9. The MRP/Thesis

Faculty of Education

9. The MRP/Thesis

Students who wish to graduate in either the Spring or Fall Convocation must, prior to the deadline established by the University, have completed all review stages and editing requirements for their MRP or thesis and approved for submission to the Digital Repository by the Department of Undergraduate Studies in Education.  Department deadlines have been established to give the Administrative Assistants sufficient time to arrange all required review and defence procedures and to complete all required administrative documents prior to the University deadline. Students, therefore, should consult the Department about the deadlines, should understand that these are firm deadlines, and should plan their work accordingly.

The following lists show the steps involved in MRPs and theses with approximate time spans required for their completion. Students can work backwards from their projected completion dates to determine when the process should begin. Students should allow at least 2 weeks for the advisor to read and edit any submitted documents.


Pilot testing, data collection, drafts, and revisions: One academic term
Advisor approval: 2 - 3 weeks
Second reader approval: 2 - 3 weeks

Submit to approved APA proofreader: 2 - 3 weeks
Submit clean copy for final formatting review : 2 weeks

Submit e-MRP for approval to Digital Repository

Complete Thesis and Major Research Paper Copyright License Form


Pilot testing, data collection, drafts and revisions: Two academic terms
Committee approval (or revision) of final draft: 3 to 4 weeks
Submit to approved APA proofreader: 2 to 3 weeks
Submit clean copy of thesis for formatting and Chair's review

Thesis defence: Department to schedule 2 - 3 months in advance
Submit copies for distribution to all members of the examining committee at least 4 - 6 weeks prior to defence date. (If the Chair or designate, or External Examiner has problems with the thesis that may inhibit a successful defence, the defence may be delayed.)

Following a successful defence, submit e-Thesis for approval to Digital Repository
Note: All students must apply to graduate by July 1 (for fall) or February 1 (for spring).

These are fixed dates. If a date falls on a Saturday or Sunday, the deadline is 4:30 p.m.. the next working day. Student can apply online through their student portal.

9.1 Preparation of the Document

The Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association (APA Manual, 6th edition), is the preferred style guide for MRPs and theses completed for the Master of Education degree requirements. The APA Manual describes the style for writing in the social sciences with respect to spelling, grammar, language conventions, document format, and referencing conventions. The APA Manual is a required text for all intake courses. Students should get in the habit of conforming to APA conventions early in the program.

Although the APA Manual is the typical style guide used in the program, students may, based on prior familiarity and advisor permission, use an alternative style guide. Regardless of the guide used, however, it is the student's responsibility to ensure that the MRP or thesis document conforms to the conventions of the selected guide. Students using an alternative guide must still send their documents for final proofreading and will need to locate such services on their own. The APA Manual should be consulted with respect to all aspects of organizing, formatting, and writing the document.

As there may be differences between APA  conventions and the Department Guidelines, the Department Guidelines supersede APA conventions. Please see Appendix A: Learning APA Format and Appendix B: Checklist for MRP and Thesis Submission for the required format. 

9.2 General Framework for the MRP or Thesis

It should be understood that this section presents only one possible organization for the document. Students should consult with their advisor before beginning the first draft of the MRP or thesis and should follow the advisor's guidance if it differs from the presented format.

The MRP or thesis usually is written in the form of chapters although some innovative MRPs may follow an article format, as presented in the APA Manual. Research reports, developmental works, evaluative studies, and conceptual works all require individual consideration, and students should consult several examples of their specific type of investigation before selecting an organizational structure. In most cases, however, the report will be divided into the following five chapters. (Note the formatting conventions used in the chapter titles. In the actual document, chapter titles are centered rather than left-justified.)






The organization of a portfolio uses the following structure.






Included in a series of Appendices at the end of this Program Guide are sample pages from exemplary MRPs or theses written by Linda Ismailos, Kathleen Moore, Bob Rigas, and Lyn Trudeau. We have their permission to share these examples with you to give you an indication of what the final product should look like. Advisors can recommend other exemplars for your review. The University Digital Repository offers an online listing of MRPs and theses for your review .

