UDTS Frequently Asked Questions

Table of Contents


Q: When do I submit my proposal to UDTS for review?

A: If your college or school has specific guidelines regarding a proposal's formatting (as opposed to the formatting of a thesis or dissertation), and those guidelines are different from University Formatting Guidelines, then you should not submit your document to us for review at the proposal stage, and we will not review it.

However, if you are formatting your proposal or the early sections of your document according to University guidelines, please feel free to email your document to us whenever you are ready. Students often begin to format their documents according to UDTS guidelines at the proposal stage, and we highly recommend doing so. Formatting your document from the very beginning can be extremely helpful in the long run.


Creation of My Thesis or Dissertation

Q: Does UDTS read the content of my thesis or dissertation, or comment on it?

A: No. Your committee is responsible for reading and approving the content of your document. We will never comment on what you are writing.


Q: What style should I use?

A: While all theses and dissertations are required to adhere to the guidelines set forth by the university, neither George Mason University nor UDTS requires any specific style manual (APA, Chicago, MLA, IEEE, etc.) in the creation of individual theses and dissertations. If you do not know what style manual you should use, please check with your committee/department/school to see if there is a required or preferred style. If your committee/department/school does not require or prefer any particular style manual, you are free to choose whatever style you wish.


Q: Who is responsible for making sure that my style is correct?

A: You, the student, are primarily responsible for making sure that the style you are using is the correct (or preferred) style for your discipline. You are also responsible for making sure that you have applied it to your document correctly. Your committee/discipline/school may be able to assist you in confirming its proper usage, but you are ultimately responsible for using and applying the correct style.


Q: Does UDTS ever check for the proper use of style?

A: No. We do not confirm whether you are using your chosen/required style correctly. That is up to you, and to your committee.


Format Review

Q: What is a Format Review?

A: Format Review is the process by which all dissertations, theses, and projects are examined for compliance with University regulations for appearance. During the Format Review, the UDTS Coordinator examines the component parts of the dissertation (the preliminary pages, figures and tables, if any, and the text). Please contact the UDTS Coordinator at udts@gmu.edu with questions.


Q: Why do I have to do a Format Review?

A: Format Reviews are required to ensure that your submission meets Mason’s standards for uniformity and quality. If you are writing a thesis or a dissertation, you have to have a Format Review--there are no exceptions to this rule.


Q: When should I have a Format Review?

A: We strongly recommend that you send your document to us as soon as possible. Dissertations, theses, and projects should be reviewed by the Coordinator of University Dissertation and Thesis Services at least 2 to 3 weeks before your final defense takes place. If you are not defending your thesis, you should submit your thesis to us for review 6 weeks before the Final Submission. It is highly recommended that you submit your work for Format Review (even if it is not your final version) as early as possible so as to avoid end-of-semester delays. Please e-mail review submissions to udts@gmu.edu. You will be contacted shortly after we receive your submission.


Q: What is the Format Review deadline?

A: There is a Format Review deadline in each semester; it is the Friday before the Final Submission deadline in that semester. In order for you to be eligible to graduate in that semester, you must receive an email from our office by the deadline stating that your formatting adheres to University Guidelines and that you have passed the Format Review. We post the deadlines in a sidebar on every page on our website.


Q: Do I need to make an appointment for a Format Review?

A: No. You do not need to make an appointment for a Format Review, and you do not need to be present when it takes place. In fact, we will not perform in-person Format Reviews for any reason. When you are ready for your Format Review, email your thesis or dissertation to us at udts@gmu.edu. We will check it, and will respond to you as soon as possible with any changes you may need to make.


Q: Can I be present when you review my document?

A: No; we will check it and respond to you via email. If you have technical questions about formatting, please contact us to set up an appointment; however, we do not perform in-person Format Reviews for any reason.


Q: Can I submit a hard copy of my document for a Format Review?

A: No. We no longer accept hard copies of any documents for the Format Review. When you are ready for this step, please email it to us at udts@gmu.edu. If your document is too large to send via email, we can work with Google Drive, DropBox, YouSendIt, SkyDrive, etc. If none of those options will work, please contact us, and we will find a way to get an electronic copy of your document.


