Office of Graduate Studies and Research

Graduate Programs

Master’s Thesis

Your graduate program might include independent research leading to a master's thesis.  According to the California Code of Regulations:

“A thesis is the written product of the systematic study of a significant problem. It clearly 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 must evidence originality, critical and independent thinking, appropriate organization and format, clarity of purpose, and accurate and thorough documentation. Normally an oral defense of the thesis will be required.”

A thesis is a written document that should rise to the level of peer-reviewed publication in your field, demonstrating the ability to contribute new knowledge to your discipline.  All approved theses submitted to the library will be web published at the CSUMB digital commons; you should also work with your advisor to submit it for publication in a professional journal.  Publications are the currency of research and science—setting the benchmark for subsequent progress in the field.  

Each CSUMB graduate program with a thesis option has their own expectations about the deadlines, thesis-related coursework, minimum requirements, committees and thesis formatting. Review those requirements very early in your studies. Starting late can significantly delay your graduation date.

The administrative process for your thesis is pretty simple.

  • Each program has a unique pathway for developing a thesis.  Some are completed with one year of mentored research, others are more open-ended. Described below are the typical steps leading to an MS thesis.  Refer to your program handbook for more details.

    • Find a professor willing to mentor your research (commonly done as you are researching graduate programs).
    • Select a research topic in collaboration with your thesis advisor.
    • Form a thesis committee. Some programs state a minimum committee composition.  Three faculty is a common minimum.  Some committee members may be from another university or related professional field.
    • Write a proposal that is approved by your committee (this step is a condition for “candidacy”).
    • Complete rigorous research and write a thesis. Confer with your advisor to see if you should write in the style and format of a particular journal—a journal to which you might submit the final work.
    • When your committee agrees that your thesis is very nearly complete, orally present the work in an open forum. The audience usually comprises faculty and students, but must include your committee. This seminar-style presentation is sometimes called a “thesis defense” because it is a forum where you are expected to understand your field well enough to defend your methods, assumptions, and original conclusions during the question period.    
    • Work with your committee to polish the written thesis. It should rise to professional-quality writing, suitable for publication in both content and style—no typographical errors remaining.
    • Your thesis must conform to the standards of your program. Some programs suggest that you use the style required by the journal in which you plan to publish your work.  In any case, use the template linked here for the first few pages.
    • Obtain committee signatures on the CSUMB thesis signature page. Their signatures indicate that they have read the thesis and believe it meets or exceeds the expectations for graduate work in both content and writing. Some programs require the work to be “publishable,” which is a higher standard.   
    • Submit a PDF of your signed thesis to with a blank line in the signature page for “Dean of Graduate Studies & Research.” Aim to submit the thesis at least two weeks in advance of when grades are due at the registrar's office for each academic term. Consult with your graduate program coordinator about specific dates.  Note that the dean may require corrections before signing. Failure to resubmit the document with required changes may delay graduation.  Submit your thesis as early as possible to allow time for revisions.
    • Once signed, the Dean of Graduate Studies & Research notifies you, the committee, and the program coordinator by email that the thesis is approved.
    • The dean forwards the document to the library for posting in the digital commons.