The remainder of this section sets out, in some detail, the purpose and a typical organizing structure for each of the five chapters. Remember that headings will differ for different types of exit requirements. Advisors are expected to provide suggestions on appropriate headings for the type of research being reported in the MRP or thesis.

Preliminary Pages

The preliminary pages of the document are identical for both MRPs and theses. Some of the pages are optional (e.g., Acknowledgements), and some may not be required depending on the contents of the document (e.g., List of Tables, List of Figures). Pre-text pages are numbered in lowercase Roman numerals centered at the bottom of the page, beginning with the Abstract as page ii. 

Pagination of Text

Beginning at Chapter One, pages are numbered in Arabic numerals at the top right (approximately ½ inch or 1.5 cm) from the top of the page and 1 inch (2.5 cm) from the right edge.) Page numbers are continued on each page in sequence throughout the entire manuscript, including references and appendices.

Title Page (required)

Counted as "i" but not numbered. (Refer to Appendix D)

The title should be brief, to the point, and contain enough information about the contents to give readers a general idea of what is to follow. Two-part titles may be used profitably to arrange major concepts (e.g., Language Acquisition: A Case Study of Six Preschoolers).

The full name of the Department of the Graduate and Undergraduate Studies in Education is used.

In order to claim copyright, the author of a thesis and a MRP must ensure that all final copies of the document bear the International Copyright Notice at the bottom of the title page before the student's work is submitted to the Digital Repository. The notice consists of three elements printed on one line:

1. the letter "C" enclosed in a circle, ©;

2. author's name and year of graduation. (Refer to Appendix D)

Abstract (required)

Counted as "ii" and numbered. (Refer to Appendix E)

The abstract should describe all pertinent aspects of the study. It is intended to be a brief summary of what took place, including the methods used and the main results, and is written in the past tense. The abstract is written as a single paragraph without paragraph indentation, and should not exceed one page or about 200 words in length. The label Abstract (bold) should appear in uppercase and lowercase letters, centered at the top of the page.

Acknowledgements (optional)

Counted as "iii" and numbered.

This page should not exceed one page in length and provides a space to thank all those who contributed to the work.

Table of Contents (required)

Counted as "iv" and numbered. (Refer to Appendices F and G)

Students must ensure that there is consistency between the chapter titles and headings as they are listed in the text and in the Table of Contents. Usually only chapter titles and first-level headings are included in Table of Contents. Note: The Table of Contents pages are not included as items in the actual Table of Contents. If the Table of Contents exceeds one page, additional pages are numbered sequentially in Roman numerals.

List of Tables (if any are used)

Pagination is in Roman numerals which continue in sequence following the Table of Contents. (Refer to Appendix H)

The numbering, titles, headings, and pagination of the tables listed on this page must agree with those in the document.

List of Figures (if any are used)

Roman Numeral pagination. (Refer to Appendix K)

It is important that numbering, titles, headings, and pagination of figures in the list coincide with the text of the document.

Placement of Optional Pages

Dedication can be placed following Acknowledgements

Prologue can be placed prior to first page of Chapter One. It should be included in the numbering of the front pages. Chapter One should begin with page 1.

Epilogue can be placed immediately following Chapter Five (final chapter).

Selected Bibliography is placed immediately following References

For your convenience, we have included the following samples:
Sample of Chapter Heading and 3 Levels of Heading (Refer to Appendix M)
Sample of  Quotations (Refer to Appendix N)
Sample of References (Refer to Appendix O)


In this chapter, the student describes the character of the issue, puzzle, or problem under investigation. This chapter sets the stage for what will follow in the remainder of the document, and the first sentence should alert the readers to what they can expect to discover in the document. It is recommended, therefore, that the first sentence be used to precisely and promptly locate the problem or puzzle for the reader by using a phrase such as "This is a study of . . ."

The following sections may be included in the first chapter.

Introduction: "This is a study of . . ." The first sentence of the document should clearly identify the general topic of the study. This statement should be repeated several times throughout the document, and each repetition should remain consistent with the first iteration. The introduction section should also locate the statement within broad social or educational trends.

