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Department of Geography

Graduate Student Handbook

Graduate Requirements

SIUE Graduate School

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Student Responsibility

This booklet contains essential information concerning the Geography Graduate program, which is in addition to the policies detailed in the SIUE Graduate Catalog. Graduate students in the Department of Geography have the responsibility to know the relevant rules and procedures, and so should read this booklet carefully. The booklet, along with the SIUE Graduate Catalog, should be retained for future reference. If any point is unclear the student should consult with the graduate advisor, Dr. Grossman, for clarification.

Objectives Of The Program

The objective of the graduate curriculum in geography at SIUE is to produce graduates with:

(1) A functional understanding of the field of geography and an in-depth knowledge in one or more areas of departmental competence.

Faculty within the Department of Geography can support study in the following general areas:




Cultural geography


Economic geography

Geographic Education

Geographic Information Systems (applied)





Natural Resource Management

Political geography


Regional topics; Africa, Asia, Latin America


Urban Geography

(2) the pertinent geographic skills and knowledge which are applied in resolving contemporary spatial problems.

(3) proficiency in geographic research methods and skills in critical thinking and writing.


Admission is open to geography and non-geography majors with baccalaureate degrees satisfying the general requirements of the Graduate School, although some background in Geography is required. In addition, the graduate program in geography requires applicants to have at least an overall grade point average of 2.8 (4.0 scale). See the application procedures on the Graduate Geography page.

Students may be provisionally accepted into the graduate program with an overall grade point average of less than 3.0. Provisionally admitted students must earn an overall grade point average of at least 3.0 in their first semester within the program in order to continue. Such students (or those who are on probation) cannot hold Graduate assistantships through the Department of Geography. Once removed from provisional status the general academic policies set by the Department of Geography apply.

In order to assure that all Geography graduate students have a functional understanding of the discipline, each applicant to our graduate program will be assessed by a faculty panel. Assessment will normally take the form of a review of student records and/or an oral interview on the general areas of physical geography, human geography, methods, and techniques. This panel will make recommendations regarding what work is necessary to correct any identified areas of weakness. Options the panel may recommend include:

Assigned readings with following oral assessment

Assigned readings with following written examination

Sitting-in on a class

Auditing a class

Taking a class for credit

All weaknesses should be corrected during the student's first year within the program. Classes taken to remove deficiencies do not count as credit toward the masters degree.

Students should be aware that demonstration of a functional understanding of the discipline is also an essential component of the final oral examination.


All students who are admitted to the geography graduate program must attend the orientation session held prior to their first semester of classes. The purpose of this orientation is to acquaint students with their rights and responsibilities as graduate students within the Department of Geography.

Within the general orientation process a special session for those students who have been awarded graduate assistantships will be convened. Attendance at this session is mandatory for students who have been awarded such assistantships.


During their first year, students will be enrolled in their classes within the graduate program by the graduate advisor. Prior to enrollment in their third semester of classes, students must have identified the faculty member with academic interests closest to their own. The selected faculty person will then become the student's advisor and will be responsible for having them registered in all subsequent classes.

Graduate students will not be permitted to register for their third semester of classes unless an advisor, based on academic interest, has been selected. Students may change their advisor if necessary as they move toward selecting a research topic.

Supervisory Committee

By the end of the first year of study, the master's candidate should assemble a supervisory committee including a major professor and at least two other graduate faculty. The committee will: (1) advise the student in developing their program of study, (2) supervise the students progress, (3) supervise the development of both the research proposal and the production of the thesis, and/or (4) supervise the preparation for and conduct the final examination.

Academic Expectations

Students admitted with a GPA below 3.0 will be provisionally admitted on probation. Such students must maintain at least a 3.0 GPA during their first graduate semester in order to remain in the program. Provisionally admitted students who do not maintain a 3.0 GPA during their first semester will not be permitted to continue in the graduate program.

Any student who earns a grade 'C' or lower in a graduate level class will be placed on academic probation. Earning a second grade of 'C' or lower will result in dismissal from the graduate program.

Master's degree candidates are expected to complete either a thesis or the comprehensive exams. A first step toward completion of the thesis is expected to be the development of a research proposal. Research proposals will be formally presented to the student's supervisory committee. It is strongly recommended that the research proposal be completed and approved by the supervisory committee by the beginning of the second year of study. This is essential if the goal is to successfully graduate at the end of the second year.

The successful completion of the thesis requires a considerable amount of time and planning. Development of the research topic should begin as soon as you enter the graduate program and the classes you take should be in support of your research interest. It is unrealistic to write and defend a thesis or research paper in less than one year. Please see the suggested time-line on the following pages for further suggestions concerning an appropriate schedule in the development and completion of a thesis.


Students should expect to devote at least one year of study to the development and completion of their thesis. The following is a suggestion of a realistic time-line for the completion of a thesis within a two-year time frame.

