Agronomy or Horticulture Master's Project


Welcome to the Master's Degree Project webpage for the Option II (non-thesis) Agronomy or Horticulture Degree. The Master's of Science degree 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.

Graduation Deadlines

Graduate Studies graduation milestones for May 4, 2018, 3 p.m.

  1. Jan. 26 – Apply for Graduation ($25 non-refundable fee)
  2. Mar. 23 – 1st time Final Exam Report goes to Graduate Studies (including scheduling both the Written & Oral Exam Dates)
  3. April 5 – Written Comprehensive Exam done and remove Incomplete Grades
  4. April 19 – Final Oral Exam completed & turn in Final Exam Form second time
  5. April 20 – Final Materials and removal of incomplete AGRO 894 project grades
  6. May 4 – Commencement Ceremony!

When should students register for the master's project?

Since this is a capstone course, it is usually taken during the last 1.5 years or final semester of a student's graduate career. Students must take between 1-6 credits of AGRO 894, the master's project. Talk early and often with your faculty advisor about what you want to study. Set up your 3-member graduate examining committee. Students may break up their project over several semesters and they may take Independent Study AGRO 896 if their project requires more than six credits. It is recommended that students take 1 credit for the proposals and that they participate in the Canvas AGRO 894 community to get peer feedback on proposals and oral presentations/examinations.

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 Form.  See a TechSmith Relay 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 the student has enjoyed taking class with;
    3. who may be from the student's minor area; or
    4. 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? Google Scholar is helpful.
      2. Make the case for your study and sell it to your committee. For example, one reason to conduct a study would be that little is known about the topic, etc.;
      3. Clearly state your Objective;
      4. Students may take 1-2 credits of AGRO 894 to develop the 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 & 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 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 graduating in May 2018 should submit the Final Exam form to Graduate Studies by March 23 the first time and by April 19 the second time.  The Final Oral presentation, including final edits, must be done by April 19.

    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.
      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 with the MS candidate in a smaller room.  This can last up to two hours. A seminar presentation is similar to the Department's Friday afternoon seminars.

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 term 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.