Thesis and Dissertation Information

Getting Started

Thesis and Dissertation Committees

Thesis and dissertation committees consist of at least three Graduate Faculty members, with one member serving as primary advisor and committee chair. See the policy on Graduate Faculty for descriptions of the three faculty types and their duties. Departments may have additional criteria for determining who can serve what role on a thesis committee.

The Thesis Topic Approval or Dissertation Topic Approval form should be completed as early in the graduate program as possible given department timelines and requirements.

Please note: if a committee includes an Affiliate Graduate Faculty member (a volunteer not employed by Western), that person will not be able to sign the topic approval esign form. They should email with a statement agreeing to participate on the committee. The email should come from their professional email address and include a CV or enough information in the signature to determine whether the individual meets the criteria for Affiliate member.

Human or Live Vertebrate Subjects

Using humans or live vertebrates as research subjects requires prior approval separate from thesis topic approval. Please see Research Compliance for more information. RSP is in the process of updating its research compliance webpages including forms, templates, checklists, and general information specific to human subjects research as we migrate to the Drupal platform. Please contact for more information.

Topic approval forms that indicate human subjects, live vertebrate subjects, or scientific diving activities will be forwarded to the appropriate offices for review.

Register for Thesis or Dissertation Credits

  • Have a complete topic approval form on file.
  • For thesis (690) credit, you need a registration override from the Graduate School each quarter you register.
  • For EDAD 670, Doctoral Proposal Defense (dissertation credits), contact your department.


Track Your Registration

  • Check the number of required and/or allowed thesis/dissertation credits for your program.
  • Make sure that your registration over multiple quarters adds up to the total you need to meet program requirements. If the maximum allowed is 12, you can take 4 + 4 + 4, but not 4 + 4 + 5 (for example).

Thesis grades are reported as incomplete (K) each quarter, until the final thesis is submitted and approved. Faculty should not submit thesis grades at the end of the quarter like grades for other courses.

After the final thesis or dissertation defense, the faculty advisor should report the grade on the Degree Recommendation form. 

If you take more credits than are allowed in the catalog requirements for your program, those credits will not be assigned a grade. They will remain K on your transcript.

Writing a graduate-level thesis or dissertation is one of the most challenging things you may ever have to do. Even with support from your advisor, this monumental task can feel overwhelming. Why go at it alone when you don't have to?

If you sign up for a Studio Partner, you will be matched up with a Graduate Research-Writing Assistant who will aid you along in the process, meeting with you to discuss your progress whenever you're stuck. For more information and to sign up, visit the RWS Graduate Services page. 

Manuscript Guidelines

The guidelines outlined here define minimum standards and point out common problems. Responsibility for final review of the thesis manuscript prior to submission rests with the committee. Manuscripts may be returned by the Graduate School for revision if they do not adhere to format requirements or contain excessive spelling, grammatical, or typographical errors.

Because the final thesis will be viewed primarily online, prepare your PDF document for optimal viewing on a screen. If your thesis includes landscape-oriented pages, save the PDF with mixed page orientation.

Thesis Document Pages
Order Page Name Required? Page Number
1 Committee Signature Page yes no visible number
2 Library Authorization Page yes no visible number
3 Title Page yes no visible number
4 Abstract yes iv
5 Acknowledgements no v, if applicable
6 Table of Contents yes v or vi
7 List of Figures and Tables yes, if applicable continue in Roman numerals
8 Text yes Arabic numerals, beginning with 2 on the second page. No visible number on the first page of text.
9 Bibliography/References/Works Cited yes Arabic numerals
10 Appendices no Arabic numerals
11 Curriculum Vita no Arabic numerals


Signature Pages

During the disruption in operations due to the coronavirus pandemic, hardcopy signature pages are not required. The degree recommendation esign form will serve as approval of the final thesis by all committee members.

The thesis PDF should still contain a signature page with typed names (no scanned signatures), and a library authorization with the student's typed name and the date of submission.

Library Authorization Page

Choose the library authorization appropriate for your document type (thesis or field project) and the access level you have chosen. See the sections below on "Templates" and "Embargos and Limiting Access" if needed.

Title Page

Make sure that your title matches exactly on both pages where it appears, the Committee Signature Page and the Title Page. If your title is long, you may wish to check current cover printing capabilities at Haggard Hall Print and Copy Services to make sure it can be printed on your bound copies.


Format according to the style manual for your discipline.

Acknowledgements (optional)

The language used in the acknowledgement should be consistent with that used in acknowledgements in journal articles in your field. You may use this page to acknowledge those who contributed to the academic endeavors or research of your thesis. Limit the acknowledgements to a single page.

Table of Contents

The first three preliminary pages do not appear in your Table of Contents. The first item to appear should be your Abstract.

