A thesis is defined as the written product of a systematic study of a significant topic. Within the body of the paper, the student identifies the problem, states the major assumptions, explains the significance of the undertaking, sets forth the sources for and methods of gathering information, and analyzes the data, evidence or patterns to offer a conclusion or recommendation. The finished product provides clear evidence of originality, critical and independent thinking, and organization and format, as appropriate per discipline. Normally, an oral defense of the thesis is required.
A project is a significant undertaking appropriate to the fine and applied arts or to professional fields. It also evidences 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 or recommendation. An oral defense of the project is strongly encouraged.
An oral defense of either a thesis or a project normally includes a presentation by the master’s candidate to a group of faculty capable of assessing the quality of the student’s work and/or a period of questioning directed to the master’s candidate by said group of faculty. Oral defenses should include not fewer than three such faculty members, one of whom should be the student’s supervisory committee chair, as well as one other committee member, though they may include more than three faculty members, even the entire program faculty. Any member of the university community may attend the defense. The defense will be held in an appropriate academic environment, normally on campus. Program faculty may approve oral defenses undertaken partly or wholly in mediated environments, including via conference call or online, provided that the defense takes place in “real time.” The oral defense, normally a graded pass/fail event, is documented by a signed statement attesting to the outcome of the defense. Such records must be complete enough to afford protection for both the student and the faculty members involved.
The Ed.D. dissertation is the written product of systematic, rigorous research on a significant educational issue and in accordance with an approved proposal. It shall demonstrate originality, critical and independent thinking, appropriate form and organization, and a rationale for the research problem examined. The dissertation shall identify the research problem and question(s), state the major theoretical perspective, explain the significance of the undertaking, relate it to the relevant scholarly and professional literature, set forth the appropriate sources for the methods of gathering and analyzing the data, and offer a conclusion or recommendation. An oral defense of the dissertation is required.
A Doctor of Nursing Practice doctoral project is defined as the written product of systematic, rigorous research on a significant advanced nursing practice issue. It shall evidence originality, critical and independent thinking, appropriate form and organization, and a rationale. The doctoral project shall reflect a command of the research literature and shall demonstrate the student’s mastery of evidence-based practice at the doctoral level. The written component of the doctoral project shall be organized in an appropriate form and shall identify the research problem and question(s), state the major theoretical perspectives, explain the significance of the undertaking, relate it to the relevant scholarly and professional literature, identify the methods of gathering and analyzing data, and offer a conclusion or recommendation.
Giles T. Brown Annual Thesis Award
An award of $1,000, along with an engraved plaque, will be given each year to the student whose master’s thesis represents the highest standard of scholarly accomplishment as determined by a panel of judges chosen from emeriti professors. Interested students should contact the Office of Graduate Studies or their graduate program adviser for further information on eligibility and deadlines. Finalists from each college may also be recommended for Honorable Mention by the judges; these will receive a certificate of Honorable Mention and a $100 cash award.
Dissertation, Doctoral Project, Thesis and Project Regulations
Of the minimum of 30 semester units of approved coursework required for the master’s degree, no more than six are allowed for a thesis or project. Of the minimum 60 units for the Ed.D., no more than 12 units are allowed for a dissertation. Of the 36 minimum units for the Doctor of Nursing Practice, no more than nine units are allowed for the doctoral project.
When a dissertation, doctoral project or thesis is required, ProQuest and the Pollak Library will be provided with the PDF-format original that has been reviewed and approved by the Office of Graduate Studies. Pollak Library will obtain from ProQuest one print copy in an approved binding. At the time the work is submitted, the Office of Graduate Studies will also provide Pollak Library with an author-signed institutional repository deposit agreement for the work. This agreement will include the student’s ORCID ID number as well as the embargo term, if an embargo is required by the faculty adviser or chosen by the student author. Interested parties will be able to order print copies from ProQuest and to obtain digital copies for free through the institutional repository once any applicable embargo has expired.
An approved copy of the dissertation, doctoral project, thesis or project may also be required by the student’s academic department. Students should check with their graduate program adviser as to whether a copy is needed by the department as part of the requirements for graduation.
