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 8082 Professional Paper-Writing Seminar (Spring Semester)

  2. PA 8921 Master's: Professional Paper (Summer and Fall only)

  3. A course that requires a paper appropriate for a professional paper (Spring, Summer, and Fall). Approval required by DGS of program.

Students involved in a Professional Paper can view the timeline below.

View and download the paper topic approval form

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, contact your program coordinator (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

  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 coursework, 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.

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April 16, 2021: Capstone and Professional Paper Information Session #1

Join us for a Q&A session on spring 2022 capstones and professional papers. In advance, check out the informational webinar to learn about capstone sections/instructors, how projects/partners are identified, team formation, examples of previous projects, the PA 5080 Capstone Prep Workshop prerequisite, and how to create a student-initiated capstone project. For professional papers, students will learn about selecting a topic and advisor, paper format, registration requirements, and examples of previous papers.

April–September 2021: Consider paper vs. capstone options

Use this time to consider your choice of professional paper versus capstone.

September 20, 2021: Professional Paper Information Session #2

  • September 20, 2021 from 11:30 am - 12:30 pm CDT
  • This session will provide an overview of the spring 2022 professional paper process including timelines, policies and how to register. It will also include information on the required PA 8082 Professional Paper Writing Seminar. DGSs Deborah Levison (MHR), Joe Soss (MPP) and Gabe Chan (MS-STEP) will be available to answer questions. There will also be a panel of Humphrey alumni who can answer questions about their experience and give advice on successfully completing the professional paper.
  • This meeting will be via Zoom only and will be recorded for students who are not able to make it.
  • View the recording of the Professional Paper Information Session #2

October 8, 2021: Paper topic approval form due

October 8 is the deadline to submit the paper topic approval form.

November 9, 2021: Spring 2022 registration begins

Register for the PA 8082 Professional Paper Writing Seminar.

January 18, 2022: Spring semester begins

Spring semester 2022 officially ends on Wednesday, May 22. However, you'll need to submit a digital copy of your final paper to UMN's Digital Conservancy and the Humphrey School's Academic Programs department by May 20.

May 20, 2022: Deadline to submit a digital copy of the final paper to UMN’s Digital Conservancy and Academic Programs

  • The professional paper must be submitted to Humphrey Graduate Student Services to be permanently housed in the University of Minnesota Libraries Digital Conservancy. Further details are provided on the Professional Paper page under "Documenting completion of professional paper."
  • Submit a digital copy to Sarah French ([email protected]) with Academic Programs.