Thesis and Dissertation


The thesis or dissertation is a scholarly work that forms the capstone of a research degree program. The Graduate School’s Code of Legislation requires the completion and defense of the master’s thesis or doctoral dissertation to obtain your graduate degree. The thesis or dissertation is placed in public circulation so that other scholars may expand on or challenge your ideas.

Some academic disciplines and graduate fields expect that the dissertation will form a single, unified document, while other disciplines permit students to compile several related papers as chapters of a thesis or dissertation (see Fields Permitting the Use of Papers Option page).

The Thesis & Dissertation webpages provide formatting requirements, required sections, and suggested timeline for producing and submitting your thesis or dissertation.

Thesis or Dissertation Requirements

  • Follow tips on deadlines, writing, scheduling your exam, and securing approvals.
  • Content and length: Determined by your special committee and advisor/chair.
  • Standards: Generally conform to the standards of leading academic journals in your field. 
  • Format: Minimum standards set by the Graduate School. See the Formatting Requirements page.
  • Defense: Called the “B” exam for Ph.D.s or “M” exam for master’s students.  Enrollment in future semesters after the date a student passes their M or B exam is not permitted.
  • Approval: Reviewed and approved by your special committee.
  • Submission: Theses and dissertations are made available through the Cornell library, and doctoral dissertations are also included in the ProQuest national repository. 

In Depth

Because writing a thesis or dissertation can be challenging, Cornell offers plenty of support. You are encouraged to plan ahead, carefully budget your time, and reach out to the people who can help you throughout the process.

Writing Support

Planning and Deadlines

(View the current planning timeline for each academic year.)

  • Three months before graduation: Plan to submit your thesis or dissertation to your committee
  • Two months before graduation: Schedule your B or M exam.
  • Six weeks before graduation: Take your B or M exam.
  • Four weeks before graduation: Obtain committee approval of your thesis or dissertation.
  • Three to four weeks before graduation: Submit your thesis or dissertation.

Learn more about the thesis or dissertation requirement, including deadlines and requirements, scheduling and taking your exam, obtaining committee approval, and submitting your thesis or dissertation on the Thesis & Dissertation pages.