California State University, Fullerton

Theses and Projects


Theses and Projects


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

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An award of $1,000 along with an engraved plaque will be given each year to the student whose thesis represents the highest standard of scholarly accomplishment as determined by a panel of judges chosen from emeriti professors. Interested students should contact the Graduate Studies Office 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.

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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.

When a thesis is required, the Pollak Library will be provided with an approved original in the approved binding and an acceptable microfilm of the thesis. An abstract accompanies the thesis and will normally be published in the University Microfilms International Journal, Masters Abstracts. Copies are thereby made available for order by interested scholars.

An approved copy of the 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.

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All-university format guidelines are included in a thesis manual that has been developed to assist the student in preparation of a thesis. An electric version of the manual, as well as templates, are available on the 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 manual. Theses 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 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 thesis 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 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 thesis for final approval. A list of independent word processing professionals is available in the Office of Graduate Studies. The university Career Center also maintains a listing of students and others who have indicated their availability for word processing assignments.

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Adequate time should be allowed for typing, reading and approval by the adviser, the committee members, and the university thesis reader. Specific deadlines are listed each semester on the Graduate Studies website. Ample time should be allowed for any special arrangements, such as duplication of the thesis by the campus bookstore or elsewhere, prior to the deadline.

The final version of the 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 Graduate Studies Office.

For summer completion, the student should check with the academic unit and the Graduate Studies website for appropriate deadlines. Theses are reviewed by the university thesis reader in the order in which they are received by the Graduate Studies Office.

The Graduate Studies Office must receive notification from the campus bookstore (Titan Shops Copy Center) that the thesis has been received for binding and microfilming by the official graduation date for each semester.

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  1. 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 thesis, 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.

    The title/approval page may be photocopied onto the correct paper stock; however, the signatures must be original. Photocopied signatures are not acceptable for binding or microfilming. The signatures must be in black ink. The student should arrange for at least three original title pages to be signed by the committee members. One original is submitted to the bookstore with the thesis or project; the other originals may be used as the student’s personal copy or for the departmental copy, if required.

  2. University Thesis Reader: The thesis is ready for review by the university thesis reader after the faculty have signed off and the thesis has been produced in its final form. One unbound copy of the thesis including the original approval page is taken to the Graduate Studies Office for review by the thesis reader for conformity to all-university format guidelines. The thesis submitted to the Graduate Studies Office for review may be photocopied or printed on plain, unlined, white paper; however, the title/approval page should be on the correct paper stock. The student will be notified of any revisions or corrections that need to be made. Final approval on format is given by the thesis reader on the “Thesis Approval Form” that is submitted with the thesis. The form is available in the Graduate Studies Office or on the website.

  3. Binding and Microfilming: The student takes the approved copy of the thesis, the signed title and approval page, and the signed Thesis Approval Form to the campus bookstore and pays the appropriate fees (approximately $200 plus $80 if copyright is desired). The bookstore arranges for the binding of the thesis by a local bindery and other services by University Microfilms International (UMI). Once submitted and receipted, the thesis may not be withdrawn by the student from the campus bookstore. The campus bookstore sends the approved original (including the original signed approval page) to University Microfilms International for filming and publication of the abstract, and upon its return sends it to the bindery.

    An agreement is completed for UMI to publish the abstract in Masters Abstracts, prepare a microfilm negative, and sell microfilm, photocopies and papers in electronic format to interested scholars. Arrangements for copyrighting are also possible through UMI.

  4. Notification of Thesis Completion: The grade for the thesis is reported in the usual manner to the registrar by the appropriate faculty. The bookstore notifies the Graduate Studies Office that the approved thesis has been deposited, the fees paid, and the agreement for microfilming and publication of the abstract completed by the student.

  5. Depositing of Thesis in Library: When the 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.

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