Master's thesis option program (MTOP)

As a professional program in a research institution, the School of Information recognizes both the value of practical engagement and the value of research-oriented activities. Drawing on the substantial backgrounds of our faculty as research scholars and mentors, UMSI offers an opportunity for master's students to spend part of their second year at UMSI writing a master's thesis.

If selected to write a thesis, you have the opportunity to work closely with a faculty advisor, explore original research questions and apply the tools of information science to generate new knowledge. The exact nature of the project is worked out by you and the faculty member(s). It may be a collaborative project, but you are expected to make an independent contribution. Successful completion of a thesis earns a designation on your final transcript. The two independent-study courses for thesis research, if passed successfully, satisfy the mastery course requirement within the MSI program.

Academic-track students considering application to further degrees, such as a Ph.D. program. The thesis option provides an opportunity to get first-hand experience in substantive research. It is an excellent way to gain skills and insight into the academic process and can assist in making the decision to pursue a further degree where a dissertation is required.

Professional-track students planning to conduct or evaluate research upon completion of their master's degree. Many positions within the information science profession are research-intensive and benefit from the mastery of methodology. The thesis provides a cohesive opportunity to develop those skills and will generate an impressive addition to a job-seeker's portfolio.

The list below outlines the necessary steps and timeline for the thesis program in the academic year. Email questions to

Master's Thesis Option Program Timeline

Fall Semester (First Year):

  • In the week before faculty advising begins, student attends an MTOP Information Session presented by the MSI Program Director.

Winter Semester (First Year):

  • Student contacts potential faculty advisors to discuss possible research topics.

End of Winter Semester (First Year) Through End of August:

  • Student identifies an advisor and a mutually agreeable project.
  • Interested student writes a Letter of Intent and e-mails it to by April 30th.
  • Faculty Advisor approves, requests revisions, or declines by May 31.
  • Clarifications or revisions, if necessary, due from student by June 30.
  • Student is informed of final decision of acceptance or rejection into the MTOP program.
  • Accepted student adds the three-credit independent study for Fall term to perform directed research.

Fall Semester (Second Year)

  • Working with their faculty advisor, student details out the agreed upon topic, documents hypotheses and/or research questions, completes a literature review, chooses a method, draws up data-collection instruments and procedures, and, if human subjects are to be used, submits an application to IRB for approval.
  • Advisor grades the directed research independent study. Students with satisfactory progress are recommend for continuation in the "second round."
  • Continuing student enrolls in the three-credit independent study for winter term.

Winter semester (Second Year)

  • Student and advisor meet as many times as necessary to discuss data collection, data analysis, findings, writing of the thesis, etc.
  • Student selects members for their master's thesis committee.  At minimum, the committee is composed of the faculty advisor and one faculty committee member.  A third member can be added if the student or faculty advisor would like.  The third member can either be a doctoral student or another faculty member.  The MTOP faculty advisor should be a UMSI faculty member.  The committee member could be a UMSI faculty member or could be affiliated with other departments within U of M.
  • Student collects and analyzes data and presents results in the form of a written thesis (may take nontraditional forms).

End of winter semester (By April 15)

Student defends their thesis in a public defense attended by their thesis committee. The student's thesis committee assigns a letter grade based on the following:

  1. Student who fails to complete their thesis receive a letter grade that reflects the extent to which they made progress toward the completion of their thesis and the quality of the work completed to date.
  2. Student who successfully completes their master's thesis but is unsuccessful defending that thesis in a public forum receives a letter grade that reflects the quality of their completed work.
  3. Student who successfully completes and publicly defends their master's thesis in a public forum receives a letter grade that reflects the quality of their work and receives the designation "thesis" on their transcript.

Students are required to submit their completed thesis to the Deep Blue repository and to inform umsi.registrar that they have done so.

After graduation

Student works on publication of the thesis research with the advice and assistance of committee members and advisor. This publication may be jointly authored.