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Major Research Paper (MRP)


What is the Major Research Paper (MRP)?
The MRP is a scholarly paper, normally 20-25 pages in length, written by all MPA students at the U to show they are capable of conducting thorough research and analysis on a topic within the field. It should analyze/assess prior research or contribute new research, and adopt/defend a position with respect to the issue chosen. Completion of the Research Design course is required before beginning your MRP. Major Research Paper research may include the following types of literature: empirical, normative, historical, legal, ethical, social-scientific, interpretive, phenomenological, critical, etc. The MPA Program strongly encourages students to choose a topic relevant to their career interests, something that may be adopted by their current agency, or something relevant to volunteer efforts.

Students writing the MRP must observe the highest standards of academic honesty, and therefore must clearly indicate where other people's ideas, insights, and/or writing are being used. Students should consult a writing style manual (preferably APA) to ensure proper and thorough citation of research sources. Students will include several references in their papers, citing primarily scholarly work as well as media reports, agency data, etc.

When should I write my MRP?
Generally, the MRP should be written in the context of a course. Usually, your MRP can take the place of one component of your coursework, however substitutions vary by professor. The work produced toward your MRP will count toward your grade for the course. Begin work on your MRP in the context of a course where the content interests you. Students might also consider expanding a paper they produced for a course into their MRP. 

There is no set time to begin your MRP, but students should find a balance of waiting until a few courses are completed so they have more insight into public and nonprofit administration with not waiting until the last minute. Students must also respect adviser timetables, and work with their adviser to establish a realistic timetable for both.

When Must I Complete My MRP?
The MRP may be written at any time during the MPA Program, but the final draft must be completed, approved and submitted to the MPA Office by e-mail with a cover page by the last day of the classes set in the University academic calendar of the semester you are planning to graduate (or you will not graduate that semester). The Graduate School requires all students to be registered the semester they graduate meaning if you complete coursework and not your MRP, you will be required to then register for additional credits of faculty consultation the semester you finish and graduate.

Role of the MRP Supervisors
Faculty serve as advisers in the MRP process. Please first consult the MPA Faculty Page to see which faculty are eligible to supervise an MRP, and what the research foci are for these faculty members. On this page, faculty denoted with an asterisk (*) are MRP professors/instructors.  If you enjoyed working with an instructor who is not eligible to supervise the MRP, you might still ask them to consult with you on the paper after discussing this option with your faculty supervisor. Faculty supervisors will help you narrow down a topic and develop your design. The MPA Program staff is also available to help with choosing a supervisor.

The Institutional Review Board (IRB)
The Institutional Review Board has been established to protect study participants. If your MRP involves humans in some way or another, and you want to publish the paper, you must first submit paperwork to the IRB for approval. The IRB process can be timely so please take this into account if you are working with humans in your study. Good overview of IRB for first-time submitters

All of the libraries at the University of Utah offer great classes to help you along the research process. Consult the following websites for more information:

Marriott Library Research Tools:

Peter Kraus, the Political Science Librarian is also a tremendous research resource. Contact him for any of your research needs:

 Additional research and writing resources

Hints & Tips
     • pick a topic you're interested in

      do much more research than you think you'll need

     • don't be afraid to run your thoughts/ideas by others for their input  

     • take some time off and reread your work with fresh eyes

     most importantly, do not wait until you are finished with course work to start your MRP because students find themselves out of            school mode and put off the paper--chipping away at it throughout the program is the key.

Publishing and Help
The MPA Program works with the Kem C. Gardner Policy Institute (formerly the Center for Public Policy and Administration). The mission of the Kem C. Gardner Policy Institute is to develop and share economic, demographic and public policy data and research that help individuals and the community make informed decisions. If you are interested in working on a project with the Kem C. Gardner Policy Institute or presenting a research project, please visit:

Additional opportunities are available through the Community Foundation of Utah, Utah City Management Association (UCMA), and Utah Nonprofits Association.  Please contact the MPA Program Manager for additional information.


Last Updated: 11/23/16