Appendix II: Thesis Guidelines

Types of Theses

The following seven types of theses are acceptable:

Investigative Thesis

The investigative thesis takes an in-depth look at a specific health problem or topic, describing its public health importance and analyzing it from a disciplined perspective. This thesis should include the following:

  1. Definition of the problem;
  2. Presentation of the study population and the methods by which data were acquired;
  3. Analysis of the results;
  4. Discussion of the implications of the results;
  5. Recommendations.

Research Study Demonstrating Mastery of Methodology

This type of thesis requires sophisticated analysis and application. Consequently, students should be sure of their readiness to undertake it. This thesis should include the following:

  1. Statement of methodological problem;
  2. Comparison of available solutions, discussing the advantages and disadvantages of each;
  3. Either (a) Choice and application of one of the available solutions, or (b) Development of a new solution with discussion of the advantages and disadvantages of that solution.

Administrative Case Study

An administrative thesis defines, describes, analyzes, and interprets an actual administrative, problem-solving activity undertaken during a student’s field work. A variety of standard case study formats may be employed. An administrative case study thesis should be planned in advance with appropriate techniques for systematic observation and recording of data as the project progresses. This thesis usually includes the following:

  1. Definition of the problem;
  2. Description of setting, structure, function, and relationships;
  3. Relationship of student to problem (authority and accountability);
  4. Procedural description (case description, process, outcome);
  5. Analysis of events with reference to theory;
  6. Assessment of the administrative solution.

Program Analysis, Evaluation, or Projection

This type of thesis examines either retrospectively or prospectively some particular health problem. This thesis should include the following:

  1. Definition of the problem that the program addresses;
  2. Statement of program goals and objectives;
  3. Specification of available data such as the following:
    1. Target population (characteristics, distribution, levels of protection, morbidity);
    2. Historical information, goals, politics;
    3. Resources and use of resources (acceptability, accessibility);
    4. Basis of intervention, data on knowledge, attitudes and practices;
    5. Cost analysis;
    6. Specification of further data needs.

Special Project

This type of thesis incorporates a product useful in the teaching or practice of public health such as a curriculum, syllabus, or course for a school program or on-the-job training; specific educational aids (perhaps a computer-assisted learning experience, a programmed instruction course, or a training manual); a movie, videotape, or slide package; a pamphlet for use in health information; a set of formal administrative guidelines to implement a law or administrative decision; or architectural plans for a health facility.

In addition to the product, the student must produce a written analysis that includes the following:

  1. A rationale for the product and the anticipated audience/users;
  2. Review of relevant literature;
  3. Reasons for the selection of the chosen medium/method, including relevant theory;
  4. Proposal for method to evaluate the product;
  5. Discussion of the limitations of the product.

The special project may require review by the Committee on Academic Progress.

Thesis Advisers (Readers)

The type of thesis, choice of topic, and details of methodology are the joint responsibility of the student and the first thesis adviser. The first thesis adviser is determined by mutual consent between the adviser and the student and may or may not be the student’s faculty adviser.

The first thesis adviser must have a primary or secondary faculty appointment at YSPH. Acceptable appointments are: (1) ladder faculty at the rank of assistant professor and above, and (2) non-ladder faculty at the rank of associate research scientist and above. Students must request approval for first thesis advisers who have other types of non-ladder faculty appointments at YSPH (e.g., lecturer, instructor, etc.). To request approval, students need to provide the registrar with a copy of the first thesis adviser’s CV along with the thesis adviser form for approval by the Committee on Academic Progress. Students unsure of whether someone has an appointment at YSPH should consult the comprehensive list of all faculty members, by department, at the front of the YSPH Bulletin.

The second thesis adviser should have a faculty appointment at YSPH, Yale University, or another outside academic institution. Students must request approval for second thesis advisers whose faculty appointment is outside of Yale or who do not have a faculty appointment at an academic institution. To request approval, students need to provide the registrar with a copy of the second thesis adviser’s CV along with the thesis adviser form for approval by the Committee on Academic Progress.

Timeline for M.P.H. Thesis

September Departmental meetings to review specific thesis requirements and timelines

October 29 Thesis adviser form due to registrar
(signed by both advisers)

November 2 First draft of thesis prospectus due to first thesis adviser

December 3 Final draft of thesis prospectus due to first thesis adviser and YSPH registrar (students will not be allowed to register for thesis credits the following term if the prospectus is not submitted)

Mid-March First draft of thesis due to thesis advisers (student should include a summary of major analyses and tables)

April 15 Final thesis to be submitted to thesis advisers for final grading

May 1 Deadline for final grades to be submitted to registrar from thesis advisers and for student submission of electronic copy

Thesis Prospectus

The major assignment during the fall term is the submission of a prospectus to the thesis adviser. The prospectus is designed to help ensure that a student and faculty adviser are explicit about the thesis topic, to promote continued progress during the fall term, and to increase the likelihood of a final high-quality product. Students are strongly encouraged to work on the thesis throughout the second year. These prospectus guidelines, therefore, are a minimum requirement. Furthermore, given a student’s ongoing work, the prospectus is considered more of a “progress report.”

A first draft of the prospectus is due to the thesis adviser no later than November 2, with the full prospectus due to the thesis adviser and the YSPH registrar on December 3. The prospectus should be completed using the format below. In addition, it is expected that students include proper citations and references when preparing the prospectus. More information regarding proper citing of sources can be found on the YSPH website at

Please note that the preferred thesis for students is one that is in the style and length of a publishable, peer-reviewed paper.

