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Program Paths

Students in the MSIO program have two options for culminating milestones to complete their degree: a comprehensive exam or a thesis. The program requires the same number credit hours (34) for either path, but six of those credit hours are path dependent. Graduation from the MSIO program requires successful completion of 34 credit hours, and either passing a comprehensive exam or successfully completing a thesis project. Students admitted to the program will discuss both path options in more detail during the initial onboarding process before beginning their first semester. Additional information about these two milestones are given below. 

Students completing the comprehensive exam path take two elective courses (six credit hours total) during their time in the program and complete their exam in their final semester of the program.

Students on this path must contact Dr. Sanders one semester before anticipated graduation to be approved to sign up for the comprehensive exam. You'll need to send an email to state your intent to take the exam and graduate the following semester (be sure to include your A-number).

Exam Preparation: When you send your intent (explained above), the program director will then request for you to receive access to the "I-O Psychology Comprehensive Exam" D2L zero-credit course (this is not tied to course registration). The D2L course provides useful content in preparing for the exam, including the program policy on the exam, a list of possible topics/concepts, and additional resources. This is also where any updates or announcements regarding the upcoming exam cycle will be posted. Gaining access to these resources a semester in advance will help guide your study efforts, planning, and answer many questions. You should use any materials used within individual courses to prepare for the comprehensive exam (e.g., textbooks/readings, handouts, lectures, powerpoints, assignments).  

Content and Format of the Exam: The comprehensive exam is a proctored essay exam that covers program competencies trained across all non-elective coursework. Students can choose from a variety of questions covering the different competency areas. Once started, students have four hours to complete the exam. The exam is closed-book and password protected.

Virtual Proctoring: The exam is proctored by Examity, which is free of charge to APSU students. This is a live virtual proctoring service, requiring a webcam and reliable internet access on your computer when taking the exam. 

Students completing the thesis path take two "courses" of thesis hours across two semesters (six credit hours total). Students on this path do not take a comprehensive exam and are not required to take elective coursework (although they can take these as extra courses). The following section is a very simplified overview of the thesis process to help you understand the general steps and timing involved. Students on this path must work closely with their Thesis Committee Chair throughout the entire process.

Students who enter the program on the thesis path will discuss initial considerations with the program director during their onboarding process. However, students on this path should continue this discussion more in depth with the program director and/or their academic advisor early in the program (e.g., during the second semester for full time students). Such conversations will help students with planning and preparation, requesting a committee chair and forming the full committee, developing a tentative timeline, and developing realistic expectations for managing thesis workload and timing, especially given additional constraints students may have outside their program studies.

  1. Form/Confirm your thesis committee. 
  2. Develop a thesis plan.
  3. Develop thesis topic. 
  4. Develop a literature tracking/organization system.
  5. Draft your thesis outline (prioritize the lit review/intro sections).
  6. Begin drafting your introduction. 
  1. Continue drafting your introduction. 
  2. Draft research design/methodology.
  3. Prepare for thesis proposal meeting.
  4. What to expect in your proposal meeting.
  5. Once your proposal is approved by your committee: Submit IRB
  6. Once your IRB is approved: Start data collection!
  1. Once you've reached your target sample size for your study, download and clean your data, conduct hypothesis testing and any secondary analyses.
  2. Write up your results section.
  3. Draft your discussion section.
  4. Prepare for thesis defense meeting.
  5. Defense meeting.
  6. Discuss with advisor any additional steps for graduation.