Timelines for Thesis or Comprehensive Exams

The following tables provide a suggested set of timelines for completing either qualitative or quantitative theses, or a comprehensive exam. 

A thesis is truly a time commitment; a project that cannot be completed in a single semester. Even so, a thesis can be an exciting and rewarding experience. If you choose to complete a thesis, you will work closely with your selected chair to create a timeline that works for you.

Note: These timelines are based on Spring graduation dates. If you plan to graduate in fall or summer, you will need to adjust the suggested timeline accordingly.

Institutional Review Board (IRB) and training:

If your research involves human participants, you must get IRB approval. Towson University has partnered with The University of Miami's Collaborative Institutional Training Initiative (CITI) to provide online training. The Towson University Office of Sponsored Programs and Research requires ALL individuals engaged in human participant research at Towson University to complete CITI's human participant protections training.

Qualitative Thesis Process

Suggested Time Period

# Months Prior to Graduation

Activity

Late spring/Early summer

12-13 months

  • Confirm topic/method
  • Recruit committee members

Summer

9-12 months

  • IRB CITI Training
  • Begin writing thesis proposal

Mid- to late-September

7-8 months

  • Finalize proposal
  • Proposal defense
  • Submit IRB paperwork

October-November

6-7 months

  • Begin data collection
  • Simultaneously work on transcriptions, early data analysis, if appropriate

February

3 months

  • Finish data collection

February-March

2-3 months

  • Data interpretation
  • Begin finalizing thesis draft

Late-March to mid-April

1-2 months

  • Submit final draft to chair and committee
  • Thesis defense

Early May

0 months(!)

  • Final thesis submission

Quantitative Thesis Process

Suggested Time Period

# Months Prior to Graduation

Activity

Late spring/Early summer

12-13 months

  • Confirm topic/method
  • Recruit committee members

Summer

9-12 months

  • IRB CITI Training
  • Begin writing thesis proposal

Fall Semester

6-8 months

  • Finalize data collection materials
  • Pre-test data collection materials, as necessary
  • Finalize proposal

November-January

4-6 months

  • Defend proposal
  • Submit IRB paperwork

January-February

3-4 months

  • Begin and finish data collection

February-March

2-3 months

  • Data analysis
  • Begin finalizing results, thesis draft

Late-March to mid-April

1-2 months

  • Submit final draft to chair and committee
  • Thesis defense

Early May

0 months(!)

  • Final thesis submission

Comprehensive Exams Process

Suggested Time Period

# Months Prior to Graduation

Activity

Take required courses and electives

1-2 years

  • Select courses that you will be able to write lengthy essays on

Summer

9-12 months

  • Start gathering materials from previous classes to study

Mid- to late-September

7-8 months

  • Inform graduate program director of your decision to take the exams
  • Contact professors to inform them you will be taking the exam
  • Meet with professors about what areas of study you should focus on

February

3 months

  • Schedule exam with graduate program director

February-March

2-3 months

  • Contact professors with any final questions

Early April

1-2 months

  • Take exams
  • Professors have a 3-week grading period

May

0 months(!)

  • Graduation