuttal is accepted, the student is passed on his/her thesis defense. If the rebuttal is rejected, the advisory committee can recommend to the student or advisor potential steps necessary to remediate the thesis and potentially also the work therein, or the committee can recommend that the student be dismissed from the program.

Final Examination

Under Plan I, the final examination should take the form of a presentation and public defense of the thesis, followed by an examination of the candidate’s comprehensive knowledge of the field. The time, date, and location of this examination is reported to the Graduate School via the online Request for Thesis or Dissertation Approval forms (submitted at least 10 days before the public defense) and allows for the attendance of the Graduate School dean. The meeting must be appropriately announced on campus, must be open to all interested parties, and must take place at least 30 days before the expected date of graduation. Plan I candidates must be registered for at least 3 semester hours of graduate work in the semester during which degree requirements are completed.

When Plan II is followed, the final examination should take the form of a comprehensive survey of the candidate’s activities in the graduate program. (A Plan II final examination is not used in some graduate programs.)

Recommendation for Degree

The candidate will be recommended for the master’s degree to the Graduate School dean by the graduate study committee or by the student’s advisor and the graduate program director. This recommendation must be received no later than 20 days before the end of the semester in which the candidate is expected to complete all degree requirements. The recommendation will be based on evaluation of all work performed, the final examination, and the thesis if Plan I was followed. The recommendation will automatically be nullified if (1) the remaining courses needed for the degree are not passed, (2) the candidate fails to maintain good academic standing, (3) the candidate fails to remove all temporary grades from the transcript, or (4) the Plan I candidate fails to complete the thesis.

Award of Degree

Upon approval by the Graduate School Dean and payment of any outstanding financial obligations to the university, the student will receive the degree from the president of the university.

Summary of Steps Toward the
Master's Degree

1. Admission to master's degree program

2. Selection of faculty advisor

3. Maintenance of good standing

4. Appointment of graduate study committee--Plan I (Thesis) only

5. IRB and/or IACUC approvals obtained

6. Admission to candidacy--at least one semester before graduation is expected--Plan I (Thesis) only

7. Application for degree--see deadline dates

8. Production of preliminary version of thesis--(Plan I only)

9. Final examination (includes defense of thesis for Plan I only)

10. A PDF of the defended committee-approved thesis to UAB/ProQuest submission web site --no later than 2 weeks (10 business days) following the public defense

11. Conferring of degree