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M.S. (Plan I) Thesis Defense, Exam and Filing

M.S. Thesis Defense, Exam, and Filing Instructions (Plan I) (Updated: September 28, 2023)

Thesis Defense and Examination (M.S.)

The thesis and defense are the culminating projects of the M.S. degree (Plan I). The student is encouraged to discuss with members of the degree committee both the substance and the preparation of the thesis well in advance of the planned date of thesis defense and final examination.

The M.S. final defense and examination consists of an open seminar on the thesis work followed by a closed examination by the degree committee.  During the examination, the student is expected to explain the significance of the thesis research, justify the methods employed, and defend the conclusions reached. 

The defense consists of an open seminar by the candidate followed by questions from the audience (approximately 1 hour). The open session is followed by a closed session of the candidate and degree committee members (examination portion). The entire defense and exam may not be longer than three hours.

At the conclusion of the exam, the committee shall vote on whether both the written thesis and the student's performance are satisfactory to earn a M.S. degree from the University of California.

The presentation slides from our M.S. Graduation Filing & Procedures Workshop are available to download here: ms_time_to_degree_-_preparing_for_graduation.pdf

M.S. Thesis Defense, Exam and Filing Procedure

  1. Review Graduate Division Checklists
    1. Please visit for the Ph.D./M.S. Degree Application Forms and Guidelines.
    2. Make sure you have submitted the M.S. Advancement to Candidacy online form at least 30 days prior to the start of the semester in which you plan to graduate in.  Please contact for the link to the online form.
    3. Complete the Graduate Student Graduation Application during appropriate filing period (Fall: February 16-September 15; Spring: September 16th-February 15; Summer: September 16-June 15).  The application is available on the student portal under “MyStudentRecord.” No signatures are required.
  2. Set Date with Faculty Committee Members
    1. A defendable copy of your thesis should be sent to your committee members at least three weeks in advance of their defense date.
  3. Announcements
    1. Complete Exam/Defense Date Submission webform to notify SoE Graduate Staff of your defense date.
    2. Please create your defense flyer announcement and submit it at least 2 weeks prior to your examination date. We will post your seminar announcement to the campus Event Calendar, and send out the announcement to your graduate program one (1) week prior to your examination date. Click here for available flyer templates.
  4. Defense Date
    1.  At least one (1) week prior to your examination, you and your committee chair will receive an email with documents required to administer the examination. These documents include your current UC Merced transcripts and the Approved Advancement to Candidacy Form. 
    2. Submit an electronic copy of your signed thesis signature page (or all approvals) to so that we are able to process the Final Report for the Master's Degree form. We will submit the completed Final Report form to the Graduate Division.
  5. Finalize Thesis and Submit Forms to Graduate Division
    1. Make any corrections/edits to final thesis
    2. Upload to UC Merced Proquest website by deadline (please refer to )
    3. Submit thesis signature page by deadline (please refer to ) Please review information below on acceptable signature/approvals for all forms. You must submit to for processing.


Graduate Division Acceptable Approvals/Signatures

1. Adobe Signature - Adobe signature with a scanned image of a wet signature. Please see Adobe's Quick Start Guide, step 4.c .

2. UC Merced Email - Forms should be completed online and forwarded as an email attachment to the appropriate persons for approval. Signers should indicate, "I approve" or "I do not approve" and add any notes they wish in the body of the email, and then forward it (with form attached) to the next person for approval via UCM email. The email approvals should be submitted through a single email trail. The final person to approve/disapprove should forward the form and email trail to, with a copy to the school's graduate coordinator (

3. Wet Signature/Copy of Wet Signature - Traditional original ink signature on paper.

Please note: Forms submitted to Graduate Division without acceptable approvals/signatures will be considered incomplete and will NOT be processed. Forms must be emailed to When a form is processed the student will receive an email notification to their UCM email account.