Graduate Handbook

What is a Graduate Student?

It is important for graduate students to understand that a graduate program is very different from an undergraduate program. To earn your undergraduate degree you completed a specified number of course hours. A comprehensive exit exam ensures that the graduate programs offer no such guarantee! Graduate degrees are conferred by the criminal justice graduate facility, only to those students who demonstrate an advanced understanding and deep knowledge of criminal justice issues and the criminal justice process. Graduate students occupy a unique rung of the education ladder, you are no longer an undergraduate, and graduate faculty will expect more from you. As a graduate student in criminal justice, you, like the faculty, represent the department and the university. What you accomplish, or fail to accomplish reflects back on faculty, current students, and successful graduates. The graduate faculty therefore, will be keenly aware of your progress, and behavior. Our reputation rests on you! The graduate faculty wants you to succeed; and will do everything within their ability to help you; however, this is ultimately your degree, your accomplishment, and you will only get out of it -- what you put into it! The degree plan and courses are only one part of the process: you will be expected to read more, write more, and think more (professional conferences are highly recommended): you must go beyond the scope of basic course requirements.


Full Admission
  • A 2.5 average, on a 4.0 scale, for the last 60 hours of your bachelor's degree.
  • All transcripts and requested Test Scores on file at the time of Admission.
  • Students are not required to take the GRE for the Criminal Justice Masters program

OR You may have either one of the next two criteria:

  • The successful completion of 12 semester hours of non-degree or probationary graduate work with a minimum grade point average of 3.0 on a 4.0 scale
  • Hold a master's degree from an accredited college or university

While holding an undergraduate degree in Criminal Justice is not required for admission, background familiarity with the field and additional basic skills are required. Students will be required to take 12 sch in Criminal Justice with a 3.0 grade point average or higher in all courses; or CJ 4309, Senior Seminar; or students may choose to CLEP the Graduate Leveling Exam. Students opting to CLEP the exam must score a minimum of 60%). Students pursuing a second Master's degree must present the same background as undergraduates, and might be able to have a maximum of 12 sch of graduate work from the completed degree program credited toward this degree. This will occur only after full admission to this program has been granted by the Director of Admissions and the Graduate Coordinator of the Criminal Justice Department.

Probational Admission

If you do not have the qualifications required for full admission, Sul Ross offers a probational admission. In order to qualify you must have at least one of the following requirements:

  • A 2.5 average, on a 4.0 scale, for the last 60 hours of your bachelor's degree
  • A GRE score of 850 or better

You may fill out the graduate school application online.

Dual Degree Option

Sul Ross State University now offers two dual Master's degree programs. If you complete this program you will have a Master of Science degree in Criminal Justice and a Master of Arts degree in Public Administration or a Master of Science degree in Homeland Security and a Master of Arts degree in Public Administration. Both programs have 18-shared credit hours for a total of 54 hours. If you were to do each program separately it would require 72 combined hours. Having knowledge of Criminal Justice and Public Administration  or Homeland Security and Public Administration will improve your ability to communicate with other professionals regardless of which field you choose. Two degrees will open more possibilities for you and put you ahead of the competition.


All graduate students must apply for Candidacy upon completion of 12 hours of graduate work at Sul Ross State University (transfer credits do not count toward this total).  At this time an assessment will be made of the student’s body of work and some suggestions may be made or extra requirements added to the student’s program in order to ensure successful completion of the program.  Student who do not meet the requirements for Candidacy may be removed from the program.  Requirements include:

  • 12 graduate level credit hours
  • Full admission into the university graduate program
  • An approved degree plan on file in the Criminal Justice office and in the office of the Dean of Professional Studies
  • An application for candidacy

Failure to apply for candidacy at least one semester before graduation will result in a failure to graduate.  Additionally, the Graduate Coordinator may place restrictions on registration if this form is not filed. 

