The following guidelines describe policies and procedures specific to the Department of Geology and Environmental Geosciences. Additional procedures, restrictions, regulations and deadlines are established by the NIU Graduate School. It is the responsibility of students to know and observe such procedures, deadlines, etc., and to familiarize themselves with relevant sections of the NIU Graduate Catalog.
The MS in Geology requires the completion of at least 30 semester hours of graduate credit. At least 15 of these hours must be at the 500- or 600-level. Normally, at least 24 semester hours should be in geology; however, this requirement is waived for students seeking Teacher Certification, to whom separate requirements apply.
MS students holding teaching or research assistantships are to carry 9 semester hours of course work throughout a fall or spring semester. At least 6 of the 9 hours must be in course work in the geology department unless approved by the Graduate Committee and the student's advisor. Reductions of up to 3 semester hours in the expected course load and any overload must be approved by the Graduate Committee.
A program of courses should be worked out with the student's advisor. This program must be filed with the Graduate School no later than the semester in which the student intends to graduate and by the deadline established by the Graduate School. However, it is advisable to draft the program of courses no later than the student's third full-time semester, and check it against Graduate School and department requirements to ensure that there are no last-minute problems.
In or before the first semester of course work, all students are required to participate in an oral interview with four faculty chosen by the Graduate Committee. These interviews are to aid the advisor and student in the preparation of a course of study. This is an interview, not an examination, and generally the Interview Committee will ask the student to take certain courses to round out his or her background. The results and recommendations from the interview will be given to the Graduate Committee and the student.
Every M.S. student is required to provide a written report of progress achieved in the program and with their research each year in February or March to an assigned member of the Graduate Committee.
Of the 30 semester hours of graduate credit required, at least 24 semester hours must be in course work. No more than 3 semester hours of independent study (GEOL 570 or GEOL 670) may be included, and no more than 6 hours of thesis research (GEOL 599) may be counted towards the degree, although in practice many students take more than 6 hours to satisfy requirements of continuous registration, minimum credit hours per semester, etc.
The student's advisor is normally also the thesis director. An initial advisor, based on the student's expressed area of interest, is assigned to the student at admission, but the student may later change to a new advisor by mutual consent. ( By Graduate School regulations, a faculty member serves as a thesis director only with his or her own consent, and may decline to serve as director of any particular thesis project. ) Students should select a thesis topic, in consultation with their advisor, no later than the spring semester of their first year in the program.
Each Master's candidate is required to give a departmental colloquium, usually in the second semester of the second year in the program.
Graduate theses must be produced in accordance with the standards of presentation acceptable to the NIU Graduate School. The student should therefore obtain a copy of the Graduate School's "Manual for Theses and Dissertations" early on, read it, and adhere to the standards it contains. Failure to do so will result in needless complications as the thesis nears completion.
The thesis must be read by and defended orally to a Thesis Committee consisting of three members, as follows:
Normally, all three members will be from department faculty. However, exceptions may be made in special cases, with the approval of the Graduate Committee.
The normal sequence of events in the semester of completion of the thesis is, in brief:
The non-thesis option has two requirements which, in effect, substitute for the thesis: Additional course work and a final comprehensive examination in addition to the general comprehensive examination.
The non-thesis option requires at least thirty hours of graduate course work, no more than 6 of which may be in independent study courses. No thesis research ( GEOL 599 ) hours may be counted toward the non-thesis MS. Typically, the student selects courses based in part on an area of specialized interest, and is assigned a faculty advisor based on that area. However, it is also acceptable to pursue a broad program in geology for the non-thesis option.
In addition to the first semester interview required of all MS students, the student pursuing the non-thesis option must, in his or her final semester, successfully complete a comprehensive final examination. The examination will consist of either one six-hour written general examination or three two-hour written examinations in the area or areas of specialization of the student and will demand a level of knowledge and understanding comparable to that expected of a student finishing a master's thesis in those areas.
The examination will include questions set by three faculty members, known as the Examination Committee, consisting of the student's graduate advisor and two others chosen by the student with the agreement of the advisor. One of these three faculty may be from a department other than Geology.
If a specialized examination is chosen, the areas in which questions are to be asked may be discussed between the student and the members of the Examination Committee in advance of the examination. The three areas must be approved by the advisor and the Graduate Committee. The three written exams must be taken within a period of one week, and the results reported to the department Director of Graduate Studies within one week of the last written exam.
The result of the written examination shall be pass or failure. A student who fails the written examination may, at the discretion of the Examination Committee, be required to take an oral examination of two hours duration, administered by the same three-member Examination Committee. A student who fails the overall examination, can at the discretion of the department, retake the examination again. A second overall failure will result in the student being dropped from the M.S. program.
For graduation in a given semester, the examination must be successfully completed before the deadlines established by the NIU Graduate School for that semester. It is the responsibility of the student to set the dates for final comprehensive examinations, in consultation with his or her advisor and the Director of Graduate Studies, and subject to the availability of the members of the Examination Committee.