Completing Your Master’s Degree

You must meet both program and the Graduate School requirements for graduation. It is your responsibility to notify your graduate program coordinator by the deadline of your intention to graduate. Your program must request your degree warrant a minimum of three weeks before your defense/exam or the degree deadline. The Graduate School issues a degree warrant if you meet these requirements:

  • Graduate registration for a minimum of two graduate-level credits (300-level or above for a grade, no audits, or pass/fail) in the semester (fall, spring or summer) you expect your degree. Alternatively, if a degree completion fee has been approved by the Graduate School, you must have paid the fee in lieu of registration (see degree completion fee).
  • Credit requirement for the appropriate degree has been met, or will be by the end of the semester (master’s degrees, 30 credits including 16 residence credits; MFA and Specialists 42 credits including 24 residence credits).
  • Graduate GPA of at least 3.00.
  • All incomplete, unreported grades, or progress grades in anything other than research/thesis (usually 690, 790, 990) must have been cleared. Independent study (usually 699, 799, or 999) must be given a grade (not progress) each semester. If you are continuing for a PhD, a warrant may be issued even though you have incomplete or progress grades that are part of your PhD program, but your advisor needs to send a letter to the Graduate School stating which courses are for your PhD requirements.
  • Students receiving a second (or third) master’s degree from UW–Madison, and students receiving two master’s degrees during the same semester, must submit official lists (on program letterhead and signed by advisors or program chairs) of courses used for each degree. We use these lists to check the 25% overlap rule.
  • You must complete all requirements by the appropriate degree deadline.

Note: The Graduate School does not use honors titles (e.g., Magna Cum Laude, Dean’s List, etc.). Graduate students are not eligible to take courses designated for undergraduate honors students.

Master’s Exit Survey

As a graduating master’s student, you must complete the Graduate School’s Master’s Exit Survey (MES) before submitting your signed degree warrant to the Graduate School.*

The MES gathers information on your academic experience (e.g., program quality, support, advising) in your master’s program, as well as information about your post-degree plans. By completing the survey, you provide the Graduate School with valuable information that will help us determine how we can improve programs and services for students. All answers are kept confidential and are only shared in aggregate with all of the other responses from your program.

You will automatically receive an invitation email with survey instructions and a link to the survey when your program requests your master’s degree warrant. You may also access the Master’s Exit Survey here. If you have questions about the survey or if you encounter difficulties in taking it, please contact the Graduate School Survey Administrator at

*Students from the Library and Information Studies MA program, as well as the School of Business full-time, evening, and executive MBA programs are exempt from the survey requirement.

Master’s committees

Use this online committee requirements tool to help you determine whether your proposed committee would meet the Graduate School’s minimum requirements for committee members. For more information, see the policy on doctoral/master’s/MFA committees.

Thesis deposit

If your program requires you to deposit a thesis at Memorial Library, you must deposit before the degree deadline. Please follow the instructions available at toward the bottom of this webpage.

Degree warrant

A warrant is a document issued to your program by the Graduate School at your program’s request after you have met all degree requirements. Warrants are valid for one semester, and are signed by the program chair, advisor, or your committee. By signing the warrant, programs indicate that all program degree requirements have been met. If the Graduate School does not have your warrant with appropriate signature(s), you will not graduate.  NOTE: If your program has signed and returned your warrant to the Graduate School, and you receive an Incomplete or Progress grade at the end of the semester, or you deposit your thesis after the degree deadline, you will receive your degree during the following semester when your grade is cleared or your thesis is deposited (if your program requires thesis deposit).

Degree completion fee

The amount of this fee is equal to two credits at the in-state rate. The Graduate School must approve payment of the fee in lieu of registration. If the fee is appropriate for you, your program must submit a Degree Completion Fee Request Form to the Graduate School for approval. To qualify you must be finished with all degree requirements except for a thesis defense, comprehensive exam, presentation of a final project, or an incomplete course. You must have submitted your thesis, paper, or project to your advisor while you were registered in the previous semester.

Degree completion letter

Before your degree is posted on your final transcript and diploma is available, you can request a degree completion letter from the Registrar about two weeks after the end of the session (or sooner if you complete early in the semester and all requirements are cleared). Contact Office of the Registrar at 333 East Campus Mall #10101.

