A thesis is a research project that you develop, implement, and write up using the format of a standard empirical research study in psychology. It involves a literature review, a statement of hypotheses, use of standardized psychological tests or other measuring instruments, statistical analyses of the data, and writing of your conclusions. The thesis must be written in APA style.
Deciding on a topic for your thesis can be done by researching areas you are interested in at the library. You can make the final decision by approaching those professors with whom you would like to work and finding out if they are interested in working on that topic with you and have the time and expertise to do so.

You will sign up for variable credit (1-6 hours) when registering for thesis (PSY 6440). You must enroll for at least 1 credit hour of thesis each semester from the time you begin working on the proposal until you finish. You will receive either an "S" (satisfactory) or a "U" (unsatisfactory) grade for each semester you are registered. Keep in mind that it will probably take at least one calendar year to complete your thesis. You need 3 hours with an "S" to complete your thesis. Consult with your advisor before registering for thesis credit.

A few times each semester the Records Office sends out class rolls to each instructor requiring that they identify students who are not actually attending courses for which they are enrolled. The chair then checks with the thesis chairs about the progress of their students. For financial aid purposes, it is important that you are putting in a commensurate amount of effort for the number of thesis credits for which you are enrolled. If you are signed up for thesis credits, you need to have contact with your advisor on a regular basis and put in the number of hours that are commensurate with your thesis credits. If you sign up for thesis credits and do not meet with your advisor and/or do not put in the required amount of work, not only may you receive a "U" for thesis, but this may have negative implications for your financial aid. We urge you to consult with your thesis advisor about his/her expectations for the number of hours you need to work on your thesis each week.

A thesis is required in all psychology graduate programs except Counseling.

Select from the following to learn more:

Thesis Books will be sent for binding once each semester at the end of May, August and December.


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  • Suggested Procedures for Thesis
  • Thesis FAQs

Thesis Proposal

Plan on at least one semester for completing the proposal process. Although there are no formal deadlines for submitting a proposal, there are several factors to consider:

IRB Review:

During the regular academic year:

  • Expedited reviews generally are completed one week after submission. 
  • Proposals for full review are considered once a month. Proposals are due two weeks before the meeting. Consult with your thesis chair to find out the exact dates for the semester for which you want to submit your proposal.
During the summer:
  • It is best to have your proposal reviewed during the regular academic year. Obtaining IRB approval is less predictable in the summer and will generally take longer. The procedures for obtaining full review vary from summer to summer.

Note: If you are conducting research at another institution, that institution also will have to give approval. You need to take into account that each place has its own procedures and time for approval may vary.

Allow at least one week from when your proposal is given to your chair or your committee, before planning to meet with your chair or committee.
Faculty members have varying schedules in the summer and take their vacations at different times. Additionally, some faculty members are generally not on campus during the summer. Plan accordingly.

Committees do not always approve a proposal at the first meeting.

The library is not open as much over the various breaks.

Thesis Presentation

Once you have completed your thesis, the final step is to present it at a meeting of your thesis committee. The presentation is open to all interested faculty and students, but usually the advisors, presenters, and Department Chair are the main people present. Usually three to five students present in a 90 minute to 2 hour time span. If you are going to present your thesis at a professional meeting, however, you do not have to present it at the meeting described above. Actual presentation of your thesis at a professional meeting is not necessary prior to graduation as long as you have been accepted for presentation before you graduate. Professional meetings can include the annual meetings of national (e.g., American Psychological Association), regional (e.g., Southeastern Psychological Association), or state (e.g., Tennessee Psychological Association) organizations. Consult with your thesis advisor before you present your thesis.

Thesis Resources

Here are some books which have been very helpful to students working on their thesis:

  1. The Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association, 4th ed. (Available from Phillip's Bookstore)
  2. Dissertations and Theses From Start to Finish by J.D. Cone and S.L. Foster. (Available from the APA)

Thesis Committee & Selection

You must select a thesis committee which consists of a Thesis Advisor, a Committee Member, and a Critical Reader. Your committee can be made up of anyone on the psychology faculty, but either the Advisor or the Committee Member must be a core Experimental Faculty Member. The Thesis Advisor is the person with whom you will work most closely. This person should have an interest in your topic and will give you direction and guidance from your thesis' inception to its final approval. The Committee Member also should have some interest in your topic, but is not as involved in the process as the Thesis Advisor. This person also provides advice and suggestions from beginning to end. The Critical Reader only makes suggestions for revisions or changes on the proposal and is no longer involved once the proposal is approved. It is important to choose faculty for your committee with whom you can work easily, and who are knowledgeable about your topic.

