These are the major steps you must complete in order to prepare, format, complete, and submit your thesis or dissertation. Steps 1, 2, 3, and 5 are required of all graduate students writing theses and dissertations. Not all Master's students are required to defend; please check with your college/school/department to confirm.
Please click on the links below to read more specific information about each step.
- Step 1: Working with Your Committee
- Step 2: Format Review
- Step 3: Submission Instructions
- Step 4: Attend Your Defense
- Step 5: Final Submission
Step 1: Working with Your Committee
At some point in your graduate career, you will form your committee and begin working on your thesis or dissertation. If you have specific questions about the formation of your committee and the rules governing it, contact your college/school/department's graduate coordinator.
While you are working with your committee, you will be writing your thesis or dissertation and making edits and changes based on their suggestions.
Please confirm with your committee and/or department which style manual your discipline uses (e.g., APA, Chicago, MLA, IEEE, etc.). Neither Mason nor UDTS requires any specific style, as we work with students in many fields. It is your responsibility to confirm which style you should use, and it is your responsibility to make sure that you implement it correctly — UDTS does not check styles, and we will not advise you regarding their usage.
As soon as possible during the writing and editing process, please begin formatting your document according to our Formatting Guidelines. We also provide templates, which are designed to make formatting your document easier.
Step 2: Format Review
Format Reviews are mandatory for every student at Mason who is writing a thesis or a dissertation. If you are enrolled in either 799 or 999, then you will be turning in a thesis or a dissertation, and you will need to go through the Format Review process.
You do not have to make an appointment for a Format Review, and you do not have to be present when the Format Review takes place. You only need to email your thesis or dissertation to us for the Format Review: email@example.com.
It is a good idea to submit your thesis or dissertation to us for review as soon as possible.
Your document's content does not have to be in its final, perfect version prior to sending your document to us for the Format Review. You may continue to make changes to your document's content after we have approved your formatting. As long as the material you add adheres to the formatting we have already approved, and as long as nothing you delete disrupts the approved formatting, your document should be fine. If you would like us to review your formatting-approved document after you add further material, we will be happy to do so.
If you are defending your thesis/dissertation, we recommend emailing your document to us for the Format Review at least 2 - 3 weeks before your defense date.
If you are not defending your thesis, we recommend that you email it to us for the Format Review at least 6 weeks before the final submission deadline for that semester.
After we have received your document, we will check to make sure that its formatting adheres to our University Formatting Guidelines.
We do not review your content; we ONLY review your formatting. It is also your responsibility to make sure that your document adheres to the requirements set forth by your style manual (APA, Chicago, MLA, IEEE, and so on). We do not check to make sure that your document adheres to the rules of any of these styles. If you do not know what style to use, please check with your committee and/or department. UDTS does not require or forbid the use of any style manual.
We will respond to you as soon as possible with any changes you may need to make. Generally, we try not to take more than 2 business days (after time of receipt) to respond with changes, but delays may occur toward the end of the semester. Please note: Saturdays and Sundays are NOT "business days." If you send your document to us on a Friday, we will not respond with your review over the weekend. We will respond by the following Tuesday.
Frequently, more than one round of review is required. We will let you know if that is the case.
Format Review Deadline
In order for you to graduate in Fall 2018, you must have received an email from us by 5:00 p.m. on Friday, November 30, stating that your formatting is in good shape, and your Format Review is over. If you have not received said email by that date/time, then you will not be eligible to graduate in Summer 2018.
After your formatting is in good shape, you will be ready for the Submission Instructions.
Step 3: Submission Instructions
At this time, we will send you an email that explains the following:
Mandatory Electronic Submission and the Embargo Policy
- ALL theses and dissertations will be placed in our Institutional Repository, MARS (Mason Archival Repository Service).
- We cannot block discoverability of materials in MARS via search engines.
- You have the option to make your work available as soon as possible in MARS, or you can choose to delay its availability in MARS for 2 years, 5 years, or 10 years.
- Some Mason units require immediate availability of all student dissertations and do not permit embargo of any length under any circumstances. Please check with your academic program before submitting an embargo request to them.
- Even if you choose to embargo your work, your document will still have a record in MARS. Your name, title, Abstract, and search terms will be visible throughout the embargo period.
