Elliott School students master's degree students (except MIPP students) are required to complete the a culminating Capstone project. Those students who wish to complete a thesis must do so in addition to the Capstone requirement. To pursue the optional six-credit thesis students must obtain approval from the Dean (through the Office of Graduate Student Services) and must meet the following criteria:

  • A minimum GPA of 3.5 after 18 credits of graduate work
  • Approval of thesis on your Plan of Study
  • Completion of a research methods course
  • The subject must be approved by:
    • the member of the full-time faculty under whom the thesis is to be written,
    • a second member of the faculty who will serve as a reader, and
    • the student's program director;
  • Submission of an approved and signed Graduate Student Thesis-Subject Approval Form to the Office of Graduate Student Services 

Overview of the Process

The student is responsible for all of the paperwork associated with the thesis process, and the forms are available on the Forms and Applications page and the Gelman Library the Electronic Thesis and Dissertation website.

Unsure how to begin searching for a thesis director? You can use this GW Expert Finder to help narrow down those that share your research interests. 

Students are expected to submit their Graduate Student Thesis-Subject Approval Form (pdf), signed by the Thesis Director and Second Reader, to the Office of Graduate Student Services by no later than May 1 of the year preceding anticipated submission of their thesis for students planning to complete their thesis in a fall-spring sequence. (For students planning to complete their thesis in a spring-fall sequence the form submission deadline is no later than November 1 of the year preceding anticipated submission of their thesis.)

Once the thesis proposal has been approved and submitted to your academic advisor you will be registered for IAFF 6998 and IAFF 6999 the subsequent semester. IAFF 6998 and IAFF 6999 are taken for a letter grade and quality points are earned toward your GPA. Payment of tuition for thesis research entitles the student, during the period of registration, to the advice and direction of the thesis director and the second reader.

In case a thesis is unfinished, the student must maintain Continuous Enrollment and is allowed one calendar year to complete it. If the preparation of the thesis extends beyond the additional calendar year, the student must register again for the entire six hours of thesis credit.

*While all grades for the spring semester may not be posted by the May 1/Nov 1 deadlines, students should still submit the Graduate Student Thesis Subject Approval Form by the deadline.  After receiving the Graduate Student Thesis Subject Approval form, but prior to registering the student for the first three-credits of thesis, the student's academic advisor will check the student's record by June 1 to confirm that the student has earned 18 credits and has a minimum cumulative GPA of 3.5. Students who do not meet eligibility requirements will not be permitted to pursue a thesis.

Submission and Publication

Master's theses are submitted electronically by the student once the document has been approved as final by the faculty. Information and deadline dates are posted on the Electronic Thesis and Dissertation website. You can find a lot of information about the thesis on the ETD website, including formatting guidelines. The guidelines are designed to produce documents that are uniform in style, but they also allow for the particular requirements of various disciplines.

The student must also submit to the Office of Student Services the completed ETD Approval Form as part of the Steps in ETD Submission process. Theses will first be sent to the Gelman Library for approval. Once approved by Gelman, the thesis will be forwarded to the Office Graduate Student Services for a final check. Students may receive instructions from Gelman or GSS to make changes and upload a revised edition of their work. The student will be notified by email once the thesis has been forwarded to ProQuest/UMI.

Students will pay ProQuest/UMI directly through their on-line system. The amount charged will depend on the publishing option chosen by the student (GW recommends students choose the Open Access option in the interest of making their scholarship as accessible as possible).

Accepted theses become the property of the University. The University is to be given credit for material used in the publication of any portion of a thesis, whether as a direct quotation or as an adaptation. Master's students whose thesis research will involve human subjects should review the information on the Office of Human Research website.

Additional Resources

Thesis Guidelines for Faculty (pdf)