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Thesis Guidelines

The thesis is the culmination of the three years of work in a Gemstone team. The thesis should demonstrate the team’s knowledge, understanding and appreciation of the field, a critical analysis of related work, and the importance and relevance of the team’s contribution to the field.

These considerations will govern how the quality of your thesis is judged:

  • Creation of new knowledge – did the team create new knowledge? If so, what is the extent and importance of this new knowledge?
  • Integration of all the parts of the thesis- it should be written in one voice. Each part must clearly show how it adds to the reader’s growing understanding of the argument being advanced in the thesis that leads to the thesis conclusions.
  • A clear statement of the research problem and question the thesis addresses, which includes supporting the argument throughout.
  • Gemstone research teams are encouraged to explore topics that address society's most pressing issues. Teams will be expected to include an equity-impact report in their final thesis submission.
  • Exposition of the relevant existing scholarly literature.
  • A carefully considered approach to research design, research methodology, as well as appropriate data collection and methods.
  • A clear and concise description of findings.
  • A purposeful analysis, exploring links with other research and writing.
  • A convincing conclusion that includes the contribution of the research to society and what possibilities exist for extending the work.

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Below is a list of steps or milestones necessary to reach the final goal of a written thesis. Refer to the Timeline for Team Success for a description of team activities each semester.

  • Develop short and long-term goals
  • Do background research and focus research topic
  • Collect literature/articles
  • Develop a research question or research questions
  • Plan original research activities
  • Make contacts with constituencies involved
  • Identify experts who may help guide your project
  • Conduct a thorough study of the literature
  • Develop team procedures and infrastructure to organize literature and data analyzed
  • Get thesis proposal approved
  • Obtain IRB approval for study involving human subjects
  • Obtain animal care and use approval (IACUC) for project involving animals
  • Obtain relevant lab safety trainings
  • Implement original research activities (i.e. collect data)
  • Make an outline for the thesis
  • Write a first draft of the thesis which includes the literature review and references list and identify any missing elements
  • Obtain feedback on first thesis draft from experts
  • Complete research and analysis of data
  • Redraft thesis based on completed research and suggestions from expert contacts
  • Prepare outline for presentation of thesis
  • Write final thesis draft
  • Present and defend thesis
  • Submit final thesis and be sure to follow the graduate school guidelines for formatting.

Because the Gemstone Honors Program is a multidisciplinary program and the types of research projects span multiple academic disciplines, traditions and majors, your team can chose the appropriate writing research format There are several styles of writing research such as APA (American Psychological Association) 6th edition, Chicago, MLA, MLS, and others. Mentors and librarians will guide and direct their teams on which research writing style is most appropriate for their study as is determined by the larger academic community. Such formatting and writing style should be applicable to other academic exercises in the project’s field of study such as journal writing, proposal writing, grant writing, conference presentations and the like.

Traditional Format for a Thesis:

  1. Introduction
  2. Literature Review
  3. Methods
  4. Results
  5. Discussion
  6. References
  7. Appendices (if appropriate)

Mentors will guide teams as to the final structure of the chapters of the thesis. In addition to the research writing style, the thesis will conform to standards as defined by the academic community/field of study as determined by the mentor.
Teams may determine an alternate format better suits their needs. With the approval of the team mentor, the team may consider an alternate thesis format. Some teams have chosen an alternate format more suitable to the submission of publications. This format generally includes the following:

  1. Introduction
  2. Publishable paper #1 (technical literature review)
  3. Publishable paper #2 (includes intro, lit review, methods, results, & discussion)
  4. Publishable paper #3 (includes intro, lit review, methods, results, & discussion)
  5. Conclusion
  6. References (unless included in each individual chapter)
  7. Appendices (if appropriate)

If a team seeks to publish their work or is pursuing technology commercialization, Gemstone will work with the University Libraries to embargo the team’s thesis for a chosen amount of time.

Whichever writing style and standards are used, the formatting must conform to the University of Maryland Graduate School standards for formatting theses and dissertations.

In addition to the aforementioned standards, please adhere to the Gemstone Honors Program-specific information below.

  • The thesis should contain a title page with the following information centered on the page: THESIS TITLE, TEAM NAME, AUTHORS (team members), MENTOR, and THE PHRASE “Thesis submitted in partial fulfillment of the requirements of the Gemstone Honors Program, University of Maryland, Year”. The team’s discussants should be listed in the “committee” section, with the team’s mentor listed first.
  • An abstract summarizing the thesis in not more than 150 words. The abstract should clearly state the problem studied, the method used, the main results, and the main conclusions.
  • An acknowledgements page outlining any help teams have received, including a prominent acknowledgement of your team librarian, any government agency, any corporate or University source of funding outside the Gemstone Honors Program and thanks to individuals who may have helped your team.
  • A Table of Contents page showing the chapters or sections, each with appropriate titles or headings and a page number. If appropriate, also include a List of Tables, List of Figures, and List of Symbols and Abbreviations.
  • The first chapter should give an overview of the research problem that the study attempts to address, the purpose and rationale of the study, method framework and general research questions, significance of findings, and limitations.
  • The second chapter is traditionally the literature review where all the pertinent literature on your specific research problem and topic is discussed.
  • The middle chapters are the analysis, design, implementation and interpretation of results. This should give detailed information about your work so that other people could repeat what your team has done or could do further work starting where your work finished. In these chapters teams should explain the theory, describe exactly how your team did its work, and give and interpret the results you obtained.
  • The last chapter should state the conclusions you have drawn from your work, compare your conclusions with the opinions of other scholars (are your conclusions the same or different?), and suggest what new work should be done to answer questions raised by your work and extend our knowledge further.
  • A references section citing your sources.
  • Appendices (if appropriate)
  • Gemstone theses are typically 150 pages long, including references and appendixes. Note that this varies widely and there is no page minimum or limit for the final thesis.


Please refer to the University of Maryland Graduate School formatting guidelines for the proper formatting. Use of color-coding, as opposed to shading or different line textures, should be avoided if possible.


Footnotes should not be used, unless it is standard practice for research writing for the study’s academic field. Mentors will provide guidance on the use of footnotes. If it is necessary to supply more detailed comment on some point, a statistical calculation for example, this should appear as an endnote at the end of that chapter, or possibly in an Appendix.


It is important to acknowledge any sources teams have used in preparing the thesis. Mentors will guide the team as to how references are documented (see Research Writing Style above).

Where unpublished primary documents have been studied (e.g. internal papers of an organization or committee minutes), stick to the standards of the research style as determined by the Mentor.

References must be made in the main text of your thesis wherever teams refer to the work of other researchers, or use information from other sources. These references are required in every chapter of the thesis.

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Information about the Thesis Conference, including the schedule, is posted annually. View the 2021 Thesis Conference Program (PDF).

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