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Theses, projects, and dissertations

Graduate degree program students complete their program of study as follows:

  • Master of Science: Thesis or scholarly project
  • Doctor of Nursing Practice: Final project
  • Doctor of Philosophy in Nursing Science: Dissertation

Master of Science: Thesis or scholarly project

All Master of Science students are required to engage in an independent scholarly inquiry activity resulting in either a thesis or a scholarly project. The distinction between a thesis and a scholarly project option is neither the quality nor the quantity of effort; they are different forms of scholarly inquiry.

Master of Science students may elect either a thesis (NMETH 700, minimum of 9 credits) or a scholarly project (must include at least 1 credit of NMETH 598 and other relevant courses) as their scholarly inquiry activity.

Thesis and scholarly project options share five important attributes:

  1. Demonstration of scholarship, including mastery of a focused area of knowledge.
  2. Completion of the required research course(s). All master’s students are required to complete NMETH 520 or an equivalent course as specified for the degree program or track. In addition, all CIPCT students must complete NMETH 530.
  3. Completion of a minimum of 6 or 9 credits of scholarly inquiry coursework. For thesis students, this coursework will be a minimum of 9 credits of NMETH 700. For scholarly project students, this coursework will be a minimum of 6 credits and may involve only NMETH 598 (Special Projects) or include both NMETH 598 and other relevant courses.
  4. Guidance by a supervisory committee who must approve a written plan. For thesis students, the plan is the thesis proposal. For scholarly project students, the plan is the Master’s Project Initial Plan and Final Product Report form.
  5. All students must complete and submit the Use of Human and Animal Subjects for Theses and Dissertations form.
  6. Completion of a final examination and final quarter requirements.


The thesis is an independent piece of research on a topic of particular interest to the student that involves the application of a research methodology.

Thesis requirements

A thesis is an independent piece of research on a topic of particular interest to the student that involves the application of a research methodology. A student’s thesis must:

  1. Demonstrate the use of scientific inquiry including a formal, written proposal identifying researchable questions and methods; data gathered to answer the question (may include a variety of data sources including, but not limited to, collection of primary data from humans or animals, secondary analysis of data gathered for another purpose, literature as data, e.g., meta-analysis, historical documents) and data analyzed and conclusions are drawn.
  2. Be relevant to the discipline of nursing and within the context of advanced and specialized nursing practice.
  3. Intend to be relevant beyond a single institution/sample.
  4. When conducting research involving human subjects, must be preceded by completion and submission of the Use of Human and Animal Subjects for Theses and Dissertations form.
  5. Be primarily an independent project.
  6. Meet UW Graduate School minimum requirements, including communicating results and processes via a formal written report filed with the Graduate School.
  7. Meet all format requirements as outlined in the Style and Policy Manual for Theses and Dissertations.

Timeline for thesis development

The following is a general time frame to consider for your thesis. It may not apply if you are a part-time student.

First quarter

Begin to formulate and read on your topic of interest. Explore for a potential thesis adviser, using the faculty section of the School of Nursing Web page to assist you in identifying faculty with related expertise.

Second to third quarter

Discuss your ideas with relevant faculty (and in NMETH 520 lab, if applicable). Select a thesis adviser. Meet regularly with your thesis adviser. You should complete the membership of your supervisory committee. Develop the first draft of a research problem, including background knowledge and research purpose.

Third to Fourth Quarter

Complete a systematic review of the literature. Complete conceptual phase of the study. Develop methodology phase of study. Explore potential settings for conducting your study. Obtain approval of the thesis proposal, notifying committee members at least two weeks in advance that materials for review will be submitted. Initiate the human subjects review.

Fourth to Fifth Quarter

After approval of the proposal and human subject procedures, initiate data production and prepare for the analysis of data. Make final corrections of Chapters I and II. Review Final Quarter Requirements. Faculty are usually unavailable to review thesis material during finals week or interim periods.

Fifth to Final Quarter

Complete data analysis. Write a presentation of findings and interpretive phase of the study. Time your final examination (thesis defense) so that your thesis may be approved by your supervisory committee and submitted to the Graduate School by the last day of the quarter. Complete final quarter requirements.

Scholarly project

A student’s scholarly project may address program needs, issues of quality assurance, policy analysis, or clinical problem analysis.

