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Master's Thesis Guidelines

A master’s student with a thesis requirement will submit the file through Brown's electronic theses and dissertation (ETD) system. The system is designed to collect and archive the thesis or dissertation as a text-based PDF file. An electronic file submitted through the ETD will appear in the Library's discovery service and in the Brown digital repository.

The system was developed by the Graduate School and the University Library and launched in 2008. As of 2016-17, master’s theses are filed exclusively through the ETD system.

In the spirit of the dissemination of new knowledge that is a hallmark of higher education, a thesis or dissertation will be subject to web searches and unrestricted downloads unless the student requests to opt out of the system and have the thesis or dissertation unavailable for download outside of the Brown community. A request to restrict download access to a thesis or dissertation has an initial two-year window from the time of degree conferral. Guidelines associated with restricted dissertation access are:

  • The full text version will be available for download only to members of the Brown community.
  • Web searches including the citation and abstract of restricted theses or dissertations will continue to be available to the general public.
  • After two years the restriction will elapse.
  • Restrictions on full text download may be renewed for two-year periods up to a total of ten years from the date of degree conferral. Requests for additional two-year restrictions should be made to the Graduate School.
  • Any requests to extend the restriction beyond ten years must go to the Graduate Council for approval.
  • In cases where the thesis or dissertation is a co-worked piece and there is disagreement between the student and the advisor over whether the material will or will not be available for download outside of the Brown community, the dispute will be brought before the Graduate Council for resolution.

To use the ETD system, the student must possess a valid username and password for accessing Brown’s computer network. If you are unable to create an account in the system, please contact for assistance.

The first business day in May is the last day for submission of a master's thesis.

Students must be actively enrolled at the time the thesis is submitted. If a student registers for Semester I and completes all of the requirements for the degree during that semester, a fee for Semester II will not be charged, even though the degree itself is formally conferred at the end of Semester II.

Title Page: See sample.

The Signature Page: As part of the overall completion process, the student must separately submit   one signature page, which should be on archival quality paper. The signature page should bear the original signature (not a copy) of the director (not the graduate representative or chairperson). The signature should be in either black or blue ink. The typed name of the director should appear under the signature line. (A candidate who wants an original signature page signed by the Dean of the Graduate School for his/her file must include a second signature page.) See sample.

The Text: Every effort should be made to have the manuscript as perfect as possible in form and appearance. Pages containing handwritten corrections, typewritten strikeovers and unsightly erasures and the like will not be accepted. Good references for editorial details are the MLA Handbook for Writers of Research Papers, Theses, and Dissertations (Modern Language Association), Kate Turabian's A Manual for Writers of Term Papers, Theses and Dissertations (University of Chicago Press), and The Chicago Manual of Style (University of Chicago Press). The department should also be consulted regarding its policies or preferences in matters of format and style.

If publication of the thesis is anticipated, the medium of publication likely to be used should be considered when preparing the manuscript. If it is known in advance that the thesis will be published by a particular publisher or journal, the editorial practices of that publisher or journal should be followed. The form of footnotes and bibliography, in particular, may vary with different publishers and journals.

Type and Spacing Standard: Typefaces set to print at 10-, 11-, or 12-point font are acceptable. Typing or printing should be double-spaced, except for footnotes (single-space footnotes, with double spacing to separate one note from the next).

Page Numbers: Be consistent. Either put all page numbers (both Roman and Arabic) at the top of the page, or put all page numbers (both Roman and Arabic) at the bottom of the page. Page numbers may be placed closer to the edge of the paper than the text itself.

Most theses consist of preliminary pages which are numbered using Roman numerals, and the thesis proper, which is numbered using Arabic numerals.

The preliminary pages must appear in the following order:

  1. Title page (do not number)
  2. Signature page (ii)
  3. Vita* (iii)
  4. Preface and acknowledgments (iv)
  5. Table of contents (v)
  6. List of tables vi List of illustrations (vii)

Should any element of the preliminary pages be longer than one page, number the pages consecutively. The preliminary pages should appear in this order but not necessarily with the page numbers shown above.

