This study reviews the traditional culminating graduate student experiences, theses, and comprehensive exams, as well as a newer, more professionally relevant option, applied research projects. We conceptualize applied projects as student-led, client-connected, hands-on, experiential projects that address a real-world communication problem or topic through the creation of relevant deliverables. We used Glassick et al.’s (1997) scholarship assessed model and the National Communication Association’s communication learning outcomes to determine perceived differences between culminating experiences. Survey results (N = 32) of recent alumni and current master’s level Communication students demonstrate near-equal ratings of applied projects and theses in their ability to both meet scholarship assessment criteria and communication learning outcomes. Comprehensive exams are rated comparatively worse. Based on these criteria and others gained from implementing applied projects as an option for students, we offer a rubric for assessing master’s level applied research projects.



Author ORCID Identifier

Michael G. Strawser: 0000-0001-5030-9266

Bridget Rubenking: 0000-0002-9364-9612

Kelsey Lunsford: 0000-0001-6974-5834