Graduate Catalog
Policies, Procedures, Academic Programs
Graduate School Policies
Thesis and Dissertation
Master's degrees
Master’s degrees may be thesis or non-thesis and this is specified on the Plan of Study at the time the plan is submitted. For departments where the non-thesis option is available, a master’s degree candidate is allowed to change from the thesis to the non-thesis option (or vice versa) only once. A change between thesis and non-thesis requires the filing of a Thesis Option Change form
Doctoral degrees

Doctoral degrees (Ph.D. and Ed.D.) require a dissertation that involves original research.

Independent Effort

Two or more students may work on the same total problem; however, each student must prepare an independent thesis or dissertation on that student's part of the problem. The individual contributions of each student involved in the same problem should be explained in each thesis or dissertation.

Dissertation Format

Dissertations may be prepared in the traditional multi-chapter format or in manuscript format (minimum of two journal articles, plus front and back matter as indicated in the guidelines).

Proprietary or Classified Theses and Dissertations

In certain instances a portion of students' thesis or dissertation research might involve proprietary, controlled, or classified information. Although some results might need to be summarized for the sponsor in a separate embargoed document, a completely embargoed thesis or dissertation conflicts with scholarly values of peer review and promotion of knowledge and should be avoided. All theses and dissertations produced to meet Virginia Tech degree requirements should be subject to an open defense and open publication (including ETD submission), and capable of standing as academically-complete works.

Since any proprietary or governmental restrictions should be known at the outset, students are expected to seek a pre-research review of their thesis or dissertation plans with the sponsor whenever there is a possibility that certain findings might be subject to embargo. In coordination with the Chair of their Advisory Committees, students should communicate to the Graduate School as soon as possible any anticipated restrictions on their research. Similarly, a pre-publication review should be conducted with the sponsor as early as is prudent to identify any restrictions on publication, including acceptable separation of restricted findings into an embargoed document. Any publication restrictions should be communicated to the Graduate School as soon as they are known or predicted.

Advisory Committee Approval of the Thesis or Dissertation

All members of a student's Advisory Committee are required to participate in that student's final examination. Depending upon the technological resources available, committee members may participate from a remote location. If an Advisory Committee member cannot participate, the committee member should recommend to the Chair of the Advisory Committee, when possible, the name of a scholar eligible for advisory committee membership to serve as a proxy during the examination. After consultation with the student, the Chair makes such a proxy appointment in writing. Regardless of the size of the advisory committee, only one official proxy will be approved. Those conducting the examination must log in to the Electronic Signature System and enter in their decision on the exam result. The proxy must communicate with the committee member for whom he or she is serving as a proxy regarding the exam result decision, and the original committee member must log in to the Electronic Signature System to enter the decision on behalf of the proxy. 

All committee members must also signify approval or disapproval of the thesis/dissertation in the Electronic Signature System. This signifies that the thesis or dissertation is in final form and ready for ETD submission to the Graduate School. If a committee member does not approve the thesis/dissertation, that non-approval will be designated on the ETD. A successful candidate is allowed, at most, one negative vote, regardless of the size of the Advisory Committee.

Electronic Thesis and Dissertation (ETD)

Theses and dissertations are submitted electronically. For instructions, see

Deadline for ETD Submission

The final version of the thesis or dissertation approved by the student's Advisory Committee must be submitted electronically as an ETD to the Graduate School no later than two weeks after successful completion of the final examination. The ETD Approval Form, indicating Advisory Committee approval of the document must be returned to the Graduate School when the ETD is submitted. If the process of ETD revisions leading to Graduate School approval of the ETD extends beyond the posted deadlines for a semester, the student will be enrolled for 1 credit of SSDE in the later semester when degree completion occurs.

Degree Completion and Graduate School Approval of the ETD

Degree Completion

Graduate degrees are completed after the approval of the ETD by the Graduate School and the completion of all other requirements for the degree.

Copyrighting and Microform

The Graduate School does not require students to register their copyright. ProQuest (previously University Microfilms), digitizes abstracts in their book Dissertation Abstracts and also digitizes the dissertations If a master's student wishes to register the copyright, they must apply directly through the Library of Congress Copyright Registration Office. More information concerning the requirements and cost of copyright registration can be found at

Intellectual Property

A University Intellectual Property Policy was adopted in 1986 by the university’s Board of Visitors. The policy applies to copyrightable material, patentable inventions, and other creations conceived by any faculty member, staff member, or student employee when substantial university resources, such as money or equipment, are used in connection with the conception and/or development of the creation. All such creations are the property of the university and subject to any applicable agreements with funding agencies.

If a student employee has conceived a creation, which may belong to the university pursuant to the Intellectual Property Policy, it is his or her responsibility to report promptly the creation to the university. All creations must be reported to the Office of the Vice President for Research. Creations must be reported before publication of the item, or before publication of information relative thereto or before disclosure to an outside firm or agency. Under the existing policy, net income to the university in the form of royalties (etc.) from the creation may be shared equally with the creator(s).

Copies of the Intellectual Property Policy and assistance in reporting creations may be obtained from the Office of the Vice President for Research or