When a project is required, some record of the project, or the project itself, is filed in the academic unit and, in some cases, in the library.
A student’s thesis committee is composed of a minimum of three faculty members who supervise and approve the thesis. A qualified person who is not a regular Cal State University faculty member may serve as a visiting examiner and join in the approval of the thesis. This person serves as the fourth member of the committee.
Variations from procedures and regulations should be referred to the Office of Graduate Studies for review.
Format Guidelines and Style Manuals
All-university format guidelines are included in the dissertation and thesis manuals that have been developed to assist the student. An electronic version of the manuals, as well as templates, are available on the Office of Graduate Studies website. 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 manuals. Copies from the library or departmental offices should not be used as examples of correct format.
The academic unit, through the student’s adviser and/or committee, is responsible for the academic content and English usage in the dissertation, doctoral project or thesis and for the student’s correct use of forms of documentation and bibliography. In addition to the university format guidelines, each academic unit may select a supplementary style manual to be followed in matters of documentation and bibliography. Students should consult their graduate program adviser or committee chair concerning the style manual used.
If the supplementary style manual presents regulations that conflict with the all-university format guidelines published in the university thesis manual, the university dissertation manual, or the university doctoral project 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, approved by the graduate program adviser.
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.
The student makes all necessary arrangements for preparing the dissertation, doctoral project or thesis for final approval. A list of independent word processing professionals is available in the Office of Graduate Studies.
Adequate time should be allowed for typing, reading and approval by the adviser, the committee members, and the university thesis/dissertation reader. Specific deadlines are listed each semester on the Office of Graduate Studies website. Ample time should be allowed for any special arrangements, such as duplication of the dissertation or thesis by the campus bookstore or elsewhere, prior to the deadline.
The final version of the dissertation or thesis should be submitted to the student’s committee for final review and approval at least six weeks prior to the last day of classes. Deadlines for submission are available on the Graduate Studies website or in the Office of Graduate Studies.
For summer completion, the student should check with the academic unit and the Office of Graduate Studies website for appropriate deadlines. Theses, doctoral projects and dissertations are reviewed by the university thesis/dissertation reader in the order in which they are received by the Office of Graduate Studies.
The Office of Graduate Studies must receive notification that the dissertation, doctoral project or thesis has been received for binding and microfilming by the official graduation date for each semester.
- Approval Signatures — When the final draft is completed, the student obtains signatures on the approval page of all of the members of the committee. If there is a disagreement within the committee concerning the acceptability of the work, the approving signatures of a majority of the committee will be sufficient. Nonavailability of one member of the committee is not an adequate reason for acceptance of signatures by less than the full committee. No changes or additions will be allowed after the final signatures have been obtained.
- University Thesis/Dissertation Reader — The dissertation, doctoral project or thesis is ready for review by the university reader after the faculty have signed off and the work has been produced in its final form. One copy of the dissertation, doctoral project or thesis sent via email to the Office of Graduate Studies for review by the reader for conformity to all-university format guidelines. The student should also submit a signed Verification Form and email a copy of the receipt generated by ProQuest upon account creation. The student will be notified of any revisions or corrections that need to be made. Final approval on format is given by the reader via email and ProQuest.
- Binding and Microfilming — Upon approval, ProQuest will create the bound copies and send one to the university library, and any additional copies to the student as requested. Once submitted and receipted, the work may not be withdrawn by the student from ProQuest. An agreement is completed for ProQuest to publish the abstract in University Microfilms International Journal; prepare a microfilm negative; and sell microfilm, photocopies and papers in electronic format to interested scholars. Arrangements for copyrighting also are possible through ProQuest.
- Notification of Thesis/Dissertation Completion — The grade for the dissertation, doctoral project or thesis is reported in the usual manner to the registrar by the appropriate faculty. The university reader notifies the Office of Graduate Studies that the approved thesis, dissertation or doctoral project has been deposited, the fees paid, and the agreement for microfilming and publication of the abstract completed by the student.
- Depositing of Dissertation or Thesis in Library — When the dissertation, doctoral project or thesis is returned by the bindery, the bound copy is sent by the university bookstore to the library for circulation. One set of the slides or separately mounted illustrative material is housed with the bound copy.