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Graduate Degree Requirements

Master's Degree

GENERAL REQUIREMENTS: Each student accepted into the M.S. program in the School of Renewable Natural Resources, regardless of concentration, will have an initial qualifying exam during the first semester administered by at least three faculty members in the School. This exam will identify areas of knowledge that can be improved through coursework, and these courses will be detailed on the student’s program of study (see below), which will be kept in the student’s file.

ADVISORY COMMITTEE: In the School of RNR, the advisory committee approves the program of study, the proposed research plan, and the Master's thesis, and serves as the examining committee for the final exam. Composition of the advisory committee must satisfy the requirements of the Graduate School that are specified in the General Catalog. Briefly, the advisory committee consists of at least three members of the Graduate Faculty. The major professor is the chairman of the committee and must be a faculty member in the School. An adjunct faculty member not in the School can be a co-major professor with a School faculty member. At least one member must be a Full Member of the Graduate Faculty. Though not required, one member of the advisory committee should be outside the School whenever appropriate. If there is an external minor, one committee member must represent the minor department.

Committee members are selected by the student with the consultation and approval of the major professor. Under normal circumstances, this is the committee that the Director will nominate for approval by the Dean of the Graduate School to approve of the final Master's thesis and conduct the final examination. However, the Graduate School gives the Director the ultimate responsibility of nominating faculty to these committees. Changes in committee membership or conflicts that may arise between the student and a committee member must be addressed through the major professor, and all committee changes must be approved by the Director.

COURSEWORK: With the guidance of the major professor, the student must, by the end of the first semester enrolled, choose a program of coursework that is approved in writing by the advisory committee and satisfies Graduate School requirements. The program of study specifies all coursework that the student will be required to complete, and any deletions from the program requires approval of the entire committee.

(Download the MS Program of Study Form)

The minimum requirement for the Master's degree is 30 semester hours of graduate credit, although most students will accumulate significantly more credit hours before completing degree requirements. The 30-hour requirement includes 6 semester hours of thesis research and 24 hours in coursework, 9 hours of which must be at or above the 7000 level. Graduate credit is not allowed for courses numbered below 4000 or for correspondence courses. The minimum standard for grades in courses completed for the degree is a 3.0 average with no grade below "C."

Up to 9 hours of coursework completed at another institution, or during post-baccalaureate work at LSU, can be transferred and applied to the coursework requirement. Transferring credit hours requires the approval of the Graduate School and can only be requested after 9 hours of graded coursework has been completed at LSU with a GPA > 3.0. Transfer credit can not be used for the 7000-level course requirement.

Programs for the Master's degree must be completed within five years of entrance into the program. Courses completed more than five years before the termination of the program may be validated by the student's advisory committee, usually through an examination. Results of such an examination must be reported to the Graduate School before the request for the final exam will be approved by the Graduate Dean.

The coursework requirements for specific Master's programs (Areas of Concentration) in the School can be found from the RNR Master's Program page. Equivalent courses completed at other institutions may be substituted for these course requirements with the approval of the advisory committee.

RESEARCH PROPOSAL: Each student should write a research proposal before the end of the first calendar year enrolled. The proposal must have input by and written approval of the advisory committee. Students may begin their research project after the proposal is approved by the advisory committee, and a signed copy of the proposal is placed in the student's permanent file. Any major changes in the research project must be approved by the advisory committee, and the student should consult the committee when major problems arise.

Doctoral Degree

PHD ADVISORY COMMITTEE: During the entire period of work toward the doctorate, the student's program will be directed by an advisory committee. The requirements for this committee are published in the Graduate Bulletin. In the first two semesters of enrollment, the advisory committee must consist of at least three members, who will serve as the qualifying exam committee and on the full advisory committee. By the end of the second semester of enrollment, the full advisory committee must be chosen. This committee is chaired by the major professor and includes at least three other members; all must be members of the graduate faculty. The major professor must be a member of the School faculty within the student's discipline field. A faculty member who is not on the School faculty can be a co-major professor with a School faculty member.

Specific requirements for the committee are:

  1. If a minor is pursued, at least one representative from each minor department must be on the full committee.
  2. One member should be from a faculty outside the School. The representative for the minor field can serve in this capacity.
  3. A minimum of two members must be RNR faculty within the discipline field of study and at least one of them must be a full member of the Graduate Faculty.
  4. At least two members of the advisory committee must be full members of the Graduate Faculty.
  5. The advisory committee, plus an at-large member appointed by the Dean of the Graduate School, will serve as the general and final examining committee.