Year 1

Semester 1

Get to know the faculty and their interests

Select an advisor

Think about your research area

Talk to your advisor about feasible research projects within this area

Semester 2

Begin to develop your research proposal

Begin to read the pertinent literature

Begin to gather any necessary data

Select your supervisory committee

Formulate a plan of study with your advisor to support your research interests

Talk to each member of the committee as you develop your research proposal

Make sure you have a green light from each member of your committee before you move into the summer schedule


Complete the first draft of your proposal

Be specific in your proposal - by now you should be familiar with the pertinent literature, available data, appropriate methods, etc.

Submit your draft to your committee before the end of summer - be prepared for the possibility of additional re-writes

Year 2

Semester 1

Enroll in GEOG 599 (if you didn't do so in summer)

Continue the process if necessary until the proposal is approved

Coordinate a place/date/time for the formal presentation of your proposal to your committee. This should be done as early in the semester as possible.

Post this information on the departmental bulletin board at least 2 weeks prior to your presentation.

Give each member of your committee a written copy of the final draft of your proposal at least a week prior to your presentation.

Provide a copy of your proposal in the geography office so that is available to interested parties.

Present your proposal to your committee.

Discuss any concerns about the research proposal.

Address any problems now - you will avoid major malfunctions later.

Begin to implement your research proposal as soon as possible.

At this stage the amount of interaction with each committee member will vary. Every one has their own style. Some committee members may want to read every section as you write and rewrite it, while others are content to wait until you have a 'final' version of your paper.

Semester 2

You should plan on having a 'completed' draft version of your thesis ready early in this semester.

Give each committee member a copy of your paper.

Each time you ask a faculty member to assess your paper you should allow 1-2 weeks; you should not expect instant feedback.

You should expect that there will be several iterations of your paper before your committee is relatively satisfied with the product.

Correcting basic English is not the function of your committee - your paper should be well written and thoroughly proofread.

This process of write - assess - rewrite can be expected to consume most of the semester.

Continue until you have an approved, nearly final draft.

Coordinate a place/date/time for defense and final examination.

Getting your committee together, especially toward the end of a semester, may not be easy so plan this early.

You must submit this information to Graduate Records and post it on the Department bulletin board at least 2 weeks prior to the defense.

The thesis defense and final examination will be open to the university community.

*Note: The final examination consists of the presentation of the research, and oral questioning. Questions may range over the whole of the discipline of geography and may be asked by any faculty member.

Comprehensive Exams

Students who choose the comprehensive exam option will be required to take 2 additional graduate level courses (one of which must be at the 500 level). It is recommended that such students take courses that will strengthen their general background and/or their knowledge of their chosen specialty area. All students in this option will take two distinct exams: the general exam, which will cover material common to all geography majors and an exam covering a specialty area declared by each student. Both exams will be taken during the same week, but on different days and each will take about 4 hours. Preparation for these exams will be handled by the student's supervisory committee. A realistic time line for completion of the exam option in a two year period is listed below.

Year 1

Get to know the faculty and their interests.

Think about your areas of interest within Geography.

Select an advisor by the end of the second semester.

Talk to your advisor about a specialty area within your area of interest.

Select your supervisory committee.

Formulate a plan of study with your advisor and committee.

Year 2

Enroll in GEOG 597 (fall semester).

Begin to gather any necessary data.

Begin to read the pertinent literature & review course materials.

Meet regularly with your advisor and/or committee to address questions about the material, test format, goals of your study plan.

Coordinate a place/date/time for the comprehensive examinations.

Getting your committee together, especially toward the end of a semester, may not be easy so plan this early.

Graduate Assistants

Graduate assistants must be in academic good standing. Persons admitted to the graduate program provisionally, or who are on academic probation, cannot hold an assistantship.

Students must maintain their full-time status (6 hours) in order to retain their assistantship. Persons who fall below the 6 hour enrollment will have their assistantships withdrawn immediately, unless graduate school policy dictates there are special circumstances.

Graduate assistants must attend the general orientation session before beginning in the graduate program, as well as any meetings pertaining to their assistantships.

Performance as a graduate assistant will be assessed every semester. Unsatisfactory performance will result in the assistantship not being renewed the next semester.

Clearly unsatisfactory performance, and failure to meet minimum requirements, may result in the immediate withdrawal of an assistantship.

If an assistantship is withdrawn, that student becomes ineligible for any other financial support through the Department of Geography.

Graduate Assistants who successfully complete two semesters receive a tuition waver for summer academic work.

Academic Life

As within any graduate program there are activities that may be considered as part of academic life. These include, but are not limited to, guest speakers, colloquiums, and visits by guests to the Department. It is the expectation that graduate students participate in these activities as fully as possible. This expectation applies equally to all graduate students regardless of status.

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