Q: How long will it take you to get back in touch with me after I submit my document to you for the Format Review?

A: Estimated response times are as follows:

If we receive your document between: We should be able to respond with your review by:
5:01 p.m. Friday and 5:00 p.m. Monday 11:59 p.m. Wednesday
5:01 p.m. Monday and 5:00 p.m. Tuesday 11:59 p.m. Thursday
5:01 p.m. Tuesday and 5:00 p.m. Wednesday 11:59 p.m. Friday
5:01 p.m. Wednesday and 5:00 p.m. Thursday 11:59 p.m. Monday
5:01 p.m. Thursday and 5:00 p.m. Friday 11:59 p.m. Tuesday

Please keep in mind that we are working with many students, and there are often delays at the end of the semester. We appreciate your patience, and we strongly recommend sending your document to us as early as possible.


Q: How do I know that the Format Review is over?

A: We will inform you that your document's formatting adheres to University Guidelines, and that you have passed the Format Review. We will then email the Submission Instructions to you.

Q: Can I continue to make changes to my content after I have passed the Format Review?

A: Yes. As long as whatever you add to or delete from your document continues to adhere to the formatting we have approved, your document should be fine.

Q: If I make changes to my content after I have passed the Format Review, am I required to resubmit my document for review again?

A: No, you are not required to resubmit your document for further review in that case. With that said: if you feel that your formatting has changed, or if you simply want us to look at your document's formatting to confirm that it is still in compliance, you are welcome to send your approved document back to us for review at a later time.


Signature Sheets

Q: Who has to sign my Signature Sheet?

A: Everyone listed under "Committee:" on the Signature Sheet. That includes not only your committee members, but also (but not limited to) Department Chairpersons, Program Directors, Deans, and so on.


Q: Do the signatures on my Signature Sheet have to be "real" signatures (i.e., signed with an ink pen), or can I collect electronic signatures?

A: We will accept electronic signatures, to include the following methods: sign/scan/send; electronic signatures that look like "real" signatures; and "certified" electronic signatures. We will also accept typewritten signatures, as long as they are in a "cursive" font (e.g., Juanita Cierva).



Q: Prior to my defense, do I turn in a printed review copy of my dissertation to UDTS to be placed on reserve?

A: No. If your college/school/department requires you to place a review copy of your dissertation on reserve at the library, please view the steps outlined in the Course Reserves InfoGuide on how to place your review copy on reserve.


Q: When should I schedule my defense?

A: That's up to you and your College/School/department/committee. Some Colleges and Schools have deadlines by which you must defend in order to graduate that semester; others do not have a defense deadline. We always recommend defending your document earlier rather than later, but when you do so is entirely up to you.


Q: Do you recommend that I take anything to my defense?

A: You should take a copy of your Signature Sheet, printed on regular paper (or, if you wish, cotton paper, but it will no longer be required at that time), to your Defense, in order to collect signatures (in black ink).


Q: Can I defend after a semester's Final Submission deadline and still graduate in that semester?

A: No. If you are planning to graduate in, for example, Fall 2019, you must defend before the Final Submission deadline (in this example, 5:00 p.m. on December 6, 2019) in order to graduate in that semester. No exceptions. For example: if you defend on December 9, 2019, then you will graduate in Spring 2020. Again, there are no exceptions to this rule.


Final Submission

Q: When are the Final Submission deadlines?

A: These deadlines are set by the Registrar's Office. Generally, the deadline is 5:00 P.M. on the Friday before the last day of classes. In addition to our website's section about Final Submission, we also post upcoming deadlines in a sidebar on every page of our website.


Q: How does Final Submission work?

After you have passed the Format Review, we will email the Submission Instructions to you. That email will explain all of the steps you must complete in order to graduate on time.


Q: What if I no longer live in the DC Metro Area at the time of Final Submission? How can I get the final copy of my document and all necessary materials to you?

A: Please contact us via email, and we will assist you.


Q: On what type of paper should I print my dissertation/thesis/project?

A: Students no longer submit hard (printed) copies of their documents to UDTS. We do not accept hard copies of theses or dissertations.

