Credits: 3
Semester: Every Semester
Location: Online

The semester before you plan to take this course, you need to find a faculty member who agrees to be your instructor, and you need to write a proposal and fill out the LRES 575 Professional Paper Proposal Form.  A signed form is required before you can register for this course.

The professional paper is intended to give you an in-depth experience in the design, implementation, and completion of a rigorous project. It is a scholarly assessment, and novel analysis of a clearly formulated problem. It is not a term paper.  Like a thesis, the outcome of a professional paper is a paper of publishable quality similar to that of a peer-reviewed journal paper. As such, approximate guidelines for the length of the paper are between 25-45 double spaced pages (including figures, tables, references, etc.).  In addition, you are expected to orally present (via webinar) your professional paper to your graduate committee and other interested faculty and students.

The professional paper requirement is designed to be flexible to your particular needs and interests and tailored to your topic of study and/or research. Professional papers should draw from and build on course work completed throughout the program. You are also encouraged to draw upon ongoing work-place relationships, collaborations, and research interests in designing and implementing a professional paper. The topic of your professional paper should align with the background or experience of your professional paper instructor to ensure quality mentoring.  Topics may involve, but are not limited to, hydrology, watershed analysis, integrated management of invasive plant species, soil nutrient management, bioremediation, land reclamation, restoration ecology, fluvial systems ecology and restoration, riparian ecology, microbial ecology of natural systems, chemical fate and transport, water quality, crop diversification, precision agriculture, environmental risk assessment, remote sensing and GIS applications, and climate variability.

Although the professional paper is a rigorous exercise that requires the student to assess, analyze and interpret data, primary data collection is not strictly required. Professional papers can be based on either primary or secondary data analyses. Although not preferred, and with instructor approval, it can also be based on a novel, synthetic analysis of existing literature, provided you conduct a clearly unique academic study.  The abstract must clearly indicate your contribution and report results from the analysis. Use of an active, first person voice throughout the paper is required, unless extraordinary circumstances and permission from your instructor dictate otherwise.

Statistical consulting may be available on request to the Statistical Consulting and Research Services group (, in particular situations where you are collecting your own primary data and need advice on study design, or your instructor is unsure of appropriate statistical approaches, or you have limited statistical experience.

The professional paper is a required capstone course, and a two-semester process – generally the final two semesters of the program.  It begins with the identification of a topic and suitable instructor, followed by a detailed proposal and literature review (approximately 3-5 pages).  The proposal must be approved by your instructor and your academic advisor the semester prior to taking the 3-credit professional paper course.  Students must have a signed form before they can register for the course.  Deadlines for proposal approval are as follows:

  • Summer professional paper enrollment: April 1st
  • Fall professional paper enrollment: May 1st
  • Spring professional paper enrollment: November 1st

The format for the written professional paper must follow closely the standard thesis preparation guidelines established by The Graduate School. Be sure to change the word "thesis" to "professional paper" on the first page.  The professional papers will NOT be submitted directly to The Graduate School for formatting.