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Thesis, Project, & Comprehensive Exam Information

Every Master's degree program is required to include a culminating experience. The form of this experience differs according to degree programs, but all Master's students must satisfactorily complete either a thesis, a project or a comprehensive examination

 A thesis is a written product of the systematic study of a significant problem. It clearly identifies the problem, states the major assumptions, explains the significance of the undertaking, sets forth the sources for and methods of gathering information, provides an analysis of the data, and offers a conclusion or recommendation.

A project is a significant undertaking appropriate to the fine and applied arts or to professional fields. It evidences originality and independent thinking, appropriate form and organization, and a rationale. It is described and summarized in a written document that includes the project's significance, objectives, methodology, and a conclusion or recommendation.

A comprehensive examination is an assessment of the student's ability to integrate the knowledge of the area, show critical and independent thinking, and demonstrate mastery of the subject matter. The results of the examination evidences independent thinking, appropriate organization, critical analysis and accuracy of documentation. A record of the examination questions and responses shall be maintained in accordance with the records retention policy of The California State University.

The Master's Thesis and Project Committee Composition Policy governs who may serve on the student's committee.

Master's Thesis, Project or Dissertation: Submission Guide

An ETD is the electronic version of a thesis, project, or dissertation. Instead of being printed and bound, the file is converted to a Portable Document File (PDF) and submitted to the University Library. The Library preserves and archives the PDF, and makes it available online through ScholarWorks at CSUSM, our Institutional Repository. The student's original research is produced, submitted, and accessed in electronic format.

The Library has created an extensive Submission Guide on their website. This provides a step-by-step guideline on how to submit a thesis, project or dissertation. Students must refer to the library website for the submission deadline to qualify for graduation in each semester.

Extension Requests

If you know that you will not make the deadline or you have an emergency, you may request an extension. Please contact your faculty advisor as soon as you know that you need an extension! Your faculty advisor needs to email the extension request to Nam Nguyen in the Office of Graduate Studies. The request must contain your name,  your program, the reason you are requesting an extension, and how many days you need.

An extension can be anywhere from one day to one week, but not longer than one week. If you need more than a one week period of time, you will need to enroll for a course the next semester. Please seek guidance from your faculty advisor or graduate coordinator.

Direct requests from students will be routed back to their graduate coordinator.  Requests must be made before the semester's deadline date. Requests made on the deadline date will not be approved. 

Email Your Request

Master's Comprehensive Examination Certification Form

Some programs allow masters students to take a comprehensive exam as their culminating experience in lieu of a masters thesis or project. Please use the form below to document completion of your comprehensive exam.

Comp Exam Certification Form