College of Science

Thesis Proposal - BIO 6930

BIO 6930 is a public oral presentation and discussion of a proposed research plan for the master’s thesis. BIO 6930 is required for advancement to candidacy, and is a prerequisite for BIO 6940 (Thesis Research in the Biological Sciences). BIO 6930 and 6940 may be taken concurrently.

What is the purpose of BIO 6930?

To help you plan and avoid problems in your research. It is an opportunity for you discuss what you want to do, and get feedback from your thesis committee as well as others on your plan. The purpose is to help you do a better job on your research and thesis.

When should I do my 6930?

As soon as you have an idea for your thesis topic. In some cases, you and your major professor may have a project in mind as you’re admitted to the program, in which case you should do the 6930 immediately. In other cases, you and your major professor may need to discuss potential projects, so the 6930 would not be done until a topic has been decided upon.

But woudn’t it be better to put the 6930 off until I know more?

NO!! This is a very common mistake! If there are problems or concerns with your research, you need to find out about those as soon as possible. Much better to have problems identified early, while there is a chance to correct them. You don’t want the problems to be identified at your thesis defense!

But what if the committee asks me questions, and I don’t know the answers?

This may very well happen – but that’s okay. The proposal is NOT a test – it’s a proposal! If you don’t know some answers – this guides you as to what you need to study and learn. It’s okay to not know some answers at your proposal – it’s NOT okay to not know answers at your defense.

I still think I’ll put it off….

This is not a good idea. Actually, putting off your proposal until you are well into your thesis project is rather disrespectful of your committee. You’re essentially saying: “Well, I’ve done all this work, now you have to okay it, or you’re really bad people!” Don’t put your committee in that position. They really do want to help you.

My major professor mentioned the proposal, but didn’t order me to do it.

As a grad student, you’re expected to have the academic maturity to follow the appropriate procedures. If your major professor mentions that you should do your proposal – then you should do your proposal. Your major professor doesn’t expect to have to nag you about it, or give you an “order”.

What’s the format for the proposal?

You’ll start with a public presentation. The presentation should include:

  • the relevant scientific background
  • the hypotheses to be tested (objectives of your project)
  • the procedures to be used for testing your hypotheses (including a timetable for completion and an estimation of required resources)
  • the possible outcomes/preliminary data

Following the presentation, there is an opportunity for questions/comments from the general audience. That is followed by a meeting with you and your committee to discuss the project.

Do I get a grade for the proposal (BIO 6930)?

Yes. BIO 693 is a one-unit, required course. However, the grading is done pass/fail, so it won’t affect your GPA. Your major professor will assign a letter grade, but the computer will convert it to pass/fail. The grade of “C” or better is passing.

Who schedules the proposal?

You do. Work with your major professor and thesis committee to find a time when all of you can attend.

Who reserves the room for the proposal?

You do. Conference rooms in Building 4 as well as classrooms are scheduled by the Dean’s office. Lab rooms can be scheduled in the Bio department office.

Who arranges for the media equipment I need (computers, projectors, etc.)?

You do.

Who publicizes the proposal?

You do. At least one week prior to your thesis proposal presentation, you must (a) post notices in public places (including the Graduate Program Bulletin Board located outside of the Department mail room) and (b) have your announcement distributed to all Department personnel via email as listed below:

Send an email to Dr. Questad ( including all of the

  1. The subject of the announcement should be stated as: Thesis Proposal Announcement - Student Name
  2. The body of the email should include the following: 

Thesis Proposal Announcement

Thesis Title
Student Name

Date, Time, Location

Thesis Committee Members:
Professor 1 (Committee Chair)
Professor 2
Professor 3

Your Thesis Proposal Abstract (preferably as a pdf) must be attached to the email to Dr. Questad.

Should the Program of Courses (“GS-101”, "Contract" ) be done at this time?

It’s not a requirement, but it’s a real good idea. You have all of your committee together, so this is a good time to discuss and agree on which courses should be in your program. It could save you a lot of time – better that everybody talk together at once than you have to talk to everyone individually.

Are there any special forms that go along with the proposal?

There is a packet of forms you need for your thesis proposal (BIO 6930). These forms are part of the required assessment of the graduate program. Everything you need is in a single pdf file (9 pages, 67 KB). The first page has instructions.

Thesis Proposal Forms (PDF)

Anything else?

When the department has research funds available for grad students, one of the criteria to qualify for possible funding is that the proposal be completed.