Gemstone Team Processes and Policies
Team formation occurs during the GEMS102 class, Research Topic Exploration, which is taken in the spring semester of the freshman year. Most of the sessions are small group discussions, involving different combinations of students. These discussions are first aimed at generating research problems and topic ideas and then focused on narrowing down the pool of ideas. Through a voting process, a number of teams (made up of 8-14 students) are formed. Students are placed in these teams based on their research preferences.
GEMS202: Team Dynamics and Research Methodology, occurs in the fall semester of the sophomore year of the program. This course begins with Team Gemstone, which is a required team development activity for the sophomore cohort. Team Gemstone and GEMS202 include the teams that formed through GEMS102. They are designed to give students the basic skills and experiential knowledge to work together as a committed group towards their common research goal. GEMS202 will also help students learn basic research methodology and skills needed to begin their research. The final product of GEMS202 is a draft thesis proposal to be finalized and presented in the spring of the sophomore semester.
From the fall semester of the sophomore year through the spring semester of the senior year, students register for 11 credits through a series of Team Project Seminars that corresponds to the section number assigned to their team:
- Sophomore Year:
Fall semester – GEMS 296 (1 credit)
Spring semester - GEMS 297 (2 credits)
- Junior Year:
Fall semester - GEMS 396 (2 credits)
Spring semester - GEMS 397 (2 credits)
- Senior Year:
Fall semester - GEMS 496 (2 credits)
Spring semester - GEMS 497 (2 credits)
Teams meet weekly in these seminars with their mentor and work on refining their project’s topic and research question, collecting background information, designing their original research plan, collecting data, analyzing their data, writing their thesis, preparing presentations, etc. Teams should meet for 2 hours per week. Mentors are expected to meet with their entire team at least every two weeks (or for 1 hour of the 2 hours per week). Mentors grade the students individually based on the team’s progress, quality of work and individual contributions to the team. (See Timeline for Team Success document.)
Each team may decide when they would like to schedule their team project seminar and must give this information to the Gemstone Associate Director by the deadline prior to the semester in which the seminar takes place. The team must find a time between the hours of 8 AM and 6 PM Monday through Friday unless the mentor agrees to meet outside of these hours. This information will be added to the Schedule of Classes so that when team members register for the next semester, their team project seminar will be listed on their course schedule.
Changing teams disrupts the flow of the research and the team process and will not be considered unless an exceptional circumstance exists.
In the spring of the sophomore year, teams will write and present a thesis proposal to a committee made up of their mentor, the Gemstone Program Director, the Gemstone Associate Director, and at least one expert who will hopefully later serve as a discussant for the team. The proposal must include the following:
- Overview of the research problem using supporting literature
- Purpose and rationale of proposed study including potential significance of the findings and supporting literature
- Research question(s)
- Methodological design (including description of sample, subjects, etc.)
- Project timeline
This proposal will be due to the team's committee five business days prior to their proposal defense. The team is responsible for setting up a one hour meeting with their committee mid to late March. During this meeting, the team will present a brief synopsis of the proposal (15 minutes) to the committee, including the research questions and research plan. They will respond to questions from the committee. The committee members will share their feedback, comments, and suggested changes. The proposal meeting will be audio recorded and shared with the Gemstone Associate Director.
Junior teams are required to present their research and progress at the Colloquia as part of the Gemstone experience during the fall semester. Freshmen are required to attend the Colloquia and mentors and librarians are encouraged to attend.
The Colloquia serve as a “status check” for the junior teams. The Gemstone staff, mentors, librarians, and other students in attendance will evaluate each team according to the objectives listed on the Timeline for Team Success to determine whether the team appears to be “on track” or not. Additionally, the Colloquia are a wonderful way for the junior teams to practice presenting their research in a professional way as they progress towards their end goal – presenting and defending their thesis and final project to a panel of experts (their discussants) at the Team Thesis Conference in the spring semester of their senior year.One other benefit of the Colloquia is that Gemstone freshmen can see the wide range of topics that are currently being studied by Gemstone junior teams and they can learn how different teams work together and what makes the teams successful in various ways.
