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Information for Current Students - Thesis Expectations, Timeline, Committee, etc.


General Overview

The MST is a 31 credit hour Master’s Degree program containing courses that integrate discipline-specific content and research-based instructional strategies.  The overarching goal of this program is to improve the knowledge and skills of secondary mathematics and science teachers in order to improve the learning of their students. In addition to taking the specialized courses of the program, the MST students are required to conduct educational research.  Five of the required 31 hours are devoted to the completion of an educational research thesis project.  Used herein, the term “educational research” encompasses all systematic inquiry into the teaching and/or learning of science, mathematics or computer science leading to the development of new knowledge about teaching and/or learning.

Thesis Objectives

MST thesis projects are to be unique and relevant inquiries, and determining the appropriate interpretation of the following objectives is a responsibility of each thesis committee.  Thus it is paramount that students communicate with their committee members early and often in their work, such that a mutual understanding of the objectives may develop.  With the consensus of a student’s committee, it may be appropriate for a student to blend other types of scientific inquiry into the thesis project.  However, in all such cases the educational research component will stand out as the primary focus of the project.  Students conducting research for their MST thesis projects will:

  1. Identify a unique education research question.
  2. Identify existing research relevant to this question, and apply it appropriately to the context of the project.
  3. Collect data appropriate to the research question. Reduce, analyze, and interpret the data appropriately in the context of the research question.
  4. Draw appropriate conclusions from the data, at the proper level of generality, and clearly articulate their significance with respect to existing research and classroom practice.
  5. Recognize and explain the limitations of the study and suggest, as appropriate, future study topics.

Protection of Human Subjects

The subjects of educational research are people. Therefore, one must at all times be cognizant of the ‘protection of subjects’ rights.’  At the University of Maine this process involves: 1) all personnel named in the study taking the on-line tutorial required by the University of Maine’s Institutional Review Board; 2) getting prior approval from that board for the research project; and 3) conducting the research in accordance with the approved project proposal.

Suggested Timeline for Full-time Students

First Semester:

  1. Take SMT 588: Seminar in Science and Mathematics Education Research.  This course will familiarize you with research involving human subjects and many methods of educational research, and will provide you with a forum to begin reading the literature in your field and for developing your research proposal.  Also, enroll in SMT 699 (Thesis) for one credit, since you will be working on your research proposal.
  2. Find an advisor with whom you would like to work and, as your project idea becomes clearer, begin recruiting appropriate people (a minimum of two in addition to your principal advisor) for your committee.
    • Committee composition requirements: a minimum of three graduate faculty members (assistant, associate, or full professors, not lecturers), two of whom are members of the Center faculty.


Second Semester:

  1. Begin taking thesis credits in addition to your courses.
  2. Get approval for your project from your committee and from the Institutional Review Board.
  3. Continue your literature review.
  4. Share your proposal and some relevant literature in the MST seminar forum.


Summer: Students carrying 12-month assistantships will have to register for at least one (typically a thesis) credit in the summer in order to continue getting paid.  Use this time to conduct your study and continue your review of the literature.


Third Semester:

  1. Conduct your study.
  2. Complete your literature review.


Fourth Semester:

  1. Analyze your data.
  2. Contact the Graduate School to obtain deadlines and thesis formats.
    Graduate School Forms (Checklist for May or August graduation for exact deadlines and program/Graduate School requirements, and Thesis Guidelines for thesis formats and guidelines)
  3. Write a complete draft of your thesis and pass it to your advisor for review.
  4. Revise draft and distribute it to your committee for review at least two weeks prior to your defense.
    1 hard copy of thesis should also be given to Leisa in Rm. 120 Bennett Hall with Thesis Defense flier for time and date of defense 2 weeks before thesis defense (she will help you with the flier).
  5. Defend and finalize thesis.

Note—You must be registered for at least one credit for the semester during which you graduate, and have completed 6 Thesis Credits (to include .

Sample Research Questions

The following are examples of appropriate research questions and are presented as guides to help establish the breadth of this field of study.  Take note of the range of settings and scales for the studies.

  1. Is the construction of three-dimensional models from topographic maps an effective strategy for teaching seventh graders how the maps depict the lay-of-the-land?
  2. What pre-existing ideas do ninth graders have about the use of variables in algebraic equations?
  3. Is peer-led team-learning an effective strategy for improving the understanding of chemistry students in high enrollment introductory courses in college?
  4. What epistemological beliefs do students possess about learning in introductory biology laboratories?  How do differences in their beliefs impact their learning?
  5. When introductory physics is listed as a prerequisite for taking geophysics, what specific content knowledge does the geophysics professor assume the students will possess, and do the students possess it?  Do the students with this knowledge do better in geophysics?

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