The thesis proper (including introduction, main body of the text, illustrations, appendices, and bibliography) is numbered using Arabic numerals. The numbering begins with 1 and runs consecutively to the end.

* The vita is an optional statement giving a short biography of the candidate, including  institutions attended, degrees and honors, titles of publications, teaching or professional experience, and other pertinent information. Do not include date or location of birth or phone numbers.

Dating the Thesis: Because degrees are conferred only at the end of the academic year, the title page of theses completed during the summer or during any month of an academic year must be dated the following May. For example, if you complete your thesis in August of 2017, the date on your submission should be May 2018.

The Abstract
If it is appropriate for the thesis to be accompanied by an abstract, it will be published in Dissertation Abstracts International. The abstract should, in a concise manner, present the problem of the dissertation, discuss the materials and procedure or methods used, and state the results or conclusions. Mathematical formulas, diagrams, and other illustrative materials should be avoided. The abstract should not be part of the thesis itself nor should it be included in the table of contents. It should be headed as follows:

Abstract of (TITLE OF THESIS), by (AUTHOR'S NAME), Degree [A.M., or ScM.], Brown University, May (YEAR IN WHICH DEGREE IS TO BE AWARDED).

The abstract should be prepared carefully since it will be published without editing or revision. The abstract should be double-spaced and may not exceed 350 words (maximum 2,450 characters — including spaces and punctuation — about 70 characters per line with a maximum of 35 lines).

When the thesis is submitted electronically to the Graduate School, it must be in final form. It may not be revised in any way after it is presented.  See the list of required items below and note that some, where noted, may be sent electronically to the Graduate School’s Academic Affairs Manager, Barbara Bennett. The thesis will not be accepted and the student’s degree will not be conferred if any item from this list is missing or incomplete. The online submission system will send notifications when each document has been received and approved by the Graduate School.

  1. Letter of Clearance from the Bursar indicating that all outstanding debts and the $150 filing fee (if applicable) have been paid; may be sent electronically.
  2. Exit Survey, Brown Graduate School
  3. Two copies of the title page; may be sent electronically.
  4. One signed signature page

Students interested in depositing digital supplementary materials along with their thesis are welcome to contact the Library for assistance. Please contact: Andrew Creamer in the Library at

It is University policy that all research done at the University under its sponsorship must be freely published without restriction. Since 1954, the Graduate School has required that dissertations be published. In 1985, the Graduate Council reaffirmed that decision and approved the following policy:

"All Ph.D. dissertations and Master's theses will be open documents. The Graduate Council will not recommend the awarding of the Ph.D. or Master's degree until the dissertation or thesis is submitted to the Graduate School and accorded unlimited distribution status."

Exceptions to this requirement will be made only if there is a letter from a publisher stating that the dissertation will be published within one year after the degree is awarded and that requests that circulation of the dissertation be withheld for twelve months after the degree is conferred. Six months will be allowed for the clearing of a patent.

If you have a question about temporarily removing your dissertation from the Library's digital repository, please contact Jean Rainwater (University Library, Integrated Technology Services).

The Office of the Registrar's Application to Graduate provides the degree candidate with an opportunity to indicate how the diploma name should appear. Otherwise, the name that will appear on the diploma and in the Commencement program, and under which the Library will catalog the dissertation, is the name under which the candidate is officially registered. Any request for a change of registered name should be addressed to the Office of the Registrar and accompanied by supporting legal documentation, such as a court order, marriage license, passport, driver’s license, or social security card. 

If all academic requirements for the degree and all financial obligations have been met before April 1, the Office of the Registrar will issue a certificate of completion within three weeks of the candidate's request.

If you have any questions regarding the submission of your thesis, please contact Barbara Bennett in the Graduate School at (401) 863-2843.