Window period

This is the time between the end of one degree period and the beginning of the next. If you were registered for the previous semester and met all degree requirements by the end of the window period, your degree will be granted in the following semester, but you will not have to register or pay fees for the next semester.

Commencement – December and May

If you want your name to be printed in the commencement program, you must submit an Apply to Graduate application through your MyUW Student Center. This is in addition to contacting your program to request your degree warrant from the Graduate School. You may attend the ceremony even if your name is not included in the commencement program. There is no commencement ceremony in August. If you plan to graduate in August, you may attend either the May or the December ceremony by submitting the Apply to Graduate application through MyUW Student Center. Cap and gown rentals are available at University Bookstore. Guests can attend without tickets.

Degree completion letter

The Registrar’s Office handles degree completion letters. If you have completed all degree requirements (including the deposit of your thesis in Memorial Library if it is required) and are waiting until the next degree conferral date to receive your degree, you may request and receive a letter indicating that all requirements have been completed. All grades from the semester in which you are graduating must be posted on your record before you can receive a completion letter.


The Registrar’s Office will send your diploma to your diploma address approximately 12 to 14 weeks after degree conferral. Update your diploma address via the MyUW Student Center prior to the end of the semester in which you are graduating. Students with holds will not receive their diploma until those holds are cleared.

A student’s name will be printed on the diploma as it appears on the student’s official university record. Changes to legal personal information including names can be requested online. For a student’s name change to appear on the diploma, the change must be made before the degree deadline in the semester the student will graduate.

Students who graduated after December 2015 may also access a Certified Electronic Diploma at no cost. A Certified Electronic Diploma is an official, portable, secure PDF version of the diploma that can be shared with anyone.


The Registrar’s Office posts degrees on official transcripts approximately 4-6 weeks after the end of the semester. You can order your official transcripts online.

Students may also request a campus copy of transcripts of their student record from MyUW Student Center. A campus copy student record is not an official transcript but it does indicate all internal university memoranda. The Registrar’s Office also provides more details on how to request a campus copy student record.

For more information, contact your graduate program coordinator or the appropriate resource listed below.

Elena Hsu
Graduate School Master’s Degree Coordinator

Graduate School
217 Bascom Hall

Guide to preparing your master's thesis

These guidelines should help you prepare your thesis to constitute a permanent document of quality appropriate for a major graduate institution.

Not all departments require that your thesis be deposited in Memorial Library. If your program has this requirement, your thesis should conform to the standards. It must be approved by the faculty committee, fully corrected, and complete.

Once your thesis is deposited in the library, you are not allowed to make changes on the final copy.

You are responsible for knowing the appropriate deadlines for degree completion, listed at the bottom of this webpage.

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Depositing your thesis

Check with your program on whether you must deposit a thesis.

Master’s students who are required by their program to deposit a thesis should follow these steps to electronically submit their thesis.

  1. Prepare your thesis. Read the Graduate School thesis format guidelines carefully. Follow the guidelines exactly (especially re: margins, page numbering, and placement of page numbers). You do not need to print your thesis.
  2. Email the Master’s Degree Coordinator with your Student ID number and the    following materials:
    1. A copy of your signed master’s degree warrant.
    2. A signed (by you) copy of the Minds@UW Distribution License form.
    3. A signed (by you) copy of the Proxy authorization form. List “Graduate School” as the Name of Proxy on this form.
    4. A copy of your completed thesis.

Reference manuals

Check with your department to determine what style is preferred. Here is a list of the major style manuals recommended by the American Library Association, and commonly used by writers in the disciplines noted. These books are available at bookstores, and in the General Reference Room at the Memorial Library. The Writing Lab in 6171 Helen C. White can also help you prepare your thesis as well as recommend reference manuals.

