Completing Thesis and Capstone

Appointment of the Committee

Unless other college and departmental procedures are in place, your graduate advisor will work with you to select your committee. The chair of your committee is your thesis/capstone advisor/first reader. The advisor/first reader must be a full-time faculty member of the department, possess an earned doctorate or a recognized terminal degree in his/her professional field, and have been designated as a Graduate Faculty member. In addition to the advisor/first reader, at least one additional faculty member is selected as a second reader. One committee member may be from another department, or external to NSU. Additional committee members may also be chosen. All committee members must have Graduate Faculty status.

Course Credit

Depending on your program, three to six semester hours of graduate credit may be earned by completing the project. Check with your thesis/capstone advisor/first reader about enrolling in the course.

Thesis Students

Students enrolled in thesis credit will receive a grade of X each semester until the thesis is completed. The X grade indicates a work in progress, and is GPA neutral. You must enroll in thesis credit hours, or applied research credit hours, each semester until the thesis is complete. Upon thesis completion, your advisor/first reader will assign the appropriate thesis grade.

Capstone Students

Students enrolled in capstone credit must meet all outcomes embedded in the course to earn a grade. If a student does not complete all expected course outcomes, the grade earned at the end of the course will be assigned. In some circumstances, a grade of Incomplete "I" may be assigned. If an incomplete is assigned, students must complete the expected outcomes within the time frame and according to the direction of the capstone advisor/instructor of record, but in no case longer than one year from the date the incomplete.

Help with Writing a Thesis/Capstone

Maintain frequent contact with your committee. Typically, several thesis/capstone drafts are required. Provide your committee members with ample time to review your work and provide feedback. Be open-minded about accepting constructive criticism; remember that the goal is to complete an excellent end of program project.

The Writing Lab in Seminary Hall or in the Library Building on the Broken Arrow campus can provide considerable assistance. The Writing Lab staff will not write your thesis/capstone for you, but they can assist in manuscript organization, effective writing technique, and proper formatting for your discipline.

The Library staff can assist you with locating appropriate and relevant resources. Inter-library Loan is available for resources not available in the John Vaughan Library (JVL) data bases. Allow sufficient time for these materials to arrive.

The Thesis/Capstone Proposal Application

Your department may require submission of a thesis/capstone application or prospectus for committee approval before proceeding with the collection of data. Additionally, if the project research involves human subjects, Institutional Review Board approval may need to be secured (see the section below). Check with your advisor/first reader to determine the specific requirements in your department.

Research Involving Human Subjects

Federal law requires that all research involving human subjects, regardless of the source of funding, must be approved in advance by the Institutional Review Board (IRB). In order to comply with governmental directives, you must complete the appropriate human subjects form and submit it to the IRB according to the directions on their website. Forms and instructions can be downloaded from the Institutional Review Board Home Page. The University Institutional Review Board meets regularly, but approval must be received at least one month before data collection begins.

A copy of the approved form must be submitted with the final thesis/capstone in the appendix of the manuscript. Failure to follow the Human Subjects Review procedure may result in rejection of your project by the Graduate College.

Research Involving Animals

Federal law requires that all research projects involving the use of animals be conducted in such a manner as to ensure humane treatment of the animals. To ensure humane treatment and proper care, all such projects, regardless of the source of funding, must be approved in advance by the University Animal Welfare Committee.

According to the 1976 Copyright Act, your manuscript is automatically copyrighted. Until formal transfer of the copyright, you are the owner. You do not need to register the copyright (fee required) unless you desire a public record of the copyright. The manuscript need not display the copyright symbol, however, the best way to protect an unpublished work is to place a copyright notice on every copy.

A second copyright issue involves the use of copyrighted materials in the thesis/capstone projects. If you are to use copyrighted materials in your project, it is best to receive permission first.

This document is provided as a courtesy of the Copyright Management Center, IUPUI, 530 W. New York, St. Indianapolis, IN 46202.

Approval by the Graduate College

All theses must be approved by the Graduate College and digitally archived in the Northeastern State University John Vaughan Library (JVL). Upon final committee approval of the thesis/capstone committee, the committee chair will submit a complete and signed electronic (.pdf) manuscript to the Graduate Dean for final approval. The manuscript should be submitted at least four weeks prior to graduation, but no later than the last day of courses in that semester. The electronic manuscript will contain original signatures of all committee members with a blank line for the Graduate Dean's signature.

The Graduate College will return the signed electronic manuscript to the committee chair and forward the electronic manuscript to the JVL for electronic archival in the thesis/capstone data base.

Note: It is the responsibility of the student under the direction of the advisor/reader(s) to submit an error-free manuscript. If, after submitting the final electronic manuscript to the Graduate College for final approval, errors are still evident, the manuscripts will be returned to the student with notice to the advisor/first reader for correction(s).

DO NOT USE OTHER STUDENT PAPERS AS A GUIDELINE! These guidelines are regularly updated. Other students' papers may not have current, accurate formatting or style. For this reason, please refer to the present guidelines, your departmental style manual, and your advisor.


Completing a thesis/capstone is a time-consuming process. A thesis/capstone cannot be rushed through at the last minute. Use the timeline below to plan work on your thesis/capstone and to avoid delay in graduation.

It is recommended that students visit with their advisor early in the program to discuss the process and to select the thesis committee.

Task Suggested Completion Responsible Party Notes
Select Topic Semester 2 or 3 Student & Advisor Discuss with Advisor
Appointment of Thesis/Capstone Committee Semester 2 or 3 Student & Advisor Work with Graduate Advisor
Obtain Human Subjects or Animal Use approval (if applicable) 2 Months before collecting data Student Obtain forms from IRB Office; must be completed and filed before data collection begins
Approval of Application/Prospectus by Thesis/Capstone Committee Semester 2 or 3 Committee  
Enroll in Thesis/Capstone Course Program requirement Student Check departmental requirements
Complete Thesis/Capstone manuscript 4-8 weeks prior to graduation Student Guidelines for Thesis/Capstone; work with Writing Lab; check departmental requirements
Schedule Thesis/Capstone Defense (if applicable) 4-8 weeks prior to graduation   See thesis advisor/first reader; check departmental requirements
Approval by Thesis/Capstone Committee 4-8 weeks prior to graduation   Work with thesis/capstone advisor/first reader; check departmental requirements
Submit signed electronic manuscript to the Graduate College At least 4 weeks prior to graduation   Deadline is 4 weeks prior to graduation