Any Gemstone team conducting research involving human subjects is required to submit an application for approval of their research to the Institutional Review Board (IRB) at the University of Maryland. Failure to obtain IRB approval prior to beginning the research process means that the data obtained may not be published in the thesis. IRB approval must be obtained before a team pilot tests instruments or conducts interviews and surveys. IRB approval is not required to invite experts to present on specific topics to the team. For details on IRB procedures and a sample application see the IRB webpage: www.umresearch.umd.edu/IRB.
The IRB contact for all teams is the Gemstone Associate Director. Please note that all IRB proposals submitted on behalf of Gemstone teams must first go through the Gemstone Associate Director.
The team thesis is the culmination of the three years of work in a Gemstone team. The thesis should demonstrate the team’s knowledge, understanding and appreciation of the field, a critical analysis of related work, and the importance and relevance of the team’s contribution to the field. Over the past several years, conventions have developed to govern what a thesis should contain, how long it should be, how it is typed and so forth.
These considerations will govern how the quality of your thesis is judged:
- Creation of new knowledge – did the team create new knowledge? If so, what is the extent and importance of this new knowledge?
- Integration of all the parts of the thesis- it should be written in one voice. Each part must clearly show how it adds to the reader’s growing understanding of the argument being advanced in the thesis that leads to the thesis conclusions.
- A clear statement of the research problem and question the thesis addresses, which includes supporting the argument throughout.
- Exposition of the relevant existing scholarly literature.
- A carefully considered approach to research design, research methodology, as well as appropriate data collection and methods.
- A clear and concise description of findings.
- A purposeful analysis, exploring links with other research and writing.
- A convincing conclusion that includes the contribution of the research to society and what possibilities exist for extending the work.
Planning to write the thesis:
Below is a list of steps or milestones necessary to reach the final goal of a written thesis. Refer to the Timeline for Team Success for a description of team activities each semester.
Develop short and long term goals
Do background research and focus research topic
Develop a research question
Plan original research activities
Make contacts with constituencies involved
Identify experts who may help guide your project
Conduct a thorough study of the literature
Develop team procedures and infrastructure to organize literature and data analyzed
Get thesis proposal approved
Obtain IRB approval for study involving human subjects
Obtain animal care and use approval for project involving animals
Implement original research activities (i.e. collect data)
Make an outline for the thesis
Write a first draft of the thesis which includes the literature review and references list
and identify any missing elements
Obtain feedback on first thesis draft from experts
Complete research and analysis of data
Redraft thesis based on completed research and suggestions from expert contacts
Prepare outline for presentation of thesis
Write final thesis draft
Present and defend thesis
Submit final thesis
Teams are encouraged to publish and present their research
Research Writing Style
Because the Gemstone Program is a multidisciplinary program and the types of research projects span multiple academic disciplines, traditions and majors, your team can chose the appropriate writing research format, such as APA (American Psychological Association) 6th edition. There are several styles of writing research such as Chicago, MLA, MLS, and others. Mentors and librarians will guide and direct their teams on which research writing style is most appropriate for their study as is determined by the larger academic community. Such formatting and writing style should be applicable to other academic exercises in the project’s field of study such as journal writing, proposal writing, grant writing, conference presentations and the like.
Finally, the thesis must adhere to the University of Maryland Graduate School formatting for theses and dissertations. The guide can be found online at this address:
Traditional Format for a Thesis:
I. Introduction (problem statement and justification for the study)
II. Literature Review
Mentors will guide teams as to the final structure of the chapters of the thesis. In addition to the research writing style, the thesis will conform to standards as defined by the academic community/field of study as determined by the mentor. Whichever writing style and standards are used, the formatting must conform to the University of Maryland Graduate School standards cited above.
What the Thesis Should Contain:
In addition to the aforementioned standards, please adhere to the Gemstone Program-specific information below.
- The thesis should contain a title page with the following information centered on the page: THESIS TITLE, TEAM NAME, AUTHORS (team members), MENTOR, and THE PHRASE “Thesis submitted in partial fulfillment of the requirements of the Gemstone Program, University of Maryland, Year”. The team’s discussants should be listed in the “committee” section, with the team’s mentor listed first.