You may download the application for candidacy online. The request must be submitted no later than the semester prior to graduation. The Dean will review the request for candidacy and will notify the student of the decision

Comprehensive Exams

All students must pass a comprehensive examination which may be scheduled though the Graduate Coordinator any time after the student has been admitted to candidacy and has completed 24 sch including the four required courses. The exam will be made available to qualified students on Blackboard and will be graded instantly upon completion. Students who have completed at least 24 hours of course work including the 4 required courses from the particular program in which the student is enrolled (CJ or HS) may also request a practice exam be made available in the Blackboard format through the Graduate Coordinator. Exams will consist of 200 multiple choice questions. Students must score a minimum of 70% to pass. If a student does not pass the Comprehensive Exam the first time, they must retake the entire exam at a time to be scheduled through the Graduate Coordinator. A student who fails their second attempt may petition (must show significant cause) the Graduate Coordinator for a third attempt. The student can expect one of 3 outcomes from their petition:

  1. Student will be required to take remedial course work – to be determined in consultation with the CJ faculty – before taking the exam again.
  2. Student will be allowed to take the exam a third time with no other requirements.
  3. Student will not be allowed to take the exam again and will be removed from the program.

Note - Students in one of the dual degree programs with Public Administration must also take the comprehensive exams in that area - Public Administration Comps

Graduate Student Academic Performance

Graduate students must maintain a minimum 3.0 (B) in all courses attempted for graduate credit. Students with assistantships may lose their funding following any grade below (B). Students receiving any grade of (F) or two grades below (B) will be removed from the program. Graduate students who take undergraduate courses must have prior written permission from both the instructor and the Graduate Coordinator, and that course instructor must be a member of the graduate faculty. Only six credit hours can be taken via undergraduate course. Graduate students will be expected to do additional work in undergraduate classes taken for graduate credit.


Assistantships are based solely on academic merit. Individuals who receive assistantships are required to work at least 20 hours a week for the department. Assignments to specific faculty members will be made by the Graduate Coordinator at the start of each semester.


Courses are offered on a rotating schedule. Generally if a course is offered in the spring, it will not be offered again until the following spring semester. This will be an important thing to consider in scheduling required courses when nearing graduation. Graduate courses are offered in a Web Based format only using Blackboard as a platform. This is done to allow individuals with full time positions to pursue a degree.

Non-Thesis Option

Students who select the non-thesis option for the CJ degree are required to take a total of 36 hours of coursework. The Homeland Security degree only offers a 36 hour non-thesis option.

Degree Plans

Sample degree plans are available online for both the Criminal Justice Master's degree and the Homeland Security Master's degree as well as the  dual degree programs with Public Administration.


Thesis Option:

Graduate students cannot start a Thesis until they reach candidacy. A thesis is a product of the student's research in close supervision of a thesis committee. It reflects the student and the school faculty. There is no time frame on a thesis. It is completed when it is accepted by the faculty. The process can be slow or fast, depending on student interest and the type of research being done. It is the student's responsibility to select a chair and committee members for their thesis. He or She must meet with each prospective member and request their participation. Students choosing this option must also sign up for the thesis class and must defend their thesis. The thesis defense will serve as a grade. The Homeland Security degree does not have a thesis option.

Advisory Committee

The thesis advisory committee consists of the chairperson and two other faculty members. The chairperson and at least one other member must be faculty of the Criminal Justice Department. If a student chooses an outside member as the third member of their committee, the outside member must be approved by the committee chair. A compatible advisory committee is important to any student since the committee will be directing the student's academic progress. The committee further assists the student by overseeing and approving the program of study; monitoring and providing academic guidance; and directing the thesis and oral defense. Therefore, it helps the student to be informed of the committee's research interests, personality, and work style. Before approaching any prospective committee members, the student needs to fill out the Thesis Committee Agreement Form detailing their proposed project. You may access the Thesis Committee Agreement Form online in PDF format.

