What is the timeline for thesis draft submission and the revision process?

Date: June 2020


Dear graduate deans,

I am a M.S. candidate who is planning to graduate this August. I am writing to ask about the timeline for draft submission and the revision process.

I see from the Cornell Graduate School website that I should submit the draft to all committee members at the first week of June, but currently I am still writing some parts of my thesis. 

  1. Is this schedule for draft writing fixed? I expect to finish the draft by this week, but am not sure if this is OK.
  2. Can I still polish some data analysis and conclusion writing after I submit the draft?

Thank you so much for your help! Looking forward to hearing back from you!


Pressed for time


Dear “Pressed for time”,

Congratulations on nearing the completion of your M.S. degree! Writing a thesis is a big undertaking that requires close attention to detail, a robust knowledge of other published work on the topic, and the precise articulation of your findings. That’s why completing a thesis seems to take so much more time than almost any other writing endeavor. Reviewing and editing a draft thesis can require a similar level of attention from your special committee so it’s helpful to give them plenty of time.

The Code of Legislation of the Graduate Faculty does instruct students to provide draft versions of their thesis or dissertation well before the defense. It states:

A student for the degree of M.A. or, M.S. with a thesis, or Ph.D. must submit a complete draft of the thesis or dissertation to all members of the special committee at least six weeks before the Final Examination, unless the special committee modifies this requirement.

 At least five business days before a Final Examination, a student must give each member of the special committee the thesis or dissertation, complete in all respects and editorially acceptable for final approval. Neither the Final Examination for the Master’s Degree nor the Final Examination for the Doctor of Philosophy Degree may be scheduled until this requirement has been met. This version of the thesis or dissertation may require modification following the Final Examination.

If your special committee is agreeable with your proposal to submit a draft thesis less than six weeks before your planned defense it’s OK to do so. However, it’s important to realize that this may limit their ability to give you thoughtful, timely feedback and could make it more likely that you’ll need to make significant revisions later in the summer, perhaps even after your defense.

You can continue to revise and refine your draft up until five days before the defense when it must be complete and in final form, but making changes so late in the summer could be risky unless you work closely with your committee so there are no surprises at the defense. For August degree candidates, the thesis submission deadline has been extended to August 10th.  We publish a suggested timeline as a guide to help students plan, but it’s always good to build in some additional flexibility if you can!



Jason Kahabka
Associate Dean for Administration