Thesis/Project Student Process

The following process applies to all Division of Computing & Software Systems (CSS) graduate students, regardless of degree program (CSSE or CSE) or thesis/project goals.

In general, a thesis is a scholarly written document aimed at an academic audience as a contribution to an existing body of knowledge. A project is aimed at building a connection between academic concepts and the application of those concepts into real-world context.

Before students determine which option to pursue, they should discuss how each option applies to their own individual goals for their degree program with their faculty advisor and the CSS Graduate Advisor.

Step 1: Form a Supervisory Committee

Students who desire to register for their thesis/project credit(s) must first form a committee of faculty who will supervise and grade their efforts and results of their work. A supervisory committee will consist of a student’s Faculty Advisor (who will serve as Committee Chair) and at least 2-3 additional faculty members. At least two of the committee members must be faculty whose primary appointment is in the Computing & Software Systems Division. The Chair of the Committee and at least one-half of the total membership must be members of the graduate faculty.

Students must submit a signed Request to Form a Supervisory Committee to the CSS Graduate Advisor to obtain an entry code to register for the class. Included with the signed form should be a proposal (minimally 3 pages) addressing the questions asked in section 2 of the form. Please follow the proposal guidelines detailed in the link below:

Before submitting the form, students are expected to attend another students CSS master’s project or thesis final examination & defense. View the Thesis/Project Final Exam Schedule.

The deadline for all committee requests is the first day of the seventh week of the quarter PRECEDING the start of a student’s project or thesis coursework. Students should request for specific faculty to staff their Supervisory Committee; however, final staffing assignments of the Supervisory Committee resides with the CSS Division’s Graduate Program Coordinator. Once a supervisory request has been granted, students will receive an email from the CSS Graduate Advisor notifying them of the approved committee and an entry code to register for their thesis/project credit(s). Students are encouraged to submit their request early, to avoid any registration late fees.

Submission Deadlines

  • Winter 2024: November 6, 2023
  • Spring 2024: February 12, 2024
  • Summer 2024: May 6, 2024
  • Autumn 2024: July 29, 2024

Step 2: File a Thesis or Project Plan

By the end of the second week of the quarter in which a student is registered for their first capstone credits, the student must submit to their Supervisory Committee a detailed project or thesis plan. The plan should include an updated proposal of the work to be done, a time table listing key milestones and associated deliverables, the quality criteria and specific metrics by which student expects to measure the quality of their result, and the software development lifecycle and processes planned to complete the work. There are no penalties for deviations in the approved plan or failure to meet the estimates in the timetable or failure to achieve the quality goals. The plan simply provides a well-defined start for the remainder of the capstone work. A PDF copy of the approved plan must be submitted by the student to the STEM Graduate Advising Office.

Submission Deadlines

  • Winter 2024: January 16, 2024
  • Spring 2024: April 8, 2024
  • Summer 2024: July 1, 2024

To submit your plan to the STEM Graduate Office, please send your PDF document to, with the subject line “Project Plan” or “Thesis Plan”.

Register for CSSSKL 594

A substantial working draft of the capstone research project paper or thesis should be completed by the beginning of the quarter in which you expect to graduate. For this reason, generally, you will enroll in CSSSKL 594 “Scientific Writing for Thesis/Project” during the quarter before you expect to graduate. (For example, to graduate in the spring, you should enroll in 594 in the Winter). Please consult with your supervisory committee chair as to the best timing of this class for the most benefit to you.

Step 3: Communicate Regular Progress Reports with the Supervisory Committee

Throughout the period of enrollment in the thesis/project credit(s), students are expected to lead the effort to regularly update their Supervisory Committee members on their work progress. Students should plan on meeting with their Committee Chair frequently based on the advice from the committee chair (minimally three times in each quarter that they are enrolled for thesis/project credits).

To register for second and subsequent quarters, students should work with their Chair to determine the workload for the upcoming quarter and the number of credits to enroll for. Once the Committee Chair grants permission and confirms the number of credits for the next quarter, the student forwards that permission to the CSS Graduate Advisor, who will issue a new entry code to use for registration. In cases where satisfactory progress is made, the student will be issued of a grade of N (in progress) until the project/thesis is complete.

