School of Graduate Studies

Policies and Processes

Culminating project planning must begin well in advance of graduation. The process will take a minimum of two semesters.

Before the completion of 15 graduate credits, students typically are required to complete a program approval process with a program advisor.

The advisor selects with the student which culminating project to complete at that time. 

Procedural Overview

  1. Independently select a project advisor/chair and topic.
  2. Select committee members and send a Culminating Project Committee Approval form to Graduate Studies.
  3. Prepare a project proposal.
  4. Verify preliminary conference eligibility and submit project proposal.
  5. Register for culminating project credits as required (thesis, starred paper, comprehensive exam, project/portfolio).
  6. Schedule preliminary conference and distribute project proposal to committee members.
  7. Attend preliminary conference.
  8. Revise proposal, if necessary.
  9. As needed, request IRB (Human subjects) or IACUC (animal subjects) approval for the research.
  10. Consult with project advisor/chair and committee members as needed to complete the culminating project.
  11. Revise completed work, where needed.
  12. At least one semester following the preliminary conference, schedule a final conference/oral examination with committee members at least six weeks before the end of classes.
  13. Submit one copy of the completed project to each committee member two weeks in advance of the final committee meeting/final oral examination.
  14. Submit an electronic copy to Graduate Studies for preliminary format review if early feedback on formatting is desired.
  15. Participate in final conference/oral examination.
  16. Submit one copy of the completed and approved project to the Repository for format review and approval.
  17. Submit the final approved electronic document to the Repository.
  18. Remind the program advisor/committee chair to return the signed approval of the final conference document to the School of Graduate Studies and to submit the final grade.

Committee Selection

The most important consideration is the selection of at least three graduate faculty as committee members.

Your program advisor may serve as a committee member or may help you identify two or three members with expertise or interest in your research area.

Your committee must be comprised of:  

  • The committee chair (primary advisor for the culminating project) must be an active graduate faculty member from your graduate program.
  • Two additional committee members must be active graduate faculty members from the academic unit, a clearly-­‐related discipline, or be a content expert eligible for temporary membership in the graduate faculty (holding at least a master’s degree).

Members must be approved graduate faculty members.

Submit the Committee Approval at least 20 business days before the preliminary conference meeting. You and your committee chair will receive and email response within 10 business days.

You will meet with the committee for a preliminary conference and for a final conference and oral examination.

Registration and Grading


To register for master's thesis, field study, creative work credits (or starred paper credits in some cases), you will register for the appropriate course in the department and for the agreed upon number of credits.

  • If the course is not listed in the online course listing, contact the department office or your advisor.
  • The credits for this work may be spread over more than one registration period (check with your department).
  • You will need to enroll in subsequent semesters until the number of credits required by the program of study are complete or in-progress.

Note: You will be required to be registered for at least one graduate credit in the term in which you graduate.


When you have completed the culminating project requirements, including the final defense and submission of the culminating project, the advisor submits a mark of S (satisfactory). 

If all of the requirements are not complete by the end of the semester in which the work was registered, the research is reported as IP (in progress) or as RC (research continued) based on the time required to complete the project.  

  • An IP grade remains on your transcript for one year. It becomes an F if the theses, creative work, field studies, independent study project, or special course is not completed by that time.
  • An RC grade will remain on the transcript until the faculty advisor submits a grade change or until the seven-year timeframe for completing the degree has passed.
  • If the student changes plans and graduates with an IP or RC still on their transcript, the grade will be changed to W (withdrawn).

A culminating project must be completed within the seven-year time limit set for the completion of a master's degree.

Preliminary Conference Preparation

Before you schedule a preliminary conference, you and your advisor/committee chair should review your degree audit through e-Services and:

  • Confirm full acceptance into a graduate program.
  • Confirm a cumulative grade point average of 3.0.
  • Ensure the program of study has been submitted and approved by the School of Graduate Studies.

Committee meeting

Your preliminary committee meeting must take place at least one semester prior to the final defense/final committee meeting.

  • It is your responsibility to schedule committee members and to ensure a room is reserved. Department office managers may be able to assist or to suggest available spaces.
  • Two weeks before the meeting, or as directed by your advisor/chair, distribute to each committee member a thesis or starred paper proposal, or in the case of a creative work or professional portfolio, a summary of the proposed project. The committee chair or program advisor will determine the format.
  • The program advisor/committee chair will access the preliminary committee meeting form.
  • Each committee member must approve the proposed project by signing and returning the preliminary evaluation report to the School of Graduate Studies (AS 121) or by email.
  • Then you may continue with Plan A, B or C.

Plan A, B or C

Plan A: Writing and Formatting a Field Study or Thesis

Preparation of a thesis or field study is supervised by the committee appointed during the preliminary conference. The committee also comprises the membership of the final evaluation committee.

If the committee composition changes, a new committee approval form or petition must be sent to the School of Graduate Studies.

