Thesis/Non-Thesis Project

The DSS student must choose either the Thesis option or Non-thesis option as his or her final project. See below the directives for each option. 

Thesis Option

Under the Thesis Option, students will write an 80-100-page thesis on a topic related to defense and security studies. 

•The first step is to read the DSS Thesis Project and Process document for a complete list of directives.

•Immediately following the completion of 18 credits, students must submit the Thesis/Non-Thesis Declaration form. At the beginning of the second but not later than the third semester, the student will form a Thesis Committee with three Readers; composed of full time or adjunct DSS faculty. Dr. Shoumikhin, Thesis Coordinator, will serve as a Reader on each student’s Thesis Committee unless a student requests otherwise. Exceptions to this may be considered for approval by the Department Head upon written student request.

•The First Reader is to approve the topic of the thesis, and guide the student in the conduct of thesis-related research. Individual members of the Adjunct DSS Faculty are allowed to perform duties of the First Reader for no more than 2-3 students per semester. 

•The student is required to provide detailed and updated information on the subject of his or her thesis, the composition of the Thesis Committee and progress of thesis preparation to Professor Shoumikhin, the DSS Thesis Coordinator.

•In the third semester, the student will make an oral Thesis Presentation to the interested members of the student body and faculty describing the central question, main argument, importance of the thesis, and research design. By the time of the Presentation, the student will have established his/her Thesis Committee composed of three Readers, and developed, in close cooperation with the First Reader, the thesis outline, key research sources and schedule. The student should set the date around the availability of the First Reader. Additionally, the student is encouraged to invite the Second and Third Readers to the Presentation. The thesis will be the student's original and independent work. The student may draw upon ideas and research done for other seminars. 

•The student is recommended to submit his/her thesis for approval to the Readers during the spring and fall semesters, and not the summer semester. A student may submit in the summer term, however, the submission timeline is substantially shorter and requires an exceptionally intense effort by the student to work in close coordination with the Readers under a tight schedule.

•Students are responsible for knowing and following the University’s Student Academic Integrity Policies and Procedures. Any student participating in any form of academic dishonesty will be subject to sanctions as described in this policy.

•In writing the thesis, the student is required to follow the MSU Thesis Guide (located on the Graduate College Thesis Resources page) and all specific deadlines for thesis preparation and submission established by the Graduate College.

•In order to graduate, students must have the thesis approved by the three Readers as well as the University's Graduate College.

•Theses are submitted at the end of April in the spring semester, July in the summer semester, and November in the fall semester. Check the MSU website for exact dates.

•The 1st assembled draft must be edited for grammar and spelling, and the footnotes and bibliography must be correct and complete before submission. Neither the First Reader nor the Thesis Committee is responsible for correcting grammar, spelling, references or bibliography, any thesis needing such corrections will be returned to the author for completion without further comment.

•DSS 799 Thesis may only be taken once for credit (3 hours) towards the 36 hour requirement for graduation.  If a student does not finish the thesis in the semester in which he or she is first enrolled in DSS 799, the student must enroll in DSS 794, Active in Research, each semester until the thesis is finished.  A “Z” grade will be assigned until successful submission of the thesis.

•Under certain circumstances a student may change the membership of the Thesis Committee. To do so, the student must petition the Department for approval in writing, explaining the reason for the requested change.

•Extension of the deadline for thesis submission is granted only in exceptional cases by the Graduate Department upon the request of the Thesis Coordinator.

•The Department may grant a student's thesis the designation "With Distinction" if it is deemed exceptional by each Reader. A student’s First Reader will make a recommendation to the permanent Faculty with respect to granting departmental distinction to a thesis. The three Readers will then make a final decision on the award upon submission of the final draft of the thesis to the Department.