- An abstract summarizing the thesis in not more than 120 words. The abstract should clearly state the problem studied, the method used, the main results, and the main conclusions.
- An acknowledgements page outlining any help teams have received, including a prominent acknowledgement of your team librarian, any government agency, any corporate or University source of funding outside the Gemstone Program and thanks to individuals who may have helped your team.
- A Table of Contents page showing the chapters or sections, each with appropriate titles or headings and a page number. If appropriate, also include a List of Tables, List of Figures, and List of Symbols and Abbreviations.
- The first chapter should give an overview of the research problem that the study attempts to address, the purpose and rationale of the study, method framework and general research questions, significance of findings, and limitations.
- The second chapter is traditionally the literature review where all the pertinent literature on your specific research problem and topic is discussed.
- The middle chapters are the analysis, design, implementation and interpretation of results. This should give detailed information about your work so that other people could repeat what your team has done or could do further work starting where your work finished. In these chapters teams should explain the theory, describe exactly how your team did its work, and give and interpret the results you obtained.
- The last chapter should state the conclusions you have drawn from your work, compare your conclusions with the opinions of other scholars (are your conclusions the same or different?), and suggest what new work should be done to answer questions raised by your work and extend our knowledge further.
- A references section citing your sources.
- Appendix(es) (if appropriate)
- The thesis should be at least 150 pages long, including references and appendixes.
The University of Maryland Graduate School guidelines cited above will provide the proper formatting. Please refer to the Guide cited above. Use of color coding, as opposed to shading or different line textures, should be avoided if possible.
Footnotes should not be used, unless it is standard practice for research writing for the study’s academic field. Mentors will provide guidance on the use of footnotes. If it is necessary to supply more detailed comment on some point, a statistical calculation for example, this should appear as an endnote at the end of that chapter, or possibly in an Appendix.
It is important to acknowledge any sources teams have used in preparing the thesis. Mentors will guide the team as to how references are documented (see Research Writing Style above).
Where unpublished primary documents have been studied (e.g. internal papers of an organization or committee minutes), stick to the standards of the research style as determined by the Mentor and librarian.
References must be made in the main text of your thesis wherever teams refer to the work of other researchers, or use information from other sources. These references are required in every chapter of the thesis.
At the Team Thesis Conference, a panel of experts in the field of study related to the team’s thesis attends the team’s presentation and asks questions following the presentation both publicly and privately. These experts are called discussants and are invited to take on this role by the team during the fall semester of the team members’ senior year. Discussants cannot include the mentor for that team (but may include a mentor from other Gemstone teams, if appropriate). Senior teams must have invited and received positive confirmation from at least five experts that are willing to accept this role and can attend the Team Thesis Conference the following spring. This task must be completed by the date determined by the Gemstone Program Staff for that year. This date is generally around November 1. The Gemstone Program will then send official invitations to these discussants and will also send a final draft of the team’s thesis approximately two weeks before the Team Thesis Conference for the discussants to review. It is encouraged that the discussants be experts that the team has consulted during their research.
The Team Thesis Conference is an event where students present and defend their team research. It is held in the spring semester of the senior year, typically around late March or early April. All students on the team must be present at the Team Thesis Conference in order to earn the Gemstone Citation. If a student graduates early, she/he is required to return and present with the team in order to fulfill the requirement for the Gemstone Citation award.
The team-selected panel of experts serves as discussants. The discussants receive a copy of the thesis two weeks prior to the conference so they have time to read it and prepare questions to ask following the presentation. The presentations are 30 minutes long followed by 30 minutes of questions from the discussants and the audience. Following this hour in the presentation room, the team will have one hour in a private discussion room with their discussants and mentor for feedback on the presentation and thesis. The thesis conference rehearsal occurs prior to the conference.
All team members must participate in the Team Thesis Conference. It is also expected that the faculty mentor attend the rehearsal and presentation and provide feedback.