Welcome to the Master's Degree Project webpage for the Option II (non-thesis) Agronomy or Horticulture Degree. The MS project course (AGRO/HORT 894) serves as the capstone experience for students in the Agronomy or Horticulture Master's of Science degree, Option II (non-thesis) track, at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. This required course provides an opportunity for students to apply knowledge they've learned to create an original body of work focusing on an area of personal or professional interest. The project should represent the student's best professional work and can take 2-3 semesters to finish.

Graduation Deadlines

Graduate Studies graduation milestones for Aug. 17, 2019, 9 a.m., Pinnacle Bank Arena.

  1. June 14 – Apply for Graduation ($25 non-refundable fee)
  2. July 3 – Send Final Exam Report to Graduate Studies the first time (include Written and/or Oral Exam Dates)
  3. July 18 – Complete Written Comprehensive Exam prior to Oral Exam; Submit preliminary project to student's graduate committee for edits & feedback.
  4. Aug. 1 – Complete Final Oral Exam and send Final Exam Report Form to Graduate Studies a second time.
  5. Aug. 2– Submit all final Materials and Remove incomplete grades.
  6. Aug. 17 – Commencement Ceremony!

When should students register for the master's project?

     It is highly recommended that MS students take 1 credit MS Project (AGRO 894) in their 2nd or 3rd semester in graduate school. Because the M.S. Option II Project is not a research degree, the scope of the project is not the same as a Masters thesis. Talk early and often with your faculty advisor about what you want to study for the project. Consider topics that may fit into your work and/or professional goals.
    Students may take between 1-6 credits of AGRO 894, the master's project. The structure of the course in Canvas is as follows: 

  • Initial 1 credit hour is used to:
    1. develop a project proposal;
    2. create & submit a Memorandum of Courses (MOC)/plan of study; and
    3. set up a 3- or 4-member Graduate Examining Committee. These are faculty members from Agronomy, Horticulture or the minor area who can contribute to project topic.
  • Fully participate in the AGRO 894 Canvas community to get faculty and peer feedback on project proposals and oral presentations/examinations.
  • As this is a capstone course, project implementation hours (1-4 cr.) are taken during the final semesters of the student's graduate career. Students may break up their project hours over several semesters and they may take Independent Study AGRO/HORT 896 if their project requires more than six (6) credits.
  • Final 1 credit is taken during the last 1 or 2 semesters to focus on the Written document and an Oral Presentation/Defense.

Student's Responsibilities

  1. A greater level of responsibility is expected from graduate students. Each master's student should take the lead when communicating with his or her advisor and graduate committee using emails, phone calls, Zoom, Skype, Adobe Connect, etc.  Attached is a departmental checklist for students pursuing the MS with a project (pdf).

  2. A Memorandum of Courses (MOC) should be formally submitted to Graduate Studies about halfway through the program (e.g. after 15 credit hours).  Students may not submit an MOC and graduate in the same semester.

  3. The graduate student should keep track of Master's Degree deadlines, and determine dates for the Written & Oral Exams for the Final Exam FormSee a VidGrid presentation about the Final Exam Form.

  4. Master's students should set up their graduate committee - usually consisting of three or four faculty members. This collaborative committee consists of the faculty advisor (chair of committee) and other faculty members:
    1. who can give appropriate input on the project;
    2. who is a professional colleague from business or industry (with a terminal degree);
    3. who the student has enjoyed taking class with;
    4. who may be from the student's minor area; or
    5. who have been recommended by faculty, staff or peers.