Note: The APA Manual does NOT allow the use of a heading called Introduction. The first part is assumed to be an introduction by virtue of its placement under the chapter title. This expectation holds for the beginning of all chapters.

An introductory paragraph that sets out the general purpose and shape of the chapter immediately follows the chapter heading. This paragraph is not preceded by any heading other than the chapter title. First-level headings begin at the end of the introductory paragraph(s).

Background of the Problem: Describe the problem as it occurs in its existing context. There may be educational trends, unresolved issues or social concerns that provide background information and thus locate the context of the problem for the reader.

Statement of the Problem Context: This will include the specific difficulty, unknown aspect, professional conundrum, area of concern, or felt need that the student has chosen to address. While a problem in its entirety may have provided impetus for study, exhaustive descriptions may only serve to confuse if the statement lacks precision. This section focuses on the specific concern or problem for which the work has been undertaken.

Purpose of the Study: The purpose statement should be goal-oriented with an emphasis on practical or theoretical outcomes or products. It may be useful to frame this as specifically as "The purpose of this study is.."

Questions to be Answered or Objectives: This refers to: (a) empirical questions that address broad conceptual aspects of the purpose statement, (b) the questions asked in developmental work or in studies of a more qualitative nature for which hypotheses are not usually written, and (c) the larger questions that conceptually drive quantitative studies. Usually, in theses and MRPs, the hypotheses are NOT posed at this stage. Hypotheses logically arise from your consideration of the literature and can be stated with precision at the end of Chapter 2 or the beginning of Chapter 3.

Rationale: The rationale explains why this problem should be investigated (i.e., a need to know). The need may be perceived by the student, by the educational community, or by a professional organization. The rationale should also outline the importance of the study by describing who might be interested in the results (and how), and what areas of theory and/or practice are likely to be informed by the results.

Theoretical Framework (optional): If theoretical areas are being brought together to form a framework for the study, they should be described here briefly and elaborated later in the Review of Literature - Chapter 2. This framework should be reflected in the empirical question.

Scope and Limitations of the Study: This section usually discusses the boundaries of the inquiry, specifically in relation to what is being included and what is excluded in the study (and why).

Outline of Remainder of the Document: A brief description (one paragraph per chapter) of what each subsequent chapter will contain and its relation to the study is provided in this section. This section is intended to serve as an advance organizer for the reader.

Definitions of Terms: A separate section of definitions should not be included in Chapter One. Instead, unusual and technical terms should be defined when they are introduced in the text. Sometimes a glossary of terms may be included as an appendix. When relevant, citations of the literature source for the term should be specified.


The review of the literature is not intended to provide an author-by-author summary of what has been written about the topic. Instead, it is expected to provide a critical review of the existing knowledge base on the topic, and the chapter should be organized conceptually or thematically. Authors are to be incorporated into the review as they speak to specific concepts. Special attention should be given to most recent and relevant literature on the topic and to Canadian studies or sources, if available.

The review of the literature should include analytic comments on how knowledge claims in the area of study have been made and defended. For example, a critical review of an empirical study should include an examination of the methods used in the study and the strengths and weaknesses of the knowledge claims as a consequence of the specific methods. Note: Although the student should refer to specific information from specific authors, overuse of direct quotations serves to weaken the review by creating an impression that the writer has insufficient knowledge of the topic or familiarity with the research to be able to speak for him/herself.

The literature review is intended to serve at least five broad purposes:

To map out the current state of knowledge about the topic of study through appropriate conceptual categories;

To present results of contemporary studies relevant to the topic;

To describe and assess methods, analyses, and implications of these studies;

To identify points of debate, uncertainty, ambiguity, or mystery in the existing knowledge base; and

To demonstrate the basis for the positions taken, the framework used, or the questions asked in the student's line of study.

The organization of Chapter Two should emerge from an analysis of common concepts or broad areas of interest found in the literature. The headings for the chapter should reflect these broad concepts, and literature should be described and analyzed in terms of how the authors define, address, investigate, and debate the concepts. The chapter should end with a summary in which the student highlights the major debates in the literature and identifies the debate field within which the student's study is located. The summary should set the stage for the description of methodology in the next chapter.


