Graduate programs are marked by important milestones as students progress. These milestones serve as helpful signposts during a student's career, allowing for vital goal-setting and reflective self-assessment throughout the process. Although these milestone vary by degree and department, generally they are organized as coursework, exams, compliance, research, and deliverable.
Some departments also have their own unique milestones. We encourage all graduate students to stay in close communication with their Graduate Program Director throughout their program and to keep GPDs up to date with their progress towards various milestones.
While each program and student are different, graduate students should generally follow the suggested milestones for their program as they are presented here.
Complete the required coursework for your degree. This varies by department. Keep in close communication with your GPD and your academic advisor to make sure you complete all the necessary coursework for your degree.
In addition to keeping up with coursework, graduate students should also attend professional development workshops or conferences offered by the Graduate School, their department, the University Library, the Career Center, or other professional organizations.
Graduate students should regularly update GSPS with any presentations, publications, awards, or internships during this time as well.
Many programs require graduate students to conduct research as an essential component of their studies. In order to engage in research projects, students must complete all necessary compliance steps, including:
The Responsible Conduct in Research and Scholarship course - This free, 3-day course is presented by the Office of Research Services and takes place in May and August of every year. Graduate students are required to complete this course before beginning any research projects. As a result, the Graduate School encourages all students who plan on engaging in research projects independently or with faculty members to complete the course as early as possible. Topics covered in RCRS include research misconduct, conflicts of interest, data management best practices, mentor/advisor relationships, peer review, protection of human subjects, and welfare of laboratory animals.
CITI Online Training - Students who plan to engage in human subject research or live vertebrate animal research that requires Internal Review Board approval must complete the CITI (Collaborative IRB Training Initiative) course before submitting their IRB application. The CITI course is comprised of various modules, not all of which will be relevant for all students. Students must pass each relevant module quiz with a score of 80%. Students can continue to take a given module quiz until they receive a passing score. Although all modules must be completed in sequnce, students do not have to complete them all at one time.
Internal Review Board - Students who plan to conduct human subject research must receive approval from Loyola's Institutional Review Board (IRB). Data collection can not begin without approval from the IRB. IRB applications can be built and submitted through Loyola's Compliance Approval Package or CAP system. Please note that Thesis or Dissertation Proposals must be successfully defended before seeking IRB approval, and you should submit a scanned copy of your signed proposal ballot with your application. Additionally, research conducted by students must have a faculty member who has also completed the CITI course as the Principal Investigator. For more information about student research and IRB approval, visit the Student Research section of the IRB website. Also note, if your research does not qualify for expedited or exempt review and requires full IRB approval, the Board only meets once every month. Students should note the monthly deadlines for having their project considered.
Institutional Animal Care and Use Committee - Students who plan to conduct live vertebrate animal research must receive approval from Loyola's Institutional Animal Care and Use Committee (IACUC). Data collection can not begin without approval from the IACUC. IACUC applications can be built and submitted through Loyola's Compliance Approval Package or CAP system. Please note that Thesis or Dissertation Proposals must be successfully defended before seeking IACUC approval, and you should submit a scanned copy of your signed proposal ballot with your application. Also note, the Committee only meets once every month. Students should note the monthly deadlines for having their project considered.
Many departments require or encourage graduate students to engage in research projects as a part of their program of study, while Master's and Ph.D. students who are writing theses and dissertations conduct independent research to complete their projects. Graduate students may participate in independent or faculty-led research projects after completing all of the compliance requirements (see item 2 above). Talk to your GPD or academic advisor to learn more about research requirements specific to your program or to learn about research projects you can get involved with.
Loyola also offers Master's students who are not completing a thesis project an opportunity to apply for the Research Experience for Master's Programs fellowship. This competitive programs awards $2,000 to Master's students to engage in mentored research with faculty members.
For more information about graduate student research, funding, and presentations, visit the Graduate Research page.
At the end of a course of study, many programs require graduate students to demonstrate mastery of content through comprehensive exams. These exams can either be oral, written, or - in some cases - both. Written exams usually consist of an essay question that a student will complete over a given period of time (i.e. one week). Oral exams usually occur between the student and 1-3 faculty members, who will ask the student relevant questions based upon their coursework and research. Exams are Pass/Fail and can be taken multiple times until a passing evaluation is made, if necessary.
Exam requirements vary by program, and can occur at different times in a student's academic progress. Most exams for Master's students (if applicable) take place after (or close to when) a student completes their coursework requirements. For Ph.D. students, exams often take place between the completion of coursework and before the dissertation proposal. Be sure to talk with your GPD and your academic advisor about the requirements specific to your degree path.
Each degree path requires a different deliverable: Ph.D. students submit dissertations, some Master's students submit theses, and others who are not required to write a thesis often submit a Master's paper or a portfolio of representative work from their academic experience. This can include a resume/CV, essays, book or literature reviews, surveys, lab reports, internship reflections, and other relevant work demonstrative of a student's academic progress.
Programs often have different requirements for when deliverables should be submitted; sometimes this coincides with a student's exam date. Graduate students should build their portfolio throughout their program with support and guidance from their GPD and academic advisor. Many programs also keep portfolios from past students as examples for current students. Ask your GPD or Department Administrative Assistant for more information.
Master's and Ph.D. students submitting dissertations and theses for their degree should pay attention to the Key Dates and Deadlines related to format checks and final copy submissions. These dates vary by conferral date. The University confers degrees three times a year: May, August, and December. If you do not meet the required deadlines, your degree could be delayed. The Graduate School encourages students to submit their deliverables for a format check well before the deadline. Failure to do so can cause delays that could prevent your degree from being conferred.
For information about key dates and deadlines, formatting, and more regarding Master's theses and Ph.D. dissertations, please consult the Dissertations and Theses section of the Academic Policies page on the Graduate School website.