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PA 690 Master's Project

Guidelines and Procedures


The Master's project paper is designed to be the culminating experience for our MPA students. Its primary goals are to:

1. Provide students with an opportunity to apply what they have learned and make a contribution toward solving an administrative or management-related problem.

2. Certify administrative (both theoretical and technical) competence for those students completing the program.

3. Allow students an opportunity to further customize their MPA curriculum with a project that is personally and/or professionally relevant.


Within the framework established by the academic standards applied to these projects, the student is encouraged to select his or her own topic or problem that relates to public administration, broadly defined. Ideally, a student will have been stimulated toward further study by a concept, technique, issue, or problem raised in one or more of the courses they have taken during their graduate career. The student may select a project that addresses some issue at his or her place of employment.


1. Create and implement a new administrative or operational technique for an office that improves the workplace. Students in the past have created new procedures in data base management or information technology, have prepared and conducted a new risk analysis, and initiated and coordinated a strategic plan.

2. Conduct a policy analysis assessing the impact of a governmental policy (at any level), using the analytical tools learned mostly in PA 522/523 and PA 620. Students have conducted impact analyses of a local government's economic development policies, of a downtown development authority's policies, and of Michigan School Finance Report proposals.

3. Develop and conduct a program evaluation or needs assessment for an organization. This uses skills learned mostly in PA 655. Past projects have included evaluations of several local nonprofit organizations, and a few local government offices.

The possible topics and venues are quite broad. One stipulation: you may not use your normal job responsibilities to count toward the PA 690 project. This avoids receiving life experience credits for work you are already doing. However, if you can demonstrate that because of this project you are going beyond your normal duties at work, then the topic might be considered appropriate. All topics must be cleared with the MPA Director (see Procedures).


Step 1: Meet with a full-time faculty member with whom you would like to work to discuss project topic, method, and timetable for completion. If you’re unsure of what you would like to do, or what faculty member you would like to work with, contact the MPA Director for advice. Students should allow ample time to develop a sound topic and design, select a supervisor, clear the way for any required data collections, and generally complete the housekeeping tasks associated with projects of this type.

Step 2: Submit a 1 - 2 page proposal outline to your faculty supervisor that includes:

A. Your name

B. A working title for your paper

C. A (typed) one-page description of the project, the research question and method(s) to be used, and source(s) of information or data

D. A brief discussion of how your project relates to at least two MPA courses (core and or electives)

E. The expected completion date


Step 3: Write and complete your paper in consultation with your faculty supervisor.  Our program uses the APA format for citations, references and overall document formatting. If you have any questions about proper citation procedures, speak with your faculty supervisor.

In some cases, faculty may wish to meet more frequently than others; this is negotiated between student and faculty member.

Step 4: Submit TWO COPIES of your final draft: one to your faculty member (to correct and return to you); one to the MPA Director, who maintains an archive of all project papers.


1. Students most often ask, "How long should this paper be?" Instructors usually respond, "As long as it takes." Remember this paper is the product of a 4-credit hour course. Faculty expectations will vary along with the demands of different projects, but we generally stay within a range that conforms to the work required for a 4-credit hour course. Since you are submitting only one assignment for this course, any paper generally less than 20 pages is probably not doing justice to the credits the student is earning for this course. Do not confuse quantity with quality. While many students (even some graduate students!) believe that "more is better" in their writing style, most faculty members would argue just the opposite. Any paper longer than 50 pages is probably a waste of time, space, and renewable or non-renewable resources.

2. Again, remember that this project is meant to be original work, and to go beyond your normal workplace duties. While we encourage projects that are meant to improve your own office or workplace, you must be able to demonstrate that this project somehow goes beyond your usual duties--or that you are able to expand those duties by introducing a technique or practice learned in the MPA curriculum. The usual academic standards also apply to proper citations and attribution. Whether intentional or not, plagiarism is unethical and illegal. The penalties for violators are listed in the "Academic conduct of graduate students" section of the Policies and Procedures section of your graduate catalog. Our program uses the APA format for citations, references and overall document formatting. If you have any questions about proper citation procedures, speak with your faculty supervisor. If you have any questions about the appropriateness of your project topic, contact the MPA Director.

3. Students often delay one or more of the steps required, feeling that they have ample time to finish their writing. However, many obstacles can present themselves while you are engaging in your research and writing. Some delays are within your control; some are not. Please also remember that you must receive approval of your one-page proposal (see "Step 2" under "Procedures") from the MPA Director before you register for the PA 690 course. Typically, you should consider the first completed iteration of the project a draft. Be cognizant that revisions probably will be required and allow adequate time.

4. Projects should be completed with adequate time for the faculty member to grade them. Remember, they have other courses and students.

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