There is a difference between methods and methodology. Methods are those means by which data and information are gathered. Methodology combines methods with the philosophy underlying the methods. It has to do with the epistemological/ideological basis of the study.

Methodologies and procedures will vary according to an individual advisor's requirements and preferences, the topic area, and the type of MRP or thesis. Except for conceptual investigations, the contents of Chapters 1, 2, and 5 usually follow the same format for most MRPs and theses. However, Chapters 3 and 4 will vary considerably between research, developmental, evaluative, and conceptual studies.

The following outline for Chapter 3 includes separate sections for examples of the different types of MRPs and theses: research, developmental, and evaluative. The writer must bear in mind that the keys to carrying out the study are in Chapter Three. Should another researcher wish to replicate the study, sufficient information and detail should be included to facilitate replicability.

Research-Based Studies

Most theses are grounded in empirical research, though some are philosophical documents. The following headings may be relevant for theses and MRPs that are qualitative, quantitative, historical, or case studies.

Overview: This will acquaint the reader with the specific direction the chapter will take. As in all other chapters, this section should not have its own heading.

Research Methodology and Design: This section presents information from research literature to highlight the characteristics and qualities of the chosen methodology (e.g., experimental, quasi-experimental, correlational, survey, auto/biographical, ethnographic, narrative, conceptual, phenomenological, case study, action research). Students are expected to justify the selection of this approach by identifying the characteristics or elements that will be used for the student's line of investigation and demonstrating the appropriateness of those elements for the large purpose of the study. For quantitative studies, this section also sets out the dependent and independent variables and the operational research questions or null hypotheses.

Pilot Studies: Described here are the studies used in the development of the research design, instruments used (including subsequent modifications), data collection techniques, methods of analysis, findings, and characteristics of the pilot study participants.

Selection of Site and Participants: This section is concerned with the characteristics of the sample and population involved in the study and how and why they were chosen (i.e., sampling procedures). It should specify how access the site(s) was obtained, how participation was solicited, how responses were received from potential participants, and how actual participation was determined.

Instrumentation (if appropriate): Descriptions of tests, measures, observations, scales, questionnaires, interview guides, observation guides, and document characteristics should be included. For self-developed instruments, detailed information is required on the sources used and process followed to develop the instrument. Evidence of validity and reliability of test instruments should be provided. Specific instruments and/or adaptations should be included in an Appendix of the document and referred to here.

Field, Classroom, or Laboratory Procedures (if appropriate): When special instructions are necessary or distribution of materials is part of the research design, these should be included here. Note that procedural variations may corrupt replications; therefore, directions should be sufficiently exact to facilitate subsequent studies.

Data Collection and Recording: Detailed descriptions of how data were collected and recorded are included in this section. It should specify the exact procedures that were followed, the order in which they were conducted, and the timeline within the process unfolded.

Data Processing and Analysis (if appropriate):

Quantitative: All methods of processing and analyzing data should be described. Statistical tests should be described in relation to research questions or hypotheses.

Qualitative: Qualitative studies present great complexities in the assessment of data. The defensibility of analytical methods should be specific and draw on methods with broader acceptance and precedence (e.g., key word or key phrase analysis, content analysis, and constant comparison analysis). Should external raters be used, details of their qualifications and the instructions for independent analysis should be specified.

Methodological Assumptions: Research in education cannot control all aspects of the methodology and any assumptions about the data that have been made and have a potential or actual bearing on the outcome of the study should be clearly stated.

Limitations: The description of limitations of the chosen methodology acknowledges the potential weaknesses of the study. This section should clearly outline the limitation and present the steps taken by the researcher to reduce potential threats to the result.

Establishing Credibility: The procedures used to ensure that results are credible should be outlined. In quantitative studies, the procedures include reliability and validity measures of the instrument. In qualitative studies, the procedures include triangulation, thick description, prolonged engagement, member checks, peer debriefing, and audit trails.

