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Minnesota State University, Mankato
Minnesota State University, Mankato

Graduate College and Program Requirements

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Time Limit

All work for a master's degree, a certificate, or a specialist degree must be completed within a six-year period. Doctoral students are required to complete the program within seven years. The time limit is calculated similar to the following example: credits completed in the fall semester 2016 will no longer apply or be counted towards your degree at the end of summer session 2021. This six year limit starts with the first course taken that applies to the program and includes all credit transferred to a Minnesota State Mankato program.

Financial Aid 

Students receiving financial aid (excluding non-federally funded University graduate assistantships) must abide by federal, state, and institutional policies, including but not limited to, satisfactory academic progress standards. For additional information, please see the web page of the Student Financial Services Office.

Graduate Enrollment Policy

Graduate students must register for at least one graduate credit during the semester that they plan to graduate.

Graduation Requirements

An Application for Graduation is required to be submitted to the College of Graduate Studies at the beginning of the semester in which a student plans on graduating.

For all Master's degree programs, at least one-half of the credits, excluding thesis and APP credits, counted toward degree program requirements must be earned in courses restricted to graduate students (listed as 600-699). Additionally, the candidate must complete or meet all special requirements established by the student's examining committee and approved by the Dean of the College of Graduate Studies and Research.

All graduate programs must include a minimum of one research methods or statistics course of at least two credits. Any substitute course or variance must be approved by the Dean of the College of Graduate Studies and Research.

When a student has completed all requirements for graduation, the examining committee endorses a Recommendation for Awarding the Degree or Certificate Form and forwards the form to the College of Graduate Studies and Research. This certifies completion of all course requirements, research requirements, comprehensive examinations and the capstone activity. The student must also have maintained a 3.0 grade point average for all graduate work that counts toward the fulfillment of a certificate or degree program.   

The Application for Graduation and Recommendation for Awarding the Degree Form can be found at the College of Graduate Studies website at Deadlines for submission are listed at

Each recipient of a graduate degree is invited to hold an exit interview with the Dean of the College of Graduate Studies and Research for the purpose of program evaluation. The graduate is encouraged to participate in commencement ceremonies, but participation is not required.


Examining Committees

A Graduate Committee supervises a student's program and the completion of the capstone experience. Students should consult with their advisor prior to asking faculty to serve on their committee.

All masters and doctoral students writing a thesis or dissertation must form a graduate committee.  The College of Graduate Studies and Research does not require the formation of a committee for students enrolled in a non-thesis program, but individual degree programs may require students to form examining committees.

A student’s thesis or dissertation committee must consist of at least two members of the University’s Graduate Faculty, although individual programs may require committees of more than two members.  The committee chairperson shall be the student's advisor, who must be a Regular or Research member of the graduate faculty and in the student's area of concentration. Other members of the committee must also be members of the Graduate Faculty. Doctoral programs have additional requirements concerning who is eligible to serve on a student's committee. Please consult the University's policies concerning graduate and research faculty appointments (

Faculty from other institutions may serve without compensation as a member of a student's committee. These external or visiting members must be approved by the student's advisor and need to obtain Graduate Faculty Status at Minnesota State University, Mankato at the “Visiting and Collaborative Faculty” rank.

Capstone Experience

A part of each graduate student's program is the demonstrated ability to do individual, independent work of a creative and/or investigative type in an area related to the student's major field. Such ability may be demonstrated by a thesis, an alternate plan paper, or, in some programs, by another type of capstone experience. Students should consult the Guidelines to Capstone Experiences.


The thesis must show independent thought in the recognition of a clearly defined problem and in the method of its treatment. It involves extended research resulting in a significant contribution to new knowledge. The thesis content must be relevant to the degree program involved, conform to an approved manual of style, and be approved by the student's examining committee and the Dean of the College of Graduate Studies and Research.

A minimum of three thesis credits must be earned by a student following the thesis plan. A maximum of six thesis credits can be applied to a graduate program.

