Master of Architecture (M.Arch.) Thesis and Graduation Policies, Procedures, and Guidelines

Each candidate for the M.Arch. degree is required to produce a thesis to demonstrate their contribution to the investigation of complex questions inherent in the discipline of architecture. In terms of faculty and facilities, the full resources of the College and University are available to the student in support of the thesis effort. Faculty from other disciplines, normally outside of involvement in the environmental design process, are encouraged to participate. The thesis year should provide the opportunity for maturation of those skills and attitudes students have acquired. The thesis culminates in a final examination (defense), in which the student’s architectural design and/or research work, body of scholarship, and professional inquiry are presented to the advisory committee and student colleagues, and in the thesis document, which should demonstrate each student’s academic accomplishment and professional potential. Research and Thesis (ARCH 5994) is offered every academic term and the credit is variable. M.Arch. students must complete a minimum of six total credit hours of Research and Thesis; a maximum of 10 total credit hours of Research and Thesis may count toward the 54 minimum graduate credit hours required on the Plan of Study (9 credits of Research & Thesis recommended). Additional guidance for thesis scheduling, review, and format is available from the Master of Architecture Program faculty.

Advisory Committee

Each candidate must form an advisory committee to guide his or her program of study, offer advice in meeting degree requirements, and aid in progress and accomplishments. The committee must include at least three members in accordance with the current Graduate Policies and Procedures and Course Catalog. The advisory committee chair must be a full-time member of the Architecture Program faculty unless approved otherwise by the Graduate Architecture Program Chair. At least one other committee member must be a faculty member in the Graduate Architecture programs. It is the student’s responsibility to select the advisory committee prior to completing any Research and Thesis (ARCH 5994) credit hours. Prior consent of each named faculty is required, and the committee is subject to approval by the Graduate Architecture Program Chair and the Dean of the Graduate School. (Approval of the advisory committee, chair and members, is accomplished through approval of the Plan of Study.)

Plan of Study

All graduate students must submit a Plan of Study. A sample of the required format may be picked up in the program office. A Plan of Study meeting the requirements of a student’s particular program (M.Arch. 2 or 3), as well as any additional design studio or supporting coursework required as a condition of admission or required by the advisory committee or by the Graduate Architecture Program Chair, and meeting the minimum requirements for the M.Arch. degree as stated in the current Graduate Policies and Procedures and Course Catalog must be submitted prior to completing 30 graduate credit hours and prior to completing any Research and Thesis (ARCH 5994) hours. At least 24 credit hours, excluding Research & Thesis (ARCH 5994), must be in 5000-level courses; a maximum of 9 credit hours of Independent Study and a maximum of 9 credit hours of Special Study may be counted on the Plan of Study; and a maximum of 3 credit hours may be in 4000-level courses not approved for graduate credit if outside the student’s major field and if judged by the student’s committee to be on a level warranting graduate credit. This plan should be approved by all members of the student’s advisory committee and then submitted to the program office for approval by the Chair of the Graduate Architecture Program. The Plan of Study will then be entered and sent electronically to the Graduate School for approval. Both the composition of the advisory committee and the plan of study may be changed if the student’s interests and needs so demand and if all members of the committee and the Graduate Architecture Program Chair approve.

Final Exam or Defense

All graduate students must present their thesis work through a final exam or defense. Prior to scheduling the final exam, a draft of the student’s thesis book must be reviewed and approved by the Graduate Architecture Program Chair. To schedule the final exam, the student must make a scheduling request at least two weeks prior to the proposed date of the examination to permit a complete clerical review and to ensure that all degree requirements have been satisfied; the online form is available at the Graduate School Forms web page. The online form should be completed by the student and then approved by the student’s advisory committee and by the Graduate Architecture Program Chair. A plan of study must be on file and approved before a final examination may be scheduled. At the time of the defense, the student must be enrolled in at least one course for at least three credits or enrolled under defending student status in order to schedule the final exam (please refer to the Graduate School’s published deadlines). If the exam or defense request is submitted on time and is approved by the advisory committee and the Graduate School, the student and the advisory committee will be notified by the Graduate School prior to the scheduled defense date. No student will be allowed to defend unless the exam is properly scheduled. The final exam result should be entered by the advisory committee chair within two business days following the examination. If a student fails an examination, one full semester (a minimum of 15 weeks) must elapse before the second examination is scheduled. Not more than two opportunities to pass any one examination are allowed.

Thesis Book and Submission of ETD

The student’s thesis work must be documented in a manner acceptable to the student’s advisory committee and in accordance with the requirements of the Graduate School. Please refer to the Graduate School website for more information regarding required format and content. Since the Spring Semester of 1997, all students have been required to submit their thesis documentation electronically, normally in Adobe Portable Document Format (PDF). Additional instructions are located on the Electronic Thesis and Dissertation (ETD) web site ( The Graduate School requires that a $20.00 archiving fee be paid prior to submitting the ETD. Students have two weeks after successful completion of the final exam to submit their ETD. If this deadline cannot be met, the Advisor must submit a request (email preferred) to the Dean of the Graduate School stating the reason for the delay and requesting approval in order for the ETD to be submitted late. Please note: Beginning Spring 2006, students who defended during a prior term must have received this approval and be registered for at least 1 credit hour for the term they submit their Electronic Thesis/Dissertation. In addition to the ETD, two (2) hardcopies of the thesis are required by the Graduate Architecture Program, one for the Art and Architecture Library and another, unbound and printed on one side only, for the Graduate Architecture Program archive. Students are also requested to deposit copies of their digital image files on the Graduate Architecture Program file server or to submit these files on CD-ROM for archiving purposes. The student should submit the ETD online, and it must be approved by his or her advisory committee and by the Graduate School in order for the ETD to be accepted.

Application for Degree

An Application for Degree (AFD) must be submitted by the dates listed in the Graduate Catalog. The application for degree may be submitted electronically via the Hokie SPA. The Graduate School requires a $25 Application for Degree fee. When the AFD is submitted a “to do” list is generated to assist in timely completion of all procedural requirements. If the student does not apply for the degree on time, his or her name will not appear in the Commencement bulletin and there will be a delay in receiving the diploma. Students who expect to graduate within the next semester should submit an Application for Degree as early as possible. An approved plan of study must be on file when the Application for Degree is submitted. Students who do not complete their degree as expected will need to notify the Graduate School Programs and Clearances Office. A new Application for Degree should be submitted for the semester that the degree requirements are actually completed. The diploma will be mailed approx. 3-4 months after completion (except for Spring graduates) to the address that the student lists on the Application for Degree. Otherwise, the diploma will be held at the Graduate School Programs and Clearances Office.

Completion of Degree Requirements

It is strongly suggested that all students check with the Graduate School Programs and Clearances Office (540-231-8636) to verify that all records are complete before leaving campus. If the student needs a Statement of Completion, the request should also be made at the Programs and Clearances Office. Upon request, completion statements will be sent after all degree requirements have been met, including the approval of the ETD.

Last Modified: August 7, 2020