Ethical Considerations: Research with human participants requires careful attention to the rights and protections that will be ensured for the participants. The researcher must acknowledge any ethical risks in the study and outline the ethical guidelines followed to ensure that the participants have been protected. If clearance was required from Brock University Research Ethics Board, the file number of the certificate must be included in the methodology (or equivalent) chapter. The researcher must also follow the requirements of The Confidentiality Policy (see Appendix C).

Restatement of the Area of Study: This section brings the reader back to the main purpose of the investigation. For quantitative studies, the purpose statement from Chapter One is restated in operational form and linked back to research hypotheses and methods. For qualitative studies, the purpose statement is repeated and empirical questions are linked back to specific data collection and/or analysis strategies. This section is intended to serve as a segue into Chapter Four, where the hypotheses or empirical questions should frame the presentation of results.

Developmental Studies

Developmental studies are possible subtypes for MRPs. Handbooks, manuals, workshops, and curriculum design units are examples of developmental work.

The following list of headings can be used in Chapter 3:

Need for the Product: In this section the handbook, manual, workshop, or curriculum unit is justified within the context in which it will be used. This is based on preliminary data collection (i.e., needs assessment or pilot studies), which situates the need for the product in terms of the expressed needs and/or opinions of the larger community for whom the final product is intended.

Process of Development: A detailed step by step description of the student's work in developing the final product is provided.

Pilot Testing: The description of the pilot test(s) includes information about the sample and methods used for data collection. Please note: not all developmental products will be pilot tested. Product evaluation can be conducted after the product has been written.

Implementation: The implementation of the workshop or curriculum unit is described in detail including location, circumstances, and target sample.

Evaluation: Evaluation by those who have used or are likely to use the handbook or curriculum unit or those who have participated in the workshop is included. The candidate also evaluates the final product for its use or application in the intended context.

Revision Criteria: The results and expected implications of the pilot test and/or evaluation process are discussed in terms of possible revisions and possible influence on the final product.

Evaluative Studies

These will include MRPs that examine needs assessments and/or evaluate curriculum units, programs, or other existing instructional materials (e.g., evaluation of a computer program, evaluation of teaching, etc.).

The following headings can be used in Chapter 3:

Aspects of the Program to be Evaluated: The specifics of what is to be evaluated are described here (curriculum unit, etc.).

Sources of Information: The sources of information that will be used for evaluation are described in this section. These may include students, parents, teachers, administrators, school or other records, and so on.

Data Collection Techniques: Qualitative or quantitative methods used to gather data are detailed (e.g., questionnaires, interviews, analysis of materials).

Criteria for Evaluation: The criteria that will be used to make decisions or improvements are described in detail.

Analysis of Data: The types of analyses used to summarize and report on the data collected in the study are described.


This chapter presents the results of the investigation. The chapter should begin with an introductory paragraph that reminds the reader in a very brief summary of the purpose of the investigation, the chosen methodology, the data collection strategies, and study participants. It should specify the type of analysis that was undertaken (e.g., descriptive statistics, constant comparison, content analysis, etc.) and indicate that the chapter will provide details on the results emerging from the investigation.

The body of the chapter represents the new knowledge claims being made by the researcher in light of what was discovered from the data. In quantitative studies, the chapter should be organized in relation to the research questions and/or hypotheses. In qualitative studies, organization of the results should reflect the primary categories used for a deductive analysis or the major themes emerging from an inductive analysis. Before beginning to write this chapter, it is helpful to begin with an outline of the major themes or questions, the main points (knowledge claims) to be made about each one, and the data and/or statistical evidence for each point.

In developmental investigations, Chapter Four is the product itself (workshop, curriculum unit, or handbook). This chapter may be structured to stand independently of the rest of the document to facilitate the distribution of the product. If the product contains referenced material, it should include its own Reference List. The materials referenced in the product do not necessarily need to be included in the Reference List at the end of the MRP, but the student should follow the advisor's preference on this decision.

One of the most common problems with Chapter Four is an entanglement of the findings from the data with the previous knowledge of the researcher. In both quantitative and qualitative research reports, therefore, findings from the data must be clearly distinct from any personal experiences, interpretations, inferences, or evaluations of the researcher. It is essential that the reader be able to clearly detect what knowledge claims are grounded specifically in the data and what claims stand outside the data, coming either from the researcher or from other authors in the literature base.

