Getting Started

Two students at a desk talk to each others while typing on laptops.

Preparing for Your Thesis, Project, or Dissertation

Students are encouraged to prepare for their thesis, project, or dissertation as early as their first semester. This page offers some advice and resources for getting started.

  • Familiarize yourself with Title V of the California Code and the Culminating Experience section of the Cal State LA Catalog. These documents provide some expectations for your thesis, project, or dissertation.

  • Learn your department's expectations and procedures for your culminating experience. Only your department's faculty may advise you on the research and content of your thesis, project, or dissertation, including such details as page length, draft deadlines, and data sources.

  • Complete and submit any required paperwork, such as the GS-12 Form, to your college or department. Not all colleges or departments require these forms. The faculty who approve your thesis must match the names and signatures on the GS-12.

  • If you are doing research with human subjects, learn about the IRB process and meet all stated deadlines. You may not gather data until you have received approval. Not knowing is not an excuse!

  • Research and apply for funding opportunities through the Office of Graduate Studies. Don't leave money on the table! Applications are accepted on a rolling basis.

  • Get additional assistance from the GRC's Graduate Writing Support Program and from Library Reference Liaisons. Take advantage of supplemental help available to you for FREE.

  • Have a look at previous Cal State LA theses, project reports, and dissertations in the Cal State LA Library Digital Respository. Get a sense of the content, organization, and scope of previous manuscripts, but don't copy the format! There have been many changes over the years. 

  • Use Refworks or another citation manager to organize your research. Citation managers can be a huge help in avoiding plagiarism.

  • As you get closer to the end of your program, review the Steps to Completion. Don't get caught off-guard by important deadlines.

  • Take care of yourself. Make use of the Student Health Center, X-Treme Fitness Center, The Pit, and the campus swimming pool.

For more detailed information, check the GRC schedule each term for the Getting Started on the Thesis workshop.

NOTE: Students who expect to take comprehensive exams are encouraged to meet with a Graduate Writing Consultant to discuss study tips in preparation for the exam. Assistance is generally not permitted during the exam.


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