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Degree Programs

Thesis or Dissertation expectations

All students should develop a thesis or dissertation proposal after consultation with their advisor and committee. This proposal forms the basis for the thesis/dissertation research. All students are expected to develop and carry out original, creative research projects. While the advisor and committee members serve as mentors, the student is expected to develop and demonstrate the ability to work independently; to design, conduct, and analyze experiments; and to prepare the work for publication in scientific journals.

Thesis or dissertation preparation involves synthesizing concepts by interpreting experimental and analytical data that are gathered for that purpose. It constitutes a major part of the creative scholarship in a master’s or doctoral program. Experience in preparing and writing a research publication, as well as the peer-review process, are important goals of graduate programs.

Master of Science Degree

Thesis Option: Animal Sciences only offers a thesis degree program. The thesis describes a research project conducted by the student. The thesis typically has three sections: a background or literature review that sets the stage for the research; a section with one or more chapters describing the actual research and containing data and analysis; and a general conclusion. Students are encouraged to write the thesis in manuscript form. The final exam is in two parts. The first is a public seminar presenting the results of research project. The seminar is followed by an oral exam that focuses on defense of the research project. All thesis committee members must attend the thesis defense and vote. Other faculty members may attend and ask questions. All members of the faculty are allowed to vote.

Non-Thesis Option: The AS department does not offer a non-thesis option.

Doctor of Philosophy Degree

The degree of Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) is awarded in recognition of excellence in scholarship and for an original contribution to the advancement of science. The degree is awarded for originality and creative scholarship rather than for an accumulation of academic credits.

The Ph.D. program is separated into the “initial” period preceding the preliminary examination and the “candidate” period following the preliminary examination. During the initial period, the student acquires knowledge and skills needed for his/her research program. In addition, this is the period when a major portion of the academic program is completed. The preliminary exam must be completed no later than the fourth semester into the Ph.D. degree program if the student has entered the PhD program with an MS degree and no later than the 6th semester if the student enters with a BS degree. After passing the preliminary examination, the candidate concentrates on research and preparation of the dissertation.

During the candidate period, the doctoral candidate demonstrates his/her ability to do original research. The final oral examination should reflect that students have developed into mature scientists, which includes the ability to conceive research projects, to critically evaluate the literature, to gain knowledge of acceptable scientific behavior, and to think and discern outside the area of the dissertation. The final exam is in two parts. The first is a public seminar presenting the results of research project. The seminar is followed by an oral exam that focuses on defense of the research project. All thesis committee members must attend the thesis defense and vote. Other faculty members may attend and ask questions and all members of the faculty are allowed to vote.


The major advisor is the thesis or dissertation advisor and is the graduate student’s primary contact for all matters related to the program of study and thesis research. The major advisor assists in selection of the thesis committee and development of a program of study and thesis research proposal. The major advisor monitors the student’s academic and professional growth, reviews program changes, and arranges for graduate student support.

If housed off-campus, the major advisor should consider a “campus advisor” to support the academic development of the student. Although the major advisor is responsible for advising the student on experimental design and manipulation and interpretation of data, and for reviewing initial drafts of theses/dissertations and papers, the student will be integrated into the campus advisor’s research program. For those students whose research program focus is off-campus, the “campus advisor” will answer day-to-day questions while the student is in Pullman and will invite the student to research group meetings, journal clubs, and similar activities.


All students have a thesis or dissertation advisory committee. The students must meet with their committee at least once per academic year. The committee aids in developing the course program and provides guidance and expertise for the student’s research. In addition to advising

the student, each committee member must read the thesis or dissertation, attend, and vote at the preliminary and final exam. Committee members also participate in the annual student evaluation. Committees must be approved by the Department Chair and the Graduate School.

The minimum number of committee members for a MS degree program is three, including the advisor.

A Ph.D. committee should consist of the chair and at least the three additional members.

  • At least one of the additional members should be from outside the
  • Greater than 50% of the committee must be members of the Graduate Program in Animal Sciences

Academic Programs

Your thesis committee has the sole responsibility and flexibility to develop the program of study with you. After your program has been approved by your committee and by the Department Chair (generally the second semester), it is your responsibility to have appropriate forms prepared and signed by your committee and Department Chair, and submitted for final approval by the Graduate School. You may request revisions in your program should the need arise. Your Committee, and the Department Chair, must approve all revisions. Revisions must be sent to the Graduate School on approved forms.