You and your committee chair and culminating project committee must agree to one disciplinary based style guide to follow for preparation of the culminating project.

  • APA, MLA, and Chicago are the most commonly used style guides.
  • Style guides are available through the Library or the Husky Bookstore.

Plan A: Preparing a Creative Work 

A student interested in completing a creative work must show evidence of creative ability to selected committee members before being approved for this option.

  • In certain areas of the fine arts, a student may be required to produce evidence of creative skill by submitting critical reviews, letters of recommendation and/or demonstration(s).

The creative work includes a written statement of artistic intent and such supporting materials as are applicable.

  • The statement of artistic intent may contain information such as a description of the work undertaken, the technique(s) involved in the work and related subject matter.

You and your committee chair and culminating project committee must agree to one disciplinary based style guide to follow for preparation of the culminating project.

  • APA, MLA, and Chicago are the most commonly used style guides.
  • Style guides available through the Library or the Husky Bookstore.

Plan B: Writing and Formatting a Starred Paper 

Certain Plan B programs require starred papers be written.

The starred paper(s) include a research requirement different in nature than a thesis. Ordinarily, a thesis is oriented more toward original research, data gathering with statistical analysis, theory testing and theory building, whereas the starred paper is oriented more toward the usage of secondary research sources. 

You and your committee chair and culminating project committee must agree to one disciplinary based style guide to follow for preparation of the culminating project.

  • APA, MLA, and Chicago are the most commonly used style guides.
  • Style guides available through the Library or the Husky Bookstore.

Plan B Programs That Do Not Require a Starred Paper

You are required to satisfactorily complete a final written comprehensive examination or a program designed capstone course integrating program knowledge and experience.

If you will be completing a final written comprehensive examination, you must schedule it with your advisor at the beginning of the semester in which the completion of all degree requirements is anticipated. 

In many cases your advisor is the chairperson of the examination committee. The 3-member committee is appointed by the department chairperson.

  • A majority vote by the committee is required to pass the final written comprehensive examination.
  • The advisor should notify the School of Graduate Studies if the student passes the final written comprehensive examination.
  • A candidate who fails in the first attempt may, with the approval of the advisor, take the exam a second time, but the candidate may not retake the examination during the same semester in which the exam was failed.
  • A third attempt is not permitted.

Plan C: Preparing a Professional Project/Portfolio

These programs require that a significant professional project or a portfolio of projects be prepared in conjunction with approved graduate courses or internship(s) in the major area of concentration.

Each program determines the format. Please consult with your program advisor/committee chair.

The department may exercise the right to retain any or all materials prepared for the portfolio or project.

Plan C portfolios are not required to be submitted to the Institutional Repository. If you wish to submit your portfolio, it must be formatted according to disciplinary style guide or School of Graduate Studies guidelines.

Notify the School of Graduate Studies by email if you wish to submit your Plan C portfolio to the Institutional Repository.

Final Conference, Oral Exam or Final Submission

Final Conference and Oral Examination for Plans A, B and C

A candidate completing a culminating project generally completes the final conference or oral examination during the last semester of the program.

The final conference should be scheduled six weeks prior to final examinations week. That allows for reviewing and electronic submission or off-site binding before the end of the semester.

Final oral examinations are required for completion of a thesis, field study, starred paper(s), creative work or professional portfolio.

Recommended deadlines for each term.

  • It is your responsibility to schedule the conference with committee members and reserve a room.
  • Committee members are the same faculty representatives who served on the preliminary conference.
  • Two weeks prior to the final conference, you must distribute a final copy of the culminating project to each committee member. The specific format and requirements vary according to the nature of the project. 
  • The program advisor/committee chair will access and use the final committee meeting/final oral examination form.
  • A majority vote is required to pass the final oral examination/conference.
    • A candidate who fails the final oral examination may, with the approval of the advisor, re-take the examination during the same semester.
    • A third chance to pass the examination is not permitted.
  • When the committee has approved the research in its final form and the written project is eligible for electronic submission to the Repository for final format review prior to binding or the final portfolio/project document has been provided to the department, the program advisor or committee chair will send/deliver the signed final meeting form to the School of Graduate Studies (AS 121).

Final written comprehensive examinations may be required by other program plans at the option of individual departments.

  • Those examinations are developed, administered and evaluated by members of the faculty responsible for the graduate program.
  • The advisor should notify the School of Graduate Studies if the student passes the written comprehensive examination.

Final Submission of a Field Study, Thesis or Starred Paper

Once you have successfully passed the final evaluation conference, made corrections required by your committee and received format approval through the School of Graduate Studies, the field study, thesis or starred paper is ready for final electronic submission or binding.

Follow the guidelines for formatting and electronic submission of culminating projects.

If IRB or IACUC approval was needed for research, documentation of review and approval of the research must be included in the appendices of the culminating project.