We must receive a completed, signed Embargo Request Form (ERF) from every student, regardless of intent to delay your work or not. If you are not embargoing your work, you are still required to turn in a completed, signed ERF to our office.
- If you choose to embargo your work for any period, you must collect the signatures of your committee chair and the graduate associate dean of your college/school on the ERF.
- We will not embargo your work unless both of the aforementioned signatures appear on the ERF.
Access to materials in MARS
- Access to theses and dissertations in MARS is not limited to individuals directly affiliated with or connected to George Mason University.
- If you do not embargo your work for any period, your document will become available in MARS as soon as it is uploaded.
- Once your work becomes available in MARS (i.e., either immediately after upload or after your embargo lifts), anyone who has access to the Internet can read your document, if they can find it.
Beginning in late Spring 2018, embargoed documents will be available for campus-only viewing.
- Interested users must 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.
You can choose to opt out of having your embargoed work available for campus-only viewing.
- 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.
- Permission to restrict access on-campus for such period or fully may be granted by the Associate Provost for Graduate Education. However: do not contact the Provost's office directly to inquire about limiting campus-only viewing. If you have questions about this option, contact UDTS: firstname.lastname@example.org
At the time a thesis/dissertation is uploaded to ProQuest and/or MARS, UDTS will send you an email notification, with an official PDF attached, stating that the embargo will begin and end on a certain date, and advising you that it is your responsibility to keep track of the embargo lift date.
- In the form, you will be advised that you should retain this form and place it in the care of your attorney, next of kin, etc. In case of death, incapacity, etc., it is up to your estate, power of attorney, etc., to ensure that the embargo continues.
Renewing an embargo
- It is your responsibility as the author to notify the UDTS Coordinator via email (email@example.com) that you want either to lift the embargo prior to the termination date, or that you want to renew the embargo (or institute a new limit).
- You do not have to renew your embargo for the same term. For example: If you originally embargoed your work for 10 years, and you only want to renew the embargo for 2 years, you can request to do so.
- The UDTS Coordinator will forward your request to the graduate associate dean of the appropriate college/school.
- The graduate associate dean of your college/school will be responsible for approving requests to renew embargoes.
- Your work will be listed in University Libraries' Catalog.
The paperwork you will turn in at Final Submission: There are certain documents you will have to complete and turn in, in order to fulfill university requirements for graduation. They can be found here on our site.
The remaining steps in the process: Depending on your degree and/or program, you may still have to defend. We'll talk to you about the defense and give you some tips that will make fulfilling the remainder of your requirements easier.
After the Submission Consultation, you will be ready to attend your defense, which is the fourth step in the process.
Step 4: Attend Your Defense
Every student in a Doctoral program has to defend his or her dissertation. Some Master's programs require their students to defend; some do not. If you are not sure whether you have to defend (or whether you have the choice to do so), check with your college/school/department.
It is up to you and your college/school/department/committee to set an appropriate date for the defense of your dissertation or thesis.
Before the Defense
Your college/school/department/committee may require or ask you to place a copy of your dissertation or thesis on reserve at the Gateway Library (formerly known as the Johnson Center Library) two weeks prior to your Defense date. When you are ready to put your document on reserve, you will need to take a printed copy of it and the completed "Place Dissertations on Reserve" form to the Circulation desk at the Gateway Library. The staff there will be able to assist you in placing your document on reserve.
Unless your college/school/department/committee instructs you otherwise, you can print the reserve copy of your document on regular (copier-grade) paper; it can also be printed double-sided, and it can be bound or placed in a binder if you wish.
Please note: theses and dissertations that are to be put on reserve should not be taken to the front desk at Fenwick Library, and they should not be taken to UDTS. Only take theses and dissertations to the Circulation Desk at the Gateway Library to put them on reserve prior to your defense.
At the Defense
Bring at least 2 copies of your Signature Sheet with you to the Defense. Hard copies of the Signature Sheet can be printed on regular (wood-pulp-based) paper, which can be found in copiers, printers, etc. We only need 1 signed copy of your Signature Sheet, but it is always a good idea to have an extra.
Make sure to bring black pens with you to the Defense. Your committee members will sign your Signature Sheets, and all signatures have to be in black ink.
