Thesis and Dissertation Preparation

Students enrolled in degree programs in which they will complete a thesis or dissertation are expected to plan, execute, and report on a research project or creative endeavor that creates, analyzes, assesses, or otherwise advances knowledge in the discipline of study.

Timeline for the Thesis/Dissertation Process

Approval of Thesis Committee and Prospectus

  1. Work with your program director and faculty to determine a committee of graduate faculty. The committee chair must be a "Full Member" of the graduate faculty from the home program. Additional committee members may have “Affiliate Member” status.
  2. Prepare and present your thesis/dissertation idea via a prospectus or summary. The individual program determines the style and length of your prospectus. Consult with your advisor for more information.
  3. Acquire IRB/IACUC/IBC approval (if needed) for research involving humans, animals, or biohazardous materials. You may NOT collect any data until you receive the necessary approval, so it is important to allow sufficient time for this approval to be secured. Your committee membership form and prospectus must indicate the date on which you applied for IRB approval, and attach the IRB letter if approved. If approval is pending, you must submit an attestation verifying that data collection will not occur until IRB approval is finalized. 
  4. Electronically submit your prospectus (or summary), the thesis/dissertation committee form, and a copy of your IRB/IACUC/IBC approval letter or attestation (where applicable) as a single, attached PDF file to the Graduate School at All committee member names MUST be listed on the committee form. Signatures on the form may be electronic or a scanned copy of "wet" signatures. You will not be cleared to register for thesis/dissertation hours (5999, 6999, or 7999) until these items are submitted and approved. 

Completing Your Research

  1. Once you have received notification that your prospectus is approved, you may submit a Special Course Form to request registration in thesis or dissertation hours. 
  2. Begin and/or continue gathering and analyzing your data.
  3. Attend workshops if you need assistance with document layout in MS Word or with particular data analysis strategies. Your advisor can help you identify these workshops.
  4. Determine what publication style you need to use and also review the Graduate School's Thesis/Dissertation Handbook. Your program may require you to use a style that is also used in a journal in your field. In such cases, please provide publication guidelines when you submit your thesis to the Graduate School. If your program/advisor does not have a particular style required of you, we recommend using APA.
  5. Format the manuscript per the Thesis/Dissertation Handbook, with input on organization and format from your committee. Also refer to your disciplinary style guide (e.g., APA, MLA). 
  6. Make sure that your front matter adheres to Graduate School guidelines. 

Finalizing your Thesis/Dissertation

  1. Schedule and have your committee chair announce your defense to the department, academic dean, and Dean of the Graduate School. Your defense must take place approximately six weeks prior to commencement for that term. In summer the end of the "semester" is the last day of classes in the second summer session. Please note that your department may impose an earlier deadline. ALWAYS PLAN AHEAD, ESPECIALLY IN SUMMER! Allow enough time following the defense to make any requested changes prior to the DRAFT deadline (post defense) dates listed.
  2. Have the Graduate School staff double check the format of your front pages (especially the signature page). You may submit these electronically to for review.
  3. Publicly defend your work (ideally, at least one month prior to the last day of classes). The defense may be held in person or via Zoom.
  4. Make any changes to your manuscript that the committee requires. Once the manuscript is approved by the committee, the chairperson of your committee must submit an email to, copying all committee members, verifying that the committee has approved the document, attaching a PDF file of the approved document, and indicating what style manual was used in preparation of the manuscript. If journal guidelines were used, a copy of (or link to) the editorial guidelines must be included.
  5. The Graduate School will review your manuscript (typically, allow 10-14 days). You will be contacted via email as soon as your manuscript has been reviewed. If a manuscript submitted to the Graduate School is found to have significant errors, it will be returned to you without reader feedback, and must be revised and resubmitted.
  6.  Once you have received your reviewed manuscript, complete any edits and return the manuscript as an attached PDF file to
  7. The Graduate School will check your edits (this may take several days, depending on the volume of manuscripts) to ensure the reader's comments have been addressed. Once your final manuscript has been cleared, you will receive an email from the Graduate School requesting the following:
    • A PDF of your final, approved manuscript
    • The completed Indexing Form (this will be sent to you)
    • The completed Release Form (this will be sent to you)
  8. Once all required materials are received, the Dean of the School of Graduate Studies will sign off on your thesis/dissertation, Graduate Records will be notified to change your thesis grade to "S," and your thesis/dissertation process is complete. 

Thesis & Dissertation Preparation Information Sessions

The Graduate School will hold workshops each semester on the thesis and dissertation preparation process. All students and mentors are welcome. We strongly recommend that you participate in one of these sessions! Contact the Associate Dean of Graduate Studies for information (828.262.2690). 

Approvals for Thesis & Dissertation Research (before you start data collection)

Once you have your committee assembled and your prospectus or research summary prepared, you should work with your Committee Chair / Research Mentor to complete and submit the Committee and Prospectus Form. If you need to change a committee member later, do not forget to inform the Graduate School by submitting a Committee Change Form.

If you are working with humans, animals, or hazardous chemicals in your research, you must complete the appropriate training and submit a proposal for approval to the Office of Research Protections. 

Submitting Thesis and Dissertation Manuscripts

Once you have made any final edits requested by your committee and your manuscript is approved, the chairperson of your committee must submit an email to, copying you and all committee members, verifying that the committee has approved the document and attaching a PDF file of the approved document. Your committee chair should specify what style manual was used in preparation of the manuscript. If journal guidelines were used, a copy of (or link to) the editorial guidelines must be included.

All theses and dissertations  will be made available electronically through Appalachian State's Library and NC Docks. Bound hard copies are required by some programs but for all other students this is optional. Talk to your committee chair about your program's requirements. 

Thesis & Dissertation Handbook

The Thesis and Dissertation Handbook contains valuable information for students at all stages of the process, from building your committee through submitting your final draft to the Graduate School for review. We have also created some additional templates and information that you might find useful:

Frequently Asked Questions

Q: I don't have my formal prospectus complete yet; can I still sign up for thesis hours?
A: Usually no. We will not process requests to enroll in thesis or dissertation hours if the Committee Form and Prospectus have not been received. 

Q: I don't think I can get all the edits and everything done by the official graduation date; can I have an extension?
A: It depends. Please contact us to see if there's enough time to grant a short extension. If there is not sufficient time, you will graduate in the next term.

Q: I am finishing in the summer; when are the deadlines for that?
A: See our deadlines page.

Q: I don't know what style to use; what should I do?
A: You should ask your mentor what style to use. A general rule of thumb: Arts and humanities use MLA or Chicago/Turabian; social sciences and education use APA or Chicago/Turabian; STEM fields typically use APA or the guidelines for a specific journal. If you use journal publication guidelines, be sure to include a copy of the guidelines or a sample article when you submit your manuscript for review.

Q: Am I required to have copies of my thesis/dissertation bound?
A: The University does not require hardbound copies of these manuscripts, but your program might. Check with your committee chair. Some students elect to have bound copies for their own collections and/or to give to the members of their committee.