Thesis Prospectus Defense

Each student working on a thesis must present and defend their proposal or prospectus. The prospectus should state a need or reason for the research. It should also include the fundamentals of a good hypothesis, research design methodology, along with a comprehensive literature review of all past research done on the subject. If human subjects are to be used in the research, it must be approved by the University Research Council prior to this defense. If students do not demonstrate their mastery of the skills necessary to complete a thesis while defending their prospectus then faculty members may choose not to involve themselves further. Download a copy of the application for using human subjects in PDF format. A sample consent form is also available in PDF format.

Thesis Defense

After the research has been completed and all of the thesis requirements have been met, the student will formally present their thesis to their thesis committee and to any guests. Faculty should have a copy of the thesis at least 10 working days prior to the defense. Announcement of the defense must be posted in the major department, the appropriate school or division office and the office of the Vice President for Academic and Student Affairs at least one week prior to the defense. After presenting their research, the student will answer all questions posed by the thesis committee followed by questions from the guests. The final copies of the thesis and abstract must be in the hands of the committee at least five weeks prior to the date of graduation. At least three weeks prior to the date of graduation, the final thesis, signed by the committee, must be in the Dean's Office for final approval. Students must also submit to the Dean's Office a receipt for the thesis fee paid in the Cashier's Office. Thesis fee pays for the binding of four copies of the thesis, two for the University Library, one for the major department, and one for the candidate. A portion of this fee is for publishing the abstract in the Master's Abstracts. Before starting a thesis, the student's committee must approve the prospectus (See above). In preparing the thesis for defense, the student will need the following four items from the Graduate Coordinator:

  • Format Manual: This manual provides important information regarding the preparation of the thesis for the format approval.
  • Graduation Deadlines and the Format Evaluation/Oral Defense Procedures: these listings provide information on applying for graduation, registration requirements, format of the thesis, and deadlines for submitting materials.
  • Format Approval Sheet: this form requests format approval from the Dean's Office for the final document.
  • Application for Authorization to Schedule a Defense: the filing of this form with the Graduate Coordinator, verifies the students final stage in the program- to defend the written document in an oral examination.
Proposal (Thesis)

A proposal is a fully developed explanation of your proposed thesis or creative project. The more specific that proposal is in terms of statement of the problem, design, and method of procedure, the easier it will before your major professor and graduate committee to help you when you explain and defend it. This explanation and defense is designed to help you by suggesting some of the problems you are likely to encounter, some of the tests to which such a project should be subjected, and even the kinds of questions you might anticipate in your comprehensive examination. The properly-written proposal:

  1. Requires you to put into writing your statement of the problem, the goal (s) you seek, and the means you intend to use to achieve your goal (s). In short, the proposal serves as a blueprint for the thesis or creative project, stating what is to be done and how it is to be done.
  2. Serves as a contract between you and your committee, protecting you against arbitrary changes on the part of the committee and guaranteeing to the committee members that you will not change your project without their knowledge and consent.
  3. With minor modifications, becomes the introductory chapter of your finished thesis or descriptive report.

You should write your proposal in consultation with your major professor. You and your major professor should be able to determine: (a) whether the prospective thesis or creative project is feasible; (b) whether it is a proper project for the master's level; and (c) what changes, if any, need to be made. After your proposal is written in final form, you must present it to your graduate committee for discussion and approval.

Writing a proposal:

In writing your proposal, generally detail in the future tense what you plan to do, how you plan to do it, and what results you expect to obtain. This document outlines and explains what is expected in general in a graduate thesis proposal. Inasmuch as each thesis and descriptive report is unique, select only those parts discussed below that pertain to your thesis. If you wish to include or omit parts not discussed below, you may do so with the approval of your major professor and/or the Graduate Coordinator.