Scholarly project requirements

  1. Results must be communicated in writing and orally;
  2. Be completed by either the individual student or via group collaboration;
  3. Completion and submission of the Use of Human and Animal Subjects for Theses and Dissertations form.
  4. Completion of at least six (6) credits of course work that supports the student’s primary focus of scholarly inquiry. The plan for these 6 credits must be approved by the supervisory committee BEFORE course work is begun. ALL students choosing the scholarly project option must take a minimum of 1 credit of NMETH 598: Special Projects.
  5. Projects may be completed with 6 credits of NMETH 598: Special Projects. Study in NMETH 598 should reflect the integration of knowledge gained from prior course work and demonstrate an extension of knowledge within the student’s focus of scholarly inquiry. Study in NMETH 598 may involve:
    • research dissemination;
    • research utilization;
    • exploration of issues in quality assurance;
    • a research practicum, including participation in a study team, or work with an individual researcher or research facilitator;
    • clinical problem analysis;
    • a demonstration project;
    • the development of a scholarly paper, evaluation tool, film or proposal for submission to an external funding agency; and/or
    • participation in a public policy process.

Steps in the development of a scholarly project

  1. Select a topic of interest. Read about your topic and prepare to discuss it in NMETH520.
  2. Select a project adviser/supervisory committee chair. The project adviser is the graduate faculty member with whom the student works most closely to develop and present the scholarly project and should have expertise in the topic of interest. Students initiate the selection of their supervisory committee chair. Set an appointment with the faculty member to discuss the topic, form an acquaintance, and explore a possible advisee/adviser agreement.
  3. With your project adviser, identify the primary focus of the scholarly inquiry and how the project will develop your mastery of a focused area of knowledge.
  4. Form the remainder of the supervisory committee.
  5. Develop your project initial plan. With your committee chair (project adviser):
    • Establish a timeline for your work. Establish a schedule of regular appointments with the supervisory chair in order to enhance progression according to your identified time frame for completion.
    • Use the Master’s Project Initial Plan and Final Product Report form to develop your plan.
    • Determine when to share a draft of the plan with the other member(s) of the committee. Committee members do not expect to get materials from the student unless the chair agrees that this should occur. Notify committee members (other than the Chair) that they are to expect something from you about two weeks prior to its arrival so that they can plan for it in their workload. Expect a one week turn-around time. Committee members send their responses directly to your chair, who will arrange for an appointment with you to go over the comments. In the event of disagreement by committee members, the members themselves work this out and the chair has binding decision power.
    • When the project plan is approved, it is signed on the form by all committee members. A signed copy is placed in the School of Nursing file in Student and Academic Services (SAS).
    • The committee chair and student must sign the Use of Human and Animal Subjects for Theses and Dissertations form. Submit the completed form to Student and Academic Services.
  6. Complete planned course work and activities. Work primarily with your supervisory committee chair, and with the entire committee if appropriate.
  7. Complete final quarter requirements, including applying for your degree. An application for degree (warrant) is required for your final examination.
  8. Take the Final Examination. The Final Examination is the presentation of the project. Arrange your final examination with your committee during the quarter in which you expect to complete your project. The final examination must be written and oral. The student must pass the final examination. All members of the Supervisory Committee participate. Those in attendance will question the student, and the examination will last approximately one hour. When the final examination has been concluded, all members of the supervisory committee sign:
    • Application for Degree (warrant),
    • Verification of Degree form, and
    • Master’s Project Initial Plan and Final Product Report form. The supervisory chair completes and submits the MN or MS Program Evaluation: Scholarly Inquiry Scale online.
  9. Return the following items to Student and Academic Services:
    • Signed Application for Degree (SAS will send it to the UW Graduate School)
    • Signed Verification of Degree form;
    • Abstract of the project; and
    • Completed and signed Master’s Project Initial Plan and Final Product Report.

Doctor of Nursing Practice: Final Project

Practice doctorate projects are systematic investigations of questions about practice and therapeutics that evaluate and/or translate all forms of evidence into practice. Each student collaborates with an agency to address a real-world clinical problem or health issue. Most often, a student will be engaged in only one phase or aspect of translating evidence into practice.

Examples of final projects include, but are not limited to:

  • Appraising evidence and making recommendations of adapting clinical guidelines to the unique population or characteristics of a specific clinic or community
  • Disseminating the latest evidence by training staff/community members
  • Completion of a needs assessment
  • Implementing changes in practice/organizational workflow or policies
  • Evaluating the impact of a change in practice or new protocol
  • Program development or evaluation
  • Policy development or evaluation

Every DNP student is required to complete a final project.

The DNP Project requires 6 credits of NMETH 801: Practice Doctorate Project and 9 credits of NCLIN 801 Practice Doctorate Clinical Immersion (total 15 credits). You complete 3 credits of NMETH 801 each in autumn and winter quarters and NCLIN 801 in winter quarter only.

Doctor of Philosophy in Nursing Science: Dissertation

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