A Note from the Dean of the Graduate School

Congratulations! You are embarking on an exciting and fulfilling intellectual journey. Like any journey, there are a number of steps you must take to reach your final destination. To help you along the way, McAda Graduate School has compiled some important information about requirements and resources for completing a master's thesis at MSU Texas. The thesis serves several purposes. First, it is a culmination of graduate work, demonstrating students' knowledge of the field. Second, the thesis can serve as excellent preparation for doctoral study and a successful career. Third, the thesis demonstrates students' research, writing, and critical thinking skills, as well as the ability to work independently. Not all graduate programs are alike in their procedures and requirements for completing a thesis; therefore, it is very important that you supplement the information on this page with specific information for your program. You can get that information from your graduate coordinator or the Chair of your Graduate Advisory Committee (GAC). When enrolling in thesis credit and planning your thesis completion timeline, be sure to include plenty of time for submitting drafts to your GAC Chair, revising with your GAC Chair's direction, seeking editing assistance if necessary, review by the full Graduate Advisory Committee, and more revising. Also, you will need to follow the guidelines for review by the Graduate Dean. Theses are due to the Graduate Dean no later than two weeks before graduation. Please visit the Graduate School Calendar page for thesis submission deadlines.

Enrolling in Thesis Credit

A student's original enrollment is in Thesis 6983; the second enrollment is in Thesis 6993, as are all subsequent enrollments. Enrollment is required in each long semester (fall and spring) until the thesis is completed successfully or a leave of absence for one semester is granted by the Graduate Dean. Summer enrollment in thesis credit is not required unless the student will be an August graduate. (Please refer to the Admissions and Academic Information section of the Graduate Catalog.)

Tips for Choosing a Thesis Topic
  • To find a topic of interest, begin thinking about possible thesis topics early. Consider questions, problems, or topics that have piqued your interest in courses that you have taken. Discuss these areas of interest and brainstorm with friends, professors, and other students.
  • Choose a topic that interests and engages you. Remember that a long period of time will be spent working on your thesis, so it is important to choose a topic that will keep you interested and motivated throughout the process.
  • Consider a topic related to your professional interests. Choose a manageable research problem that can be addressed or solved in a reasonable amount of time. Choose a narrow, well-defined topic. (Your GAC Chair may help you focus or narrow down the topic.)

Graduate Advisory Committee

The Graduate Advisory Committee (GAC) consists of three faculty members (one Chair and two other faculty members) who guide and advise the student during the thesis process. Usually these faculty members have an academic background that is related to the student's thesis topic.

  • Appointment of the Committee: After all leveling work and other conditions have been satisfied and nine graduate hours toward the degree have been completed with an average of B or better, the student should request the appointment of a GAC through the graduate coordinator of the student's program. The GAC assists in planning the remainder of the student's program, including enrollment, revision of degree plan, admission to candidacy, thesis title and proposal, thesis approval, type of research problem, and the final oral or written comprehensive examination.
  • Successors to the Original Committee: If a member of a GAC leaves the university, the college Dean shall appoint a successor immediately.
  • Substitutions on the Committee: If a member of a GAC is absent during a time when approval, disapproval, or advice is needed by the student to meet officially scheduled deadlines, the graduate coordinator shall appoint a substitute.
  • Thesis Regulations for the Committee: After the student submits a reading copy of their thesis, at least six weeks before their expected graduation date, the committee shall return the copy with any editorial comments within three weeks. No committee member shall hold the thesis longer than one week.

Until the student receives notice of the appointment of a GAC, the graduate coordinator of the student's program will be considered the thesis advisor. (Please refer to the Admissions and Academic Information section of the Graduate Catalog.)

