Masters and PhD Thesis and Defense Guidelines

The crucial work produced in the course of graduate study for PhD students is a doctoral dissertation. MS students may also choose to culminate their studies by completing a master's thesis. There is no length requirement for these works, and they are read and approved by a committee put together by the student and their advisor. For PhD candidates, this committee consists of four members of which one must be an outside examiner from outside Tufts. For MS candidates, the committee must include at least 3 faculty members. The department provides a LaTeX template designed to help students meet the Tufts formatting requirements with basic instructions for setting up the document, which can be found on the Organization for Graduate Students in Mathematics Resources page.

Thesis submissions deadlines and other important guidelines can be found in the GSAS Handbook and GSAS' Graduation website. It is essential that you read and understand the Graduate School requirements in order to ensure an on-time graduation. Additionally, students must submit the "Thesis/Dissertation – Request for Final Approval" form to the chair of their committee once a final draft of the document, including any revisions recommended by the committee, is approved for publication.

During the electronic submission process, students are given the opportunity to order bound paper copies of their thesis or dissertation from ProQuest. The department requests that PhD students reserve one of these bound copies to be kept in our library, and will cover the costs for that extra copy.

Thesis Defense

In the last term before graduation, the student and advisor will schedule a thesis defense, which is announced to and open to the whole department and to visitors invited by the candidate.

The standard format is a presentation by the student followed by questions from the audience. The general audience is then asked to leave, and questions from the committee follow. In addition to the Graduate School rules, the Math Department has some additional requirements regarding thesis defenses:

  • The defense must be scheduled for a date at least 1 week prior to the thesis submission deadline, allowing time for any corrections to the thesis suggested by the committee to be made;
  • The defense date must be finalized and confirmed with the thesis committee 2 weeks in advance;
  • The defense date must be announced to the Department and advertised at least 2 weeks prior to the defense date, and with subsequent reminders announced by the office;
  • Students are expected to send a draft of their thesis to their committee 2 weeks prior to their defense. This does not have to be a finalized version, but should be substantially complete;
  • While the defense must occur with the student and all committee members (except one with permission) attending in person, the defense may be streamed virtually with the consent of the student and committee, allowing for a diverse audience. Similarly, if the student and committee agrees, the public portion of the defense may be recorded. It is strongly encouraged that faculty and graduate students in the department attend these defenses to show support for each other.