Geography M.S. Program

The M.S. in Geography program prepares graduate students for careers in both the academic field and non-academic jobs in various private and governmental agencies, in areas such as urban/economic geography, social geography, physical/environmental geography, and geographic information technology. Students learn geographic thought, research techniques, and topical specialties while preparing to conduct original research.  Within this broad framework, the program is sufficiently flexible to meet individual career objectives.  The M.S. in geography is designed to be a two academic year program. 

Kent State also offers the online Master of Geographic Information Science and online postbaccalaureate certificate options to prepare students for the evolving areas within GISc. Both are designed for busy, working professionals who are interested in continuing their education, but with the flexibility of an online program.  

Program Requirements

The M.S. program requires a total of 30 credit hours: 24 of these hours are taken for letter-graded (i.e. not S/U) course work, and 6 hours for the M.S. thesis.  A minimum of 18 hours of graded work must be taken in GEOG courses.

There are two required core courses that all M.S. students must take, totaling 6 credit hours: 

  • GEOG 60800 – Development of Geographic Thought
  • GEOG 69701 – Research and Presentation of Geographic Data

In addition, students must also take at least 6 credit hours of methods courses:

  • GEOG 50292 – Field Experience in Geography
  • GEOG 59070 – Geographic Information Science
  • GEOG 59072 – GIS and Health
  • GEOG 59073 – Environmental Data Analysis in R
  • GEOG 59075 – GIS: Urban and Economic Applications
  • GEOG 59076 – Spatial Programming
  • GEOG 59078 – GIS and Environmental Hazards
  • GEOG 59080 – Advanced GIS
  • GEOG 59085 – Web and Mobile GIS
  • GEOG 59162 – Cartography
  • GEOG 59230 – Remote Sensing
  • GEOG 60900 – Qualitative Methods
  • GEOG 69004 – Quantitative Methods
  • GEOG 69007 – Spatiotemporal Analytics
  • GEOG 69164 – Cartographic Design

Other graduate-level methods courses, as approved by Advisor and Graduate Coordinator, may count towards this requirement.   

All graduate students are required to attend all colloquia during their residence.

The Thesis

All M.S. students must complete a Master’s Thesis as part of their requirements for graduation.  A thesis should reflect the individual’s ability to identify a problem, carry out the necessary research, apply appropriate analytical tools, and present the results of the research in a scholarly manner. An advisory committee shall be chaired by the advisor and at least two additional members selected by the student in consultation with the advisor. All Graduate Faculty are eligible to serve on Master’s Committees; however, the thesis advisor must be level A2, A3, F3, or F4.  At least one of these two members must be a member of the Department of Geography.

There are two main sequences of events related to the thesis: first, the development and approval of a thesis proposal, and second, the writing and defense of the thesis.  Each of these sequences is shown below.  It is strongly advised that the students and all committee members, especially the advisor, maintain regular contact during these processes.

Procedure for Developing a Thesis Proposal

A thesis proposal that clearly and succinctly lays out the student’s intentions for his/her thesis research is the basis of a successful thesis.  Ideally, the proposal developed in Research and Presentation of Geographic Data can form the foundation for the thesis proposal.  Students are strongly encouraged to defend their proposal before starting considerable work on the thesis itself. The Notification of Approved Thesis Topic form, to be completed at the end of this process, signals the approval of the proposed thesis work.

  • 1. The student should work with his/her advisor to identify thesis committee members and meet with these members to ask whether they are willing to serve on the committee.
  • 2. The student develops an acceptable thesis proposal with his/her advisor.  Excluding references, the thesis proposal is typically between 4000 and 5000 words.
  • 3. When the advisor gives approval, the student should submit copies of the proposal to the remainder of the thesis committee.
  • 4. The committee members have one week to review the proposal. Committee members will provide feedback to the advisor regarding the suitability of the proposal for defense, and any requested changes.
  • 5. Once all committee members have reviewed the proposal, the advisor will confer with the student concerning the reviews.  If the proposal is acceptable, the student, in conjunction with his/her advisor, will arrange for a defense in which the M.S. proposal is formally approved. If changes are necessary, go back to Step 2.
  • 6. A proposal defense begins with an oral presentation (generally between 10 and 15 minutes) of the thesis proposal.  Following this presentation, an oral examination will proceed, consisting of questions from the entire committee.  Once questioning is complete, the thesis committee will vote on the defense.
    • a. If the student passes the defense unconditionally, the student may proceed to Step 7.
    • b. If a student passes the defense but changes are requested in the proposal document, the student must work to meet the committee’s concerns before proceeding to Step 7.
    •  c. If a student fails the oral defense, s/he must go back to Step 2.
  • 7. The advisor completes a Notification of Approved Thesis Topic form, which is sent to Graduate Studies for the official record.
  • 8. The student must then register for GEOG 60199 (Thesis I) the next semester.  Once the student has registered for Thesis I once, s/he must then remain continuously registered in Thesis II until the thesis is successfully defended and submitted.  This includes summer sessions.

