Home / Academics / Master’s Degree in Urban and Regional Planning / MURP Capstone v. Thesis Options

 

Thesis Option – Plan A

Students may elect to pursue Plan A, the thesis option, if they demonstrate to their advisers sufficient interest, motivation and capability to complete the thesis requirements and are prepared to devote a substantial portion of their graduate study to thesis preparation.

Three credits of coursework are allocated to preparation of the thesis proposal (PLAN 650) and six to the thesis itself (PLAN 700) including at least one credit in the semester that the degree is to be awarded. Students wishing to complete a thesis must declare their intent prior to enrolling in PLAN 700 and must do so before finishing 24 credits. This normally takes place in the third semester of study in the program.

The faculty recommend that the student prepare a brief prospectus (not exceeding three pages) which explains the proposed thesis topic and the methodology to be employed and circulate it among the faculty well in advance of committing himself/herself to the preparation of a thesis proposal. This feedback stage is instrumental in determining whether the topic is a reasonable one and whether faculty resources are appropriate to the topic. A guide for proposal writing is available to students from the Department office.

Each Plan A student is to enroll in PLAN 650: Research Design (unless waived by the Departmental chairperson on recommendation of the committee chairperson) and prepare a thesis proposal under the guidance of his/her adviser. If the thesis proposal is not completed and defended prior to the final examination period of the semester of enrollment in PLAN 650, it is likely that the faculty will recommend that the student switch to the Plan B option. (PLAN 650 cannot be counted toward a Plan B MURP degree.) The actual writing of the thesis follows the defense of the proposal. The preparation and defense of the proposal requires the formation of a committee chaired by a member of the Urban and Regional Planning graduate faculty. An outside member on the committee is highly recommended. Students interested in pursuing Plan A should take the appropriate initiative to ensure steady progress throughout the proposal, research, thesis writing and oral presentation stages.

For more information, please refer to our Thesis Guide (Plan A).

Capstone – Plan B

The University of Hawaii permits graduate programs some flexibility in specifying requirements for graduate degrees. The Urban and Regional Planning Department currently exercises the thesis option (Plan A) and the non-thesis option (Plan B), which is referred to as the Capstone Paper.

A Capstone Paper (Plan B) is differentiated from a M.A. thesis (Plan A) in three ways. The Capstone Paper is shorter in length, and is normally expected to be no more that 60 pages in length, double-spaced, excluding figures and appendices. Second, its purpose is to show competence in a sub-field of planning rather than test a hypothesis or develop new concepts or theories though primary data collection. Third, it is generally intended for students who intend to finish graduate studies in planning at the M.A. level and seek professional careers outside of academia rather than continue on to Ph.D. studies and careers in university level planning education.

The Plan B option, pursued by most MURP degree candidates, permits the student to take more formal coursework than is usually taken by the Plan A student. Plan B requires the student to specify a “focus area” of his/her own choosing. The Department does not prescribe a list of appropriate focuses. Rather, each student is invited to formulate his or her own focus. The specific focus is to fall within the following areas of departmental and faculty specialization:

• Policy and program planning
• Environmental planning
• Development planning
• Land use and infrastructure planning

Examples of focuses are social impact assessment, housing policy, environmental mediation, historic preservation, energy planning, planning information systems, urban design, community participation in planning, community-based planning, and agricultural land-use planning.

For more information, please refer to our Capstone Guide (Plan B).