Individual Professional Paper Options

Student Services
Humphrey School of Public Affairs

280 Humphrey School
301 19th Avenue South
Minneapolis, MN 55455
United States

MHR, MPP, and MS–STEP students may write an individual professional paper under the direction of a faculty paper supervisor, working within the structure of either:

  1. PA 8921–Masters: Professional Paper

  2. A course that requires a paper appropriate for a professional paper.

View and download the paper topic approval forms


Master's: Professional Paper

A student may elect to complete the professional paper through PA 8921 (Master's: Professional Paper). Based upon topic of interest, a student will consult faculty with similar research and/or professional backgrounds to request permission to complete their professional paper under their guidance. Work with the particular faculty member to determine the appropriate number of credits to register for (1–3 credits).

Once the student and the Humphrey faculty member have reached an agreement, email Joel Mixon (CC the faculty member) to request that a section of PA 8921 be added for the particular faculty member. This faculty member will typically be the paper supervisor and provide feedback and guidance during the writing and revision process. It is not the responsibility of the paper supervisor to set or enforce deadlines for the student. Completing the professional paper through this option will require self direction and time management on the part of the student.

“Other”: Course or Seminar Paper

MPP students may prepare their professional paper in a class approved by both their paper supervisor and their academic advisor. It is expected that such classes require students to write a paper that meets the definition of a professional paper, as defined above, as a major part of their class requirements. Students planning to write all or part of a professional paper in these classes must meet the same requirements as students in working groups.

Definition of the Professional Paper

The professional paper is an analysis of a real world policy or managerial problem. The paper typically will analyze the policy and/or organizational context of the problem, consider various alternative policy and organizational strategies, and conclude with concrete recommendations or discussion of the practice implications of the analysis. Students must synthesize skills in:

  1. Substantive knowledge of the field
  2. Knowledge of applied research methods
  3. Writing and presentation, and in some cases
  4. Skill in negotiating a consultant relationship.

Students should survey and properly cite the relevant literature, apply skills acquired throughout their course work, and produce writing of publishable quality. While students are not necessarily expected to conduct original research, the professional paper should reflect substantial research (if only of secondary sources), should be revised substantially in consultation with the supervisor, and reflect graduate level analysis. The target length should be 30 pages of text; the professional paper should never exceed 50 pages.

Professional Paper Requirements

The following requirements must be submitted to Humphrey Graduate Student Services no later than the 20th day of the intended graduation month. Students who do not meet this deadline will not graduate until the following month. Please note that faculty may be unavailable after the end of May. Essential deadlines are as follows:

  • Fall completion: December 20
  • Spring completion: May 20
  • Summer completion: July 20

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Part 1: Submit Digital Conservancy Agreement Form

The Digital Conservancy Agreement Form must be signed by the paper author and submitted to Student Services, Room 280.

Part 2: Follow requirements to create title page

  • The hard-copy title page must follow the required format (download this sample page for formatting guidelines).
  • The paper supervisor must sign the title page to verify two things: successful completion of the oral presentation and approval of the final version of the paper.  
  • The additional committee member(s) will sign to approve the final version of the paper
  • The title page must include original signatures of committee members—no scanned, copied, or faxed signatures, no exceptions.

Part 3: Submit electronic copy of final professional paper

  • The final paper should be emailed to Student Services ([email protected]) as one Word doc or PDF attachment. All appendices and/or supplemental information must be included.
  • The document should include an unsigned title page.