Thesis Timeline

The time needed to complete a thesis and each of its parts will vary depending on the complexity of the study, the form of data collection, and other variables. Plan on about one year of work.

Completion of Thesis

Dates for the thesis to be submitted to the graduate office vary from semester to semester. Please consult the graduate catalog for the exact dates. Generally the dates are:

Fall: middle - late October
Spring: middle - late March
Summer: middle June

Thesis are due to the psychology department chair at least one week (preferable two) before the graduate school deadline. You will need to make any required changes and, if required, resubmit to the chair for approval before submitting it to the graduate office.

The thesis needs to go to your thesis committee at least one week before it goes to the chair. Again, please keep in mind that your committee may (most likely will) require changes in your thesis. These changes will have to be made before the thesis is given to the chair. Thus, it is better to give your committee a copy of the complete thesis at least three weeks before planning to give it to the chair. So, if the deadline for submitting the thesis to the graduate office is March 24, you need to try to get it to your committee by February 25. Do not wait until the last minute.

Suggested Procedure For Thesis

At every stage, consult with your Thesis Advisor, and if necessary, your Committee Member.

  • Select a topic; find a Thesis Advisor who will work with you.
  • Select a Committee Member and Critical Reader.
  • Do a comprehensive and exhaustive literature review of your topic.
  • Decide on a hypothesis or hypotheses to test.
  • Create a study to test your hypothesis(es).
  • Write your proposal.
  • Submit it to your Thesis Advisor for review.
  • Make changes. (repeat as often as necessary)
  • Submit your proposal to your thesis committee.
  • Set up a meeting with your thesis committee to get their comments and decision on approval of your proposal.
  • Make changes. (repeat as often as necessary)
  • When approved, have your committee members sign the Thesis Approval Sheet (may be obtained from the Psychology website).
  • Submit an Institutional Review Board (IRB) form (Research Ethics Committee review sheet) for your study (can be obtained and downloaded to your computer at Sponsored Program) to the Chair of the Research Ethics Committee.
  • Submit Thesis Approval Sheet with your letter of approval from the Research Ethics Committee to Department Chair for approval.
  • After successfully completing the above step, conduct your study and gather data. Note: You may not begin to conduct your study until this point.
  • Analyze the data.
  • Write up the results.
  • Submit completed thesis for review to Thesis Advisor and Committee Member.
  • Make changes. (repeat as often as necessary)
  • Submit thesis in proper form to the Psychology Department Chair two weeks before the due date for thesis submission as given in the MTSU Academic Calendar.
  • Submit thesis to Graduate Office
  • Make any changes that the Graduate School requires before due date in the Academic Calendar (usually six weeks before the end of classes in a semester).
  • Resubmit thesis to Graduate Office
  • Present thesis after it is approved by Graduate Office.

Questions About Your Thesis

  1. Is any financial assistance available for my thesis?
    There are no monies available at MTSU for aiding you with research costs. You must provide for these costs on your own. You might be able, however, to get private foundations to help you. Explore these options with your advisor or other faculty.
  2. Is there travel money available if I present my thesis at a conference?
    The Dean of the College of Graduate Studies, upon recommendation of the Graduate Council, will award grants of up to $500.00 to graduate students for travel related to presentation of research and creative scholarship at major conferences and venues. Applicants should make a case for need, and present evidence of acceptance of proposals for presentation. Priority funding will go first to graduate students presenting results of research or creative scholarship as either the sole author or the primary author(s) of a multiple authorship work. The applicant must be currently enrolled during the semester of travel. The Student Affairs and Travel Sub-Committee of the Graduate Council will consider applications shortly after receipt and awards will be made until existing funds for the semester are exhausted. Please direct application or queries to the College of Graduate Studies (615-898-2840) and/or
  3. Where can I get statistical help for my thesis?
    Ask your committee members or your academic advisor for suggestions on how to get help.
  4. Where can I see completed thesis?
    The MTSU Library has a collection of thesis authored by MTSU students (some who now teach in the Psychology Department). Additionally, your Thesis Advisor or Academic Advisor may have a collection of thesis by students whom they supervised.

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