Defense of Thesis

The student and advisor will work closely during the process of the student’s thesis research.  Regular meetings should be scheduled, and the research should be reviewed at a frequency that is acceptable to both student and advisor.  Students are encouraged to set up occasional thesis committee meetings to discuss progress with the full committee.  The student must register for graduation (in Flashline) by the start of the semester in which s/he hopes to graduate.

  • 1. When the student and advisor believe the thesis is ready for defense, it will be sent to the members of the committee for review.
  • 2. The committee will have a period of 10 working days to read the thesis, unless a shorter period is agreed to beforehand.  The advisor will convene the thesis committee (without the candidate) to evaluate it.  The committee must unanimously agree that the thesis is ready for defense.  Recommended revisions will be noted by the advisor and communicated to the candidate; the committee may
    • a. accept the thesis document as is, and the student and advisor can schedule a defense
    • b. require minor changes, in which case the student can move forward with the current document as the defense document and schedule a defense, while making the required changes;
    • c. require major revisions, in which case the modified thesis must be reevaluated by the committee before approval to move forward to defense is given; or
    • d. find the thesis work unacceptable for defense.  If this happens, the student, advisor, and Graduate Coordinator will meet to discuss a route forward.
  • 3. Once the student’s committee has agreed to proceed to the thesis defense, the student and committee will identify an acceptable time and place. The defense should be scheduled at least 10 working days in advance unless the committee unanimously agrees otherwise.  The Department Chair, Graduate Coordinator, and secretary should be notified of the time and date at this point.

    The defense will be open to the University community. Notification of the time and place of the defense should be made public at least one week in advance of the defense.  In the absence of the Thesis Advisor, the oral defense may not be held. If it is a matter of long-term absence or illness, the Chair and Graduate Coordinator, in consultation with the Dean, should make appropriate arrangements for a substitute.
  • 4. The defense begins with the thesis committee agreeing that the defense may proceed.  This is to be determined at the beginning and without the candidate or others being present. If more than one member of the thesis committee finds the thesis unacceptable, the oral defense will be postponed until the thesis has been sufficiently modified that the thesis is acceptable, with only one dissenting vote allowed.  If the thesis is not acceptable at this second scheduled defense, the Dean will be notified, and all further action is then the responsibility of the Dean.
  • 5. The student will open the defense with a 15-20 minute presentation of his/her findings.
  • 6. The members of the thesis committee will question the candidate. Typically, there are two or more rounds of questioning, with the first round consisting of ten minutes per committee member, the second round consisting of five minutes per committee member and additional rounds as needed until all questions by the committee have been addressed. Following questions by the examining committee, members of the audience are permitted to ask questions.  Questioning should focus on the substantive nature of the research, rather than copy-editing issues, which should be written out and presented to the student after the defense.  The questioning will continue until it has run its course.
  • 7. Once questioning is completed, the advisor will adjourn the defense and the room will be cleared of everyone except for the committee. The committee will then evaluate the candidate on both the overall quality and significance of the thesis, as well as the oral defense.  Each committee member will vote ‘pass’ or ‘fail’; a candidate passes the defense if s/he received no more than one dissenting vote.  If the candidate does not pass the defense, a rescheduling of the defense will occur when, in the opinion of the committee and the student, the thesis has been modified appropriately.  If a candidate does not pass the defense after a second attempt, the Dean will be notified, and all further action is then the responsibility of the Dean.
  • 8. Following the successful defense of the thesis, any requested changes to the thesis document must be made by the student, and a final version of the thesis must be approved by the student’s committee and advisor.
  • 9. Once the committee has approved the thesis document, the document must then be submitted – as a pdf -- to the Department Chair for approval. Formatting regulations and instructions may be found at: The student must give the Department Chair at least three days to examine the thesis.  After approval from the Department Chair, the student should then fill out the signature pages which will be provided by Mary Lou with instructions.

Recommended timeline for full-time M.A. Students


  • Take GEOG 60800 (Development of Geographic Thought) and two other graduate-level classes.
  • Schedule regular meetings with temporary advisor and meet with other faculty that have similar research interests.


  • Take GEOG 69701 (Research and Presentation of Geographic Data) and two other graduate-level classes.
  • Identify a permanent advisor by Week 6, either by advisor form or with the annual report. Potential committee members should be identified by end of semester.
  • Consult with your advisor for turning your Research and Presentation proposal into a Thesis Proposal.
  • If possible, defend your proposal at the end of spring semester and begin thesis work in the summer.


  • Defend your proposal before the semester begins or in the early part of the semester, and commence with thesis work.
  • Seek to meet remaining requirements by registering for two graduate-level classes.
  • Register for 3 or 6 credits of Thesis I.


  • Register for remaining credits of Thesis I, Thesis II (if you have completed Thesis I), and any other remaining requirements.
  • Continue work on thesis, with the goal to defend by the end of this semester.


  • Continue to register for Thesis II this, and each subsequent, semester until the thesis is defended and submitted.