Master's Degree Special Requirements

Master's Comprehensive Examination

Many programs require a Master's Comprehensive Examination. Examinations are held on dates fixed by the departments. If you fail to pass the Master's Comprehensive Examination you may, with the approval of the department, repeat the examination at the next scheduled examination date. If your department does not approve a second attempt, you will be academically dismissed from your program. If you fail a second time, no further opportunity to take the examination is permitted, and you will be dismissed from your program.


The main purposes of a master's thesis are to demonstrate your ability to make independent use of information and training and to furnish objective evidence of constructive powers in a chosen field. Students register for 3-6 credit hours of thesis research. Registration for thesis research entitles you to the advice of the member of the faculty under whose direction the thesis is to be written. The faculty members who will direct the thesis must approve the thesis subject. 

If your thesis research involves human subjects, you must obtain Institutional Review Board (IRB) approval before collecting data. Please consult the section on Human Research Requirements for more information.

All theses must be submitted electronically and meet the formatting and other requirements set forth on the Electronic Theses and Dissertations (ETD) website. You will be assigned grades of IPG (In Progress) for Thesis Research until your thesis is approved and submitted. Once complete, your thesis is assigned a grade of CR (Credit); no letter grade is given for your thesis. All theses must have a Director and a Reader. If your Director is outside GW and has been approved by your department, you must have a GW faculty member serve as Co-Director.

More information about the formatting requirements, submission process, and submission deadlines is available on our Master's Thesis ETD Submission page

Final Examination

The Final Examination or thesis defense is designed, scheduled, and administered by your department. It is an oral examination conducted by the thesis committee, which consists of your director and one reader at a minimum. Your current or prospective immediate supervisor of employment is not permitted to be a reader. Please consult with your department for any additional guidelines for your thesis defense.

Once you have successfully completed the Final Examination and the Committee has verified that any required revisions to the thesis have been made, you must complete the following steps:

  1. Upload your thesis through the Electronic Thesis and Dissertation (ETD) website;
  2. Submit the advisor-signed ETD Access Approval Form

These materials must be submitted by the deadline dates posted on the ETD website for the semester in which you are graduating. If you do not submit the required materials by the deadline, CCAS will not be able to clear you for graduation. You will then need to register for the next semester and reapply for graduation.

Formatting guidelines are noted on the ETD website. The guidelines are designed to produce documents that are uniform in style, but they also allow for the particular requirements of various disciplines.

Your thesis will first be sent to the Gelman Library for approval. Once approved by Gelman, it will be forwarded to CCAS for a final check. You may receive instructions from Gelman or CCAS to make changes and upload a revised edition of your work. The student will be notified by email once the thesis has been approved and forwarded to ProQuest/UMI. Requested changes must be submitted by the set deadline in order for CCAS to clear you for graduation.

You must pay ProQuest/UMI fee directly online. The amount charged will depend on the publishing option chosen by you. GW recommends students choose the Open Access option in the interest of making their scholarship as accessible as possible.

Accepted theses and any accompanying illustrations become the property of the University. The University is to be given credit for material used in the publication of any portion of your thesis, whether as a direct quotation or as an adaptation.