For students who work best with checklists, check out our new Thesis Checklist and Dissertation Checklist! The checklist provides a brief step-by-step guide you can use to track your progress through the thesis and dissertation process, starting at the proposal stage.

Prior to proposing your thesis or dissertation, students must submit a committee selection form to have their committees approved by the Dean of Graduate Studies: Thesis and Dissertation Committee Selection forms. 

Dissertation students will have a Graduate Representative attend the proposal defense. The Grad Rep will use a rubric to evaluate the proposal and provide detailed feedback. Students are encouraged to review the rubrics and use them to develop the proposal. Thesis students are welcome to use the rubrics to develop their proposals as well, but the rubrics will not be used to formally evaluate their work. 

If your study involves protected subjects (human or animal participants) or hazardous chemicals, you will need to apply for an additional approval from IRB, IACUC, or IBC (respectively). Approval from these entities can take time, so please check the review schedules and plan accordingly. Once you receive approval from the relevant entity, you may begin preparing your submission to OTDS.

Dissertation students will submit the Dissertation Proposal Packet and thesis students will submit the Thesis Proposal Packet. Each packet provides a list of the forms that are required for submitting your proposal to OTDS. All required forms and documents should be included in your submission email to OTDS cannot begin the review of your proposal until all forms and documents are submitted, including the Committee Selection Form. 

Three levels of approval must be obtained before thesis or dissertation data are collected. The three levels of approvals must be obtained in the following order.

 First:  Your committee must agree that you have successfully defended your proposal and approve your proposal.

Second: After your defense and with your advisor’s permission, you may seek approval of your proposal from the appropriate research compliance committee – IRB, IACUC or IBC.

Third:  With your advisor’s permission, you must submit your proposal and other required documents to the Office of Thesis and Dissertation Services (OTDS) for final approval.


After defending your proposal and gaining IRB, IACUC, or IBC approval (if applicable), submit the following items to the Office of Thesis & Dissertation Services (OTDS) for review and approval (the forms are in the Proposal Packets above!):

  1. Your proposal formatted to the requirements of the thesis and dissertation templates in Word format
  2. Advisor’s Approval Form
  3. Proposal Approval Form (all signatures except for Dean of Graduate Studies)
  4. The required training certificates (RCR, for example)
  5. IRB, IACUC or IBC approval email from the university, if applicable
  6. iThenticate similarity report with score <12% or including a brief explanation of a higher score (refer to advisor)

Submit items via email to Your proposal must be in Word format. The approval forms with signatures should be scanned and emailed along with your proposal, training certificates, and IRB approval. Please include in your email what type of computer you used (Mac or PC) and what version of Word you used to prepare your document. This will help us process your document more efficiently. 

Note: Before collecting any data you must have OTDS approval, which includes completion of the following:

  • Ethics Training (CITI trainings, i.e., RCR)
  • IRB, IACUC, or IBC Approval (if applicable)
  • Committee, Department Head, Dean of College, and Dean of Graduate School Approval

Any data collected prior to receiving these approvals is an ethical violation and you will not be permitted to use those data in your study. Once you receive an approval email from OTDS you may begin collecting data.