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 8, 2022 from 2:00-3:00 CDT: Capstone and Professional Paper Information Session #1

Join us via Zoom for a Q&A session on spring 2023 capstones and professional papers. This will be an opportunity to have your questions answered about the process for either option.
In advance, review the professional paper website to learn about selecting a topic and advisor, paper format, registration requirements, examples of previous papers and informational timeline.

April–September 2022: Consider paper vs. capstone options

Use this time to consider your choice of professional paper versus capstone. If you plan to complete a professional paper, start to form your research question and find your paper supervisor and committee.

September 26, 2022: Professional Paper Information Session #2

  • September 26, 2022 from 9:30 - 10:30 am CDT
  • This session will provide an overview of the spring 2023 professional paper process including timelines, policies and how to register. It will also include information on the required PA 8082 Professional Paper Writing Seminar. 
  • This meeting will be via Zoom and will be recorded for students who are not able to make it.

October 7, 2022: Paper topic approval form due

October 7 is the deadline to submit the paper topic approval form.

November 8, 2022: Spring 2023 registration begins

Register for the PA 8082 Professional Paper Writing Seminar.

January 17, 2023: Spring semester begins

Spring semester 2023 officially ends on Wednesday, May 10. You'll need to submit a digital copy of your final paper to Humphrey Graduate Student Services by May 20.

May 20, 2023: Deadline to submit a digital copy of the final paper for housing in the UMN’s Digital Conservancy

The professional paper must be submitted to Humphrey Graduate Student Services ([email protected]) and your degree program coordinator to be permanently housed in the University of Minnesota Libraries Digital Conservancy.

There are two required components for submitting the professional paper:

1) Digital Conservancy Agreement form

  • Download the Digital Conservancy Agreement Form, or pick up a copy in Humphrey Room 280.
  • The Digital Conservancy Agreement Form must be signed by ALL paper authors.
  • Attach the signed form to the beginning of the final paper. This form will be removed before the paper is uploaded into the Digital Conservancy.
  • Note: On rare occasions, clients prefer not to have their information posted in a public database. If this occurs, paper authors should still complete, sign, and attach this form with a clearly visible note that approval is not given to submit the paper to the Digital Conservancy.

2) Digital copy of final paper

  • Title page of the paper must include: a) name of paper; b) paper author; c) name of instructor(s) and client(s)—no signatures required
  • When the final version is approved by instructor(s), create a pdf.
  • Attach the signed scanned Digital Conservancy Agreement form (step 1) to the beginning of the paper.
  • Email PDF to [email protected] and your degree program coordinator by the deadline listed above.