When it is appropriate, results can be displayed in tables or charts. As no graphic presentation may stand alone, a brief explanation of the table or chart must be included in the text. Tables and charts can help to present information in a clear, efficient manner. They should not, however, be used as a substitute for presenting results in written form, nor are they necessary when the information in the text is clear and easily understood. It is good to be frugal in selecting the number of tables and charts to be included in the document.


Chapter Five is the "So what?" chapter of the MRP or thesis. This is where the student draws out and discusses the knowledge claims made in Chapter Four, thereby highlighting the contribution this investigation makes to the knowledge base. Although this has been found to be a difficult chapter for many students to write, it is an important one because this is where the information from previous chapters comes together and stands on its merits and where the student's work is connected to the existing literature on the topic. Students might think in terms of a research report in a journal, and plan this chapter similarly.

Introduction: This section reminds the reader of the general problem or puzzle context, the purpose of this study, and the type of investigation undertaken to explore the puzzle and to address the purpose.

Summary of the Study: Here the student presents a brief overview of the overall design of the investigation, the data collection and analysis strategies, and the results of the study. This section should represent a summarized version of Chapters Three and Four but without the supporting data evidence. It sets the stage for the discussion to follow.

Discussion/Conclusions: This section highlights the interesting, surprising, exciting, or illuminating results and positions them within the current debates in the field. This section should NOT be a finding-by-finding replay of the results. It is intended to serve as a critical reflection on how this investigation has contributed to the knowledge field, how it speaks to other authors (whether in harmony or in counterpoint), and how the results might be interpreted or evaluated. Think in terms of each paragraph in this section establishing and/or clarifying a position, confirming or questioning a result, or offering an alternative meaning or interpretation. This section is the core of the contribution your work makes, so make the most of it that you appropriately can.

Implications: This section relates to how the outcome of the research questions influences or changes understanding about the topic under examination. It may be useful to use sub-sections within this section. For example:

Implications for Practice: Do the findings and conclusions drawn affect our understanding of the issue under study? Will the findings have an impact on direct practices related to the issue? In other words, of what use is this research for educators and what might/should they now do differently?

Implications for Theory: How have the findings extended, confirmed, or refuted the theoretical basis used in the study?

Implications for Further Research: What new questions can now be developed or addressed for additional and deeper research into the topic under examination? Limitations which have constrained the study may be cited and ways of overcoming them in future research may be addressed.


Recommendations: This heading is another way of addressing the material discussed in Implications. Practical suggestions may be made about how to implement your findings and how to conduct additional research on the topic.

Final Word/Conclusion: This section should bring the entire document to a satisfactory close. It should highlight what the author would like readers to think about or remember when they close the book.


After the body of the MRP or thesis text is complete, a number of ancillary information pages must be included. Other than the reference list, the remainder of the pages noted in this section will differ according to the nature of the investigation.

Reference List: This section includes all sources that have been cited in the text of the document. Only those works that have been cited in the text are included in the reference list, and all works that have been cited must be included. References are listed alphabetically. Completing the reference list requires careful attention to the APA Manual or the chosen alternative style guide, which can have financial payoffs at the editing phase. This is where proofreaders often spend countless hours correcting style violations and uncovering discrepancies between the references in the list and the citations in the text, and careful APA work by the student can reduce editing costs considerably (Refer to Appendix O).

Appendices: Support material that clarifies or provides examples is not typically included in the text of the document but is attached as an appendix. Examples of such material include data collection instruments, tests, correspondence, and samples of data. These items provide the reader with background information and materials that help to clarify the investigation but would interrupt the flow of the text if inserted into the chapters.

9.3 Changing from a Thesis to a MRP

Changing from a MRP to a thesis or vice versa requires the permission of the advisor and the Department Chair. Because of the half-credit difference, students should be aware that if they are changing from a thesis to a MRP they will need to take additional courses to fulfill the 10 half-credit course requirements of the program.

9.4 Electronic Submission of the Document

All final MRPs and theses are required to be submitted electronically in .pdf format to the Brock University Digital Repository.




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