Medical Student Research Thesis Program
The Most Frequently Asked Questions for the MSRTP
What are the requirements/deliverables of the thesis project?
1) IRB certificate, 2) Mentor Contract, 3) Research Question (RQ) Form, 4) Research Protocol (RP), 5) UCLA Abstract, 6) CDU Abstract for Research Colloquium Day, 7) UCLA Poster Presentation, 8) CDU Colloquium Presentation, 9) Final Thesis, 10) IRB final report (if applicable).
What research is acceptable for a thesis project?
While the overall theme of the Medical Student Research Thesis Program (MSRTP) is health care disparities, students are given wide latitude in choosing specific areas of research. These include biobehavioral/psychosocial topics, basic science or health services research, quality improvement, or public policy with direct applications in underserved communities. (See program brochure)
When is the project due?
The IRB Certificate, Mentor Contract, RQ, RP and IRB Submission are all due by the end of the 3rd year. The UCLA Abstract, CDU Abstract for Research Colloquium Day, UCLA Poster Presentation, CDU Colloquium Presentation, Final Thesis, and IRB final report (if applicable) will all be due by the end of your 4th year.
Will I have to present my thesis in front of an audience? When and where?
Yes. In your fourth year, you will do 1) either an oral or poster presentation on UCLA Scholarship Day, usually in mid-March at the Ackerman Student Union building; 2) an oral PowerPoint presentation at the CDU Research Colloquium all-day event, usually towards the end of March.
When can I start the project?
In a way, you may start your project immediately. A thesis requires a lot of planning and thought. Technically though, you begin your official research project when your research protocol is approved by the MSRTP Chair, and if required, by the IRB.
What help is available to those who have no experience in research or in scientific writing?
You will receive didactic training in the form of relevant lectures and presentations. Research resources include the MSRTP Program Chair and staff, mentors, and the CDU Health Sciences Library.
Who is in charge of the thesis project process?
The MSRTP Chair and Program Coordinator oversee day-to-day operation of the program.
Do I need a mentor or advisor?
Yes, you will need at least one thesis mentor. You may also have scientific and research advisors, who may serve as secondary mentors, if you desire, at the discretion of the MSRTP Chair.
Does my mentor or advisor(s) have to be from Charles R. Drew University?
No. However, your mentor must have a faculty position so as to officially sponsor your research activities. Your mentor, of course, can be from any research institution.
Does my project need IRB approval?
This will depend on your project, e. g. whether or not it involves human subject testing. If you are using publically available data or conducting a systematic reivew, you will not need IRB approval. The MSRTP Chair can help you quickly determine whether IRB approval is needed for your proposed research.
Is there a guide, pamphlet or other resource that outlines the thesis process (e. g. classes required, calendar of activities)?
Yes, there are several available. You can request these from the MSRTP Chair or Program Coordinator.
Does a thesis have to be based on a completely novel idea?
No. A research question and project is initially reviewed and approved using FINER criteria. Is the question/project:
Can I undertake a project that I or others have already started or completed?
Yes, in fact I encourage students to do so. However, there are many logistical issues that need to be discussed and resolved. You will need to meet with MSRTP Chair to discuss specific details of your proposed project.
How can I find out about projects that others have already done?
We have compiled a database of potential thesis projects as a starting point.
How much time do I have to complete my thesis?
You must complete your research activities and thesis between the 3rd and 4th year of your medical education program. You may start, or course, as early as you want, as long as you have obtained approval from, and are in regular contact with, the MSRTP Chair and Coordinator.
“How will I find time to complete my thesis? I’m kept very busy now, and I hear the 3rd year is crazy! I also know that almost all my 4th year will be spent applying and interviewing for residency. Will these factors ‘cut me some slack?’”
No. However, careful planning, discipline, a good mentor, and taking personal responsibility will ensure success. Our goal is to train doctors who become exemplary, responsible and competent leaders in their fields.
How many thesis abstracts do I need to submit?
Two. Towards the last week of January, UCLA requires that you upload your thesis abstract into their tracking system. You must follow their guidelines in terms of length, section headings, etc. Around the middle of March, you must submit a version of your abstract consistent with MSRTP guidelines to the Chair and Coordinator. This will be included in the program handed out at the CDU Research colloquium, normally held at the end of March.
What is the approval process for my research protocol?
Using the MSRTP protocol template, you will produce a draft which is reviewed by the MSRTP Chair. She may return this to you with comments and requests for changes, which can take several iterations. Once initially approved, your protocol is sent to external (usually CDU) faculty evaluators, who will score it using a rubric, and provide critique/comments and (usually) requests for changes. You will forward the revised draft to the MSRTP Chair, who may request further changes, or facilitate the process for obtaining final approval. Upon completion of your RP, the Chair will send you a formal letter of approval. This is a cue for to to proceed to the next step . Again, this may take several iterations.
What is the approval process for my thesis?
The process is very similar to that of the research protocol. Using an MSRTP template, you create a draft which is initially reviewed by the Chair and/or a designee. This document may be returned to you with comments and requests for changes. Again, this may take several “back and forth” exchanges. Once your draft is approved, it is sent to external evaluators, who will score it using an MSRTP rubric, and provide comments and critique, and requests for changes. Once you have revised your document, you must send it again to the MSRTP Chair, who may return it for further modifications and changes. Again, this may take several iterations. The Chair will explicitly advise when your draft is acceptable as your final thesis.
What are the significance of the rubric scores?
They are used to evaluate the scientific quality of your work. It is also a criteria based on which your overall performance is evaluated.
What are the criteria to be awarded for honor thesis?
- Timely submission of all research requirements
- Scoring at the top 5% of your class on RP and Thesis rubric score
What are the criteria to be awarded for MSRTP award?
- Timely submission of all research requirements
- Scoring at the top 3% of your class on RP and Thesis rubric score
- Mentor’s evaluation
Do I need to close my IRB protocol, if I’ve obtained one for my research?
Yes. You are responsible for completing the final report that effectively and officially closes your project. However, the MSRTP Chair may request you keep your protocol open for a variety of reasons including publication, and will advise if you do not have to close it, and of any future plans.