Thesis Information from the Graduate Handbook

Thesis/Project Information
Excerpted from the Graduate Handbook, 


3a. Thesis / Project / Comprehensive Exam

Each graduate program includes a final evaluation (culminating experience) that marks the end of the graduate program: Thesis, Project, or Comprehensive Examination.


A Thesis is defined as the written product of a systematic study of a significant problem. It identifies the problem, states the major assumptions, and explains the significance of the undertaking, sets forth the sources for and methods of gathering information, analyzes the data, and offers a conclusion and/or recommendation. The finished product demonstrates originality, critical and independent thinking, appropriate organization and format, and thorough documentation.


A Project is a significant undertaking appropriate to the fine and applied arts or to professional fields. It also shows originality and independent thinking, appropriate form and organization, and a rationale. It is described and summarized in a written abstract that includes the Project’s significance, objectives, methodology, and a conclusion and/or recommendation.

Comprehensive Exams

Some departments and programs offer Comprehensive Exams for the student’s culminating experience. Departments set their own policies and procedures for such exams. Each academic department or program that offers a Comprehensive Exam must provide students with a written policy statement, in advance of the exam, that includes each of the following items:

(a) the approximate timing when Comprehensive Exams shall be administered;

(b) the format of the exam whether written or oral, or some format there of;

(c) general topical emphases that defines the content of the exam e.g., “theory and methods in the discipline plus questions concerning the student’s area of specialization within the field;” (d) method of assessment of the examination including number of readers who will evaluate the student’s responses; and

(e) options for retaking a portion or all of the exam in those instances where the student does not demonstrate adequate proficiency in the discipline.

A minimum of two full-time faculty members serve as evaluators of the Comprehensive Exam’s quality and adequacy for the culminating experience.


3b. Format Guidelines and Style Manuals: Theses and Projects

All University format guidelines are included in the Thesis and Project Guide, a manual that has been developed to assist the student in preparation of a Thesis or Project. It is the student’s responsibility to make certain that the requirements are met. The student is strongly advised to become familiar with the instructions in the manual. (Examples from the library or departmental offices should not be used as examples of correct format as it changes yearly).

The academic unit, through the student’s adviser and/or committee, is responsible for the academic content and English usage in the Thesis and for the student’s correct use of forms of documentation and bibliography. Students should consult their Graduate Program Coordinator or committee chair concerning the style manual used. If the style manual presents regulations that conflict with the all University format guidelines published in the Thesis Manual, the University regulations take precedence. Some graduate programs require style manuals or guides designed for journal articles.

Although these are helpful for abbreviations, tables, figures and footnoting, as well as other purposes, students should be aware of the difference between a Thesis and an article, and make appropriate adaptations when formatting their Thesis, for approval by the Graduate Program Coordinator. If the academic unit does not recommend a specific style manual, the student should refer to the most recent edition of A Manual for Writers of Term Papers, Theses, and Dissertations by Kate L. Turabian or The Chicago Manual of Style, published by the University of Chicago.


  • Thesis committees are formed according to guidelines established by the Graduate Committee of the Academic Senate. The committee consists of three members; the chair and at least one other committee member are expected to appointed members of the department of the student's degree program. With requisite expertise, an individual who is not a member of the department faculty in the student's program may serve as a member, with approval of the department chair.
  • Thesis format must follow the university Thesis and Project Guide
  • Theses/Projects are submitted to the Graduate Division via Blackboard. By submitting their approval, the committee signifies that the form and content of the thesis meet Title 5 regulations (see Catalog definition, above) as well as program standards.
  • When approved for quality, format, and style, the graduate dean signs off on the Graduate Studies and Research Approval page.

Advising Tips

  • Set early internal program deadlines for committee review and approval of theses, to ensure that students meet university timelines for graduation.
  • Faculty and staff should advise students to attend a thesis workshop as soon as possible at the Graduate Writing Center (PEGS) (workshop schedules are announced at the start of each semester).
  • Thesis support is available from the Office of Graduate Studies and Research.