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Master's Students

Master's Thesis Guidelines

For key considerations, read "Thesis or Non-Thesis Option: Making the Choice."

If you plan to do a thesis as part of your master's degree, there are a number of steps that you must take regardless of your discipline. These steps are part of a venerable university process by which students prepare original work and then undergo an exam of the work before a panel of faculty and experts in the field.

Thesis Guidelines

Your Thesis Committee

The committee generally consists of your major advisor and other faculty members from your department. Minimally, the committee must include three people, and all committee members must be appointed to the Graduate Faculty; the chair of the committee must be a member of the degree-granting program and a regular member of the Graduate Faculty. Contact Jessica Halliday at 303-315-5879 if you are unsure a potential committee member has a Graduate Faculty appointment.

Your faculty advisor can help you identify and recruit an appropriate thesis committee. Our best advice on this subject: Start early in your thesis process and involve your committee members when you have questions or concerns about your research.

Thesis Preparation

The thesis is presented in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the Master’s degree and must meet the formatting criteria outlined in the CU Denver Style and Policy Manual for Thesis and Dissertations available on the Graduate School Webpage.

The Process of Submitting a Thesis

In the semester in which a student intends to submit the thesis for examination, he/she must first submit the Application for Graduation online as well as an Application for Admission to Candidacy. This initiates a process of determining if the student has met all of the other requirements for the degree, and is eligible to submit a thesis.

A hard copy of the completed thesis is submitted to for format review. This review ensures that the material is presented in a readable format that is consistent with the standards of the university. The student then submits a Request for Graduate Examination/Thesis Defense Form, which publicly announces the exam or defense for all interested parties.

At the defense, the student may be asked to revise or add to the thesis before it is approved. The revised thesis is then submitted to the examination committee for final approval. The student then submits the final thesis electronically, by the stated deadline.

All forms previously mentioned, as well as detailed instructions, are available on the Graduate School Website.

The Thesis Examination

The exam consists of a public presentation and defense of the work. The tradition calls for the following steps to be completed:

  • Your thesis committee greets you, and then sends you out of the room while the chair of your committee discusses the thesis, asks if there are any particular concerns, and establishes the particular procedure for the conduct of the examination.
  • After, you are invited to reenter the examination room, the chair will invite you to provide a formal presentation of your research, which should generally not exceed 30 minutes in length.
  • After your presentation, the committee will ask you questions about the thesis, work related to it, and perhaps general questions about theory, method, and practical implications of the research.
  • When questioning is completed, you will be asked to leave the room again so that your committee may discuss the defense, and decide on whether to give you a pass, conditional pass or fail.
  • A "pass" or "conditional pass" may take many forms, including a request for revision that must be approved by the full committee, or simply a request that revisions be reviewed by the chair.

Registration required to defend thesis

Students must be registered during the semester of their thesis defense (this also applies to students working on IPs or Incompletes). Registration for submitting only the thesis is not required if the defense was held in a previous semester. A student who wishes to schedule a defense between semesters must register for the semester following the defense.

Use the Special Processing Form to register for thesis credits.

Instructor/graduate advisor and dean's signature approvals are required on this form. Go to the Graduate School (LSC 1251) for the dean's signature. You will be given instructions for registering.

Research Protocol Guidelines

Human Subjects

Students contemplating the use of human subjects in their research (includes surveys, interviews, and/or any kind of information obtained by using humans as test subjects) must obtain approval from the Colorado Multiple Institutional Review Board (COMIRB) before beginning such research.  A project involving humans, which has not been reviewed by the Committee, may be disallowed.  Please contact 303-724-1055 for more information. 

Animal Subjects

Students doing research that uses animals in any form must have their research protocol approved by the Institutional Animal Care and Use Committee.

Links to the guidelines and forms are available on the Institutional Animal Care and Use Committee website. ​​​​​​​