2010-2012 Graduate Studies Catalog

Special Courses

Independent Study
(Includes all 591/691 courses)

Independent study courses permit investigation into topics not covered by existing courses or allow more concentrated study of topics than is possible in existing courses.  A maximum of six semester credits may be used on an approved plan of study.

The following policies govern graduate independent study:

  1. A Graduate Student Independent Study Agreement must be approved by the instructor, advisor, unit chairperson and Dean.  The Graduate Student Independent Study Agreement forms are available online at www.msubillings.edu/grad/forms.  The original copy of the approved agreement for the graduate independent study must be provided to the Registrar and copies given to the student, instructor, unit chair and Office of Graduate Studies for inclusion in the student’s file.
  2. The agreement submitted by the student must include the following:
    a.  A clear statement of the nature and direction of the investigation;
    b.  The method to be used in carrying out the investigation;
    c.  If appropriate, a preliminary bibliography of resources to be studied; and
    d.  The basis for evaluation of the work.  It is recommended that a written report serve as a culminating activity for the project.

  3. Normally, only students whose plan of study has been approved or who already have a master’s degree will be permitted to enroll for graduate independent study.  The specific college dean may grant deviations from this requirement.

  4. Courses listed in this catalog as regularly offered courses may not be enrolled for under the designation “591/691 Independent Study.”  When a faculty member, unit chairperson and dean agree to provide to a student a regularly numbered course by an independent study method, the enrollment will be by the regular course number, but the same independent study agreement form will be used as described in part one and two above.

  5. If for a valid reason a student is unable to complete the independent study in the term of enrollment, the student may request that the instructor assign and incomplete (“I”) grade.  A Work in Progress grade
    (“T”) is not allowable for Independent study.  For more information, see the paragraphs on Incomplete and Work in Progress Grades in this section.

Internships and Clinics

Many degree programs require completion of at least one practicum or supervised field-based experience.  The aim of the internship or clinic is to allow the candidate to utilize advanced skills in an applied setting under the supervision of a graduate faculty advisor.  Students must have an approved plan of study on file and meet all other unit requirements before an application for field-based experience is processed.  Students should plan to spend a minimum of 45 hours on-site for every semester credit earned.  Hours vary by program; please refer to specific programs for requirements.  All field experiences, including all 590/690, 594/694, 595/695, 597/697 courses, with the exception of RD 590/690 and RD 694, will be graded according to program grading policies.

Applications for all such field experiences at the graduate level must be processed and approved in the term before the experience is to begin.  Prior approval through the advisor and the department chairperson is required before pre-registration or registration is allowed.

Application forms for field experiences are available online at msubillings.edu/grad/recforms.htm.  Students in the rehabilitation counseling program or any student doing a counseling field-based experience in a non-public school setting must be covered by liability insurance during their period of internship or clinical practice.  The medical professional liability policy coverage expense (variable, but commonly $30 per semester) will be added to the semester bill by the Business Office.  Students are advised that professional participation at a field site prior to the start of (or continuing beyond the end of) a semester may be uninsured during such periods of time.  Consult with your advisor or department chairperson for further information regarding this matter.

All practicums, internships, and supervised field experiences in the College of Education require a valid criminal background report and notarized Self-Disclosure prior to beginning course work.  Students cannot be registered and placed in any field experience until the criminal background report is on file with MSU Billings.  The background check must be current through the duration of the semester or field experience, whichever ends later.

The criminal background report obtained from the Criminal Justice Information Services Bureau is a fingerprint based report that provides both a state and federal report.  Information on the criminal background process can be found on the Educational Theory and Practice webpage:  www.msubillings.edu/coe/etp/FieldExperi/FingerprintInfo.htm.

Licensed teachers in the state of Montana can provide their Montana Folio number to the Licensure Officer in the Educational Theory and Practice Office in lieu of submission of a fingerprint card and check.  All questions concerning the process can be directed to the Licensure Officer at 406-657-2293.

Cooperative Education

Cooperative Education (Co-Op) links students and employers in planned, credit-bearing work experiences (at local, state, and national sites) related to the student’s major/minor field of study.  Cooperative Education (406-657-1717) enables students to apply theory to the real world of work, acquire career experience, and enhance personal growth while earning credit.