It is your responsibility to collect signatures from everyone listed under "Committee:" on your Signature Sheets. Not everyone who has to sign the Signature Sheets will attend your Defense; anyone who does not attend your Defense will still have to sign your Signature Sheets. You will need to make arrangements to gather all signatures.
If you have a committee member who is not at GMU (or who is not in the city, county, state, or country), you will still have to secure that person's signature on your Signature Sheets. UDTS can advise and possibly assist you in collecting signatures from remote signatories, but in the end, it is your responsibility to collect the signatures.
At your Defense, your committee may ask you to make changes to your thesis or dissertation. You can continue to make changes to your content after we have approved your formatting. If that occurs, you do not have to resubmit your thesis or dissertation to us for another Format Review, as long as we have already approved your document's formatting. If you would like us to look at your document again, please send it to us and we will check it; however, you do not HAVE to resubmit your document for further review, as long as its formatting has already been approved.
After your Defense is over, and after you have made all changes you need to make to your thesis or dissertation, you will be ready for Final Submission, the last step in the process.
Step 5: Final Submission
Upcoming Final Submission deadlines are as follows:
Fall 2018: 5:00 p.m. on Friday, December 7
Spring 2019: 5:00 p.m. on Friday, May 3
Final Submission is the last step in the process. In order to reach this step, you must fulfill the following criteria:
- UDTS has reviewed and approved your document's formatting in the Format Review;
- You have successfully defended (if a Defense is a requirement for your degree/discipline);
- And your committee has approved your content.
After you have completed all of these steps, you will be ready to turn in the final version of your thesis or dissertation. If you have not completed all of these steps, your work will not be accepted, and you will not graduate in that semester.
We require all students to make an appointment to submit your document and all necessary final materials to us. To view our upcoming availability and make an appointment for Final Submission, please visit this site. There, you can view our available times and set up an appointment. Final Submission appointments usually take 5 minutes or less, as long as you have all of your materials with you, and your materials are all correct and complete.
Final Submission requirements for Master's students:
- Turn in 1 copy of your Signature Sheet, signed--in black ink--by everyone listed under "Committee:";
- Turn in a PDF (soft copy) of your thesis, which we will later upload into MARS;
- Turn in 1 completed, signed Transmittal Sheet;
- Turn in 1 completed, signed Embargo Request Form. (Please note: we must receive a completed, signed Embargo Request Form from every student, regardless of intent to delay your work or not. If you are not embargoing your work, you are still required to turn in a completed, signed Embargo Request Form to our office. Some Mason units require immediate availability of all student dissertations and do not permit embargo of any length under any circumstances. Please check with your academic program before submitting an embargo request.)
Final Submission requirements for Doctoral students:
- Turn in 1 copy of your Signature Sheet, signed--in black ink--by everyone listed under "Committee:";
- Turn in a PDF (soft copy) of your dissertation, which we will later upload into MARS;
- Turn in 1 completed, signed Transmittal Sheet;
- Turn in 1 completed, signed Embargo Request Form (Please note: we must receive a completed, signed Embargo Request Form from every student, regardless of intent to delay your work or not. If you are not embargoing your work, you are still required to turn in a completed, signed Embargo Request Form to our office. Some Mason units require immediate availability of all student dissertations and do not permit embargo of any length under any circumstances. Please check with your academic program before submitting an embargo request.)
- Complete and submit the Survey of Earned Doctorates;
- Submit your dissertation to ProQuest via the Administrator.
Once you complete the aforementioned steps, your process will be complete, and you will be eligible to graduate. Congratulations!
If you would like to purchase (a) bound copy(ies) of your document for yourself, family members, committee members, etc.:
We provide this list of binderies. You are not required to use any bindery listed there; we simply provide this list. You are welcome to use any bindery you wish.
- Doctoral students are required to submit their dissertations to ProQuest; you can purchase (a) bound copy(ies) through ProQuest. It may take 6 months or longer to receive bound copy(ies) of dissertations from ProQuest; if you need (a) bound copy(ies) sooner than that, you may want to investigate other binderies (see above). UDTS has no control over how long ProQuest takes to send you a bound copy of your work.
Please take note of the following:
Once you have submitted the final (i.e. defended, formatted, and signed) version of your thesis or dissertation to our office, subsequent edits WILL NOT BE ALLOWED, EXCEPT under the following circumstances:
- 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.
- 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, Acknowledgments, 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.