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Master of Science in Clinical Science (MSCS)

Final Project & Exam

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Students must complete and write-up a final research project, provide an open-to-the-public oral presentation, and defend the project to satisfy degree requirements. The final research project may take the form of a publishable paper or thesis. The thesis/publishable paper should:

  • state the problem
  • present a researchable hypothesis
  • discuss pertinent findings
  • provide coherent conclusions and implications of the issue being studied
Students should demonstrate:
  • substantial contribution to the development of the scientific question being studied
  • ability to partition a complex question into a workable set of specific objectives and/or answerable research questions/testable hypotheses
  • ability to critically review and document the current state of the evidence
  • substantial contribution to the study design and selection of the study subjects
  • ability to organize results/observations
  • ability to adequately identify and discuss the results, study limitations and implications of the observations in the context of previously known theories, recommendations and practices

The two final research project options differ primarily in the form of the final written product. Although it is extremely difficult to be highly specific about the content of either a thesis or a publishable research paper, it is anticipated that all final projects, whether written as a thesis or a research paper, will include the collection and appropriate analysis of quantitative or qualitative data. Although primary data collection is desirable, use of already collected data sets involving significant additional analyses are acceptable at the master's level.

The processes for both options are identical except for the final step, in which the thesis is submitted to the Clinical Science Program and the Graduate School and the research paper is submitted to the exam committee and to a refereed journal approved by the exam committee.

Steps for Completing the Final Project and Exam

1. Choose and delineate a problem for investigation.

Consider topics previously pursued which can perhaps be taken a step further. Review the current literature in the area.

2. Choose a three-member exam committee.

All members must have or be eligible for a Graduate School faculty appointment. For a committee member that does not have a Graduate School appointment, students may request that the CLSC Program submit an appointment nomination to the Graduate School. To begin this process, the student must submit to Galit Mankin a CV of the nominee. The nomination/approval process takes 6-8 weeks. Guidelines are posted on the Graduate School website.

The chair is required to hold a "regular" Graduate School appointment whereas the other members can have or obtain either "regular" or "special" appointments. The committee chair must be a CLSC faculty member. In addition, the committee as a whole must meet the following three criteria:

  • One member must be from outside the department.
  • An outside member is defined as a person without a primary appointment in the Clinical Science Program.
  • The majority of the committee members, two out of three, must come from the CLSC faculty.
3. Prepare a written proposal for the research project.

It is suggested that students register for one thesis/research paper credit during the term they work on the proposal, and that they distribute the remaining credits over the terms in which the bulk of the research is conducted. Students who complete the thesis option are to enroll in CLSC 6950 Master’s Research Project: Thesis and students who complete the publishable paper option are to enroll in CLSC 6699 Master’s Research Project: Publishable Paper. The total number of course credit hours that students may complete for their final project (thesis or publishable paper) is 4-6 credit hours. While the final project is in progress, credits for either CLSC 6950 or CLSC 6699 are assigned the grade IP (in progress). The grade is changed retroactively by the final project exam committee chair when the final project is completed and a grade can be assigned. Students must complete EPID 6630 Epidemiology, BIOS 6601/6602 Biostatistics, BIOS 6648 OR EPID 6626 Research Methods, and CLSC 7150 Ethics and Regulation prior to enrolling in either of these two options. In general, whether doing a thesis or research paper, the proposal should contain the following elements: 1) A problem statement, including justification as to the significance and scope of the study question, 2) A review of the relevant literature, discussing the scope and limitations of the available literature relative to the issue studied, 3) Hypotheses/research question - levels of hypotheses/research question, alternative and rival hypotheses, specification of the variables.

