Thesis and Dissertation Preparation

Students enrolled in degree programs that require 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

  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/IACUC/IBC approval. If approval is pending, you must submit an attestation verifying that data collection will not occur until IRB/IACUC/IBC 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. 
  5. 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. 
  6. Begin and/or continue conducting/gathering your data.
  7. Attend workshops offered through Learning Technology Services or the Office of Research if you need assistance with document layout in MS Word or with particular data analysis strategies. Your advisor can help you identify these workshops.
  8. Find out 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.
  9. 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).
  10. 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 one month before the last day of classes. Note that the summer semester last class day is the last day of the second summer session.
  11. 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.
  12. Publicly defend your work (again, recommended at least one month prior to the last day of classes). The defense may be held in person or via Zoom.
  13. Make any changes that the committee requires. Once these final changes are 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, and attaching a PDF file of the final approved document.
  14. The Graduate School will review your manuscript (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.
  15.  Once you have received your reviewed manuscript, complete any edits and return the manuscript as an attached PDF file to
  16. 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:
    1. A PDF of your final, approved manuscript
    2. The completed Indexing Form
    3. The completed Release Form
  17. 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 Grad School will be holding open houses and has arranged for workshops each semester on the thesis and dissertation review 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).

Check out the Graduate Student Community at for times.

The Center for Academic Excellence also holds workshops on how to format theses using Microsoft Word. This workshop series is recommended for all students completing a thesis or dissertation. 

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 (PDF, 91 KB) to the Graduate School. If you need to change a committee member later, do not forget to inform the Graduate School by submitting a Committee Change Form (PDF, 50 KB).

If you are working with humans,animals or hazardous chemicals in your research, you may also need to complete the appropriate research ethics training and submit a proposal for approval to the Office of Research Protections. For more information see the website. In particular, you should talk to your mentor about contacting Research Protections if your research will involve:

  • Human subjects (including any data related to interviews, questionaires, experiments, or invasive procedures)
  • Vertebrate animals
  • Chemicals, biological samples or agents, ionizing or non-ionizing radiation, or nano-materials

Submitting Thesis and Dissertation Manuscripts Electronically

Students are required to submit an electronic copy of their final manuscript for inclusion in the electronic database of theses and dissertations. You can purchase as many additional bound copies as you wish for your private use.

Producing an electronic copy of your approved thesis is not difficult. The format required for the text components is PDF, with all pages including UNSIGNED signature pages. More information on converting to PDF and the electronic submission process (PDF, 59 KB).

You should email the document to unless the PDF file is too big, in which case you can upload the document to an AsuLearn page (upon requesting access).

There are two forms required as well when you submit your electronic copy:

  • The release form (a 177 KB PDF fill in form you need to print out, complete, sign, and submit)
  • The indexing information form (a 109 KB PDF form you need to fill out and send as an email attachment)

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 information for you on common styles (APA, Turabian, MLA) and on MS Word.

Frequently Asked Questions

Q: I don't have my formal prospectus complete yet; can I still sign up for thesis hours?
A: Yes, but we will need your committee form and a detailed summary of your research topic before we will process your registration.

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 it takes longer than that 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; sciences 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: May I use color graphics?
A: Yes.

Q: May I include electronic files?
A: Yes; for bound copies include a formatted and burned CD for each one.