Students who fail to make appropriate progress in their project/thesis during a quarter may receive a notification from their Chair warning them of lack of progress. If students continue failing to achieve satisfactory progress, Chairs may also choose to issue a grade of NC (No Credit) and move to dissolve the Committee. For full information regarding the project/thesis continuation policy, please see the Academic Progress Policy.

Step 4: Schedule Final Defense

By 5PM on Thursday of the third week of the quarter that a student is registered for their final thesis/project credits, the student must consult with their supervisory committee members to schedule a defense of their culminating work. Students should work closely with their committee chair to ensure that they are ready for their final examination and defense. The STEM Graduate Advising Office will send students the link to the online scheduling system each quarter to select a time/date for their defense. View details about defense format options and attendance requirements in the Defense Attendance Policy.

Step 5: Apply to Graduate

By 5:00 p.m. on Thursday of the third week of the quarter that a student is registered for their final degree credits the student must apply to graduate by filing a master’s degree request online. Students should work with the CSS Graduate Advisor and Committee Chair to plan their degree curriculum accordingly, so that their final capstone requirements serve as the culmination of their degree coursework. Students must be registered for credits during the quarter they want to graduate.

Step 6: Submit Draft of Final Paper/Thesis

Writing the final paper/thesis is a time intensive process. Students should plan ahead to schedule substantial time to compose and proofread their paper/thesis. A low-quality paper/thesis may lead to the delay of their defense. Early in the quarter that a student is registered for their final thesis/project credits, the student must review the following sample templates and discuss with their committee chair on the preference for the organization of their final project or thesis report:

Two weeks before the defense, submit the title and abstract to the School of STEM Office of Graduate Studies to post on the Final Examination & Defense schedule.

At least seven days before the defense, the student must submit a final draft of their project paper or thesis to their committee for a preliminary reading. The purpose of this draft is to demonstrate to the Supervisory Committee that the student has achieved a Master’s level competency in computer science and software engineering, and that the student is ready to defend their work.

Step 7: Final Examination and Defense

The Final Examination and Defense consists of (a) a public student presentation, (b) a public questions and answers session, (c) a closed-door question and answer session between the student and the Supervisory Committee, (d) a brief private discussion among the Supervisory Committee, and (e) the Supervisory Committee announcing to the student the result of the Final Examination and Defense. A typical defense will last close to two hours. If a student does not pass the Final Examination and Defense, the Supervisory Committee will work with the student to decide upon the necessary additional work required for obtaining their Master’s degree. The final examination and defense must take place no later than the third day of the last week of the quarter (final exam week).

Step 8: File your Thesis or Project Paper

After passing their final examination/defense, students must submit an electronic copy (PDF) of their final project paper or thesis, incorporating any post examination/defense revisions required by their Committee to the following entities in the order listed:

  1. Supervisory Committee members, by the time/date given to students by their Chairs. This deadline will vary, based on the date of the student’s defense and scope of requested changes. Students must receive approval of final document from their Committee before submitting the paper to the STEM Graduate Office (all students) and the UW Graduate School (thesis students only).
  2. STEM Graduate Office by 11:59 p.m. on the final day of the quarter in which the student intends to graduate. See submission instructions below.
  3. Thesis Students only: UW Graduate School by 11:59 p.m. on the last day of the quarter in which the student intends to graduate. This step applies to thesis students only. See “Special Notes for Thesis Students” section below.

Failure to complete any of the above steps by the appropriate time/date will result in a delay of graduation.

Students submit their final document to the STEM Graduate Office ( with their supervisory committee members copied on the email, and the email subject as “Final Thesis”, or “Final Project Report.”

Special Notes for Thesis Students

  • Formatting and process: Thesis students must meet formatting requirements, and follow a specific submission process. Students are urged to read the UW thesis formatting guidelines well in advance of their final examination, and to set up their ProQuest account early in the quarter they intend to graduate.
  • Master’s Supervisory Committee Form: Thesis students must submit a signed Master’s Supervisory Committee Form as part of the ETD submission process.

Additional Information