Nutritional Sciences (MS)
Graduate Chair


Rachel Novotny

 Agricultural Sciences 216
1955 East West Road
Honolulu, HI 96822
p:     (808) 956-3848
f:  (808) 956-4024



Nutritional Sciences Graduate Studies


Under Plan B, 30 total credits are needed including 6 to 9 credits in Directed Reading and Research and 18 credits in coursework at the 600-level or above.  The remaining credits are from electives (see below for a list of required courses and an example of course of study).

This option requires:

  1. An oral qualifying exam of basic knowledge related to the Nutritional Sciences, (RUBRIC HERE) and
  2. A final examination based on Directed Reading and Research (Plan B) (RUBRIC HERE)

All students are also required to have one (1) semester of teaching assistant experience either as a paid Teaching Assistant (TA), or by participating in a graduate student instructional experience.  FSHN 681 Seminar in Food and Nutritional Sciences must be taken at least four (4) times, including at least two (2) times for a letter grade (A-F).  FSHN 681 can be taken credit/no credit other times.  Only two (2) credits of FSHN 681 can be applied to meet the MS degree requirement.

Required Coursework:

  • FSHN 601 (2)  The Science of Food Systems
  • FSHN 681 (1)  Seminar in Food and Nutritional Sciences
  • FSHN 689 (3)  Nutritional Epidemiology, or PH 748 (3) Chronic Disease Epidemiology, or PH 663 (3) Principles of Epidemiology I
  • FSHN 685 (3)  Nutrition and Disease:  Cellular and Molecular Aspects, or FSHN 784 (3) Dietary Fiber, Bioactive Food Components and Health
  • One course in statistics at the 400-level or above
  • At least one of the following nutrition electives:
    • FSHN 682 (1)  Topics in Nutritional Sciences
    • FSHN 686 (3)  Advanced Child and Adolescent Nutrition
    • PH 684 (2)  Supplemental and Nutritional Approaches in Disease Prevention and Treatment
    • PH 688 (3)  Indigenous Food Systems, Environment and Health
    • FSHN 784 (3)  Dietary Fiber, Bioactive Food Components and Health, or FSHN 685 (3) Nutrition and Disease:  Cellular and Molecular Aspects
    • FSHN 785 (1)  Seminar in Diet and Cancer
  • Advisor-approved program electives to reach 18 credits of coursework

ms b plan

Scholarly Research Report and Final Examination: (Plan B Non-thesis Guidelines PDF)
Graduate students have the option to complete a Plan B Non-thesis option for the MS in Nutritional Sciences. Graduate students must work with their graduate program advisor to identify an appropriate Plan B project and submit to the graduate program chair for approval. The faculty advisor is primarily responsible for directing and guiding the student's research and writing activities.  It is the student's responsibility to select the Examination Committee in consultation with their advisor.  The committee will be responsible for conducting the final examination based on the work conducted in FSHN 699 - Directed Reading and Research.  Upon completion of the student's FSHN 699 project, the student will present a seminar and written report to the  Final Examination Committee.  A majority of the Examination Committee must approve the final seminar and scholarly written report. An explanation of the Plan B along with a number of Plan B non-thesis options (not exclusive) are explained below. 

Thesis vs. Plan B Non-Thesis

The Thesis and Plan B Non-Thesis are very similar, following a similar basic format and representation of scholarly effort of high quality. A plan b non-thesis emphasizes preparation for evidence-based professional practice. A thesis is an academic-focused research project with broader applicability. In BOTH projects, students are required to review existing literature, collect data or conduct a project, analyze results, and develop a conclusion. The primary difference lies in scope and focus.

1. A thesis should answer a question that contributes to new knowledge in the field of nutrition and dietetics, it is applicable beyond the single setting.

2. A plan b non-thesis answers a question of practical importance such as developing a test or education method, evaluating an intervention, curriculum, or protocol in a particular agency or practice setting.

While not involving a thesis, the Plan B MS nutritional sciences must have a written component that includes the following elements of research:

  • Introduction
    • Research Question or Problem Statement
  • Background
    • Literature review of previous work in this area
  • Methods
    • Description of approach, setting, data collected or available, process for analysis
  • Results
    • Tables, figures, and written text
  • Discussion/Interpretation
    • Critically evaluate if the project met goals, solution to the problem, make recommendations

The Plan B non-thesis progresses in three stages:

  • Preliminary: choose an advisor, submit one-page outline of project/research to Graduate Program Chair.
  • Stage 1: Project development, submit IRB (if necessary), develop materials to implement your project
  • Stage 2: Project work such as an evaluation of an educational tool, implementing a new nutrition assessment, evaluating a nutrition intervention
  • Stage 3: Write-up, presentation of results (open to public) and defense or final product. Obtain final approval from your committee.
    • The Plan B Non-Thesis projects also require a committee, comprised of three graduate faculty members.
    • A Plan B project presentation and defense is also required.
    • Evidence of passing performance (Plan B Non-Thesis Defense Rubric) must be submitted to the graduate program chair.

This list of options presented below is not exhaustive but presents options that can be used to fulfill the Plan B non-thesis project requirements. This should be an independent project, performed under the supervision of your graduate program advisor.

