Choosing a Culminating Experience

Three choices:
Questions to consider when choosing a culminating experience: 
1. What are your plans for the future?

If you plan to pursue a doctorate, a thesis will be very helpful to you and may be required for acceptance into doctoral programs. 

If you have no plans to earn a doctorate and plan to work in applied fields, a project or comprehensive exam may be more useful to you.

2. Do you have a specific question/problem you wish to explore? 

Questions grounded in the research or based on a theoretical approach, require the collection, analysis, and interpretation of data and are better suited for a thesis. 

Projects typically address problems of a more practical nature (e.g., a marketing plan for a sport organization, a mental skills program for a specific sport/competitive level, a conditioning program for a specific population). Projects may include data collection but in a smaller scope than a thesis (e.g., a pilot study with few participants) or as part of a project being conducted by a research team.

If you do not have a specific question/problem you want to address, you may select to take a comprehensive examination, which allows you to demonstrate what you have learned throughout your coursework (rather than being focused on a specific issue or topic).

3. Who is the audience toward whom your scholarly product is directed?  

A thesis generally is directed toward an academic audience and is written in a formal style, using the lexicon of your discipline. 

Projects must also be well written. The style is flexible, as it may be directed toward alternate scholarly or professional audiences. For example, the style may reflect that of a work environment (e.g., cardiac rehabilitation) or specific population (e.g., administrators, coaches).

Responses to a comprehensive examination are written in an academic manner that reveals the depth of your understanding within your discipline.

4. How can I best demonstrate what I have learned?

There is a wide array of learning styles and strategies to demonstrate what you have learned during your graduate coursework. You should select the culminating experience that best matches how you learn with how you can best convey that knowledge.

A thesis emphasizes academic writing and follows specific scholarly guidelines within your discipline.

A project allows for flexibility and creativity in writing style and presenting your materials (e.g., may include video, website development, or practical exercises).

The comprehensive examination entails responding to questions covering your coursework within a specific timeframe.

Choosing a topic:

  • Talk with your advisor
  • Begin with a general reading in your area of interest/specialization
  • Narrow your reading/research towards a specific topic
  • Possibly complete HMSL 6840 Directed Readings in HMSL or HMSL 6860 Independent Study to explore the literature directly with your advisor