Do not include the Table of Contents page in the Table of Contents, but do include the Lists of Tables and Figures. Lists of Tables and Figures should include page numbers.

Supplementary Material

Additional material may be included in appendices or as separate files to be submitted with your PDF. CEDAR can take many file types. Maps, datasets, sound clips, short films, images, and other items can be included. See the CEDAR FAQ for more details.


Margins should be a minimum of one inch on all sides. Use the same margin dimensions throughout the manuscript, except for indented lengthy quotes.

Page Numbers

Page numbers may be located according to the style commonly used in your discipline, or any standard word processor location. The numbers should appear alone, without any bracketing, dashes, etc. Refer to the chart above for numbering requirements.


Choose a font that is clearly legible on screen as well as in print. Font should be 10- to 12-point type. Use the same font throughout the manuscript. You may bold, italicize or underline words where appropriate. Italicized type may not be used for the entire body of the text.


Double space the text. Block quotes may be single spaced. Thesis projects in poetry, mathematics, and music may be spaced as appropriate to the discipline.


Captions should be in the same font as that used in the text. Locate captions according to the publication style you are using.


Section headings must correspond to the Table of Contents. Heading font and location on the page should be consistent throughout the thesis. Ensure that headings appear on the same page as the corresponding text (i.e. watch for headings orphaned at the bottom of pages). Do not use a running head.


Style differs considerably among disciplines, and even among different journals in one discipline. Confer with your thesis chair to select the appropriate style for your thesis, and be consistent with this style throughout your manuscript.

References and Citations

Be consistent in citation and reference style throughout the thesis, according to the style manual you are following. There must be a reference for every citation in the text. The spelling of the author’s name and the publication year must match between the text and reference entry. Multiple citations between parentheses must be in either chronological or alphabetical order.

Western Libraries offers online quick guides to the most common citation styles and other helpful information.

You can use this template as a starting point for your document, or refer to it for instructions and tips on formatting.

The thesis/dissertation template is also available on Canvas along with additional formatting help.

Defenses and Final Submission

Defense Notification Requirements

  • Schedule your defense with your department
  • Submit an Oral Defense Schedule form at least two weeks prior to your defense
  • If requested, submit a draft of your thesis or dissertation to the Graduate School one week before your defense date

The Graduate School will announce your oral defense to Graduate Faculty Governance Council. If a Graduate Faculty Governance Council member volunteers to observe your defense, you will need to include that person in your meeting, presentation, and/or video conference. We will ask you to provide a copy of your draft for the representative to review.

Create Your CEDAR Account and Submit Research

  • Go to and click “Submit Research” in the sidebar, under Contributors. Follow the instructions to create an account and submit to the WWU Graduate School Collection.
  • Use a permanent email address for your account, not your email address, so that you can keep track of your work after graduation.
  • Upload your complete PDF and any supplementary files you wish to include.

Thesis and Dissertation Approval and Publication

Graduate School staff will communicate with you via CEDAR (you will receive emails) about the status of your thesis or dissertation submission and any necessary revisions.

Once your submission has been approved, you will be notified through CEDAR. Your thesis or dissertation will be published and made available right away on CEDAR, as part of the Digital Commons for your discipline, and through Google and Google Scholar.

If you need to delay public posting of your document, or keep access to your content permanently limited, email the Graduate School for options.

Completion of your degree still requires one hardbound copy of your thesis or dissertation for archiving in Special Collections. We do not require original signatures for the bound copy. Once your thesis or dissertation is approved, you will need to place a binding order with Print and Copy Services using the Thesis Order Request Form or Dissertation Order Request Form. This order must be placed and paid before your degree can be awarded. Individual departments may have requirements for additional copies; check with your thesis chair or program adviser if you are unsure.

Instructions for placing your order with Print and Copy Services will be included in your CEDAR approval letter. For assistance with the Thesis Order Request Form, contact Print and Copy Services directly at or 360-650-3762

Occasionally a graduate student may need to delay the posting of their thesis or dissertation to CEDAR, or limit the audience to Western students and faculty. There are two options to choose from.


An embargo delays the public release of the document while the author or faculty researcher pursues publication or copyright of the work in the thesis/dissertation. At the end of the embargo period, the document is posted.

To request an embargo, email with details. An embargo can be requested for six months or one year, and may be renewed if necessary.

If you might want to renew your embargo, set a reminder on your calendar around the time the embargo is set to expire. Let the Graduate School know if you need to renew.

Campus Only Access

Limiting access to the Western community is a good option for those wishing to preserve First North American Serial Rights (publication rights). A current WWU login is required to view the thesis, and the limited access status does not expire like an embargo does.

To choose this option, use the limited access library authorization form instead of the standard one, and make a note in CEDAR when you upload your thesis. Library authorization forms are available in the Templates section above, and on Canvas.