With that said: individual schools/colleges/departments may still require you to turn in a hard copy of your thesis/dissertation to them; that is entirely up to them, and we have no say over their policies or requirements.


Q: What should I do if I want to have my own copy bound for myself? Will the Library bind it for me?

A: No. We offer a list of suggested binderies; of course, you are by no means required to use these--they're simply suggestions. Also, doctoral students can order bound copies of their dissertations through ProQuest, when they submit their documents using the Administrator.


Q: I'm not planning to delay the availability of my work in MARS through an embargo; do I need to fill out and submit an Embargo Request Form?

A: Yes. Every student who submits a document to our office for Final Submission must turn in a completed, signed Embargo Request Form, regardless of intent to delay. We must collect a completed, signed Embargo Request form from EVERY student. No exceptions.


Q: Does everyone have to get the signatures of their Committee Chair and the Graduate Associate Dean of their College/School on the Embargo Request Form?

A: If you plan to delay the availability of your work in MARS through an embargo, you are required to collect the signatures of your Committee Chair and the Graduate Associate Dean of your College/School on the Embargo Request Form.

If you are not planning to embargo your work in MARS, you do not need to collect either of the aforementioned signatures.


Q: I see that the "University Librarian" has to sign my Embargo Request Form. Do I have to collect that signature?

A: No. After you turn in your completed, signed Embargo Request Form, we will collect that signature on your behalf.


Q: If I turn in the final copy of my document, then realize there's something wrong in the file, can I resubmit it?

A: No.

Once a student has submitted the final (i.e. defended, formatted, and signed) version of his/her project, thesis, or dissertation to University Dissertation & Thesis Services (UDTS), subsequent edits WILL NOT BE ALLOWED EXCEPT under the following circumstances:

  1. A formatting error has been introduced into the PDF document when converting from another document type that affects the meaning of the dissertation. For example: in the process of formatting the document into a PDF, all of the ampersands (&) have disappeared and the error is not discovered until after final submission to UDTS. Re-submission would not be allowed to revise margins, fonts, or other non-substantive items.
  2. Incidence of fraud or plagiarism. The relevant college/school must conduct a review of the thesis or dissertation and determine an appropriate course of action in accordance with the university catalog and approved by the Dean. If the approved course of action includes allowing the student to resubmit a corrected version of a thesis or dissertation, the UDTS Coordinator must be informed in writing by an appropriate college/school or LAU official. UDTS will not allow corrections of theses and dissertations for the following: Rewording the Dedication, Acknowledgements, Abstract, or Biography. Correction of citations or quotations. Addition of new text, or deletion of existing text, in the body. Correction of misspellings or grammar issues. Replacing, adding, or deleting Tables, Figures, or Equations. Correction of any other minor errors or omissions.


Survey of Earned Doctorates (SED)


Q: What is the SED?

A: This is a survey that is administered by the National Science Foundation. From their website: "The Survey of Earned Doctorates (SED) is an annual census conducted since 1957 of all individuals receiving a research doctorate from an accredited U.S. institution in a given academic year. The SED is sponsored by the National Center for Science and Engineering Statistics (NCSES) within the National Science Foundation (NSF) and by five other federal agencies: the National Institutes of Health, Department of Education, Department of Agriculture, National Endowment for the Humanities, and National Aeronautics and Space Administration. The SED collects information on the doctoral recipient's educational history, demographic characteristics, and postgraduation plans. Results are used to assess characteristics of the doctoral population and trends in doctoral education and degrees." 


Q: Am I required to complete and submit the SED?

A: All Doctoral students must complete and submit the SED. With that said: you do not have to answer any questions you find too intrusive.


Q: I already filled out a survey. Is the SED different?

A: You most likely completed the Graduate Student Exit Survey. That survey is administered and collected by Mason, and it is completely different from the SED, which is administered by the National Science Foundation. If you are a doctoral student, you are required to complete and submit the SED. However, you do not have to answer any questions you find too intrusive.


    MARS and ProQuest

    Q: What is MARS?

    A: MARS (Mason Archival Respository Service) is offered through Mason Publishing and the Digital Scholarship Center at the George Mason University Libraries. Home of the Electronic Theses and Dissertations, as well as faculty research publications and data files, MARS provides access to the intellectual work of the Mason community.


