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Comprehensive Examination vs Thesis

photo of students studying

All Criminal Justice Master’s students default to the Comprehensive Examination option, but can apply to do a thesis instead after your first semester in the program.

Credit Hours Differences and Similarities

Both thesis and comprehensive examination students complete 33 credits.

However, of those 33 credits, Master’s students who complete a thesis are required to take 3 credits of electives (one course) and register for 6 thesis credits (equivalent of two courses). Students choosing the comprehensive examination are required to take 6 credits of electives (two courses) and register for 3 Master’s Comprehensive Examination credits (equivalent of one course). Essentially, the student balances the three additional course work credits required for the project against the additional structure and depth demands of the thesis.  In addition, as indicated in the graduate catalog, if students have not completed the work for the thesis by the time they have completed their required thesis credits, they will need to enroll in at least one credit of  thesis each semester until the work is completed, defended and accepted by their committee.

Comprehensive Examination Requirements

The comprehensive examination requires students to answer six essay questions covering all Foundation Series courses and one Seminar Series course of the student’s choice.  The comprehensive examination extends an entire semester and the exams are given across three weekends.  The examination is Pass/Fail grade requiring students to achieve a Pass on all exam questions in order to pass the entire examination.  It is expected that students will sit for the comprehensive examination in their semester of graduation, but the comprehensive examination cannot be taken until after the student has successfully completed all Foundation Series courses and at least one Seminar Series course.

Thesis Requirements

Thesis work typically requires the development and execution of original research or the analysis of existing data. An exhaustive literature review is expected, as a basis for testing of theory-generated hypotheses. A typical thesis will have some form of the following chapters: Introduction, Literature Review, Methods, Findings and Analysis, and Conclusion. A thesis will range in length from 75 to 300 pages.

A thesis should also be polished and of publishable quality. It must conform to the style requirements of the Graduate College at Boise State University. The Graduate College provides a thesis template that contains all required content and formatting. The citation and reference format that is appropriate for our discipline, and required for your thesis, is the one used by the Academy of Criminal Justice Sciences in their two journals Justice Quarterly and The Journal of Criminal Justice Education. You may obtain a copy of the citation and reference format at the back of any issue of JCJE (available in the library or via your committee members).