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Graduation Options

Every student will be required to select one of the following three degree options. The selection of the graduation degree option must be done by the beginning of finals week of your second term.

More information about these three options can be found in the Department Manual.

Comprehensive Exam Option

Students will be given their first opportunity to pass the comprehensive examination during finals week of the second fall term. A 70% pass rate is needed to pass the comprehensive exams. A student who fails the examination must wait until the next academic term before repeating the entire examination unless there are reasons that make an exception advisable. The second offering of these exams will be in mid to late March (during the first external placement). Exceptions must be requested from the Graduate School in writing by the student and advisor/chair/director. Students who have twice failed the examination are not to repeat the exam unless they have completed further study as prescribed by the department chair/school director. After the first and second failure of comprehensive examination, the student can petition the department/school to repeat the comprehensive examination. The third offering will be conducted in late May/early June (during the second external placement). Comprehensive examinations will not be administered more than three times to individual students. At the point of the third failure of comprehensive examination, the department/school will recommend to the Graduate School that the student be dismissed from the degree program.

Thesis Option

Students who chose to complete a Master's Thesis are encouraged to begin the process as early as possible in their educational program. Students are directed to follow the specific guidelines provided by the Graduate School on the Thesis process.

Thesis registration is comprised of a total of 6 hours of CSD 499. Students should register for this during the terms of active work on the thesis. A grade of DE (deferred) will be given until the final product is complete and graded. Contact the Graduate School for thesis assistance and procedures.

Independent Study

Independent studies consist of a 2-hour registration of CSD 400, typically in the Fall of the second year of the graduate program. Students must be registered in the semester that the student elects to complete the project with the independent study mentor. Graduate students who select the independent study option must adhere to the following guidelines in order to complete the Independent Study portion of the graduate requirements:

The Timeline:

  • Students must generate their own independent study project.
  • Students must select their graduation degree option (i.e., thesis, comprehensive exams, independent study by the beginning of finals week of their first Spring semester. Students will communicate their choice by completing the online Graduation Degree Option selection form.
  • Students must complete the online Graduate Degree Option selection form. The direct link to form is:
  • Prior to submitting the above online form, the student must have selected an independent study mentor, topic, and project type. The mentor must be a member of the graduate faculty of the CSD department. Additional support may include other professionals as appropriate for consultation, collaboration, and/or implementation.
  • The student, in agreement with the faculty mentor, should determine a timeline to meet requirements and communicate consistently for feedback. This will include the semester in which the independent study will be undertaken and completed. The independent study cannot be considered complete and a grade will not be assigned unless the student is registered.
  • The student must register for CSD 400 and complete their independent study in the elected semester. If a student decides they can no longer complete the independent study option once enrollment has been completed, the student must drop the course before midterm in order to receive a WX.
  • After midterm, standard University grading policies will be followed.
  • The project to be graded will be submitted to the faculty mentor no later than three weeks before the first day of the final exam week of the elected term.
  • The student and the faculty mentor will decide how the project will be disseminated.
  • Once the project has been reviewed and graded by the faculty mentor, the project will be returned to the student no later than two weeks before the end of the semester (for needed revisions prior to dissemination).

The Independent Study Project will be considered complete when all required revisions are made and approved by the faculty mentor.

Requirements For All Independent Studies

  1. Summary of relevant literature needs to be evidenced within the project
  2. Regularly scheduled meetings with the mentor
  3. Written projects will be no more than 25 pages long
  4. Needs to be disseminated (see suggestions below). Type of dissemination will be determined by the student and mentor.

Types of projects:

In-Service Presentation

The written document must include a justification for the in-service and it must include measurable learner outcomes and presentation notes. The student must develop the materials that would be used during an in-service that may include audio-visuals, handouts, and descriptions of interactive learning experiences. The in-service must be an original presentation.


Materials must be innovative and must be created by the student. A collection of previously developed materials is not acceptable. This project must include a rationale for the project, a detailed description of the materials developed, detailed instructions for how these materials should be used, and a discussion of the potential benefits that might be derived from use of the materials.

Media Project

The project must be original work and include a detailed rationale for its use. A description of the intended audience and a discussion of the potential benefits that might be derived must be included.

Resource Manual

The project must include a rationale, description of the intended audience, an explanation of how the manual should be used, and a discussion of the potential benefits that might be derived from use of the manual.

Service Learning/Civic Engagement

The student might explore a project that addresses a specified need in the community. Using this identified need from a community agency, the student, under the direction of the faculty mentor and the community agency, will craft a project that meets this need. Communication with the community agency will be included in the process.

Topic Exploration

To further their knowledge base, the student might be interested in pursuing a self-study, under the direction of/in conjunction with their faculty mentor, on a specific topic of interest. The nature of this experience (responsibility, accountability, process, product) will be determined after a discussion between the student and mentor. This self-study will be a semester-long endeavor with regular meetings (at a minimum two times per month) between the student and mentor.


The student might envision a project that does not fit into the categories identified in this document. If the student completes such a project, it must meet the minimal standards for all projects (see above).

Potential dissemination

Dissemination of new learning is a responsibility within our discipline. Options for dissemination may include, but are not limited to:

  • Consumer presentation
  • Professional presentation
  • Academic classroom
  • Peer seminar
  • Poster display
  • Conference presentation
  • ISUReD (Research and eData) online repository
    • To submit to ISUReD, the student should email a copy of the final document, a signed cover page, and a signed copy of the ISUReD submission agreement form ( to In the email, the student should indicate this is a graduate independent study.