Chemistry and Biochemistry

Theses/Dissertation Requirements

Minimum Standards for Submitting Dissertations and Theses

ACS Style Guide (use this for formatting your content)

All students should project at least one semester in advance what semester they will defend. You will be registered for all remaining credits for that semester. It is vital that you are registered for at least two credits in the semester of your oral defense of your dissertation/thesis. (Spring and Summer terms equal one semester.)
Your dissertation/thesis represents the culmination and “crown jewel” of your graduate research program. It should be a well-organized, well-written, comprehensive compilation of your work. You should expend significant effort to arrange and present your experimental work in an understandable and logical manner. This will help you prepare formal written presentations in your future career. Your dissertation/thesis is taken very seriously by your examination committee.
It is wise to prepare an outline for examination and approval by your faculty advisory committee. However, your dissertation/thesis should demonstrate your own creativity and personality. There are no rigid requirements for the dissertation/thesis organization, but aspects noted in the following sections should be covered. Different formats or sequences might serve better for your dissertation/thesis, but these guidelines provide a framework for your evaluation of the adequacy of your presentation.
A.        The first chapter should be an introduction to your entire dissertation/thesis. This introductory chapter should summarize others’ major contributions to your area of investigation and give a reader who is not familiar with your field a good background for your work. This introduction could be a comprehensive review of a small area, or a review confined to a specific part of a large area in which your dissertation/thesis fits. In either case, the importance of your research should be established, and a description of how and where your work fits into the field should be included. Your subsequent divisions could be separate chapters, if your dissertation/thesis represents one major project. If other chapters describe a series of studies, it might be preferable to include comparable sections within each chapter. A summary and conclusions chapter should present a candid assessment of the successes and short-comings of your research, and suggest recommendations for further work to extend and/or clarify your discoveries.
B.         Your experimental section should be written with the goal of making your work readily available for straightforward repetition and/or extension by others.  Excessive details for well-known procedures, or repetition of closely analogous items, should be avoided, but sufficient explicit information should be included to allow ready duplication of your work. The highly condensed style used by many professional journals, which often requires significant interpretation and/or secondary experimentation by skilled researchers, is not adequate for your dissertation/thesis.
C.        A results section should present the major findings of your dissertation/thesis clearly and concisely without undue repetition of experimental details and conditions, except where necessary to emphasize or clarify key points.
D.        A discussion section should not just recapitulate your results, but should also critically evaluate and discuss your results in the context of your overall effort and the larger research field. Combination of results and discussion sections might be appropriate in some cases.
Your faculty advisory chair should work with you until your dissertation/thesis is of publication quality. “First draft” efforts with numerous spelling, grammatical, computer format (spacing and font problems), and other errors should never be presented to your examination committee. Such a preliminary effort would be embarrassing to you and to your faculty advisory chair, since it reveals a glaring lapse of professionalism.
The members of your faculty advisory/examination committee have the responsibility to read carefully and evaluate critically your entire dissertation/thesis. Your dissertation/thesis does not have to be perfect, but you should desire, and seriously attempt, to make it your best effort. Journal editors, referees, and grant evaluation panels place significant emphasis on professionalism, scientific accuracy, and ethics demonstrated in manuscripts submitted for publication and proposals submitted for research funding. Your dissertation/thesis will usually represent a major independent effort in this demanding aspect of professional research and formal writing.
By Graduate Studies policy, all theses and dissertations must be submitted electronically as an ETD, thus allowing greater accessibility to it by scholars all over the world via the Internet. Instructions for preparing your ETD are available online at The ETD must be submitted in a timely manner so as to allow time for department and college approvals before the deadline.