Planned methodology for the study:

  • Study setting
  • data source
  • sampling techniques
  • size of sample
  • plan of analysis including the organization and summary of the data and statistical techniques to be used
  • proposed timetable for completion of project


4. Implement the investigation and develop a timeline for completion and graduation.
5. Prepare the written report.
  • A statement of the problem, including formulation of hypotheses when appropriate
  • A review of relevant literature to identify research that has preceded and led to the thesis problem and rational for the study
  • A description of the study setting
  • A description of the method(s) of inquiry to be used including data collection instruments and statistical techniques, and explanation of why these methods are appropriate for meeting the objectives of the study
  • A presentation of the findings/results of the study
  • Discussion of the implications or application of the results, integration with other published research findings, and suggestions for further research

Guidelines for content of publishable research paper - adapted from McMaster University and Structured Abstract Guidelines:

  • A statement of the study objective
  • A description of the study design
  • A description of the study settin
  • A description of the patient(s), population, or events being studied
  • A discussion of the methods and interventions (if applicable)
  • A presentation of the main results
  • A discussion of the results, contribution to the literature and limitations
  • Conclusions
6. Give all members of the exam committee a draft of the written report.

Allow committee members at least four weeks to review the draft and return their comments. Incorporate these comments into a final draft. 

7. Scheduling the Thesis/Publishable Paper Final Exam.

When the committee chair agrees that the thesis/publishable paper is ready to defend and all members of the committee have signed the Final Exam Schedule Approval form, a day and time acceptable to all committee members can be scheduled. Faculty signatures on this form ensure that the full committee agrees that the student is ready to defend his/her final thesis/publishable paper. Students should plan on a meeting of at least two hours unless the committee chair advises differently. The defense must be held in a room on the AMC campus or an approved affiliated campus.

All members of the committee must be present for the exam. One member, but not the chairperson or the student, may participate by interactive video.

Students must be enrolled for either thesis credit (CLSC 6950) or research paper credit (CLSC 6699) during the semester in which the final exam (oral defense) is held. It is expected that all CLSC course work (required and elective courses) be completed prior to the final exam defense. However, students can be completing course work during the semester in which the final exam is held.

Students must submit the Request for Scheduling Exam form to the program coordinator with the signed Final Exam Schedule Approval form.

Please note that the following forms are needed for the above process:

  • Request for Scheduling Exam form (a Graduate School form)
  • Final Exam Schedule Approval form (a CLSC program form)

Please allow a minimum of 4 weeks in advance of the Graduate School deadline for CLSC program signatures and review. Graduate School deadlines for graduation are listed in the Graduate School calendar available at the Office of the Registrar website.

Program-approved and signed Graduate School forms must be submitted to the Graduate School at least two weeks prior to the defense date. This deadline is strictly enforced and if not met will necessitate the rescheduling of the exam.

8. Thesis/Publishable Paper Final Exam.

The thesis/publishable paper defense is open to the public and is publicly advertised. Upon completion of the student’s presentation and answering of any questions from attendees, the committee chair will close the meeting so that the committee may discuss with the student any issues, concerns, or required changes to the thesis/publishable paper.

The committee may require changes to the final thesis/publishable paper. If changes are required, a timetable for re-submitting the revised document to committee members should be established. A timetable is particularly important when a student expects to graduate in the semester in which he/she defends the thesis/publishable paper.

9. Prepare final document.

After the oral defense, incorporate any additional changes into the final version of the thesis or publishable paper.


Copies of the current Style and Policy Manual for Theses and Dissertations are available from the Graduate School. The Graduate School also provides technical assistance in theses preparation to students by offering a "thesis clinic" twice annually and through individual advising by appointment. Two bound copies of the final version of the thesis are submitted to the Graduate School for final approval. Please note: A bound copy of the thesis must also be submitted to the CLSC program office for inclusion in our library.

Research Paper

Copies of research papers are submitted to each member of the exam committee, the program office, and to a refereed journal approved by the exam committee. Students completing the research paper option will not be assigned a final grade until a copy of the research paper and a copy of the transmittal letter submitting the paper to the agreed upon journal is received in the program office. Once this is received, the program office will submit the final grade to the Graduate School.

Please Note

It is common that all committee members be included as authors on final research papers, although this is not always the case. The issue of authorship should be discussed in every instance with all committee members. If, by mutual agreement, a committee member is not included as an author, he/she should be acknowledged in the research paper. The chair of the exam committee will have primary responsibility for assuring that the final report is completed and that the grade is submitted to the Graduate School.

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