Master of Arts in Marine Affairs

Thesis or Major Project

As part of their graduate studies, all M.A.M.A. students prepare either a thesis or a major project. These pieces of work require substantial efforts by the student in terms of identifying and scoping out an appropriate study and then executing it. The dissertation, thesis or major paper provides the student the opportunity to develop detailed expertise in some selected area and provides a tangible example of the student’s knowledge, understanding, writing, research, and professional capabilities. They represent the culmination of work toward the degree, allowing students to incorporate and build upon the expertise and insights which they have gained in the Marine Affairs Program.

Before the start of your second semester, you will select a major professor to guide your dissertation, thesis or major project. The determination of who will serve as your major professor is made on the basis of the expertise of the individual faculty member in relation to the thesis or major paper subject. Once the decision of major professor is made, that individual then also becomes your academic adviser. Students take MAF 502, Research Methods, in the spring of their first year and in that course work to develop a thesis or major project proposal.


The thesis is a requirement for the thesis-track M.A.M.A. degree. Theses involve not only a major professor but also a thesis committee of typically two other professors, one of whom is drawn from outside of the Department of Marine Affairs. The composition of this committee is a matter for discussion between the student and his major professor, followed by approval of the Department Chair and the Dean of the Graduate School. When the thesis is deemed ready for defense, the student meets with his or her thesis committee and a defense chair selected from outside the department to “defend” the thesis. The defense is open to graduate students as observers and graduate students are encouraged to attend. When a defense is scheduled a notice of time, place, and subject will be posted on the graduate bulletin board outside the Marine Affairs Library. Thesis-track MAMA students receive six credits for the thesis with credit being given in the context of MAF 599, Master’s Thesis Research.

Major Project

The major project is required of students in the MMA program and those in the major-project track of the MAMA. The major project does not involve a thesis committee but the student works with a major professor. The major project is not subject to a defense, but should include a presentation of results. Meaningful interaction between the student and his or her major professor is an essential part of the process leading toward completion of a thesis or major project. MMA and major-project track MAMA students receive six credits for their major project through successful completion of MAF 598, Master’s Project Research.

Resources and Support

The Graduate School has developed a brochure for the dissertation and thesis, that can serve as a guide. A list of past theses and major papers completed in this department is available in the MAF library. Timely and periodic consultation is very important as is the need to provide the major professor sufficient and realistic “turn around” time for comments on initial work drafts. Be aware that, frequently, faculty are not available during the summer months. Students should take time constraints for faculty into account; it is not always possible for faculty to provide an immediate reading and commentary of your work, particularly toward the end of semesters as graduation deadlines approach. Note, too, that the Graduate School requires that the defense text must be submitted to the Graduate School a minimum of 20 days in advance of the defense date.