Criminal Justice Graduate Student Handbook

Exit Requirements

Thesis option

The thesis provides students with the opportunity to engage in an independent but supervised research activity and to make a contribution to the body of knowledge in the field of criminology and criminal justice. The thesis is also one form of evidence that the MSCJ student has mastered his/her discipline, both theoretically and methodologically.

Who Should Select the Thesis Option  

There are many other good reasons to do a thesis. The thesis can be a way of developing and demonstrating a high level of expertise on a specific topic. Such expertise may be of value in your future employment options or doctoral-level education. All students should discuss the appropriateness of selecting the thesis option with the MSCJ Director at the time of admission. For those selecting the thesis at that time, it may be advisable to discuss this choice again after completing the MSCJ core courses. Difficulty in successfully completing the MSCJ core courses may suggest that the student lacks important theoretical or methodological skills which will be required in order to successfully complete a thesis.

The Thesis Process

See for Graduate School thesis requirements.

All core coursework must be successfully completed and the thesis proposal must be successfully completed and orally defended before the student may officially enroll in thesis hours. All thesis committees will be comprised of three faculty members at the proposal stage, two of whom, including the chair, must be graduate faculty from the CCJ Department. It is recommended that students seek faculty members who can assist by virtue of their expertise in the general subject area and/or their expertise in the methodological approach. Please note that the faculty have an obligation to be responsive to graduate students; however, no faculty member is required to serve on any particular student's thesis committee. Students should be prepared to make a second--or even a third--selection in soliciting faculty to serve. Also note that faculty may require you to make one or more revisions of your proposal before they agree to work with you.

Both the written thesis proposal and the oral defense must be prepared in consultation with the department chair, receive final IRB clearance (see below) and be approved by the full three-member committee before the next stage of the process. The thesis proposal and its oral defense must address the following key elements:

  •  The research question, problem or hypothesis
  • A literature review
  • The general methodology
  • A proposed timeline for completion of the thesis

At the point of the submission and/or defense of the thesis proposal, a Proposal Filing Form must be submitted to the Graduate School. (This form is available, as a PDF document from the Graduate School’s website). The form should be downloaded, completed, signed by both the student and her/his thesis director, and submitted to the Graduate School either electronically as a PDF file or on a CD submitted to the Graduate School’s office. If proposed research for any thesis is subject to the federal regulations pertaining to research involving either human or animal subjects, review by the UNF Institutional Review Board (IRB) and/or UNF Institutional Animal Care and Use Committee (IACUC) must be obtained prior to beginning such research. The measures taken to ensure the protection of human and/or animal subjects should be explicitly addressed in the researcher's discussion of methodology when applicable.

A failed proposal defense may require the student to take alternative exit options at the discretion of the thesis committee and MSCJ Director.

Subsequent to a successful proposal defense, the third committee member may remain on the thesis committee at his or her discretion. Thesis committee members expect students to initiate all appointments and submit all drafts of thesis chapters in a timely fashion. Thesis committee members will advise, provide feedback, read and thoroughly critique draft chapters, and try to help solve problems which may emerge.

The MSCJ Thesis Enrollment Permission Form must be completed prior to registration for thesis hours. Typically, students are expected to enroll in all six (6) credit hours of CCJ 6974 at one time and will be given a grade of “Incomplete” (“I”) if they do not finish the thesis in the semester for which they enroll in these hours. The grade of “I” will remain until the completed thesis is submitted, a public oral Thesis Defense is successfully completed, all signatures have been received, and university and Graduate School requirements have been met. At that time, it will be changed to a “P” (Pass).

The format for the thesis typically conforms to the following (but ultimately depends on the nature of the study, i.e. qualitative or quantitative):

  • Chapter One – Introduction
  • Chapter Two – Literature Review
  • Chapter Three – Methods
  • Chapter Four – Findings
  • Chapter Five – Analysis
  • Chapter Six - Conclusion

Please see the Graduate School webpage that details Thesis Policies and Timelines. These timelines must be closely followed to ensure graduation. In addition, the UNF Library has requirements for formatting all theses that can be found on their website. It is wise to incorporate these elements early in the writing process.


Some formatting items to keep in mind:

  • Arrangement of contents – items that must be present in a thesis or dissertation must be arranged in the correct order.
  • Pagination Sequence – pages must be organized in the correct order.
  • Type and Spacing – must be uniform and must conform to the Library’s requirements.
  • Margins – Left: 1 1/2" for binding purposes; Top, Right, Bottom: 1", except for chapter headings which should have a 2" top margin.
  • Illustrations, Photographs, Graphs, and Tables – must conform to the Library’s requirements
  • Copyright Permissions – all copyrighted material must be used only with permission.
  • Title Page – must conform to the Library’s requirements.
  • Signature Page – must conform to the Library’s requirements.

No later than one week after graduation, students should submit the thesis document (and supporting materials) to the Graduate School. The Thesis/Dissertation Submission Form must be submitted to the Graduate School with the materials at that time.

Please note that during the time the student is working on the thesis proposal and/or after the conclusion of the required 6 thesis hours while the actual thesis document remains incomplete, a student must be registered for at least 3 credit hours. If the student has completed all 36 required hours for the MSCJ degree prior to this semester or summer term, he or she must enroll in a 3-credit hour Directed Independent Study (DIS). The DIS requires the completion of a permission form and signatures of both the Department Chair and the Faculty Advisor. In these cases, the Faculty Advisor is the Chair of the student’s Thesis Committee. The Thesis Committee Chair is responsible for entering the DIS grade for the student. The student will receive an “A” if it is deemed by the Thesis Chair the student completed an appropriate amount of work towards the thesis during the semester in question. In all other cases, the student will receive an “I” until the matter is resolved to the satisfaction of the Thesis Chair, at which point the Thesis Chair will change the grade to an “A.” If the student does not complete the thesis, any remaining “I”s will revert to “F”s.