Students should review the Guidelines to Capstone Experiences and Thesis/Alternate Plan Paper, available in the College of Graduate Studies and Research before starting the thesis. A Thesis Proposal must be approved by the student's examining committee prior to data collection. Papers involving research on human participants require Institutional Review Board (IRB) approval prior to data collection and thesis proposal approval. See the MSU IRB site for detailed information,

Creative Thesis

The creative/production thesis option is available in certain degree programs. For further information on this option, consult the appropriate program graduate coordinator.

Alternate Plan Paper

The student may follow an alternate plan in programs where such an option is available. The alternate plan paper(s) includes a research requirement less extensive in nature than a thesis. However, the research should be significantly greater in quality and quantity than the standard graduate term paper. The thesis is oriented more toward original research, data gathering with statistical analysis, theory testing and theory building; whereas, the alternate plan paper involves the usage of secondary research sources.

The research requirement for the alternate plan paper (APP) may be fulfilled in one of these ways:

  1. As part of a regular course in which no discrete credit is given for the alternate plan paper;
  2. As part of an internship or practicum in which the experiences are cataloged, evaluated and presented in written form as an alternate plan paper; or,
  3. As one or two credits earned in the course entitled "Alternate Plan Paper Research." When this plan is followed, the professor supervising the study will ordinarily be the student's advisor.

Students should review the Guidelines to Capstone Experiences and Thesis/Alternate Plan Paper before starting work on the project. Research involving human participants requires IRB approval prior to data collection. See section below.

After the APP is approved, a student may submit the alternate plan paper online at the ProQuest site, although it's not required.

Guidelines for Graduate Research Involving Human Participants

Minnesota State University, Mankato policy requires adequate protection for human participants involved in research. All such research, whether or not federally funded, shall be reviewed in accordance with federal regulations requiring review at the institutional level. Students planning to involve human participants in their research for a thesis, alternate plan papers or other projects should review the Guidelines to Capstone Experiences and Thesis/Alternate Plan Paper and the Institutional Review Board information and guidelines. A completed Human Participants Research Form must be submitted and approved prior to data collection.

Comprehensive Examinations

Some graduate programs require students to pass a comprehensive examination. Comprehensive examinations are designed to examine the student's broad understandings of his/her field of study, specific areas of interest and/or the nature and design of the research project. Exams may be oral and/or written. Individual programs may have additional policies and regulations concerning comprehensive examination. Consult the program's graduate coordinator to determine additional program policies concerning comprehensive exams.

Written Comprehensive Examinations

Regularly scheduled written comprehensive examinations are administered by the major department. They generally cover coursework and/or designated reading lists. The department decides who shall write and/or grade the examinations. The examinations are graded as pass, fail or decision deferred. Students must pass in all sub-areas to qualify and may retake the examination once. The department reports the results by sending the Written Comprehensive Examination Request and Report form to the student and to the College of Graduate Studies and Research.

Oral Comprehensive Examinations

The Oral Examination, sometimes referred to as the Thesis Defense, is held after the examining committee approves the draft of the thesis or alternate plan paper. The student arranges the time and place after consulting the examining committee who conducts the examination.

The examination generally deals with the capstone project and the portion of the candidate's field of specialization in which the capstone project falls, although it need not be confined exclusively to the subject matter of the capstone project. While there are no time requirements, normally the examination requires a minimum of one hour and not usually more than two hours.

The report of the examining committee must be unanimous. The vote on whether a student has passed or failed the oral examination shall be conducted with only the committee members present.

The written and/or oral comprehensive examination may be retaken by filing the necessary request with the graduate coordinator or the examining committee, respectively. Sufficient time should be allowed to correct weaknesses uncovered in the first examination. Comprehensive examinations may be taken a second time only with the consent of the graduate faculty in the department involved.


After verifying that all requirements have been met, the degree or certificate can be awarded. Diplomas and certificates are sent to graduates about eight weeks after each semester.