Master of Urban Planning

Master's Thesis Guidelines

The MUP Thesis is scholarly applied or basic research conducted under the formal thesis guidelines of the Department and Graduate College.  Successful completion of an MUP Thesis satisfies the MUP Capstone requirement.

The thesis should address an aspect of urban and regional planning, demonstrate an ability to conduct independent research, exhibit original and critical thinking, and apply knowledge acquired in courses to a specific set of research questions.  The topic may be an outgrowth of coursework, may involve an issue of personal interest to the student not extensively covered in coursework, or emerge from consultation with a faculty member.

The thesis may be directed toward the discovery of new facts or development of theory, concepts, or frameworks, may be explanatory or exploratory, and qualitative or quantitative in design.  The thesis document usually includes an abstract, a literature review to delineate a problem or gap in existing knowledge, a statement of research objectives, an explanation of the research design and methods, a report of results, and a discussion of findings and implications for planning.  The thesis option is most appropriate for MUP students with strong interest in pursuing the PhD degree or a research-oriented career. 

Graduate College thesis guidelines are outlined in the Thesis Guidelines.  MUP students who write a thesis must satisfy the MUP Capstone requirements as well as the following departmental guidelines for an MUP Thesis:

  1. Students pursuing a Master’s Thesis must complete 8 hours of UP 599 credit with a Thesis Advisor.
  2. The student is responsible for selecting a Thesis Advisor and establishing a Thesis Committee, knowing and meeting all deadlines, submitting the applicable petition, and meeting the requirements for an acceptable thesis.
  3. The student’s Thesis Advisor must be a member of the DURP faculty. In consultation with the Thesis Advisor, the student will select at least one additional faculty member to serve on the Thesis Committee. The committee is charged with helping the student focus on a topic that meets his or her academic goals and is practicable, with advising the student in the design and conduct of the research, and with approving the final result.  Both the student and the committee should clearly articulate their mutual expectations with respect to the amount of work to be done and such expectations should be discussed prior to, and included in, as part of the Capstone Proposal Form.
  4. According to the guidelines of the Institutional Review Board for the protection of human subjects, “any human subjects research activity that will ultimately contribute to part or all of a thesis, dissertation, or other type of publication or presentation MUST go through the IRB review process prior to enrolling subjects and collecting data.”  This means that IRB review must occur before a study involving human subjects is undertaken.
  5. Researching and writing the thesis generally takes six months to one year. The Thesis Committee reviews the thesis and determines whether it meets appropriate standards of scope and quality.
  6. The written thesis is defended in an Oral Examination before the Thesis Committee and any other interested faculty, students, and members of the public (at least one committee member must be physically present at the oral defense). The date, time and location of the Oral Examination must be announced publicly at least one week in advance. An email announcement to DURP faculty and students together with a posting of the event on the departmental online calendar suffices as the public announcement. The student is expected to answer questions about the thesis research questions, design, and results at the Oral Examination.
  7. At the conclusion of the Oral Examination the committee will decide whether:
    1. The thesis is acceptable as drafted and defended.
    2. The thesis is acceptable, provided specific minor revisions identified by the committee are made.  Under this outcome, the committee will decide whether the entire committee or only the Thesis Advisor will approve the final document.
    3. The thesis is unacceptable without major revisions, therefore requiring a new defense within a specified deadline.