» Epidemiology » Academics » MS » Thesis

MS Program


The master’s thesis should reflect the training that students have received in the MPH/MS program and demonstrate mastery of professional skills appropriate to their area of interest. Upon completion of the master’s thesis, students should be able to do the following:

  • Develop a testable research question of importance to public health.
  • Describe, based on a review of the relevant literature, current knowledge about that question as a context for the study.
  • Explain how the study was designed, conducted, and analyzed, and its relevance to the research question.
  • Conduct analyses appropriate for the research question.
  • Present the findings clearly.
  • Interpret the findings and coherently discuss, in the context of the current knowledge in the area, their implications for public health and for future research.

General information

What is a master’s thesis in epidemiology?
The master’s thesis is a report based on data analyzed by the student. The dataset selected should permit testing or exploration of one or more hypotheses about the relationship between exposure(s) and health-related outcome(s). Datasets that permit validation of a measurement or screening test, or address some other epidemiologic issue, may also be acceptable.

How can I find a dataset to analyze for my master’s thesis?
You will need to approach faculty members and/or others (e.g., faculty members in other divisions or institutions, department heads in agencies such as the NYC Department of Health or NIH, or researchers in pharmaceutical companies or HMOs) who may have a dataset on a topic of interest to you and appropriate for the master’s thesis. Dr. Renee Goodwin maintains an index of datasets that are potentially available to master’s degree candidates. Analyses of public datasets from national surveys are also appropriate for the master’s thesis.

Data analysis for the thesis must include some form of multivariable modeling. It is often difficult to find statistically significant associations in multivariable models when they are based on datasets with fewer than 200 subjects. Students who wish to use smaller datasets should be aware that their findings may not be statistically significant or publishable. Before making a commitment to use a small dataset for the thesis, students are encouraged to discuss such potential limitations with their readers and Dr. Goodwin.

When should I start working on my master’s thesis?
During the first semester of the first year, you should begin to explore your options and interests in terms of potential readers and datasets for your thesis. Before the end of that semester, make contact with faculty or other investigators conducting research in your potential area(s) of interest to discuss their research and options for the practicum and the master’s thesis. If you are having trouble reaching relevant faculty or other investigators, please notify Liliane Zaretsky. (The relationship between the practicum and the thesis is discussed in the Guidelines.)

How long should the process take?
By the start of the fall semester before the calendar year in which you intend to graduate, you should have obtained your thesis dataset and a commitment from your readers. During the fall semester, you will become familiar with your dataset through work in part I of the Master’s Thesis Course. During this course, students will also finalize research question/the specific aims of the thesis with their reader. Approval for your master’s thesis proposal is required and must be documented near the start of this course. The master’s thesis topic should be defined clearly, and both you and your readers should agree that the work as defined can reasonably be expected to be completed by a master’s student according to the timetable shown in the table below. In addition, students will complete draft versions of the background section, specific aims, the hypotheses, and the methods of the thesis.

Timeline & Tasks for Master’s Thesis and Graduation

For graduation in:* February May October
Agreement of readers and owner of data June 1 September 1 February 1
Proposal to readers July 1 September 29 March 1
File approved proposal August 1 October 6 April 1
First complete draft to 1st reader November 1 February 1 July 1
Second draft to both readers December 15 March 15 August 15
Final thesis submission to readers January 15 April 15 September 15
The final approved thesis MUST BE deposited with the Department at least one week before graduation.
*The dates are calculated backwards from the intended graduation date.