Human Subjects Protocol

All research conducted by any person affiliated with MSU Billings and involving human participants as subjects must be reviewed whether or not the project is part of a formal course.  The information on the review process and application form are available on the Office of Research Compliance web site (www.msubillings.edu/orc) or at the Office of Grants and Sponsored Programs, McM 205.


A thesis is an extended written analysis and interpretation of a specific topic or subject matter.  It embodies a unique articulated perspective or specific claim with respect to the topic and it attempts to substantiate the legitimacy of the perspective or claim through a program of research.  The research should be informed by a literature search and lead to properly qualified conclusions, which contribute to the discipline.  The research project may feature data gathering through a questionnaire, testing procedure, observation, and experimentation.  It may also emphasize reflective, analytical, comparative or similar approaches to research.

Students may have a thesis track available.  Preparation of a thesis may be of great value for some graduate students and for the profession, because research projects are a crucial step in improving education.  A desired outcome is to produce a paper of such quality and currency that it might be published in a professional journal or otherwise disseminated to the field.  The student, advisor, and thesis committee have shared responsibility for defining the objectives and scope of the thesis.  The presentation and oral defense
of either project will be open to the academic community and are designed to give public recognition for the student’s achievement.

An approved graduate plan of study must be on file in the Office of Graduate Studies prior to enrollment in Thesis 599.


Before a student begins a thesis, the student’s thesis committee and the dean must approve a prospectus for the project.  The thesis committee will consist of a minimum of three (3) members, one of who will be from outside the student’s department.  The thesis committee will meet with the student to review the prospectus.  The thesis committee may be called together to review project progress at the discretion of the advisor.  The acceptable format for a thesis follows the guidelines of the Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association, 5th edition, or the recommendation of the student’s advisor.  Research projects involving human subjects must conform to the MSU Billings human subject research protocol. Policy guidelines and protocol forms may be obtained from the Office of Grants and Sponsored Programs.

Thesis Timeline

Please note that it typically takes a year to complete the process.

The student begins discussions with his/her Advisor and files an approved Plan of Study; declares intent to do a thesis.

The student consults with advisor for approval to form a Thesis Advisory Committee.  After a Committee is formed, the student submits a thesis prospectus for approval.  This process may also involve registering for thesis credit, depending on the department.

In consultation with the advisor, the student develops the thesis and periodically submits drafts for critique to the Thesis Committee.  In order to ensure sufficient time to review and defend the thesis, the final draft should be submitted to the thesis committee eight (8) weeks prior to the end of the intended semester of graduation.

With the committee’s approval, the student and advisor schedule the thesis defense with the Graduate Studies Office.  This must be done four (4) weeks prior to the date of the defense.

After successful defense, it is the student’s responsibility to obtain required signatures on the Title Page.  Signatures include the Chairperson of the Thesis Committee, Members of the Examining Committee, the Dean of the College, and the Director of Graduate Studies.

The student delivers a minimum of three (3) copies of the completed thesis (with all required signatures) to the Graduate Studies Office.  The student pays $8.00 per copy in the Business Office and brings the receipt of payment to the Graduate Studies Office.  This must be done before finals week.

The Graduate Studies Office will have the three copies of the thesis bound and will deliver two copies to the MSUB Library and will keep one copy in the Graduate Studies Office.  If the student wants additional bound copies for personal use, $8.00 per copy is charged.  The student is responsible for any mailing of the bound copies.

Defense and Final Disposition

When your thesis is ready to present, you must do the following:

  1. Schedule the oral defense with the advisory committee no later than eight weeks prior to the end of the semester in which you intend to graduate.  Members of the advisory (examining) committee must have a copy of the paper for review no later than one week prior to the final examination.
  2. Make revisions required by the advisory committee if necessary.
  3. Obtain the signed approval page with the revised, final copy of the paper from your advisor and advisory committee.
  4. Pay the binding fee of $24.00 at the Montana State University Billings Business Office.  With the copy of the binding fee receipt, deliver three unbound copies (the original and two photocopies) to the Office of Graduate Studies.  The Office of Graduate Studies delivers the three unbound copies of the thesis to the MSUB Librarian for binding.  Two copies, including the original, remain in the MSUB Library and one copy is returned to the Office of Graduate Studies for the graduate archives.
  5. Additional copies of a thesis may be bound for the student’s use, provided arrangements are made in advance and appropriate binding fees are paid.  The student is responsible for any costs of mailing.

NEXT: Petition to Consider Having Graduate Degree Program Requirement(s) Waived

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