Completing a thesis is the most challenging and educational part of the I/O program. All students are required to complete an empirically based thesis that includes the following elements: (1) Identifying a research question, (2) Conducting a review of the scientific literature relevant to this research question, (3) Specifying a set of hypotheses and/or a research model, (4) Designing a study, (5) Collecting data in order to test the hypotheses/model, (6) Analyzing the data, (7) Writing it all up, and (8) Defending it before a faculty committee.

The thesis is a big project which takes some time to complete. The general goal is for students to complete their thesis by the end of their fourth semester, although this is not a formal requirement. Several target dates serve to guide students through the thesis process.

First Semester

During this time, students get involved in one or more faculty research projects to become more familiar with the research process and begin gathering potential ideas. Late in the first semester, students are required to write a short concept paper summarizing their most promising research idea, and then they receive feedback from I/O faculty members. In addition, students expand upon their concept paper to complete a more developed literature review by the end of their first semester. This literature review will help facilitate thesis progression by laying a foundation for the introduction section of the thesis.

Second Semester

Students take Research Methods, a class that is explicitly designed to help further their thesis progress. The requirements of the class encourage students to focus on a particular idea, identify a thesis advisor, and draft a thesis proposal. Over the course of the semester, students typically make a good deal of progress in honing a research question, conducting a literature review, and identifying a feasible research design. In the summer after their first year in the program, students have the opportunity to work on their thesis in conjunction with the opportunity to do an internship. Faculty advisors are typically available throughout the summer, and students have a nice opportunity to turn the draft proposal from Research Methods into a full-fledged thesis proposal that is ready for their committee to review.

Third Semester

The goal is to complete a proposal meeting involving the student and his/her three-person committee prior to the end of the semester. Once the proposal has been successfully “defended,” the student collects his or her data. This process may take anywhere from several weeks to several months, depending on the nature of the project.

Fourth Semester

The ultimate goal is to complete data collection, conduct data analysis and have a final meeting (i.e., oral defense) with the student's committee by the end of his/her fourth (Spring) semester in the program.