The Dean of the Graduate School may serve as an ex officio member. Members of the advisory committee are nominated by the Director of the School and appointed by the Dean of the Graduate School, who make any changes deemed desirable. All changes in committee membership must be approved by the Major Professor and the School Director. The Dean of the Graduate School appoints a member or members of the Graduate Faculty to serve on Doctoral general and final exam committees. These representatives represent the Graduate Faculty and are full voting members of the committee. It is the responsibility of the Director to forward copies of the Dissertation to these members at least two weeks prior to the scheduled dissertation defense and final exam.

QUALIFYING EXAM: Students pursuing a Ph.D. must take a qualifying exam during their first semester of enrollment. All qualifying exams must contain an oral component; a written component is optional. The primary purpose of the qualifying exam is to determine whether a student appears to be capable of earning a doctorate and to eliminate doubtful students at an early date, before either students or members of the faculty have invested much time on a questionable venture. It may also serve other useful purposes as deemed necessary, particularly in discovering weaknesses and strengths in a student's preparation. It thus aids the planning of the student's coursework and research program.

When the final exam for a Master's degree is requested, the major professor, with approval of the examination committee, may request that it serve as the qualifying exam for a Ph.D. program. This procedure is not routine and requests will ordinarily be denied unless supported by evidence that the examination was more than a thesis defense (i.e., it was structured like a qualifying exam) and that the student passed it with distinction. A student may pass the Master's examination but be deemed not qualified to pursue a doctoral program

COURSEWORK: A student must be certified as qualified, and a "Program of Study" approved by the advisory committee and submitted to the Graduate School, before registering for dissertation credit. The "Program of Study" will include coursework based on the chosen major and minor disciplines, area of interest in research, previous coursework, and performance on the qualifying exam. The "Program of Study" must have written approval of the full advisory committee.

(Download the PhD Program of Study Form.)

The coursework requirements for specific Doctoral programs in the School can be found from the Graduate Program page.

RESEARCH PROPOSAL: By the end of the first year of enrollment and after the qualifying exam, the student should choose a research project and write a dissertation research proposal. The proposal must have the input and written approval of the full advisory committee before the actual research is begun. Students may begin their research project after the proposal is approved by the advisory committee, and a signed copy of the proposal is placed in the student's permanent file. Any major changes in the research must be approved by the advisory committee, and the student should consult the committee when major problems arise.

RESIDENCY REQUIREMENT: After the Program of Study is received by the Graduate School, Ph.D. candidates are required to enroll as a full-time graduate students at LSU for one full academic year (two consecutive semesters excluding summer). The purpose of this requirement is for the candidates to devote essentially all of their effort to graduate study under the direct supervision of the major professor and the advisory committee.

TEACHING REQUIREMENT: All Ph.D. candidates will be required to teach or assist in teaching for at least one semester. The major professor will certify when the teaching was performed, what the teaching involved, and his evaluation of the candidate's performance. International students must be certified proficient in English before they can fulfill this requirement.

Note: Students must attend an LSU Teaching Assistant orientation during the semester they are teaching or assisting in the classroom.

GENERAL EXAM: A student becomes eligible to take the general examination after completing the majority of the program of study and demonstrating to the advisory committee adequate academic and professional aptitude. A request for the general examination must be submitted to the Graduate School by the Director at least three weeks prior to the proposed examination date. This request must state the time and place proposed for the examination and the names of faculty members nominated to serve as the full advisory and examining committee. The examination cannot be scheduled between semesters, and the student must be registered for a minimum of one to three semester hours during the semester in which the student takes the exam. The Dean of the Graduate School will appoint an at-large member to the examining committee.

The general examination is ordinarily the most severe test in the entire doctoral program and must consist of both written and oral parts. Furthermore, all members of the student's advisory committee must submit written questions, except that the minor professor retains the right to decide the form of that part of the examination. In order for the student to pass this examination, there may not be more than one dissenting vote. The exam should be regarded as the culmination of a student's program in coursework. In most cases, the remaining time spent in obtaining the degree is to be devoted to concentrated work on research, the dissertation, and preparation for the final examination. All requirements for the Ph.D. degree must be completed within four years after passing the general examination. Three months must elapse between the general and final examinations.

