The Final Project: Professional Reports and Theses

 

Should you write a professional report or a thesis?

The proposal

forms, rules and deadlines

timeline and details for filing in spring

award winning PRs and Theses

 

Students in the CRP program have two choices for a final project to earn their Masters Degree (MSCRP):

  • You can write a Professional Report (PR), or
  • You can write a Masters Thesis

Should you write a Professional Report or a Thesis?

Most students choose to write a professional report rather than a thesis. Your decision should be based on: 1) the purpose of the project for you; 2) the types of questions that interest you, and 3) the coursework that comes with each option. A professional report is typically a more applied project and can allow you to produce an example of the type of work that you hope to do after graduation. PR topics are more practice oriented and often result in recommendations for a specific place.  You can think of a PR as a work sample that you will be able to show to prospective employers to give them a sense of your interests and skills.  A thesis is typically a more academic project and places greater emphasis on  theories framing your topic and justification of your particular research questions and study site.  You should also allow more time to conduct thesis research. Students intending to pursue doctoral studies often choose to do a thesis. Students in the Latin American Studies and Sustainable Design dual degrees are required to choose the thesis option.

The thesis option requires that you dedicate more of your electives to your thesis project.  Thesis students are required to take Research Design (offered in the fall semester only) and two semesters of Thesis research and writing time (Thesis A and Thesis B). You must take Thesis B the semester you graduate. Professional Report students take only one writing course (Professional Report), which must be taken the semester that you graduate.

The Proposal

The first step toward completion of your PR or Thesis is to write a proposal describing your topic and how you will investigate it.  Your proposal should 1) introduce your topic and explain its relevance; 2) specify the questions/hypotheses that will be addressed; 3) delineate the methodology you will use, and explain why it is appropriate to your questions; 4) include a provisional chapter outline; 5) include a research plan and timeline; and, 6) include a source bibliography.

If you are planning to collect information from people, you must also consider the ways that your research might affect them and plan to mitigate any potential risks to participants. To better understand what risks your research might pose and whether you need to take extra steps to protect participants, you should first complete the university's IRB (Institutional Review Board) online training for student researchers. (Note: Expand the section "Apply for IRB review" and scroll down for information on submitting your proposal for review after you complete the training). Often our student research projects receive expedited review or a waiver from the full review process because our projects typically pose little risk to participants. For additional information about how the process might apply to your project, please contact the IRB program coordinator for the School of Architecture. 

To get a better sense of the kinds of topics that are appropriate for either a PR or a Thesis, you can search for past projects in the UT Digital Repository.  To find these, go to the UT Library website (www.lib.utexas.edu), use the "library services” pull down menu to locate the Scholarly Publishing page. Select  "Texas Scholar Works" on the menu on the left side of the page. Then select "communities and collections from the list on the right side. You can then use the search menu to search for electronic theses and dissertation and search by department or subject (for example, "transit," "water," etc.). This should help you identify recent reports or theses. In addition, and to access reports prior to 2008, you can consult with the reference librarians in the Architecture and Planning Library in Battle Hall.

Forms, Rules and Deadlines

In order to graduate on time, you need to begin planning for your PR or Thesis research well in advance.  This means exploring potential topics and identifying faculty members to work with on your topic.  If you are planning on writing a Thesis, you need to begin earlier.  Before you can enroll in the first course in the Thesis sequence (Thesis A) you must discuss topic ideas with your intended committee members, write a proposal and obtain the signatures of your two committee members on the PR/Thesis form and submit the proposal and form to Robin Dusek in the Graduate Office by the last class day of the semester before you will enroll in Thesis A. If you are writing a PR, you must submit the PR/Thesis form and proposal to Robin by the last class day of the semester before you will enroll in the PR course. So, if you are intending to write a Thesis and graduate in May, you would be submitting your proposal by the end of the summer session in order to enroll in Thesis A in the fall. If you are intending to write a PR and graduate in May, you would be submitting your proposal by the last class day of the fall semester.

Whether you are writing a Thesis or a PR, the Chair of your committee must be a member of the CRP Graduate Studies Committee. The second reader can another UT faculty member or (for a PR) can be a professional outside of the university with knowledge of your topic.
 

A suggested timeline for planning, writing and filing your PR or Thesis for spring graduation:

Task

Thesis               

Professional Report

Discuss topic ideas with faculty Late spring of first year Fall of second year
Write proposal, discuss with faculty, agree upon timeline for research and faculty review Late spring semester, first year Early to mid fall semester
Obtain signatures, file proposal and form By last class day of second summer session By last class day of fall semester
Contact IRB program contact, determine if proposal review required, submit proposal for review Early in fall semester of second year By mid fall semester
Enroll in courses Enroll in Research Design and Thesis A, fall of second year Enroll in PR course, spring of second year
Conduct research Begin by fall of year two Late fall/semester break of second year
Present full draft to committee for review and comments By end of March or date agreed upon with committee
Have format checked and approved by the graduate school (format guidelines) Early April (while awaiting faculty feedback)
File final version with the graduate school Last class day of spring semester
Graduate!! Late May. Congratulations

award-winning professional reports and theses

The following are examples of exemplary Professional Reports and Theses completed by CRP graduates in recent years: