Graduate College

GPP: Research considerations

Research considerations

The master’s thesis and doctoral dissertation (or equivalent) must be based on original and independent research/creative activity conducted by the student, under the guidance of the graduate supervisory committee. The thesis is an introduction to scholarly writing and is intended to create an understanding of theory and methods applicable to one’s field. The dissertation should demonstrate the candidate’s mastery of research and scholarly methodologies, theory, and tools of the discipline. Both the thesis and dissertation should demonstrate the candidate’s ability to address a major intellectual problem and to propose meaningful questions and hypotheses, as well as utilize the methods with which to study the proposed research question(s) and related hypotheses, and draw conclusions.

Supervisory committees

Students are guided by faculty mentors who advise them through their degree program. Students should identify their advisors early in their graduate career and look to them for guidance in their graduate work. Once the student has selected a thesis/dissertation committee, the head of the academic unit recommends the supervisory committee to the Dean of the Graduate College who reviews and appoints the Committee. Graduate supervisory committees must consist of a minimum of three individuals, including the chair or co-chairs.

Faculty Emeriti who meet Graduate College criteria may serve as members or co-chairs on graduate supervisory committees. They may serve as chairs with the recommendation of the academic unit and approval of the Dean of the Graduate College on a case by case basis. Qualified individuals outside the university, upon the recommendation of the head of the academic unit and approval of the Graduate College, may serve as members of thesis and dissertation committees. All such requests must be submitted to the Dean of the Graduate College for approval.

Research involving human and animal subjects

Theses or dissertations that make use of research involving human or animal subjects must include a statement indicating that the research has been approved by the appropriate university body.

Research involving human subjects conducted under the auspices of Arizona State University is reviewed by the University Human Subjects Institutional Review Board (IRB) in compliance with federal regulations. Documents containing any data collection from human subjects require that applications be submitted to the ASU Office of Research Integrity and Assurance for approval before data collection or recruitment of subjects is initiated at

Research involving the use of animals conducted under the auspices of Arizona State University is reviewed by the Institutional Animal Care and Use Committee (IACUC) in compliance with federal regulations. Documents containing any data collection from animal research require that applications be submitted to ASU Office of Research Integrity and Assurance for approval at

 It is very important that students check with their thesis/dissertation advisor well in advance of data collection to ensure compliance with university regulations regarding the collection of research data.

Thesis/dissertation defenses

Thesis and dissertation defenses are open to all members of the university community and the general public. The oral defense engages the supervisory committee and the candidate in a critical and analytical discussion of the research and findings of the study, as well as a review of the contribution of the research topic to advancing knowledge in that discipline. The presentation of a thesis or dissertation defense in an open forum fosters a broader awareness of the state of graduate research at ASU, promotes a wider scholarly dialogue among disciplines, and recognizes publicly the scholarly contributions of master’s or doctoral candidates.

Defenses must be scheduled through MyASU at least 10 working days in advance of the defense date. It is expected that oral defenses will be held on an ASU campus during regular business hours in order to facilitate student, faculty, and public accessibility. When there are sound educational reasons for holding a defense under different circumstances, contact the Graduate College for approval before scheduling the defense.

Students must be physically present at the oral defense of their thesis, dissertation or equivalent document. If, due to unforeseen circumstances, they cannot be physically present, then the oral defense must be rescheduled to another date when they can be physically present.

It is desirable that all members of a student’s supervisory committee be physically present with the student at the final oral defense of a thesis or dissertation. However, there are situations (e.g. faculty travel, faculty emergencies and/or faculty leave) that may necessitate holding a defense with one or more committee member(s) absent. In all cases at least 50% of the committee must be physically present. If a committee member cannot physically attend, they can tele/video conference, or they can appoint a substitute to attend in their place. The substitute should be a regular faculty member with the academic unit. The supervisory committee chair must be physically present; if there are two co-chairs, one of them may tele/video conference if needed. In either case, please email with the student’s ID number and the name of the tele/videoconferencing member or with the names of the member who will be absent and the faculty member who will attend as a substitute. This information must be submitted before the defense.