Master's Degree

All doctoral students are required to complete a Master’s thesis and obtain a Master’s degree en route to the Ph.D. An exception to this requirement applies to those students entering the program who have a “relevant Master’s,” defined as a Master’s thesis obtained through a prior Master’s degree and approved by your advisor, your RIG, and the Director of Graduate Studies as relevant to your degree work at Rice. Make sure you are aware of the required timeline for a Master's degree, and please consult the PhD Student Handbook for further information.

Master's Committee

Towards the end of the first year, or no later than September 15 of the second year, the student should have selected an advisor for his or her Master’s-level research. The student and advisor will put together a committee composed of the advisor and two other faculty members from the department. The main function of this committee will be to guide the student through his or her Master’s-level research, and to ensure that the thesis meets the standard for the M.A. degree. Students should ask potential committee members to join the committee before April 15 of the second year of graduate study.

Master's Candidacy

All students must petition for approval of candidacy for a Master's degree before their third year (fifth semester). See the Forms page to find all necessary paperwork you will need to petition for candidacy. You will not be able to defend your thesis without first establishing Master’s candidacy. Each RIG specifies course requirements for candidacy, and at the Master’s level, there are no additional (non-coursework) requirements for candidacy. Please note that the Master’s candidacy petition is independent of the thesis proposal; you may petition and gain candidacy prior to making your official proposal to your committee.

Master's Candidacy Paperwork

There are three required forms you must fill out in order to petition for Master’s candidacy:

  1. Master’s Candidacy Petition Form
  2. Master’s Completion of Requirements Form
  3. RIG-Specific Course Checklist Form

These forms can be found and downloaded from the Forms page on the Psychological Sciences website, or you can contact the Graduate Coordinator to receive copies.

Present the petition form, the “Completion of Requirements” form, and the RIG-specific checklist form to the department’s Director of Graduate Studies or the Department Chair, who will sign the petition form. Then submit everything to your Graduate Coordinator, who will sign the form, prepare a copy of your transcript, and submit the completed paperwork electronically to the Office of Graduate and Postdoctoral Studies.

Again, please remember you cannot defend your thesis until you have submitted your candidacy paperwork on time!

Master's Proposal

A formal proposal is required for your Master’s thesis. The more solid and detailed your proposal, the better your committee input will be, and the more confident you will be in conducting and defending the research. The proposal is to be developed in working with your advisor with potential input from your Master’s committee members. Generally, it should contain a literature review to justify this work as extending and being informed by past scholarship, but it is not necessarily as comprehensive a literature review as would be required for the final version of the thesis. The nature of the research and the research approach you will be proposing should be spelled out in detail, where in addition to your research topic and the requirements of your thesis committee, you will likely provide the details of your research hypotheses and the data collection, data analysis, and power analysis that together will test them. Although there are not strict page limitations and the length of your proposal will depend on many factors, most committees expect the proposal to be between 20 and 50 double-spaced pages. You should use APA format, allowing for any exceptions that make the paper more readable (e.g., embed figures and tables in the text rather than at the end of the document; single-space tables if they fit the page better).

Your proposal must be approved by your thesis advisor before it is distributed to the other committee members. Be sure to budget ample time for your advisor to read your proposal and provide feedback for revisions before forwarding to the committee. Students should speak with their advisor about establishing timelines even prior to writing the proposal.

Once your advisor judges that your proposal is ready to be presented to the committee, you should schedule a formal proposal meeting, providing a copy of your proposal to the committee members at least 10 business days prior to the meeting. At the proposal meeting, you have the benefit of obtaining feedback on ways to improve the proposed study. At the end of the meeting, you and the committee members should agree on the exact nature of the study, what needs to be considered, what changes might need to be provided to the committee members to obtain their review and approval, and whether another proposal meeting is required (one that would again require the revised proposal being provided to committee members 10 business days prior to the meeting).

Please note: Official paperwork does not need to be filed in order to go forward with your proposal. You are able to schedule your proposal before or after you have achieved master’s candidacy.

Master's Defense

A complete draft of your thesis should be given to your advisor 20 business days (one month) before it is provided to the whole committee. Once your advisor approves of it, a fully edited and formatted version of the thesis (complete with all references, figures and tables) should be given to your committee at least five business days (one week) prior to the scheduled defense; a copy should be emailed to the Graduate Coordinator at that time as well.

The oral examination must be advertised through the GPS Office at least one week ahead of time; if you fail to do so, you will not be permitted to proceed with the defense as scheduled. To advertise your defense, complete and submit the form at, which will post to the Graduate Studies and Rice Events calendar. The Office of Graduate and Postdoctoral Studies will email your Graduate Coordinator, who will then send out an announcement to the department.

Always be sure to follow the thesis procedures described on the Office of Graduate and Postdoctoral Studies website ( Your defense plans should also always be communicated to the Graduate Coordinator.


  1. Ask potential committee members to join your Master’s committee before April 15 of your second year.
  2. Petition for approval of candidacy for a Master’s degree before the beginning of your fifth semester at Rice. If you plan to receive your degree the same semester, you must submit your petition before November 1 for mid-year degree conferral or before February 1 for May conferral.
  3. Defend your Master’s thesis before the end of your eighth semester at Rice. Provide public notice of the oral defense at least one week in advance.
  4. Submit your final, revised thesis to the Office of Graduate and Postdoctoral Studies no more than six months after your defense. If you fail to do so, you may be forced to complete your defense again.

Master's students are required to complete their program, including thesis defense, within 10 semesters (five years) of initial enrollment. This includes any period in which the student was not enrolled or was enrolled part-time, for any reason.