Thesis/Project Process

The following process applies to all CSS Division Graduate Students, regardless of degree program (CSSE or CSE) or capstone goals (project or thesis). 

In general, a thesis is a scholarly written document aimed at an academic audience as a contribution to an existing body of knowledge.  A capstone project is aimed at building a connection between academic concepts and the application of those concepts into real-world context.

Before students determine which option to pursue, they should discuss how each option applies to their own individual goals for their degree program with their faculty advisor and the CSS Graduate Advisor.

Step 1: Form a Supervisory Committee

Students who desire to register for their final capstone course must first form a committee of faculty who will supervise and grade their efforts and results of their capstone work.  A supervisory committee will consist of a student’s Faculty Advisor (who will serve as Committee Chair) and at least 2-3 additional faculty members. At least two of the committee members must be faculty whose primary appointment is in the Computing & Software Systems Division. The Chair of the Committee and at least one-half of the total membership must be members of the graduate faculty. For proposals with Chairs outside of the CSS Division, please contact the STEM Graduate Advising Office (located in UW2 134) prior to submission of the request.

Students must submit a signed Request to Form a Supervisory Committee to the CSS Graduate Advisor to obtain an entry code to register for the class.  Included with the signed form should be a 3-4 page proposal adressing the questions asked in section 2 of the form. Please follow the proposal guidelines detailed in the link below.

The deadline for all committee requests is the first day of the seventh week of the quarter PRECEDING the start of a student’s project or thesis coursework. Students should request for specific faculty to staff their Supervisory Committee; however, final staffing assignments of the Supervisory Committee resides with the CSS Division’s Graduate Program Coordinator. Once a supervisory request has been granted, students will receive an email from the CSS Graduate Advisor notifying them of the approved committee and an entry code to register for their capstone course. Students are encouraged to submit their request early, to avoid any registration late fees.

Submission Deadlines

Summer 2021: May 10, 2021
Autumn 2021: August 2, 2021
Winter 2022: November 10, 2021
Spring 2022: February 14, 2022
Summer 2022: May 9, 2022
Autumn 2022: August 1, 2022

Proposal Guidelines

Proposal Rubric

Step 2: File a Thesis or Project Plan

By the end of the second week of the quarter in which a student is registered for their first capstone credits, the student must submit to their Supervisory Committee a detailed project or thesis plan.  The plan should include an updated proposal of the work to be done, a time table listing key milestones and associated deliverables, the quality criteria and specific metrics by which student expects to measure the quality of their result, and the software development lifecycle and processes planned to complete the work.  There are no penalties for deviations in the approved plan or failure to meet the estimates in the timetable or failure to achieve the quality goals.  The plan simply provides a well-defined start for the remainder of the capstone work.  A PDF copy of the approved plan must be submitted by the student to the STEM Graduate Advising Office.

Submission Deadlines

Summer 2021: July 2, 2021
Autumn 2021: October 12, 2021
Winter 2022: January 14, 2022
Spring 2022: April 8, 2022
Summer 2022: July 1, 2022
Autumn 2022: October 11, 2022

To submit your plan to the STEM Graduate Office, please send your PDF document to, with the subject line “Project Plan” or “Thesis Plan”.

Register for CSSSKL 594

A substantial working draft of the capstone research project paper or thesis should be completed by the beginning of the quarter in which you expect to graduate. For this reason, generally, you will enroll in CSSSKL 594 “Scientific Writing for Thesis/Project” during the quarter before you expect to graduate.  (For example, to graduate in the Spring, you should enroll in 594 in the Winter). Please consult with your supervisory committee chair as to the best timing of this class for the most benefit to you.

Step 3: Communicate Regular Progress Reports with the Supervisory Committee

Throughout the period of enrollment in the capstone course, students should schedule regular progress report meetings with all the members of their project Supervisory Committee.  Reports should update committee members on the challenges, changes and overall progress of a students work.  At minimum, a student should plan on meeting with their Committee Chair at least three times a quarter, each quarter they are enrolled for capstone credits.

To register for your second and subsequent capstone credits, you will need to send an email to your faculty chair and copy the CSS Graduate Advisor requesting permission for continuation of your capstone coursework into the following quarter.  Once your Chair grants permission, the CSS Graduate Advisor will issue you a new entry code to use for registration.

Guidelines for Status Reports

Rubric for Status Reports

Step 4: Schedule Final Defense

By 5PM on Thursday of the third week of the quarter that a student is registered for their final thesis/project credits, the student must consult with their supervisory committee members to schedule a defense of their culminating work.  Students should work closely with their committee chair to ensure that they are ready for their final examination and defense.  The STEM Graduate Advising Office will send students the link to the online scheduling system each quarter to select a time/date for their defense.  All committee members must be present at the time of the defense, or the defense cannot be held.

Step 5: Apply to Graduate

By 5PM on Thursday of the third week of the quarter that a student is registered for their final degree credits the student must apply to graduate by filing a Master’s degree request online via  Students should work with the CSS Graduate Advisor and Committee Chair to plan their degree curriculum accordingly, so that their final capstone requirements serve as the culmination of their degree coursework.  Students must be registered for credits during the quarter they want to graduate.

Step 6: Submit Draft of Final Paper/Thesis

At least three business days before the final defense the student must submit a substantial draft of their project paper or thesis to their committee for a preliminary reading.  The purpose of this draft is to demonstrate to the Supervisory Committee that the student has achieved a Masters level competency in computer science and software engineering

Project Paper Guidelines

Project Paper Rubric

Thesis Guidelines

Thesis Rubric (Coming Soon)

Step 7: Final Examination and Defense

The Final Examination and Defense consists of (a) a public student presentation, (b) a public questions and answers session, (c) a closed-door question and answer session between the student and the Supervisory Committee, (d) a brief private discussion among the Supervisory Committee, and (e) the Supervisory Committee announcing to the student the result of the Final Examination and Defense. A typical defense will last close to two hours.  If a student does not pass the Final Examination and Defense, the Supervisory Committee will work with the student to decide upon the necessary additional work required for obtaining their Master’s degree.  The final examination and defense must take place no later than the third day of the last week of the quarter (final exam week).

Presentation Guidelines

Presentation Rubric

Step 8: File your Thesis or Project Paper

Project and Thesis students must submit an electronic copy (PDF) of their final project paper or Thesis by 11:59 pm PT on the final day of the quarter they intend to graduate. Failure to meet these submission deadlines will delay graduation.

Students must submit electronic (PDF) copies to: 1) Their Supervisory Committee Members; 2) The STEM Graduate Office; 3) If taking Thesis credits: the students must submit their thesis to the UW Graduate School.

To submit your document to the STEM Graduate Office, please sent it to, with the subject line “Final Thesis”, or “Final Project Report”.

Special Notes for Thesis Students:

  1. Formatting and process. Thesis students must meet specific formatting guidelines, and follow a specific filing process for submission. Please carefully review and follow the guidelines and requirements listed at well in advance of your final examination. Students are encouraged to set up their ProQuest account early in the quarter they intend to graduate.
  2. Master's Supervisory Committee Form. The ETD website specifies that thesis students must submit a signed Master's Supervisory Committee Form as part of the ETD submission Process. The CSS Advising office will generate the application (warrant) to the Supervisory Committee at the time of the student's Final Examination and Defense. When completed, the CSS Advising office will email a scanned copy of the signed form to the student for submission with their thesis.

Additional Information

Summary of Capstone Documents

Video Overview and Guidelines


     Have Questions?

For questions on any of this information, or other matters, please contact the STEM Graduate Office.

(425) 352-5490


Thesis/Project Final Exam Schedule