Thesis Reference Guide: The Thesis

Preparation of a thesis plays an important role in the development of a student into a scholar who can conduct independent research. Students gain the necessary basic knowledge by taking courses, and they demonstrate their capability for original thought and competence in research by conducting a research program on a topic selected in consultation with their thesis advisers. The thesis records the results of such a successful research program.

While conducting research on the chosen topic and also while writing their theses, students should consult frequently with their thesis advisers. Learning how to write technical papers (including theses) is an important part of the research training of the student. Thus, during the course of the research, the thesis adviser may require the student to write one or more papers to report the research work. In fact, since one measure of success in a research program is the publication of the results in a reputable technical journal with rigorous review procedures, the Department expects that the results in a Ph.D. thesis will be published in one or more journal articles. The Department hopes that most M.S. theses also describe research that can be published in a journal article, but recognizes that M.S. theses are less extensive in scope than Ph.D. theses. In any case, M.S. theses are expected to be of sufficient quality to be published as conference papers.

Note that the copyright for thesis material that has been published in a journal or conference proceedings likely no longer belongs to the author. While publishing agreements may vary, typically they transfer the copyright from the author to the publisher. Therefore, permission should be secured from the publisher in order to include previously published material in the thesis. (IEEE does not require authors working on a thesis to request formal permission, but other publishers may have less generous policies.) The same applies to previously published material by other authors: figures, tables, and excerpts incorporated into the thesis from other works require permission from the copyright holder. The Graduate College Thesis Office ( provides links to further resources.

Suggestions for Organizing the Thesis

The text of the thesis should be organized into chapters. The first chapter should introduce the problem studied and describe the main results obtained in the thesis. In order to provide guidance to the reader, the first chapter should briefly describe the organization of the rest of the thesis. The first chapter can also give the background of previous work on the subject and the method used in attacking the problem. Succeeding chapters provide details of the new results obtained by the candidate including, where appropriate, proofs, numerical data, simulation results, and experimental data. In order to properly state the results and to place them in perspective, it may be necessary to include one or more chapters that give further details on the problem being studied, introduce notation and terminology to be used, survey the relevant literature in detail, etc.

The conclusions drawn from the study are given in the last chapter. The last chapter also can include discussions of the advantages and limitations of the results obtained, comparisons with previous work, possible applications for the results, and suggestions for future work. Matters that are of little conceptual interest but that need to be included for the sake of completeness should be relegated to appendices. Examples of such matters are listings of computer programs used to generate numerical data or simulation results. Also, long and complicated proofs or derivations that unduly disrupt the flow of ideas should be placed in appendices unless the proofs are of independent interest because of the novelty of the techniques used. Most important, all of the above are merely suggestions for the proper organization of the thesis, and the student should consult with the thesis adviser to decide what to include in the thesis, and how to divide the thesis into chapters and appendices.

Preparation of the Thesis for Submission

The Graduate College ( gives format specifications and details on all the materials to be submitted. Before preparing the thesis, the student should read this material carefully. All the requirements stated on the website must be met in full. Furthermore, the Department has its own guidelines and support available from ECE Editorial Services (

All graduate students must apply for graduation ( by the deadline for their intended graduation period (May, August, or December).

Administrative Requirements

The Graduate College publishes thesis deposit deadlines for students who wish to graduate each semester. Deadlines are published in the Graduate College Academic Calendar.

Note that the ECE thesis check must take place well ahead of deposit with the Graduate College (see Format Check, below).

File Title Page with the Thesis Office

Early in the term in which the thesis is to be submitted, the student should file the title page ( with the Graduate College via email.

Faculty Signatures

The signatures of the thesis adviser and the Department Head are required on M.S. theses. If the M.S. thesis adviser is not a member of the ECE Graduate Faculty, an ECE Graduate Faculty member must co-sign the Thesis/Dissertation Approval form prior to submission to Editorial Services. The signatures of the director of research (adviser), all voting committee members who voted to pass the student at the final exam, and the department head are required for PhD dissertations.

Format Check

Both the ECE Department and the Graduate College check the thesis to verify that the format requirements are satisfied. The Departmental format checking is performed by ECE Editorial Services (, Room 2064-66 ECE Building. A minimum of three weeks should typically be allowed for format checking and the corrections and changes usually required to make the thesis conform to Departmental and Graduate College format requirements (find departmental deadlines on the Editorial Services site). When the thesis is in acceptable format, Editorial Services issues the Departmental format approval. After this, the thesis is submitted to the Department Head for approval and signature. Allow up to 48 hours for obtaining Department Head approval.

Final Registration

Each Ph.D. degree candidate must be registered in ECE 599 (even if only for zero hours) at the time of the Final Examination. Registration is not required when the thesis is submitted for approval to the Head of the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering or when the thesis is deposited in the Graduate College, unless the student has an assistantship or fellowship. The Ph.D. thesis must be deposited with the Graduate College no later than one year after passing the Final Examination.

Students who will hold an assistantship or fellowship during their last semester should plan carefully. Students must work at least 91 days in a semester, or 41 days in a summer session, to receive a tuition waiver under an assistantship or fellowship unless they either withdraw from the University at (or before) the time that their appointment becomes void, or file a clearance form for graduation within one week following the resignation date. Employees on a student visa may not hold an appointment beyond the visa expiration date. Hence, if the employee holds an assistantship or fellowship carrying a tuition waiver and the visa will expire before the 91 days have been completed, the student may be required to pay tuition and fees.