Program of Study

All students should become familiar with the Graduate School course requirements as outlined on the Graduate School website. The program of study is planned by the student in concert with the advisor and thesis committee and submitted to the Department Chair for approval.

Once the program has been approved and submitted to the Graduate School, the program becomes official. Students are required to take all courses listed on the “Program of Study”. Students may also choose to take courses not on the official program. Ideally, the “Program of Study” form is completed and submitted to the Graduate School during the first semester. The “Program of Study” form must be filed with the Graduate School by the end of the second semester. A flexible number of credits are allowed for research and thesis (700 or 800 level) each semester. Students are required to register for a minimum of 2 credits of AS 700 or 800 each semester. A greater number may be used to bring their credit load up to the minimum, 10 credits required each semester to maintain full-time student status. Courses for audit may not be used for the program of study. Any course listed on the student’s Program of Study in which a grade of “C“ or below is earned must be repeated (but not on a pass/fail basis) until a higher grade is obtained. All courses must be listed in the official WSU Course Catalog.

Masters program. An MS degree requires a total of 30 credits. Twenty-one of those credits must be graded credits and the remaining 9 are AS 700 (Thesis research). No more than six of the graded credits may be taken at the undergraduate level (300-400 level only). The Department

requires MS students to take AS 500 (Seminar in Animal Sciences) twice, AS 520 (Preparation of Scientific Literature in Animal Sciences), and a graduate level statistical design course.

Ph.D. program. To earn a Ph.D. at WSU students are required to earn 72 total credits. Animal Science requires a minimum of 22 graded graduate credits including AS 500 (Seminar in Animal Sciences) twice, AS 520 (Preparation of Scientific Literature in Animal Sciences), and a graduate level statistical design course. In addition to the graded graduate credits, students may count up to 9 undergraduate credits (300-400 level) toward the needed 72. The bulk of the credits taken by a Ph.D. student are AS 800 credits (Dissertation research). Students who have earned an MS degree prior to entering the PhD program may transfer up to half of the needed graded graduate level credits toward the PhD program. See the Graduate School policies and procedures for clarification and current policies.

Preliminary Doctoral Examination

The preliminary exam is an exam to determine if a student is qualified to be admitted into candidacy for the PhD degree. The exam assesses knowledge of animal science, ability to think critically and independently, and ability to conduct independent research (form hypotheses, design experiments, collect and analyze data, put the research in context of the current state of knowledge, and draw conclusions).

The oral examination must be scheduled with the Graduate School using a “Preliminary Exam Scheduling Form”. All committee members must attend and vote. Other members of faculty may attend, and members of the graduate faculty in the department may also vote. The purpose of the oral exam is to allow faculty to have the opportunity to probe the depth of a student’s knowledge of the whole field of Animal Science and the ability of the student to think critically and independently. There are two prelim options for students and their committee to choose between.

Option 1

The student will develop a research proposal, on a topic that is developed by the student and their committee, that will be distributed to members of the committee, and be available to the graduate faculty, 2 weeks prior to the oral presentation. This proposal must be a unique document prepared by the student that demonstrates his/her understanding of the objectives of this research, as well as the strategies and procedures that will be used to address these objectives. A copy of your proposal must be made available to the Department Chair with your scheduling form. This copy will be made available for review in the main office. The format of the document is to be a research proposal using USDA, NSF or NIH guidelines and is expected to be complete (i.e. all forms completed in addition to the actual research proposal). Copies of other proposals outside the area of the proposal should be given to the student as examples. It is the student’s responsibility to schedule a room for the seminar and distribute seminar announcements a week ahead of the presentation.

The student will prepare and deliver an oral presentation related to the proposal, which will be open to faculty, staff and students. The seminar must be announced to the department a week prior to conduct by email, posting etc. Following the presentation, the student will participate in a 2-3 hour (approximately) question and answer session with committee members and interested faculty. Suggestions offered by faculty outside of the student’s committee should be taken into consideration. However, these suggestions should not be deemed as mandatory points that must be changed. The discussion and questions may range from the proposal to other areas as well to examine the breadth and depth of student knowledge.

Option 2

All members of the graduate committee will prepare written questions that examine the student’s knowledge in the sciences relevant to the student’s chosen discipline. Questions and instructions will be submitted to the major advisor prior to the conduct of the exam. After the written exam has been completed, usually a week or so, an oral exam will be scheduled. Since the oral and written portions of the exam constitute the whole exam, the oral exam will be given even if the student fails all or a portion of the written exam. It is appropriate for the student to seek and be given feedback on areas of the written exam in which they need to prepare for the oral exam. Copies of the written exam should be made available for review by the whole committee at the time of the oral exam.