Recommended Parts of a Proposal:

1. Title: Word your title carefully, but briefly, making certain it tells what your thesis or creative project is all about. Try to include all the words or phrases under which an index would carry your thesis topic. If possible, try to begin your title with a key word, rather than a general phrase. Example: Instead of titling your thesis "A Study of" (whatever), describe what you are studying: "A Comparison of the Effects of" or "A thematic Analysis of". 2. Introduction:  Provide a general background of your thesis, acquainting the reader with the topic of putting him into a position to appraise your work. The introduction, however brief, should set the stage for your thesis by orienting the reader. 3. Statement of the Problem: To solve the problem one must know what the problem is. Therefore, the most important part of any thesis project is a clear, correct, concise, and complete statement of the problem. Examples: (Descriptive Report) The purpose of this study is to identify and articulate the problems that emerge when an established female icon is magnified from small scale to large scale. The study will concern itself with the following questions:

  1. What problems does size pose in respect to choice of materials?
  2. What technical problems emerge when working larger?
  3. Is it possible to maintain certain qualities concerning aesthetics?
  4. Are there aesthetic issues that have to be resolved on a large scale that are insignificant on a small scale?
  5. How is the overall presentation affected?
  6. Does my response to the imagery change? If so, what effect does that have on subsequent images in the series?
  7. Do I enjoy working larger? Patricia Forrest, 2-3.

Thesis This study investigates cassone panels in museums and private collections in the United States and attempts to answer the following questions: (1) What were the major themes of cassone paintings during the Quattrocento? (2) Were the themes pictured on cassoni in Quattrocento Italy predominantly of a religious or secular nature? (3) If secular subject matter was dominant in cassone painting, was this a reflection of newly founded tastes acquired by the aristocratic, wealthy, and middle classes of the period? (4) Were these cassoni in any way mirrors expressing the way these classes viewed themselves and the place women occupied in society Ralph A. Rice, 3. 4. Purpose of the study: Describe in sufficient detail what your thesis proposes to achieve. 5. Hypothesis: Regardless of the category (historical, descriptive, experimental) of thesis you select, you should develop one of more hypotheses about you topic. The hypothesis is a clear, concise statement of conjecture about the problems (or topic), expressing a relation ship between variables. The hypothesis may be a declarative statement or a question, and it should indicate a tentative answer concerning the relationship. Historical Thesis: The historical researcher is concerned with discovering and interpreting facts. His hypothesis should touch on the interpretation of those facts. Descriptive Thesis: Descriptive studies are fact-finding, and may express judgments about those facts. Descriptive studies, as such, need no hypotheses; but, if judgments are to be made- based upon results of a survey, for example- then hypotheses are essential. Thus a study of the public relations operation of a gallery needs no hypothesis. But, if that study is to compare the public relations operation of a gallery to that of a museum, or if the study is to evaluate the success of the operation, then a hypothesis is essential. Experimental Thesis: Experimental studies usually test for significant difference, and apply various measures and formulas to arrive at conclusions. 6. Review of Literature: Essential in any research project, this is a general survey of research, published and unpublished, in the same general area, or in similar areas, of study. An explanation of earlier research helps fix your thesis project in the context of that field of research 7. Justification: Cite the significance of your thesis project, explain why it is needed, and explain what contribution it will make to the body of knowledge. 8. Limitations of the Study: Set the limits of your thesis or creative project, citing what is to be excluded as well as what is to be included, and why. 9. Methodology: Specify in detail what will be done to solve your problem. Discuss what samples will be used, how they will be selected, and why. Explain how data will be collected, what instruments (such as questionnaires) will be used, what measurements will be applied to those data, and how those data will be analyzed. Discuss research methods, describe whom you will interview and why, describe what published and unpublished materials you will research and why. 10. Organization of the Thesis: Present a brief description of what each chapter of your final thesis will contain 11. Footnotes: To save time, you may present footnotes in numerical order following the last part of the proposal and immediately proceeding Appendices, if any, or Selected Bibliography, instead of at the bottom of each page. Your handling of footnotes may follow either option, but use one form as presented in the Sul Ross State University Manual of Directions for Preparing a Thesis, or The American Psychological Association. 12. Appendices: Include copies of questionnaires, interview schedules, letters, and other instruments to be used in your thesis project. 13. Selected Bibliography: Cite the publications and other materials researched and the individual people interviewed in preparing your proposal. This selected bibliography will be expanded for your final thesis.