Thesis Prospectus Format


First Thesis Adviser

Second Thesis Adviser

  1. Specific Aims & Hypotheses. Clear and succinct statement of the thesis objectives, including primary study hypothesis.
  2. Background & Rationale. Brief overview of existing literature (3–5 paragraphs is sufficient for the prospectus). Why is this project important? How is it different from existing research?
  3. Methods. Brief overview of the basic study methodology. If conducting secondary analyses on an existing database, describe the methods of the original study (a–c) along with your plan for analyzing the data (d).
    1. Study Design (case/control, cohort, observational, cross-sectional, laboratory, other)
    2. Study Population (who, how many, what information is available/to be collected for population members)
    3. Sample Size/Power Calculations (is sample size sufficient to address the primary study aim?)
    4. Data Analysis Plan and Software to be Used
  4. Competencies. Select three to five M.P.H. core and department-specific competencies that you will master as part of this culminating experience. Briefly describe how this thesis will address these competencies.

Thesis Organization

The thesis must be assembled as follows:

  1. Title Page (Title cannot exceed 60 characters)
  2. A one-page, double-spaced abstract

    The abstract is the final statement on the problem addressed by the thesis and should incorporate the most mature insights attained.

  3. Acknowledgments (if desired)
  4. Table of Contents
  5. List of Tables (if any)
  6. List of Figures (if any)
  7. Body of the Thesis

    The following organization of the body of the thesis is recommended:

    1. Introduction
      1. Brief statement of specific objectives of the investigation
      2. Statement of general problem addressed by the thesis
      3. Elaboration of objectives and/or hypotheses, including the relation to the general problem
    2. Review of Studies Relevant to the Problem
    3. Research Design
      1. Specific research design and method
      2. Reasons for selection
      3. Method of analysis, including justification for statistical tests
    4. Presentation and Analysis of Findings

      This is the major portion of the thesis. The significance of the findings should be discussed and an assessment made of their applicability to current theory and practice. Analysis and discussion may be presented together in one chapter or separately in two chapters.

    5. Conclusions
      1. Summary of findings
      2. Limitations of findings and other limitations of the study
      3. Conclusions based on the study
      4. Relevant recommendations for program development or further research
  8. References

    A list of the pertinent references consulted in preparing the thesis should be included. Any standard and consistent format for presentation of footnotes and references is acceptable.

  9. Appendix or Appendices

Electronic Submission of Thesis

The final, completed version of the thesis must be submitted electronically, by midnight on May 1, at

Dean’s Prize for Outstanding Thesis

The Dean’s Prize for Outstanding Thesis may be awarded to a small number (maximum of four) of students for extraordinary academic achievement on the M.P.H. thesis. Thesis advisers who recognize a student’s work as truly exceptional may nominate the student for this prize. Winners are announced at the YSPH Commencement ceremony.

Thesis Pending (Delayed Submission of Thesis)

Students who have not received final grades from both readers and submitted their thesis electronically by May 1 will be considered “thesis pending” and will receive a grade of “Incomplete” for the thesis. Students who are “thesis pending” will not be allowed to participate in the Commencement ceremony and will not receive the M.P.H. degree until all requirements are complete.

Students who are “thesis pending” are given one year to complete the thesis without penalty. During this time, students in “thesis pending” status must be registered for continuous study each term of the regular academic year until the thesis requirement has been completed (except in the case of approved Leave of Absence). Students may not register for regular course work while on continuous study status. Students are permitted to be on continuous study for a maximum of two terms. The fee for continuous study is $650 per term for the 2018–2019 academic year. Students registered for continuous study are not eligible for financial aid.

At the end of the one-year period, the grade of “Incomplete” will be changed to a grade of “F” if the thesis has not been submitted. The student will then be required to register for the thesis course and pay the per course unit tuition charge ($4,475 per course unit) in order to submit the completed thesis. All M.P.H. degree requirements including the thesis must be completed within five years of the student’s date of matriculation.

Publication Guidelines

The thesis may be published independently. It also may be published under joint or multiple authorship if advisers or agency personnel have contributed significantly to the final product. Significance is interpreted to mean contributions such as expanding theory or techniques of analysis in ways beyond the usual role of an adviser. Supplying the database does not entitle the supplier to authorship. When students work on sponsored research, the thesis adviser and the student should sign a letter of agreement on funding, use of database or materials, deadlines, publication rights, and authorship before work on the thesis begins.

Publication Process for the M.P.H. Thesis

The following are publication guidelines that are intended to avoid miscommunication and differential expectations of authorship between students and thesis advisers.

  1. When the prospectus is submitted, thesis advisers will discuss publication with students, including desire for publication, description of the publication process, possible venues, authors, determination of authorship order, and logistics.
  2. If the thesis adviser provides the data, then the adviser should create a written publication/data sharing agreement. The agreement should be signed by both the adviser and the student before work on the thesis is started. The agreement should include at the minimum:

    Process for order of authorship

    Timeline for publication and process if timeline is not met

    Process and expectations of revisions

  3. If the thesis adviser does not provide the data, then the thesis adviser should work with the student to draft a similar document to be completed and signed by the student and the primary data source. Guidelines should be consistent with any established policies of the primary data source. This should be done whether or not the thesis adviser is included as an author on the publication.
  4. In general, if the manuscript has not been submitted for publication within a year after graduation, the thesis adviser will have the right to prepare the manuscript for publication.