University Responsibilities, Regulations, and Procedures
Governing the Master's Thesis or Project


"A thesis or project that is submitted in partial fulfillment of the requirements for a graduate program at California State University, Los Angeles, must satisfy the following definitions excerpted from Section 40510, Title 5, of the California Code of Regulations (prior to January 1, 1988, referred to as the California Administrative Code).

A thesis is the written product of the 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 evidences originality, critical and independent thinking, appropriate organization and format, and thorough documentation. Normally, an oral defense of the thesis will be required.

A project is a significant undertaking appropriate to the fine and applied arts or to professional fields. It 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 may be required."

Initiation, preparation, and approval of graduate theses and project reports shall be governed by the procedures included in this document. Henceforth in this guide, the term "thesis" will refer to master's theses, projects, and joint doctoral dissertations, unless specified otherwise. Students, in consultation with their thesis committees, shall be held responsible for understanding and meeting the standards for theses and projects stated in this guide and in the university catalog.

Responsibility of the Office of Graduate Studies and Research

The Office of Graduate Studies and Research oversees and implements all policies and procedures governing graduate theses. It also publicizes and disseminates the articulation of these policies and procedures to the campus through such vehicles as the "Thesis Guide."

Responsibility of the University Thesis Coordinator (UTC)

The University Thesis Coordinator assures that each thesis submitted meets approved university format guidelines and assists in the verification that department guidelines are met. The UTC also submits the final approval card to the University Graduation Office, indicating that the thesis requirement has been satisfied, oversees the thesis binding process and related procedures such as microfilming. To accomplish the above functions, the UTC provides workshops and individual consultation for students and thesis advisors. The UTC does NOT check a thesis for subject content or research quality.

Responsibility of Schools

Schools have general oversight responsibility to assure that graduate theses and projects completed in their departments are of high quality in content and style.

The School Dean or designee, with the consultation of the school's graduate studies committee, reviews and approves department format and style guidelines and assures that they do not conflict with university format requirements. The School Dean or designee forwards a copy of department guidelines and revisions as they occur, to the Dean of Graduate Studies and Research.

Responsibility of Departments

Departments are responsible for ensuring that procedures exist for establishment and maintenance of master's thesis committees and for appropriate and adequate guidance of graduate students engaged in preparation of theses.

The department will maintain information on all aspects of style and format required by the department but not explicitly stated in Chapter 3 of this document as university format requirements. Information on department requirements will be readily available in up-to-date written form at a sufficiently detailed level.

The department, through its chair, shall ensure that all theses and projects are properly reviewed by thesis committees and conform to current guidelines before submission to the University Thesis Coordinator and that all required corrections and changes are made before theses are approved for final deposit in the University Library.

NOTE: Throughout this thesis guide, the term "department", refers collectively to a department or a division (in the School of Education).

Responsibility of the Thesis Committee Chair

The Thesis Committee Chair has the leading role in guiding the student in a thesis or project, from its inception to acceptance by the university, and assumes a special mentoring role to help the student excel.

The Thesis Committee Chair assures that theses are of high quality and will reflect positively on the department. Thus, the Thesis Committee Chair is especially alert to assure that the student has the proper preparation in terms of coursework and research skills to pursue the proposed research and scholarship. The Chair also interacts with the student as appropriate, coordinates the efforts of other thesis committee members, and generally assures that the thesis research and the document itself meet the expected standards of quality.

Responsibility of Thesis Committee Members

Once faculty members agree to serve on a candidate's committee, they are responsible for reviewing all submissions by the candidate in a timely fashion and for offering appropriate constructive responses. They are further responsible for meeting with other committee members to perform duties and assessments as needed.

Responsibility of Students

Students themselves are ultimately responsible for the successful completion of their theses, including submission of information and drafts in a timely fashion. Theses must evidence originality and independent thinking, appropriate form and organization, and a rationale. The student's responsibility includes not only completing the work of the thesis itself in a professionally competent manner, but also knowing and adhering to all university, school, and department requirements related to the master's thesis. It also entails adequate and regular contact, as appropriate, with individual faculty members and committees.

Authorship of Theses

It is university policy that a thesis may be authored by one and only one student (i.e, a thesis may not be authored jointly by more than one person).

The policy concerning plagiarism is stated in the University catalog:
Plagiarism is a direct violation of intellectual and academic honesty. Although it exists in many forms, all plagiarisms refer to the same act: representing somebody else's words or ideas as one's own. The most extreme forms of plagiarism are the use of a paper written by another person or obtained from a commercial source, use of a paper made up of passages copied word for word without acknowledgment. Paraphrasing another author's idea or quoting even limited portions of her or his text without proper citation is also an act of plagiarism. Even putting someone else's ideas into one's own words without acknowledgment.

In none of its forms can plagiarism be tolerated in an academic community. it may constitute grounds for a failing grade, probation, suspension or expulsion."

See the current California State University, Los Angeles, general catalog for further information on plagiarism and student discipline.

Registration in Courses for Thesis Work

Graduate students completing research units and thesis or project units required for master's degrees must be regularly enrolled during any quarter in which they use university facilities or consult with faculty.

Students who have exceeded the one calendar year time limitation associated with the SP grading symbol for research units must petition to register in Univ 900. Petition forms and instructions are available in school graduate studies offices.

Students who have previously enrolled in all allowable research units and are not enrolled in any other credit-bearing courses or thesis or project units but who will use university facilities or consult with faculty must register in UNIV 900.