The oral exam, approximately 2-3 hr in length, must be attended by all members of the committee and may be attended by any member of the graduate faculty. The vote to pass or fail a student must include all committee members and any other member of the Animal Sciences graduate faculty who attended the entire oral exam.

Preliminary exam failure

Should the student fail the exam, the committee will recommend whether the student should have another exam or be dis-enrolled from the departmental graduate program. Generally, the student will be given an option for another exam. A student who fails the prelim exam the second time is terminated from the graduate program. Procedures to be followed in the event of a failed exam are available on the Graduate School website.

Thesis/Dissertation preparation

Students are expected to publish thesis or dissertation research in an appropriate scientific journal. If the student has not submitted thesis or dissertation results for publication within a reasonable amount of time after passing the final exam, the thesis or dissertation advisor will have the option of publishing the student’s thesis or dissertation results. In this case, authorship order may change.

Formal guidelines for preparation of the thesis or dissertation are available from the Graduate School.

Students on research appointments will continue to collect and analyze data, write, etc., during the final semester or summer session. Research results generated after submission of the thesis or dissertation to the committee will not automatically be accepted as essential material. If the advisor(s) considers it appropriate, the data collected during the final semester may be used in the final draft.

The following schedule provides guidelines for ensuring a reasonable amount of time for completion of each step and gives details of post-thesis approval and preparation of a manuscript for publication.

Number of Weeks to Allow for Activity

2 to 6 weeks for draft review by major advisor

  • Submit drafts to major advisor and allow time for incorporation of the appropriate number of corrections and Allow 7 to 10 days for each revision by advisor(s) and allow sufficient time for discussion with them.

2 weeks for review for committee

  • Submit a revised draft for review by your graduate Because of the greater number of reviewers, allow at least two weeks for return of this draft.

2 to 4 weeks for incorporation of revisions

  • Revise and correct This is a critical time because you will be getting comments on the draft from your committee for the first time.

2 weeks for new draft review

  • Resubmit the draft to the committee or to selected committee All technical aspects of the thesis or dissertation should be worked out at this point.

2 weeks-prior to defense date

  • Submit a “final oral scheduling form” and copy of your thesis or dissertation to the Graduate Submit a “final” draft to each committee member and to the department chair at least 5 days prior to scheduling your final exam.

Some important dates, e.g., the last date to schedule a final oral, apply for a degree, thesis due at the graduate school, etc., are announced each semester and the dates and scheduling forms may be found on the Graduate School website,

The student is required by the Graduate School to give an approved copy of the thesis or dissertation to the Department Chair at least 5 days prior to the oral examination. At this time seminar announcements should be prepared and distributed to the department.

Concluding Comments: Normally, a minimum of 8 to 16 weeks is required from the time you submit your thesis or dissertation to your advisor to the time of your final oral exam.

Final Oral Exam and Thesis/Dissertation Binding

The final exam has two parts: a seminar and a defense. The seminar is presented before the defense and is a public presentation highlighting the research results and major accomplishments, as previously described. All graduate students are strongly encouraged to attend all final exam seminars. The defense is an oral exam at which the student defends the approach, methods,

conclusions, background, etc., of the research. Faculty are encouraged to attend the exam and ask questions. Questions asked during the final exam do not have to relate to the thesis or dissertation research.

The student’s major professor, the thesis/dissertation committee, and the Department Chair must approve the date and time of the final oral exam and thesis/dissertation seminar. The Graduate School deadlines, guidelines and final exam scheduling form may be found by visiting the Graduate School website.

Members of the thesis or dissertation committee are responsible for checking the thesis or dissertation for content, style and format. They certify their approval that the thesis or dissertation is ready to be submitted to the WSU library with minimal edits when they sign the “final oral scheduling form”. Thus Committee members cannot sign off on a final exam schedule form if they have not had ample time to review your thesis. Two weeks is a reasonable amount of time for review by the faculty.

A copy of your thesis must be made available to the Department Chair with your scheduling form. A clean thesis copy must be given to all committee members and the Department Chair a week prior to the thesis defense. The Chair’s copy will be made available for review in the main office. It is the student’s responsibility to schedule a room for the seminar and distribute seminar announcements a week ahead of the presentation.

