James Madison University

Apprenticeship Experience

In order to involve graduate students in research activities early in their training and to aid the graduate students in choosing their Master’s Thesis topic, two semesters of research apprenticeship are required of all first year students. Students are accepted into the program to work with a specific advisor and will complete the research apprenticeship experience by working within the advisor’s established research program. The research apprenticeship is a non credit-bearing requirement that involves a commitment of approximately 5-8 hours per week where students assist a faculty member in ongoing research activities, and beginning to develop research questions of their own. Thus, students should begin to explore possible thesis ideas with their advisors early in their graduate training. Although not required, students are strongly encouraged to consider projects that are linked closely to their advisors’ ongoing research.

The research apprenticeship experience is, by design, a flexible arrangement in which students and faculty can work together closely and develop a mentoring relationship. Each faculty member is involved in different projects and these projects may be in very different stages of development when a student first joins them, making each apprenticeship experience unique. However, all apprenticeship experiences will include:

  • regular meetings with the faculty advisor that include discussions of the apprenticeship project as well as the student’s interests and potential thesis topics;
  • reading the literature relevant to the apprenticeship project and potential thesis ideas;
  • opportunities for the student to develop a conceptual understanding of the various aspects of the research process; and
  • performing activities that contribute meaningfully to the research process.

Students should be sure to check with their advisors soon after beginning the program to discuss the specific expectations and requirements of their individual advisors.

Advisory Committee: Once the student and advisor agree on a thesis idea, the student will form an Advisory Committee. The Advisory Committee will serve as both the student’s Thesis Committee* and Comprehensive Examination Committee*, and help develop a Plan of Study.

  • The student’s advisor will serve as the chair of the advisory committee and will help the student select other members. Advisory Committee members should have the background and interest necessary to counsel, direct, and evaluate the specific student research project undertaken. Participation as an Advisory Committee member is voluntary on the part of the faculty member.

Plan of Study: Advisory Committee and student jointly develop a plan of study that describes the coursework that the student intends to complete. This coursework should insure that the student acquires the knowledge and skills needed for successful completion of the intended thesis project. Although the end of the first semester is the target date for completing the Plan of Study, each student must complete a plan of study no later than the middle of the second semester.

Apprenticeship Assessment: At the end of the first year, all students and their advisors are required to complete the Research Skills Checklists. Each student submits his or her checklist to the Program Director and his or her advisor along with copies of any products that resulted from the experience and his or her annual Student Activity Summary. The advisor will review the student’s materials, complete the Research Skills Checklist for Advisors and Advisor’s Evaluation section of the Student Activity Summary, review the checklists and evaluation with the student to provide feedback, and submit the completed Checklists and Student Activity Summary the Program Director for placement in the student’s file.