CONTINUOUS REGISTRATION: Doctoral candidates must maintain continuous registration for a minimum of three semester hours each regular semester (excluding summers) from the completion of the general examination to the end of the semester in which an approved dissertation is submitted to the Graduate School. The Dean of the Graduate School may exempt a student from the continuous registration requirement upon departmental certification that the student is absent from the University and is not drawing directly upon University resources.

STUDY LOADS: The minimum full-time course load for all graduate students is nine hours in the Fall and Spring (six hours in the Summer). All students are expected to register for a full load each semester until all degree requirements are completed. Students receiving assistantships are contractually obligated to be full-time students every semester, including the summer.

WRITING A THESIS OR DISSERTATION: The "Graduate School Guidelines for Preparation of Theses & Dissertations (rev. 2013)" contains specific details for writing your thesis or dissertation. The PDF is available from the Graduate School. Note that you have a choice of writing your thesis or dissertation in the traditional monograph style or as manuscripts to be submitted to a scientific journal in your field.

The School of RNR has additional specific deadlines and requirements in preparing your thesis or dissertation:

  1. The student should use the style and guidelines of the CBE Style Manual and a current issue of the major journal of the chosen discipline.
  2. The student should utilize the advisory committee on problems arising during the analysis of data and writing of the thesis or dissertation.
  3. A student must be enrolled in thesis or dissertation courses in order for a faculty member to contribute time in the direction of such work.
  4. The student is responsible for knowing and meeting all requirements and deadlines set by the Graduate School and the School of RNR and should keep them in mind during the entire program.
  5. A complete typed draft of the thesis or dissertation must be given to each member of the advisory committee at least four weeks before the proposed final exam date. This deadline can be changed with the agreement of the full advisory committee.
    • The complete draft is to be submitted to the committee and must be printed in final form (all tables, graphs, photos, etc). It must be approved by the major professor before being given to the committee members.
    • The advisory committee must review the manuscript and suggest changes and corrections within 14 days of receipt.
  6. After approval of the thesis or dissertation by the advisory committee, the date of the final exam may be set. Requests for the final exam must be submitted to the Graduate School through the Director at least three weeks before the date of the examination and must be scheduled within the fall, spring, or summer semesters.
  7. The student must make the necessary corrections and complete the final draft of the thesis or dissertation so that it is ready to be submitted to the Graduate School. The student must then submit a final copy to each member of the advisory committee at least three days before the final examination.
  8. If the student cannot revise the thesis or dissertation and have it approved by the Graduate School by the "degree only" deadline for the following semester, the student must register for three hours of thesis or dissertation credit for the next semester. The completed thesis or dissertation will be due to the Graduate School before that semester's deadline.

FINAL EXAM: A request for the final exam must be submitted to Graduate School by the Director at least three weeks prior to the proposed examination date and at least five weeks prior to the final date for submission of approved thesis or dissertations and committee examination reports (refer to current Academic Calendar in the latest edition of the LSU Schedule of Classes, or the FAQS about Graduation. You must be registered for a minimum of one to three hours during the semester in which the final exam is scheduled, and the exam cannot be scheduled between semesters. This examination may be oral, written, or both. In the School of RNR, it is normally an oral examination primarily concerned with the thesis or dissertation and related problems. However, in some cases, particularly for the Master's exam, it may extend into subject matter related to major and minor fields even though well removed from topics suggested by the thesis or dissertation. After passing the final examination (no more than one member of the advisory committee may dissent), and submitting a thesis or dissertation in acceptable form to the Graduate School, the student will be certified to the LSU Board of Supervisors by the Dean of the Graduate School as having fulfilled all requirements for the Master's degree or the degree of Doctor of Philosophy. This certification takes place at the next commencement at which time the degree is conferred.

SEMINAR, PUBLICATION, OWNERSHIP OF RESERACH DATA: The student is required to give a seminar open to all faculty and students on the results of his or her study. The seminar will be given at the beginning of the final oral examination. Public notice of the seminar must be circulated and prominently posted by the student's major professor at least two weeks before the scheduled date. Public defense of the Ph.D. dissertation will be announced by the Graduate School; visitors may question the candidate but cannot vote on the results. Students are encouraged to publish the results of their study with the guidance of their major professor. If the thesis is approved for publication by the School and an Experiment Station number is obtained, publication costs will be borne by the School. Data collected by or for faculty of the School of RNR are considered the property of the State of Louisiana. A student may be given the privilege of using these data for the thesis or dissertation but must turn these data over to the major professor.

revised: 07-Feb-2019 7:05