At the time of scheduling, the Graduate School will check the title page, signature page, the abstract, and margins. They will accept and inspect the thesis or dissertation after the final oral examination. Please go to the Graduate School website for thesis and dissertation guidelines. The “defense” copy of your thesis must be given to the committee and the Department Chair five days prior to the scheduled defense date.

Upon completion of the oral exam, a signed copy of the thesis/dissertation must be presented to the Graduate School within five working days. This copy should include revisions required by the committee as discussed during the defense. It is the committee’s choice to sign the signature page after the defense or to withhold signatures until revisions are completed. The student is responsible for announcing the seminar to the department at least a week prior to its conduct.

When the thesis or dissertation is completed and accepted, the department pays for the hardcover binding of one copy of your thesis for the animal sciences library. It is the student’s responsibility to request a purchase order from the main office. The hardcover binding for the thesis is to be a burgundy color. Put the title, name and date on the front cover and put name and date on the spine. Please also submit a CD of the thesis or dissertation to the main office.

Continuation for Another Degree

To continue for another degree you should contact the Graduate Coordinator. The following forms/cards may be picked up from the Graduate School:

  1. Completed MS and continuing for a PhD in the same department.
  2. Changing from a PhD to a MS degree in the same
  3. Not completing a graduate degree and continuing as an

Graduate Leave Status

If you must interrupt your graduate program by leaving WSU please see the Graduate School website and apply for Graduate Leave Status.


Before departure from AS, students must leave a forwarding address and schedule an exit conference with the Department Chair, return all keys to the main office, and consult with the advisor about cleaning up samples, chemicals, etc., from the student’s research and office space. All data belongs to the major advisor (University) and laboratory books, electronic data files and other information needs to be turned in to your major advisor prior to leaving. Discuss expectations with your advisor.


Students visit the Graduate School website early in the semester during which they expect to graduate and obtain information regarding procedures and deadlines for thesis defense and graduation. Failure to meet the deadlines could require enrollment for an additional semester. Each semester the Graduate School announces the “Graduation Fair” where students may reserve academic garb and sign up to participate in the ceremony. While MS students may walk in Commencement ceremonies without having officially graduated, PhD students may not. All requirements for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy must be completed for a student to participate in the graduation ceremony.


The Department Chair periodically emails job listings for positions suited to students with animal sciences training. If you are on the graduate student list serve you will receive them. If you wish to remain on the list after you finish your degree, contact the Department Chair to continue to be included.

Example degree timeline

Master’s degree Semester 1

Discuss thesis projects with major professor Form a guidance committee

Submit an approved “program of study” to the Graduate School Semester 2-course work and research/writing

Semester 3-course work and research/writing Apply for graduation

Semester 4 (and summer) Finalize thesis and defend

PhD Degree (student already has an MS degree)

Semester 1

Discuss dissertation projects with major professor Coursework/research

Semester 2

Course work and research/writing Form a guidance committee

Submit an approved “program of study” to the Graduate School Semester 3-course work and research/writing

Course work/research/writing

Meet with committee to plan/schedule preliminary exam Semester 4

Course work and research/writing Complete preliminary exam

Semester 5


Committee meeting to present data and begin to plan for defense time Semester 6

Research/writing Defense (if appropriate)

A student who begins the Ph.D. program after their BS program can expect to take their preliminary exam during the 5th or 6th semester and should plan that the entire program will take between 4-6 years depending on the research project and the student.

Graduation Checklist

  1. Apply for graduation the semester prior to the one in which you wish to Check Graduate School cutoff dates.
  2. Check the dates for the semester you wish to defend on the Graduate School Plan thesis/dissertation preparation and review accordingly. Backwards planning will give you an idea of when things must be done. For example, to defend at the end of Spring semester a thesis/dissertation must be finished by spring break (mid-March) and to defend in fall semester all writing must be done by the end of October.
  3. Look at the guidelines for formatting the thesis/dissertation given on the Graduate School
  4. Schedule a committee meeting to discuss what will be in the thesis/dissertation. Make certain to clarify committee expectations on the thesis/dissertation content and
  5. Write, consult with your major advisor, submit to the committee, make edits
  6. Schedule a defense date with your committee keeping in mind Graduate School
  7. One week prior to your defense
    • giveclean copies of your thesis/dissertation to your committee and the Department Chair
    • makea seminar announcement to give to Jeremy for electronic posting
    • send an email to the entire department announcing the seminar.
  8. Bring signature pages and a black pen to your
  9. The Department requires a hard copy and a CD of your Please have one printed/cut and turn it in to the main office (Clark 116) for binding so it may be placed in the department library.