The Master of Science in Public Health degree is the Division of Public Health’s academic/research-oriented master’s degree and; all MSPH students are required to complete and successfully defend a thesis/project prior to graduating. Students must:

  1. choose a project or thesis that coincides with their research interests
  2. create a supervisory committee which consists of faculty and/or experts in the specified research area
  3. complete six credit hours of project/thesis (roughly 270 hours of effort)
  4. write a paper in the format of a traditional thesis or a paper of publishable quality
  5. present the thesis/project at a public seminar
  6. successfully defend the thesis/project

Before You Start

It is recommended that you start thinking about your research project after your second semester. This will allow adequate time to gain rapport with faculty who will be on your supervisory committee, and develop research project ideas that align with your specific research interests.

Form Your Supervisory Committee

To begin, you will want to identify potential faculty you would like to work with on your thesis/project. The supervisory committee form outlines which faculty you have selected to work with and must be turned into your academic advisor. The essential role of your supervisory committee is to provide feedback, guidance and mentorship on your thesis/project while also approving the research subject and judging your final defense.

Following University of Utah Graduate School Policy, “Master’s Supervisory Committees consist of three faculty members, the majority of whom must be tenure-line faculty in the student’s major department.” The committee Chair and one committee member must be tenure or tenure track from the Division of Public Health. If a member outside the Division of Public Health is desired, the potential committee member must hold a minimum of a Master’s degree and must have expertise specific to the research topic. The desired outside member must submit a CV to the academic advisor for the graduate school records.

Please see your academic advisor for further instruction on approved faculty for your Supervisory Committee.

Identify A Thesis/Project Topic

The master’s thesis/project may be based on research involving primary data collection, but is often a secondary analysis of existing data to investigate a research question not yet evaluated in a given study. The thesis/project is typically organized as a potentially publishable paper. The decisions about acceptable thesis/project content and organization reside with each student’s Supervisory Committee. There are examples of past theses/projects in the Division of Public Health.

Register For Thesis/Project Hours

Before you can register for thesis/project hours you must set up your supervisory committee and turn in the supervisory committee from, with the appropriate signatures, to your academic advisor. At that time, a permission code will be provided to you that will allow you to register for PBHLT 6975/6977 – Thesis/Project Research -MSPH.

Please be mindful of registration dates to ensure adequate time to obtain all of the needed forms and permission code for registration. You must register for a total of 6 credit hours towards the thesis/project research before graduation. Please note that it does not matter when you register for credits: this can be during or after you actually complete the necessary project hours. A total of 6 credits must be completed, but the 6 credits can be split up into multiple semesters as needed. Please note: you must be registered for at least 3 credit hours, whether that be project/thesis credits; or an actual class; during the semester you defend your final project/thesis.

MSPH Thesis/Project Proposal Approval

Prior to starting the thesis/project, you must prepare a concept proposal that requires approval by your committee. Guidelines on what the concept proposal should cover can be found here or on the website under project/thesis forms with all other necessary forms. A copy of the final proposal will also be placed in your student file, please return your proposal to your academic advisor. Your Supervisory Committee will determine if you are prepared to proceed to the formal thesis/project by signing off on the committee research proposal approval form.

Project Report or Thesis Format

After the approval of the thesis/research proposal you are ready to develop your research through the direction of your committee. Any and all approval of the content of the thesis/project is an academic matter between you and your committee. Depending on the given project, IRB approval may be required in order to protect the rights and welfare of the research subjects involved. Once IRB approval is established, please complete the IRB research proposal form and return it to your academic advisor. Please note, if IRB approval is not needed, the completion of the IRB form is required.

However, if you choose to complete thesis work instead of the research project, the form and distribution for the thesis and abstract as well as the use of restricted data are determined by The Graduate School and published in A Handbook for Theses and Dissertations, available in the Thesis Office. The format of the thesis must be approved by The Graduate School thesis and dissertation editor, Room 302 Park Building.

