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The following are answers to frequently asked questions (FAQs) about the SFU online Professional Program in Heritage Resource Management. Please direct further questions to Program Director Adam N. Rorabaugh (firstname.lastname@example.org).
THESIS AND PROSPECTUS
WHY DO I NEED A THESIS? WHY NOT GRANT THIS DEGREE WITHOUT A THESIS?
The master’s thesis remains the essential indicator of researcher competence and is a requirement for permit holding throughout most of North America. Many Canadian provinces (Alberta, Saskatchewan, Ontario, and Newfoundland) require professional archaeologists to minimally hold a master’s degree in anthropology or archaeology granted on the basis of a written thesis. It is also a requirement for the Secretary of the Interior (SOI) federal standards for archaeologists in the United States. Many HRM employers also require senior staff members to complete master's theses as demonstrations of requisite capacities in research and writing.
The master’s thesis (or equivalent) is also necessary for listing in the Register of Professional Archaeologists (RPA). RPA requires applicants to hold an advanced degree and to “have designed and executed an archaeological study and have reported on that research in the form of a Master's thesis and/or Ph.D. dissertation. The thesis or dissertation must show a substantive data analysis by the applicant directed toward an explicit archeological research problem” (RPA – How to Apply).
RPA registration is a central requirement for HRM professionals employed by state and federal agencies, consulting firms, and industry project proponents. Internationally, RPA registration is mandatory for those supervising new archaeological projects in Peru and is increasingly referred to by the World Bank and other transnational investors as the certification standard for HRM professionals.
WHAT KINDS OF THESIS TOPICS CAN I WORK ON AS A MASTER'S STUDENT?
See current HRM candidate profiles. The following list offers further ideas for thesis research:
- CRM project report expansion and enhancement;
- Synthesis of understudied region or problem;
- Analysis of policy or planning problem (e.g., professional licensure; First Nations economic development via HRM archaeology; treatment of research data and conclusions as privileged information]);
- Critical overview of national, regional or administrative contexts, rules, or organizations;
- Assessment of a field or analytic method and jurisdiction- or issue-specific "Recommended Management Practices" for guiding HRM research or practice;
- Case studies of the national, regional or thematic roots of key institutional developments in heritage/cultural resource management (e.g., treatment of research data and conclusions as privileged information);
- Jurisdiction- or issue-specific "Recommended Management Practices" for guiding HRM research, practice, or both; and
- Collection-focused research (e.g., mining implements from ancient quarries.)
Note that several jurisdictions in Canada and the United States require or favour applications for professional status supported by a thesis completed on archaeological topics within that jurisdiction.
HOW DEVELOPED SHOULD THE THESIS PROSPECTUS BE AT THE TIME OF APPLICATION?
For most students, the thesis evolves significantly from the time of application until they submit their formal proposal. There is no obligation for you to stick to the thesis offered in the application prospectus. The prospectus is an opportunity for applicants to demonstrate planning and writing research skills.
I HAVE A GREAT DEAL OF DATA AND HISTORICAL BACKGROUND GATHERED OVER THE COURSE OF RECENT RESEARCH THAT WILL FORM THE BASIS FOR MY THESIS PROJECT. HOW WOULD YOU SUGGEST DEVELOPING IT INTO A SPECIFIC FORM?
In advancing the prospectus, consider "working backward” from your answer to the following question: What’s the strongest data set(s) or strand(s) you have in hand or have confidence you can develop efficiently? Once that is determined, ask “what significant problem of archaeological interest can these data speak authoritatively to?” Theses that move from known to unknown with high certainty of producing something of value make the most impact with the least effort.