  5. Project Proposal
    1. Introduction and Proposal
      1. Literature Review - what has been done previously on your topic or what is currently known about your topic? The UNL Library (video) and Google Scholar are helpful here.
      2. Clearly state your Objective & Topic:  Make the case for your study and sell it to your committee (justification). For example, one reason to conduct a study would be than more knowledge needs to be learned about the topic, etc.;
      3. Project plan: Include explanations and details about how to accomplish the project. Students may take 1-3 credits to conduct the project work.
      4.  Time Frame and Budget:  Estimate and provide details on how long it will take to complete and what the cost will be for the project.
      5. Students may take 1 credits of AGRO 894 during their 2nd or 3rd semester to develop and submit a project proposal.
    2. Materials & Methods
      1. Describe how you will do your work.
      2. Expected Results - How will you interpret results generated from any surveys, trials, tests, experiments or feedback?
    3. Conclusion & References
      1. Show you have reviewed the current scientific literature;
      2. State that you want to add something meaningful to science;
      3. Say how you're going to conduct the project (methods & implementation); and
      4. Explain how you will interpret results (importance, feedback & implications). 

  6. Students should work closely with their faculty advisors and graduate committee members to develop this professional project. There are usually numerous versions as faculty members will challenge students to think "outside the box" and from different perspectives. Committee members may also ask students to evaluate information and/or data that is gathered as a result of the project. When writing, students should show the reader what their assumptions are and be specific about climate, seasons, and other growing variables. Throughout the project, it is important to describe processes and explain how the student came to his or her conclusions.

  7. Final Exams
    Most Department of Agronomy and Horticulture faculty advisors request a Written and an Oral Exam. Complete the Final Exam Form for Graduate Studies and submit with both exam dates included. The Written Exam is usually 3-4 weeks ahead of the Oral Presentation. Students may take 1 credit in the final semester to give the Oral Presentation.

    Students graduating in Aug. 2019 should submit the Final Exam form to Graduate Studies by July 3 the first time and by August 1 the second time.  The Final Oral presentation, including final edits, must be done by Aug. 1 so the Final Exam Form will arrive at Graduate Studies by August 2.

    Check with your advisor to determine what your Written or/and Oral Exam will look like.
    1. The Written Exam may consist of:
      1. A set of questions related to your project and designed to make you think more critically about your project;
      2. A comprehensive written set of questions on agronomy or horticulture;
      3. A written paper about your project;
      4. An Extension Guide or white paper; or
      5. A company summarization, handout or flyer.
    2. The Oral Presentation (sometimes called a Defense) may consist of:
      1. A 30-40 minute Oral seminar presention in front of fellow graduate students and faculty members, followed by 10-20 minutes of a Question and Answers session. A seminar presentation is similar to the Department's Friday afternoon seminars.
      2. A 30-40 minute Oral seminar presentation in front of your graduate committee with selected invitees, followed by 10-20 minutes of a Question & Answer session.
The seminar presentation will be followed by a graduate committee meeting (defense) with the MS candidate in a smaller room. This can last up to two hours.

Faculty Advisor's Guidance

  1. The faculty advisor should guide the student in class selection and MS project content.
  2. The faculty advisor should make recommendations on graduate committee members.
  3. He or she should help the student plan and develop the Master's Degree project. The advisor should also provide timely input, suggestions, and critiques on the project.
  4. The advisor should also give encouragement toward completion of the master's project.

Project Examples

A project should show the student's best professional work.  It should also contribute to agronomy or horticulture knowledge in the scientific, extension or business areas. It may or may not include original research but should show the graduate student's ability to think critically, make decisions, analyze data, and communicate complex issues to people with various levels of agronomy or horticulture knowledge.

Previous examples of projects have included:

  • Analyzing field studies
  • Developing lesson plans, teaching or training materials
  • Using GIS technology to solve problems
  • Developing Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) for labs, greenhouses, field work or experiments.
  • Writing an Extension or comparison paper
  • Developing an assessment tool to measure learning
  • Creating animations, websites, or multimedia products
  • Creating, administering and evaluating a survey
  • Adapting already-completed research for a new purpose
  • Studying turf responses on a golf course
  • business entrepreneurship plans,
  • Former student Ross Barr's master's degree project was  developed into an Extension publication – NebGuide G2216 "Row Spacing and Seeding Rate Recommendations for Corn in Nebraska." Co-authors were Steve Mason , Mitch Novacek, Charles Wortmann and Jenny Rees .