1) Case Study

The comprehensive case study project requires an in-depth assessment and synthesis of the information from the core curriculum, current evidence, and clinical or management practice guidelines in relation to a specified case. Case studies will foster your analytic skills for patient/client/program management through the Nutrition Care Process of gathering and evaluating information, assessment, diagnosis, developing care plans, monitoring outcomes, and integrating prevention and wellness strategies to optimize the health and clinical status of the patient.

Topics of the case study may encompass any of the following practice areas:

  • Education
  • Research
  • Management/administration
  • Clinical nutrition-inpatient
  • Clinical nutrition-outpatient/ambulatory care
  • Clinical nutrition-long-term care
  • Community nutrition
  • Consultation and business practice
  • Food, Nutrition and Dietetics Policy

Selecting a Case

Potential case report topics and cases must be discussed and approved with the project advisor prior to initiation of the project. You will identify the topic area for your case study during your plan of study. Examples of experiences that may inform your selection include food service management, community wellness, or medical nutrition therapy rotation (acute care or outpatient clinic).

Guidelines for the Written Case Study as a Non-Thesis Plan B Project:

(1) an unstructured abstract;

(2) an introduction and general description of the pathophysiology of the disease or disorder and its nutritional relevancy;

(3) a brief but thorough description of the clinical case (e.g., patient profile, presenting symptoms, relevant past medical/surgical history, hospital or treatment course, laboratory results, tests or procedures) with utilization of the Nutrition Care Process (J Am Diet Assoc. 2008;108(7):1113-1117), International Dietetics and Nutrition Terminology (J Am Diet Assoc. 2008;108(8):1287-1293), and using de-identified data to protect the patient or patients' right to privacy; for non-clinical cases a brief but thorough description of the problem, gaps in knowledge, setting and key stakeholders, solution to the problem, essential elements to the solution, barriers and facilitators to solutions, major successes to the solution and the implications of the work (Front Public Health. 2016; 4:56)

(4) the interventions and medical nutrition therapies and evidence-based guidelines employed; and

(5) results, discussion and conclusion, which includes outcome data, lessons learned for the subsequent management of similar cases and emphasis on future directions for applicable research.


2) Systematic Review

Systematic Review attempts to identify, appraise, and synthesize all the empirical evidence that meets pre-specified eligibility criteria to answer a given research question. Systematic reviews use explicit methods aimed at minimizing bias in order to produce more reliable findings that can be used to inform decision making (Cochrane Collaboration). The guidelines outlined below are based on the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics Systematic Review Author Guidelines:

Systematic reviews should address topics with an extensive body of primary source literature to provide a critical summary of the current evidence and applications using the appropriate software (e.g., Cochrane, Comprehensive Meta-Analysis). In some cases, these articles may also address an emerging topic with limited literature to better demonstrate the need for more research. The review should be structured around a focused question utilizing PICO in identifying the question:

  • P: investigations' participant(s)
  • I: intervention(s)
  • C: comparison(s)
  • O: outcome(s).

In addition, there are guidelines for conducting the review, such as PRISMA or MOOSE, that should be used to guide the systematic review. Guidelines should be selected that are appropriate to the systematic review study design. Checklists will need to be copied from the site, completed by indicating on the checklist the line and/or page number where the requested information is located in the manuscript, and submitted as a separate file along with the manuscript.

Systematic reviews can also be a meta-analyses. Systematic Reviews, in general, will range between 4,000-5,000 words, not including abstract, tables/figures, or references. Figures and tables range from two to six and should be limited to those most pertinent to the review without duplicating information in the text.

For an example of a Systematic Review article, please refer to: D'Arcy E, Rayner J, Hodge A, Ross LJ, Schoenaker DAJM. The role of diet in the prevention of diabetes among women with prior gestational diabetes: a systematic review of intervention and observational studies. J Acad Nutr Diet. 2020;120(1):69-85.e7.

3) Grant Proposal

A grant application can be prepared in the student’s area of interest. The student should identify an appropriate RFA for the grant proposal and prepare the application and all required materials. Example RFAs are below. Students should work with their advisor to identify an appropriate RFA and plan for submission. Students do not need to carry out the proposal (if awarded) to fulfill the MS Plan B Non-Thesis requirements.

4) Service-Learning Project

Graduate students can identify a community organization with which they can carry out a service-learning project. The service-learning project is meant to provide hands-on experience that demonstrates the graduate student’s learning. It is a comprehensive, scientific, valid and appropriately presented project. The projects can vary in scope, but the final product submitted to fulfill the Plan B must include a literature review that includes justification for the project as well as an evaluation of program impact or other program outcomes. Examples of service-learning projects include but are not limited to 1) development or implementation of a nutrition educational program, 2) development and implementation of clinical practice guidelines or 3) development or implementation of a food systems program.

The student should develop a concept paper that justifies the need and scope of the project and conduct a literature review in support of the project. The final project write-up should include 1) Introduction, 2) Literature Review, 3) Steps of Implementation, 4) Project Outcomes or Results, and 5) Impact and Evaluation. 




HNFAS Department

1955 East West Road
AgSci 216

Honolulu, HI 96822

phone: 808-956-7095

fax: 808-956-4024


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