To maintain residence requirements and continuing student registration privileges, graduate students who are not enrolled in credit-bearing coursework must register for Univ 900 two quarters out of four.

Graduate Thesis Procedures: Initiation, Preparation and Submission

Some departments on this campus allow their graduate students to select either a thesis option or a comprehensive examination option for the master's degree. Some departments have special eligibility criteria that must be met in order for students to select the thesis option. A student who selects the thesis option or whose graduate program requires a thesis must complete the steps described below. The steps are initiated after the student has applied through the department to the school dean for candidacy using the university's Form GS10 and has been formally advanced to candidacy. The next steps are as follows:
  • Establish an approved thesis committee and thesis title (Form GS-12).
  • Follow department requirements for enrolling in thesis courses.
  • Fulfill registration requirements during thesis preparation, submission, and the quarter in which you intend to graduate.
  • Submit an acceptable thesis or project proposal to the appropriate department (for special majors, to their thesis committee) and fulfill all of their respective requirements.
  • Meet the department or division and school requirements for thesis or project defense.
  • File the signed thesis or project approval page in the department and school offices.
  • Submit the thesis or project to the University Thesis Coordinator in the Library following university and department requirements. Students are strongly advised to attend a campuswide workshop about thesis preparation requirements.
NOTE: The date of submission of the thesis or project will determine in which quarter a student graduates, assuming all other graduation requirements are met. If revisions are needed, the revised thesis must be submitted within the allowed period. Otherwise, graduation will be at a later date. The deadline for master's degree theses and projects is two weeks after the last Friday of regular classes in the quarter. This deadline is listed each quarter on the academic calendar page in the Schedule of Classes. No extensions of thesis/project filing deadlines will be allowed.

Thesis Committee Creation

The thesis committee provides guidance to the student in the planning and execution of the thesis. The committee usually consists of a minimum of three full-time faculty members. Normally, students approach appropriate faculty members to inquire if they would be interested in serving on the committee or as chair of the committee. The department chair or the committee chair may assist the student in finding faculty for the committee or to replace existing members if they become unable or unwilling to serve. Students should follow departmental guidelines for the establishment of the thesis committee. After the committee has been established, a completed Request for Thesis Committee form (GS12) should be submitted to the school dean for approval.

Thesis Proposal Submission

In most departments a thesis proposal must be approved before the student may undertake thesis work. Some departments may have additional requirements. Verify the above with the graduate advisor in the specific department, who also can explain the formal thesis proposal submission process.

Research with Human or Animal Subjects

For master's theses that involve research with human or animal subjects, it is necessary to adhere to the established policies regarding the use of such subjects. For research involving either human or animal subjects approval must be obtained in advance of conducting the research. Information on regulations affecting both is available in the Office of Graduate Studies and Research.

Defense of Thesis

For most departments it is a requirement that a student present an oral defense of her or his thesis before the thesis committee. The defense is open to the public and is publicized through distribution of a thesis abstract. If required by the department, a thesis abstract must be submitted to the departmental office, or for an interschool special major to the Office of the Dean of Graduate Studies and Research. A typed draft of the thesis must be provided to each committee member no later than two weeks before the scheduled oral defense (or later with the consent of the entire committee). The final draft of the thesis is prepared following the defense. The approval page should be signed only after the final draft has been reviewed and approved by the committee members.

Submission of Completed Theses to the University

After the contents of the thesis or project and report have been approved by the Thesis Committee, the candidate prepares a copy of it in finished format, along with copies of approval pages. The finished copy is again submitted to the committee for approval, with a sufficient number of copies of the approval page to satisfy university, departmental committee, and personal requirements. If the finished copy satisfies the university format requirements, in the opinion of the committee, all approval pages are signed by committee members. Then the finished copy and signed approval pages are presented to the University Thesis Coordinator.

The finished copy is reviewed by the University Thesis Coordinator for acceptability of physical format. The candidate must submit the finished copy by the absolute deadline for the quarter, which is the second Thursday after the last day of classes (not of examinations). If corrections are required, the University Thesis Coordinator will return the thesis within two weeks, with directions for corrections to be made, and will discuss these revisions with the candidate. Assuming that all suggested changes are made in the allotted time, the quarter in which the final draft of the thesis is submitted to the University Thesis Coordinator is the quarter in which the student will graduate. Currently, the absolute deadline for a corrected, acceptable thesis or project to be received by the University Thesis Coordinator is before any courses on the student's official program expire. The student is responsible for ascertaining this date, ahead of time.

After the corrections have been made and the corrected copy approved and accepted, two copies are submitted to the University Thesis Coordinator including two copies of the signed Approval Page. Each copy must be submitted individually in a large unsealed envelope for its protection when being sent to the bindery. The candidate must check the order of pages of each copy before submitting it to the University Thesis Coordinator. The University Thesis Coordinator issues the candidate a card authorizing the student to pay the current binding fee (currently $15.00 per copy for each submitted volume; this price is subject to change).

Binding fees are paid at the University Cashier's Office; the authorization card, stamped by the Cashier, is returned to the University Thesis Coordinator who then notifies the University Graduation Office and College Graduate Dean, that the thesis was accepted.

Additional Copies of the Thesis

Some departments require a "departmental" copy of every thesis. The candidate must make individual arrangements for providing all other copies (bound or unbound), be they for the department, for committee members or for personal use. The University Thesis Coordinator can provide the name and address of the Library's contract binder. Inexpensive ("pressure-type, etc.) binders may prove sufficient for all or some of these copies.