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Culminating Activity

A culminating activity is a summary exercise that is integrative in nature, based on advanced study, accumulated experience, and carried out with a high degree of independence. We offer two options: a portfolio and thesis. Each option requires the student to successfully defend their culminating activity choice.

At the start of the program students complete an APPLICATION FOR ADMISSION TO CANDIDACY (AAC) FORM to assist in planning for their culminating activity early in the program to ensure proper course sequencing and they remain on track towards degree completion. After the student’s first research class or any point the student may want to change their culminating activity please contact your ADVISOR. Additionally, we ask that at the conclusion of each semester for students to update their grades and edit their course plans.

For students that choose the portfolio option, we encourage you to document lessons learned, decisions, and why decisions that were made after each project-based course.

Final version of the AAC is due to the Graduate College about two semesters prior to your targeted graduation date.


A portfolio is a “substantial collection of selected work that demonstrates the student’s efforts, progress, and accomplishments in one or more areas of the curriculum… that demonstrate, for example, knowledge of a subject, mastery of a learning process, publishable scholarship or completion of special projects, themes, and/or creative activity. A portfolio must contain the student’s thoughts about the learning process, demonstrate the grasp of key information and/or exhibit the development of crucial skills (2016-2017 Graduate Catalog).”


“A thesis documents original research or creative activity carried out by a student enrolled in a master’s program. A research thesis is characterized by a clearly stated proposition or hypothesis that is investigated using analysis and synthesis of data or other scholarly evidence; the thesis must include a discussion of the relevant literature and demonstrate the ability of the student to independently and successfully address a significant intellectual problem with concepts and methods that are accepted in the major field of study (2016-2017 Graduate Catalog).”


PRIOR to STARTING OPWL 592 (Portfolio)
TaskDue DateForm(s)
1Complete or be enrolled in your 33rd OPWL credit and have successfully completed all required OPWL courses.You have seven years from the time you started the degree to complete.
2Submit an Application for Admission to Candidacy (AAC) to your academic advisor. The AAC must be filled out completely – future courses with semester & year should be listed – all courses should look identical to your transcripts (which are available through your student account on Graduation – due within 10 days of completing spring semester.

Spring Graduation – due within 10 days of completing summer semester or at the beginning of fall semester

Summer Graduation – due within 10 days of completing fall semester.

For specific dates click here.
3Enroll in OPWL 592: Portfolio for the semester in which you want to graduate. This 1-credit course applies to your degree credits.During the OPEN ENROLLMENT PERIOD for that course.MY.BOISESTATE.EDU
4Apply to graduate. Once your AAC is approved by the Graduate College you will be emailed an invitation to apply for graduation – we encourage you to complete it immediately. Information about graduation and the fees can be found here.Typically due within the first few days of the semester in which you are completing your degree.MY.BOISESTATE.EDU

View Apply for Graduation instructions here.
5Make sure you have completed all requirements for any course in which you have received an I (incomplete).

STARTING OPWL 592 (Portfolio) and PREPARING for your defense
TaskDue DateForm(s)
6Be active in the OPWL 592: Portfolio Course.Starts Wednesday before the first day of the semester.Trello Website (project management tool used to conduct the course).
7Scheduling the culminating defense.Between the 6th & 8th weeks of the course, exam schedules and signups will be emailed to students to pick their defense date.Forms will be sent to your email account and announcements will be made in the classroom.
8Practice, practice, practice.

AFTER your defense
9Attend the OPWL Celebratory Dinner.Friday before graduation.
10Attend the Boise State University Commencement Ceremony.

Order the Master of Science (goldenrod) master hood.
Saturday at the end of the semester.Commencement Information

OPWL Portfolio Guidelines (PDF)

OPWL portfolio template document (Word version)

Advice for Portfolio Study Groups

Portfolio Defense Webinars


For more information, please consult the Graduate College’s Thesis and Dissertation Office.

PRIOR to STARTING your thesis
TaskDue DateForm(s)
1Draft a thesis course path with advisor using the OPWL AAC.Completed in conjunction with advisor upon starting the program.APPLICATION FOR ADMISSION TO CANDIDACY (AAC) FORM
2Complete three of the six required courses and both research courses: OPWL 531 and OPWL 532.

Ready to START your thesis
TaskDue DateForm(s)
3Select a Thesis Advisor. It must be a full-time OPWL FACULTY MEMBER.
4Submit finalized AAC form to officially declare thesis option – this will need to be signed by the thesis advisor.

Select two additional thesis supervisory committee members and submit Appointment of Supervisory Committee form.



5Enroll in OPWL 593: Thesis for one credit.During the OPEN ENROLLMENT PERIOD for that course.MY.BOISESTATE.EDU
6Submit thesis proposal to thesis supervisory committee.Approval is required from the committee before work on the thesis can begin.THESIS PROPOSAL FORM (PDF)
7Each semester enroll in at least one thesis credit with thesis advisor as your sponsoring faculty

A minimum of six (6) are required.

Ready to DEFEND your thesis
TaskDue DateForm(s)
8Apply to graduate and pay the associated fees.Approximately beginning of the semester you intend on graduating.MY.BOISESTATE.EDU
9Schedule a thesis defense and submit your thesis to your supervisory committee.

Post your Defense Notice.
Completed thesis is due to the supervisory committee at least two weeks prior to the defense date.GRADUATE DEFENSE NOTIFICATION FORM
10Complete your thesis defense. If successful, the Defense Committee Approval page will be signed by your committee and submitted to the Graduate College.DEFENSE COMMITTEE APPROVAL (THESIS) (PDF)

After your revised thesis is APPROVED
TaskDue DateForm(s)
11Make the required changes and submit the final thesis document to your thesis advisor. Submit the Final Reading Approval FormFINAL READING APPROVAL (PDF)
12Submit the Access Agreement. This provides you with the opportunity to delineate how you would like your electronic thesis accessed.ACCESS AGREEMENT FOR THESIS OR DISSERTATION (PDF)
13Submit the Approval Page for Electronic Copy. This ensures that all names, titles, etc. are accurate and correct.APPROVAL PAGE FOR ELECTRONIC COPY

Please note, this link downloads or opens a Word file.
14Submit the thesis to ScholarWorks.About one and one-half months prior to graduation.THESIS TEMPLATE

15Attend the OPWL Celebratory Dinner.Friday before graduation.
16Attend the Boise State University Commencement Ceremony.

Order the Master of Science (goldenrod) master hood.
Saturday at the end of the semester.Commencement Information

OPWL Thesis Examples

Berg Thesis – 2008 (PDF)

Duman Thesis – 2009 (PDF)

Kennedy Thesis – 2012 (PDF)

Miller Thesis – 2019 (PDF)