Scholarly Paper and Thesis Overview

Candidates for the Spatial Data Sciences (SDS) MS degree participate in a culminating experience under the supervision of Penn State graduate faculty members. Students choose between a scholarly paper or a thesis.

MS SDS candidates who choose to write a scholarly paper will participate in a capstone course taught by a member of the graduate faculty. The scholarly paper will demonstrate knowledge synthesis in the chosen subject area. The capstone course provides the flexibility for both individual and group instruction around best practices in analytical thinking in the spatial data sciences. Students may work individually or in groups but will, at all times, have a graduate faculty instructor and/or adviser to provide oversight for the specific element related to the work product that they are creating for their degree.

MS SDS candidates who choose the thesis route will perform original research and produce a traditional thesis under direct supervision of a committee with expertise in the area of the research.

MS SDS Proposal Development Workshop

All MS SDS students are advised to participate in the MS SDS Proposal Development Workshop.

Workshop Deliverables

  • Explore research topics that interest you.
  • Formulate a research question (scholarly paper)
  • Develop a research proposal (thesis)
  • Conduct a literature review.
  • Identify possible advisers (scholarly paper) 
  • Identify possible committee members (thesis)

Scholarly Paper - GEOG 570 (3 credits)

Weeks 1 - 2:

  • Complete the literature review.
  • Refine the research question.
  • Write a formal proposal.

Weeks 3 - 5

  • Define methodology. (This will include data you need, statistical methods you will incorporate, computer resources, etc.)
  • Write a scholarly abstract. (The abstract contains a short summary of the article as well as a description of the objective, method, result and conclusion of the study. Keywords (or subject words), which identify the contents of the article, are also given in the abstract. The abstract should be ~250 words.)

Weeks 6 - 8

  • Carry out your research.
  • Work on a draft of the paper.

Week 9

  • Submit draft for feedback and incorporate suggestions from adviser.

Week 10

  • Submit final paper.

Thesis - GEOG 600 (6 credits)

Session 1 (3 credits)

  • Build on what you did in the workshop.
  • Formulate a research plan.
  • Couch your research plan in the context of the literature and you will start to write a proposal that explains why your contribution is original.
  • Culmination of Session 1 should be a scholarly proposal that identifies your research topic, the important literature related to your topic, methods you will use in your research, anticipated outcomes
  • Defend your proposal to your committee of three faculty members.

Session 2 (3 credits)