Thesis/Project Defense

Prior to scheduling the thesis/project defense it is strongly recommended to hold a pre-defense meeting with your supervisory committee. During your pre-defense, you will present your progress, so that the committee can determine whether sufficient progress has been made in order to schedule the defense.

Once the committee agrees that you are approved to move forward with your final defense, you will work with your academic advisor to schedule the time, location, and public posting of the defense. Please note, your supervisory committee must approve the final defense arrangements before the announcement is publicized. In addition, it is your responsibility to submit an acceptable thesis draft to your committee chair no later than three weeks before your final defense. All other committee members must receive a copy of your thesis draft at least two weeks before the defense date.

The date and time of the final defense must be widely publicized to the entire department at least ten business days prior to the date of defense. Please use this defense announcement to publicize your event and return this announcement to your academic advisor for dispersal.

For the final defense you must defend your thesis or project satisfactorily introducing your research topic, covering your methods, results, strengthens and limitations and your concluding findings. The oral presentation ranges between 30-35 minutes with questions to follow. A PowerPoint presentation is the most common platform used for sharing research findings. Please note, the last day to defend in a given semester is the last day of classes, and you must be registered for at least three credit hours during the semester you defend.

Common misconceptions of defense requirements include, printing of a student’s manuscript for their committee members; and/or serving of light refreshments. These are not requirements set by the Division of Public Health or the Graduate School and, thus, are not required during the final defense.

Final Approval

After the thesis/project defense, the Committee indicates on the Report of the Final Examination form whether the student has passed or failed. All committee members who are present at the examination should sign the form. In cases where the Supervisory Committee does not feel that the student has passed the defense, the committee will make appropriate recommendations for further courses, reading or research to address the deficiencies. The final project must produce a publishable quality paper that is submitted to the supervisory committee with a copy given to the academic advisor in order to be considered finished. The final paper is due no later than two weeks after the students defense date. Failure to submit the final paper within that time frame will result in delay of graduation.

Timeline for Submission of Forms/Final Report

  • SUPERVISORY COMMITTEE FORM: The Supervisory Committee form must be submitted to the academic advisor before the start of a student’s thesis/project and before a permission code will be given to register for thesis/project hours.
  • RESEARCH PROPOSAL: The research proposal must be submitted to the supervisory committee for approval in order to proceed with the student’s research. The research proposal then must be returned to the academic advisor as soon as the research proposal is approved, or no later than the last day of classes during the semester the student starts their thesis/project.
  • COMMITTEE RESEARCH PROPOSAL APPROVAL FORM: After the supervisory committees support is given to the student’s research proposal, the approval form must be returned to the academic advisor. The last day to submit the form is the last day of classes during the semester the student starts their thesis/project.
  • IRB RESEARCH PROPOSAL FORM: Depending on a student’s project, IRB approval may be required. Please note, if IRB approval is not needed, the completion of the IRB form is still required. This form must be submitted to the academic advisor after the IRB approval is granted (or not needed), but no later than the day the final defense is scheduled.
  • DEFENSE ANNOUNCEMENT: The date and time of the final defense must be widely publicized to the entire department at least ten days prior to the date of defense.
  • REPORT OF FINAL EXAMINATION FORM: Once a student has passed, the supervisory committee will sign off on this form. Please return this form to the academic advisor as soon as it is complete or no later than the last day of finals week during the semester the student plans to defend.
  • FINAL WRITTEN RESEARCH PAPER: Two weeks after the student defends their project the research paper is due. A printed copy or emailed PDF must be submitted to the students supervisory committee and academic advisor after all edits are made. Failure to submit the final paper will delay graduation.

NOTE: All project/thesis forms must be returned to the academic advisor before the project/thesis can be deemed complete. Failure to do so may delay graduation.

For more Information

Hailey McCormick
Academic Advisor
Phone: 801-585-6808