Download the Thesis Project and Process document

Download the Thesis Memo Form

Thesis Completion Schedule

First Semester

Begin thinking about your thesis

Attend Thesis meeting

Meet with Dr. Shoumikhin (end of semester)

Second Semester

Assemble 3 person Thesis Committee

Meet with First Reader

Begin topic search and preliminary research

Attend Thesis meeting

Third Semester

Present Thesis (beginning of semester)

Conduct research

Collect data/information

Draft outline

Write Thesis paper

Beginning of Fourth   Semester

Thesis Draft is complete and ready for submission

Baseline:4   weeks into the fourth semester

First assembled draft to First Reader

Note:   First Draft must be edited for grammar, style and format before submission to First Reader

+ 2 Weeks

First Draft back from First Reader

+ 3 Weeks

Second Draft to First Reader

+ 5 Weeks

Second Draft back from First Reader

+ 6 Weeks

Third Draft to First, Second and Third Readers

+ 8 Weeks

Third Draft back from First, Second and Third Readers

+ 10 Weeks

Thesis finalized and Posted to MSU Graduate College


Non-Thesis Option

Requirements: Students must undergo a comprehensive oral presentation and complete a research paper. Refer to the Non-Thesis Requirements and Process Document for a complete list of directives.

•Immediately following completion of 18 credits, students are to submit to the Thesis/Non-Thesis Coordinator, the Thesis/Non-Thesis Declaration form.

•Upon receiving the approval from the Non-Thesis Coordinator, the student will assemble the Comprehensive Oral Examination Board. The Comprehensive Oral Examination Board is composed of three professors who taught or will teach one or more of the student’s courses. The student is responsible for soliciting these members’ participation and requesting the approval of the Non-Thesis Coordinator for the proposed exam committee. Professor Shoumikhin, the DSS Thesis/Non-Thesis Coordinator, will serve as a member of the student’s oral exam board unless a student requests otherwise. Exceptions to this may be approved by the Department Head upon written student request.

•The Oral Examination is to take place during the student’s fourth (final) semester before the Thesis-Submission Deadline set by the Graduate College for that semester. Exams are to take place in one of the Department’s classrooms. The student is responsible for proposing a specific time and date for the examination, and securing the commitment of his or her Exam Committee to that time and date. Two weeks (14 days) before the exam date, the student must submit to the committee the research paper in addition to two previously completed papers in the DSS program.

•The Non-Thesis option should not be viewed by students as a “less demanding” or “less time-consuming” alternative to writing a Thesis. A student’s knowledge of broad security and defense issues, verbal and analytic skills may be tested thoroughly during the examination.

•At the exam, the student is to defend the Non-Thesis Research Project. A Non-Thesis Research Project is to be undertaken under the guidance of one member of the Examination Board, and be based on the requirements of a Directed Reading or another course taught by that member of the Examination Board and completed by the student.

•The Research Project will result in a 30-35 page Non-Thesis Report to be submitted to the Examination Board in electronic and hard-copy versions no later than two weeks before the examination.

•Together with the Non-Thesis Report, students are to submit 2-3 papers (of at least 7 pages in length each) completed in previous DSS courses. The papers selected should represent the topic of research, and must be submitted two weeks (14 days) before the exam date.

•The defense of the Non-Thesis Research Project is followed by oral questions covering the student’s main areas of study while at DSS. See sample questions here. The duration of the Comprehensive Oral Exam is 2-3 hours and the student will be informed of the outcome at the conclusion of the exam.

•The student is assessed and graded on the strength of his or her defense of the Non-Thesis Report, in depth knowledge of theoretic and practical materials presented in the course of study at DSS, as well as the ability to creatively analyze evolving international and domestic defense and security issues.  

•Any student who fails the oral exam will be allowed another opportunity to take an exam the following semester. The student must register for an additional course. That is, if the student fails or otherwise does not complete the Non-Thesis Report or Comprehensive Oral Exam in the intended semester, the student must register for an additional course the following semester (suggested course: DSS 796 or DSS 794).

•Non-Thesis students may not take DSS 799: Thesis in fulfillment of their credit requirements.

•MSU grades for the Non-Thesis exam are “pass” and “non-pass.” DSS grades include “pass,” “non-pass,” and “pass with distinction.”  Passing “with distinction” requires a unanimous opinion of all members of the Examination Board.

•A Comprehensive Oral Examination form will be provided by the student prior to the exam. This form must be completed and submitted just prior to the exam.

Download the Non-thesis Project and Process Document

Download the Non-thesis Memo Form

Download the Exam Sample Questions

Download the Comprehensive Oral Exam Results Form