Tips for Success
  • Do not send a copy of a chapter for review until you have read it and corrected mistakes. It is very frustrating for committee members to finish reading a version of a chapter and then receive an email saying that the version needs to be replaced with a newer one.
  • Do not bring gifts or refreshments to meetings with your committee without discussing it with your GAC Chair first.
  • You are not the only student with whom your GAC Chair is working. It may take 10 working days for you to receive a thoughtful review. Be patient and do not wait until the end of the semester to submit your first draft of the semester.
  • Keep notes on your discussions with your GAC Chair. Notes may be very helpful to you if you have a difference of opinion or memory.
  • Follow your GAC Chair's suggestions and be sure to make corrections or explain why you did not make corrections on your next draft. It is very frustrating for Chairs to make the same suggestions repeatedly because students fail to make corrections.
  • Do not expect your GAC Chair and/or committee members to be text editors. If you need assistance with grammar, spelling, and style, arrange for an outside editor. Your Chair is your resource for research and substantive matters only.
  • Organizing committee meeting times and places is the responsibility of the student. Email your committee Chair and members with suggested dates and times. Leave ample time for this process.
  • Do not ask your GAC Chair or department secretary to copy and distribute your drafts. You can send them electronically to each committee member.
  • You are paying for your education. If you feel that you are not receiving the feedback and support that you need to be successful, have a discussion with your GAC Chair. If you do not resolve your issues jointly, you are free to change your Chair and/or committee members. Before taking that step, it may be a good idea to discuss your needs with your graduate coordinator.

Institutional Review Board

Theses with research involving human participants must have forms submitted for approval from the Institutional Review Board (IRB). A copy of the IRB approval letter must be attached to the thesis as an appendix. Please visit the IRB website for more information and the required forms.

  • The thesis should reflect graduate-level scholarship.
  • The thesis should be well organized and professional.
  • The thesis should include proper English.
  • The thesis should be free of errors (grammar, punctuation, spelling, citation style, et cetera).
  • The thesis should be consistent with the style manual chosen by the student's department.
  • The thesis should include only the student's original work and be free of plagiarized material.

Writing Help

Anna Lerew-Phillips, an alumna of MSU Texas with a master's degree in English and expertise in technical writing, is available to all currently enrolled graduate students for help with their academic writing. Anna can assist with all aspects of a thesis, including formulating research questions, organizing ideas, citing sources, writing in a scholarly voice, and recognizing writing errors (misspellings, punctuation errors, et cetera). Her role does not include detailed copy-editing or proofreading, but she can show students how to edit and proofread their own writing. Students can contact Anna via email at gradwritinghelp@msutexas.edu to request help and guidance.


There are critical points when the student's decisions and transitions need to be communicated to others. A form is needed in order to:

Your graduate coordinator can provide you with the first four forms.

Below are the thesis formatting and submission guidelines, as well as other thesis forms.

Frequently Asked Questions
  • What is a literature review? A literature review is an overview of the most relevant and significant literature that has been published on a topic. It is not the same as an annotated bibliography. A literature review summarizes the knowledge and ideas that have been established on a topic. Its purpose is to familiarize the reader with the state of research in the field and with any contrasting viewpoints on the topic.
  • What is an abstract? An abstract is a brief summary of the thesis that appears at the beginning of the manuscript. The abstract is used to help the reader quickly determine what the paper's topic is.
  • What is a references page? Sometimes called a bibliography or works cited page, a references page gives detailed information about the sources that are referenced, summarized, or quoted in the thesis and where the sources were found. The purpose of a references page is to give credit to the authors of the sources used and to help readers track the sources for themselves if they want to read more on the topic.
  • What is a research proposal? Before beginning your thesis, you may be required to write a research proposal, which should clearly state the intended purpose of the proposed research. Depending on individual department requirements, the research proposal may include a literature review, a description of the intended research methodology, a proposed timeline for the completion of the thesis, and/or other information. Please note that the requirements for research proposals vary for different programs. Refer to your program's thesis guidelines or ask your graduate coordinator or GAC Chair for information about specific department requirements.
  • What is a thesis defense/oral examination? Typically, the thesis defense/oral examination centers on matters pertaining to the thesis but can include other areas of graduate training, as well. During the thesis defense, students should be prepared to conduct a formal presentation of the thesis and respond to any questions from the GAC. The thesis defense/oral examination takes place within the few weeks prior to graduation.

Style Manuals by Department
  • Biology: CSE Scientific
  • Computer Science: ACM
  • Education: APA
  • English: MLA or APA
  • Exercise Physiology: CSE Scientific
  • Geosciences: Chicago, GSA Journal, or USGS
  • Health Services Administration: APA
  • History: Chicago or Turabian
  • Nursing: APA
  • Psychology: APA
  • Radiologic Sciences: APA

Additional Resources