    Q: Can I be exempt from submitting my document to MARS?

    A: No. All theses and dissertations are required to be uploaded to MARS. You can delay the availability of your work with an embargo of 2 years, 5 years, or 10 years (and you have the option to renew the embargo for any of those periods, regardless of the original embargo period), but you are required to submit your document as an electronic copy that will be held in MARS.


    Q: How long does it take for my document to appear in MARS?

    A: The amount of time between the day you turn in the final copy of your document and all necessary paperwork to UDTS and the day your work appears in MARS varies. It has to do with our current workflow, the time of year, and our other responsibilities/duties. The document may be uploaded to MARS within a week of its receipt, or it may take up to 6 months. The average amount of time between final submission and upload to MARS is 6 weeks; however, again, that depends on our schedule.


    Q: Who will be able to see my document in MARS?

    A: Once your document becomes available (either as soon as it is uploaded or after your chosen embargo lifts), anyone who has access to the Internet and  is able to find your document through an online search will be able to view and read the full-text, open-access version of your document. MARS users do not have to register or pay to see the materials it stores. We cannot block search-engine discoverability of documents in MARS.

    If you have chosen to embargo your work, you will still have a record in MARS; the repository is not a dark archive. That record can be located through online searches. Your name, the title of your work, and the Abstract will be visible during your chosen embargo period. If there is anything you do not want people to see, do not include it in the title or Abstract.

    Embargoed documents will be available for on-campus-only viewing. Interested users may visit Mason's Special Collections Research Center to view embargoed ETDs on a designated computer. The embargoed documents will not be available for print or download through that computer.

    You can choose to opt out of having your embargoed work available for campus-only viewing, but that request must be reviewed and approved by the Provost's office. Approval to restrict on-campus access will only be granted in extreme circumstances, and you must provide compelling evidence that the document should NOT be available for campus-only viewing during the embargo period. Do not contact the Provost's office directly to inquire about limiting campus-only viewing. If you have questions about this option, contact UDTS: udts@gmu.edu. The Provost's decision is final and cannot be appealed.


    Q: What is ProQuest?

    A: ProQuest is a system of databases and sources. It is a subscription service, and George Mason University Libraries pays a fee to make their materials free (for the most part) to our students, faculty, and staff.


    Q: What does ProQuest have to do with my document?

    A: Starting with the first dissertation submitted to George Mason University, we require our doctoral students' dissertations to be submitted to ProQuest's Dissertations & Theses Global Database.


    Q: Am I required to submit my document to ProQuest?

    A: Yes. Per rule AP.6.10.9 in the University Catalog: "Doctoral students are also required to submit their dissertations to ProQuest through University Microfilms International (UMI). Submission will take place through the UMI Administrator site (www.etdadmin.com/gmu)."

    Master's students are not required to submit their theses to ProQuest, but they are welcome to do so if they wish.


    Q: How long does it take for my document to appear in ProQuest?

    A: The amount of time between the day you upload your document to ProQuest via the Administrator and the day your work appears in ProQuest varies. UDTS must first process the submission; we may be able to do so within a week of the Final Submission of your document and all necessary paperwork, or it may take a month or so after Final Submission. The length of time depends upon our current workflow, the time of year, and our other responsibilities/duties.

    After we have processed and sent your document to ProQuest, then ProQuest must perform further steps. The amount of time their process takes also depends on their workflow and the amount of other documents they receive from hundreds of other schools. It may take them 2 - 3 months to complete their side of submission.

    If you have questions regarding the status of your submission to ProQuest, you may want to contact them directly.


    Q: I ordered [a] bound copy[ies] of my work from ProQuest. When will I receive it/them?

    A: As stated in the above response, it may take a few months for ProQuest to process your submission and order. Therefore, if you have ordered bound copies of your document from ProQuest, it may take up to 3 or 4 months for them to process, bind, and ship your order. If you have questions about bound copies from ProQuest, please contact them directly: 1.800.521.0600, extension 77020.

    If you need a bound copy (or copies) of your document faster than the aforementioned period, you may want to investigate other binderies.