Loyola University Maryland

Department of Speech-Language-Hearing Sciences

Thesis Option

The thesis is not required for all students, but is suggested for students who have maintained a QPA of 3.500 and are interested in pursuing doctoral-level study and/or clinical research activities. Students who elect the master’s thesis option will not be responsible for taking the comprehensive exam. A student interested in exploring the thesis option must meet with Graduate Program Director as well as with the faculty member whose expertise is in the area of investigation. The student will work with the faculty member to review the literature in the chosen area and develop the research proposal. A Thesis Handbook is available to help guide each student through the thesis process. 

Useful Links


Betsy Stickels

Betsy Stickels, M.S., Class of 2015

Title: Listeners’ Perception of Gender after Modifying Formant Frequencies of a Male Voice

Defense Date: May 2015

Committee Members: Dr. Sally Gallena (thesis advisor), Dr. Kathleen Siren, Dr. Janet Preis

Synopsis: The purpose of this study was to determine what amount of change, and to which vowel formant frequencies, is required to change listeners’ perception of speaker gender from male to gender neutral or female (“not male”). Betsy designed a listening experiment using novel auditory stimuli created by modifying male samples of 4 vowel sounds (/ɑ, i, æ, u/). She modified samples by raising F0  to 175Hz (the gender neutral range) and then raising the vowel formant frequencies (F1-3) in isolation and as an envelope in small incremental steps to female values.

Advice: My biggest advice is to submit your project to present anywhere you can. That has been the most exciting part of this process for me. I presented for the Acoustic Society (where I won money!!) and the Voice Foundation (where I paid a lot of money but learned a lot of valuable information). I am set to present this research again at ASHA’s annual conference in November 2015. Loyola’s Emerging Scholar event is really wonderful and they will print a poster for you! Peddle your research wherever there is interest.

(picture is from Betsy’s presentation at the Voice Foundation)

Jennifer HoodJennifer L. Crouse Hood, M.S., CCC-SLP, Class of 2011

Title: Effectiveness of Social Skills Groups across Diagnoses and Gender

Defense Date: May 2011

Committee Members: Dr. Janet Preis (thesis advisor), Dr. Lisa Schoenbrodt, Dr. Marie Kerins

Synopsis: Social skills training groups are a familiar intervention to address the notable social impairments found in children with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), anxiety, and Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). This retrospective analysis examined the effectiveness of these groups (as measured by the Social Skills Improvement System [SSIS], [*Gresham & Elliot, 2009[A1] ]) and assessed if gender or diagnosis was a factor in the outcome by examining the data from eight social skills groups across two years utilizing a repeated measures design both within and between participants. A statistically significant improvement was found for the SSIS Social Skills Scale, with both males and females showing a significant increase from pre to posttest; the difference between genders was not statistically significant. In addition, improvements from pre to posttest were significant for participants with the diagnoses of ADHD and ASD (not specific to gender), finding that the students with ADHD performed the best. Although there were gains for participants with anxiety they were not significant from pre to post, nor were they statistically different from those with ADHD or ASD.  These implications of these results are discussed as they provide support for group intervention to address social skills across genders, noting particular effectiveness for preadolescents with ADHD and ASD.

How the thesis helped her: “Doing a thesis was the best decision I made during graduate school. Although it was a lot of extra work, I am now enrolled in a doctoral program and was accepted partly because of the manuscript I was able to provide to show the research I had already completed. After just finishing my first semester, in which I was enrolled in a research and technical methods course, where we had to develop a research proposal, my professor was quite surprised by the level of knowledge and skill I presented in my project—something I would not have been able to produce without completing this thesis. Completing the thesis strengthened my clinical skills and my professional/technical writing.”

Tips for students considering a thesis

These tips have been compiled from students who have completed a thesis. The major theme throughout is that a thesis is challenging, but very rewarding!

  • Choose something you are very interested in so you are excited to find an answer to your question. This is a long term project; you need to pursue something you care about. It gets painful and tedious- but ultimately it’s fun and exciting.
  • Don’t be afraid of the thesis option, even if you decide late. I started my thesis relatively late in the game (May of the first year) and it is possible to do in a year. It will be easier if you set yourself a schedule and keep to it.
  • Brush up on statstics
  • Start working as soon as you can—don't wait until the second year to get your project ideas and proposal started
  • Reach out to your thesis committee before your defense—use them as resources! They have lots of insights to share and you don't want to wait till the last minute to consider their input
  • When you’re reading for your lit review, take written notes with citations instead of highlighting important passages. It will make it so much easier when you remember an important fact but don’t remember which article it came from.
  • Remember that your thesis committee is there to support you. Don't be intimidated. Respect the feedback they have to give and grow from it. It’s not personal, they just want to help you prepare the best defense and final product possible.
  • Use RefWorks (available through the Loyola/Notre Dame Library) and use it hard. Also, download the Write-N-Cite extension. It’s not 100% correct every time but it is right most of the time and it will save you so that much anguish.
  • If you feel like you aren’t finding what you need in the existing literature just get creative. I found a lot of my literature following avenues not necessarily related to speech and language pathology. Also, if you or your friends have a certain set of skills, exploit it. I recruited my sister, an electrical engineer, to create the computer program that created the novel stimuli for my study. She is listed as a co-author.
  • Once in the final stages of writing, think about where you might want to submit your manuscript for publishing. Don't wait!
Sarah Calamita


Both the love for Baltimore and the relationships she developed with professors as an undergrad inspired Sarah to pursue her master's at Loyola

Speech-Language Pathology