Graduate School

The University of Mississippi

Thesis and Dissertation Manual

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General Guidelines

I write because I don’t know what I think until I read what I say.” Flannery O’Connor

Overview  of the Master’s Thesis, Doctoral Essay, and Doctoral Dissertation

Students seeking higher degrees traditionally have submitted theses or dissertations to the graduate faculties of American universities in partial fulfillment of the requirements for graduation. The term thesis has come to be used to designate the document submitted to the master’s degree program, while the termdissertation has been applied to the doctorate. The difference between them has become the difference between the degrees themselves and varies somewhat in different academic fields.  Traditionally, the doctoral dissertation has been the written record the candidate’s individual, original research and scholarship that has successfully advanced the limits of human knowledge. The topic must be appropriate to and significant in the academic field, require a mastery and exhaustive exercise of research techniques, and demonstrate critical thought and facility of expression. The dissertation must, in the professional opinion of the graduate faculty, make an original contribution, and it must demonstrate the candidate’s fitness to continue the advancement of knowledge in the student’s competency.

In one sense, the master’s thesis is a less comprehensive doctoral dissertation. In the master’s thesis, the candidate demonstrates ability to accomplish a research project of more limited scope and far less originality than that demanded of the doctoral candidate. Inevitably, the research and study that culminates in a master’s thesis will be less comprehensive and less complicated than that for the doctorate because the master’s candidate cannot be expected to have the mastery of the field that the doctoral student has attained. Ideally, the master’s candidate will find a research project of limited scope that will result in contribution to knowledge, but often the contribution of a master’s candidate relates more to a perceptive critique of existing knowledge than to the kind of original research accomplished by the doctoral student. In the master’s program, the emphasis in the thesis is placed more upon the candidate’s ability to handle the techniques of research and to communicate results than upon the discovery of new knowledge. The master’s thesis must at the same time represent a peak in the advanced education of the student and furnish the training through which to advance to the doctorate. In all other respects, particularly the care with which the research is accomplished and the results prepared for publication in the thesis, the master’s thesis should be identical with the doctoral dissertation.  Although the specific nature and scope of the doctoral essay (sometimes called a thesis) written for the Doctor of Arts degree varies from department to department, the doctoral essay differs significantly from both the master’s thesis and the doctoral dissertation. Since the difference is one of kind and not degree, the doctoral essay should not be viewed as a composition midway between the thesis and dissertation. The candidate in the Doctor of Arts program seeks to develop the capacity to read, understand, and apply disciplinary research for the benefit of students. Doctoral essays may take several forms. They may become the evaluation and synthesis of academic or disciplinary knowledge, comparative studies, creative intellectual projects, expository dissertations, or significant research in teaching problems and the organization of new concepts of course work. Likewise, they may become the evaluation and synthesis of materials and academic content that may be potentially valuable in college teaching. The research or independent investigation, however, should be closely related to academic subject matter and demonstrate the scholar’s mastery of academic content and research skills as attributes of effective teaching. In other words, the candidate’s objective in writing the Doctoral essay is the development of research skills that permit the application of scholarship to teaching rather than the generation of new knowledge.


All manuscripts should be written in English, but a foreign language may be used where it is appropriate to your major and approved by your committee. All abstracts, however, must be in English.

Electronic File and Submission

Beginning in 2011 the Graduate School has required that theses and dissertations be submitted in electronic format to ProQuest/UMI.  Directions for creating the electronic file (the final format being pdf) will be provided on the Graduate School’s web site.  Prior to converting the final document into a pdf file, you may use any modern word processing software to write the text.  A variety of multi-media files can be embedded into the electronic file or can be attached as a Supplemental File. You should see the ProQuest/UMI web site for specific details.

The Graduate School and UM Library no longer require a bound paper version of the thesis or dissertation.  If you wish to prepare a bound version, you may do so using the services of ProQuest/UMI or other publishers, such as the University Printing Service.  Your advisory committee may wish to have you submit paper versions of your work for their review.

Graduate School Review and Approval

After the student successfully completes the Final Oral Examination and finalizes his or her thesis or dissertation, the student then submits the final document to the Graduate School by uploading to the ProQuest/UMI system.  Instructions for this step are provided on the Graduate School’s website.  The Supervisor of Graduate Records will then review the document for completeness and style.  If any modifications are needed, the Supervisor of Graduate Records will contact the student.  If the document requires no further revisions, the Supervisor of Graduate Records will approve the thesis or dissertation. This approval means that the thesis or dissertation will then be published online by ProQuest/UMI.


See the list of deadlines posted on the Graduation Prep page.


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