  • MLA Handbook for Writers of Research Papers. 3d. ed. By Joseph Gibaldi and Walters S. Achtert. Modern Language Association, 1968. A style manual for the humanities.
  • Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association. 4th ed. American Psychological Assoc., 1994. Widely used as a reference for psychology, education, and other social science disciplines.
  • CBE Style Manual. 5th ed. By the Council of Biology Educators, Committee on Form and Style. American Institute of Biological Sciences, 1983. The standard reference source for life sciences (biology, chemistry, biochemistry, geography, and geology).
  • The Chicago Manual of Style. 14th ed. Univ. of Chicago, 1993. A comprehensive standard reference.
  • A Manual for Writers of Term Papers, Theses, and Dissertations. 5th ed. theses, and is more affordable than Chicago Manual of Style.

Formatting requirements

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Your program may require an abstract to be included within the thesis. Please follow your program’s requirements, and number these pages as part of the preliminary material.


Unusual or supplementary materials, such as questionnaires or copies of photographs, may be put into appendices. The appendices must be consecutively paginated with the text. The page numbering and margins of the appendices must conform to the standards for the rest of the thesis.


The bibliography should meet your major program’s style requirements, which often conform to the leading journals or book series of the field.

Copyright registration

You may register a copyright of your thesis by writing to: Register of Copyrights, Library of Congress, Washington, D.C. 20559. You can find more information at the U.S. Copyright Office website.


After you submit the PDF of your thesis, you will not be permitted to make any additional corrections. Therefore, make sure the PDF is completely accurate before you submit it.

Equations, superscripts, and subscripts

Superscripts and subscripts may be one size smaller than the text. Separate equations with double spacing or enough space to identify each equation clearly.

Footnotes and endnotes

Footnotes and end-notes may be single-spaced with an extra space between notes. Footnotes for each chapter are usually numbered consecutively. Follow the preferences of your major program when deciding the location of footnotes or end-notes: at the bottom of the page, grouped at the ends of chapters, or grouped at the end of the thesis.

Foreign language use

You may include quotations in languages other than English in your thesis. However, the thesis must be in English unless your program certifies that one or both of the following conditions have been met: the foreign language is that of the readers to whom the work is addressed; or translation into English would make the study obscure and imprecise. Theses submitted by students from a foreign language department are acceptable in the language of that department.


Computer-generated figures and graphs must meet the same standards as the rest of the thesis. If graphics, tables, or figures are horizontal, place the top of the printed page on the left side of the paper with the page number in the upper right hand corner. There are a number of ways to do this. For methods using Microsoft Word for Windows, see instructions and examples of rotating page numbers.


  • Use a minimum of 1″ margin on all four sides.
  • Page numbers must be in the upper right-hand corner at least a half inch from the top and one inch from the side of the page.
  • Page headers: Do NOT use page headers (except for page numbers) or decorative borders.

Page headers

Please do not use page headers or decorative borders.

Page numbering

  • Please check your thesis to ensure that all pages are present and in numerical order.
  • All pages must be numbered with the exception of the title page.
  • Preliminary pages (e.g. table of contents, dedication page, acknowledgments, abstract, etc.) that precede the main text are numbered with lower case Roman numerals beginning with numeral i. Page numbers are placed in the upper right-hand corner one inch from both sides of the paper.
  • The main text is numbered consecutively beginning with Arabic numeral 1, in the upper right-hand corner one inch from both sides of the paper.

Reprints and use of copyrighted material

You are responsible for appropriate use of copyrighted materials in your thesis.  Some material may be available for use without restriction while other material may require written permission from the rights holder.  Other material may be appropriately used without written permission under the “fair use” provisions of the copyright law.  General guidance regarding use of copyrighted materials is available from ProQuest/UMI or from the UW–Madison Libraries website.

  1. Fair use: General information regarding how to determine if your use of copyrighted materials constitutes fair use can be found in these copyright resources. Reviewing and completing a fair use evaluation may also assist you.  See also the fair use evaluator.  Additionally, your own professional or disciplinary societies may have fair use statements to help you negotiate disciplinary specialties.
  2. Written permission:  If written permission is required, you are responsible for obtaining such permission and maintaining records of the written permission to use the copyrighted material in your thesis.  You can usually get permission by sending a letter of request to the copyright holder. Normally, your letter will be returned with an approval stamp or signature. Some copyright holders require a specific form of acknowledgment. Note that obtaining written permission can be a lengthy process.  Plan ahead and budget ample time to obtain all required permissions.

Title page

Please follow the format of this sample page.