The thesis

Consisting of a final body of work and a written component, the thesis is both a culmination of the graduate experience at RISD and a catalyst for future professional and creative practice.

To view examples of discipline-specific projects online, please visit Digital Commons @ RISD. You may also view highlights from recent thesis projects in our first Book of Thesis Books.


May 29

Electronic submission of final thesis

Process for 2020: You must email a final copy of your thesis (as a PDF) to your GPD for uploading by Friday, May 29, 2020. The electronic thesis (which does not have to include signatures) will be catalogued by the Library and will also be posted to RISD’s Digital Commons, unless you elect to opt out on the thesis submission form.

Making your master’s thesis available to the RISD community and future grad students, and to artists, designers, scholars and employers worldwide is an important and valuable part of higher education. However, you may not want to have your thesis available online for reasons of publishing agreements, patents or other intellectual property issues. You may review the digital thesis license agreement here.

Feel free to email Marc Calhoun ( with specific questions.

Submission of bound final thesis

Spring 2020 Due Date + Submission Process TBD

In order to graduate you must submit one final, bound copy of your thesis (signed by your thesis committee members during crit week) to the RISD Library for cataloging. Some departments require a second final copy of your thesis for their own archives; please check with your graduate program director for departmental requirements of final thesis submission.

Library archiving requirements*

  • Submit a PDF of your thesis to
  • Official title page, including all thesis committee signatures (the library cannot accept without all signatures)
  • The title page must follow the wording outlined in this sample (inserting your own title, name, department, year, etc.).
  • Copyright page
  • Abstract
  • Table of contents
  • Captions or list of illustrations (including image credits as needed)
  • Footnotes/endnotes and bibliography (source citation)
  • Page numbers
  • If your thesis is bound unconventionally and/or includes original artwork such as prints, include an appendix describing the materials and/or process to ensure accurate Library cataloguing.
  • *Your thesis will be recorded in both the Fleet Library’s online catalogue and the Online Computer Library Center (OCLC)—an international bibliographic database.


  • Obtain all required thesis committee signatures during final crit week.
  • Proofread the entire thesis.
  • Use your full legal name, not a nickname.
  • Use only one, consistent thesis title.
  • Abstract must be clear and succinct.
  • All materials must be archivally sound (acid-free paper, sturdy binding, etc.).
  • No loose pages.

Watch a thesis presentation

Thesis Presentation: Jiaai He, Interior Architecture

Recent Interior Architecture graduate Jiaai He shares her thesis and experience in the MFA program.

Thesis Presentation: Steven Kaplan-Pistiner, Jewelry + Metalsmithing

Recent Jewelry + Metalsmithing graduate Steven Kaplan-Pistiner shares his thesis and experience in the MFA program.

Thesis Presentation: Ayumi Kodoma, Furniture Design

Hear about the thesis making and writing experience from recent Furniture Design program graduate Ayumi Kodoma.

Thesis Presentation: Rohit Sen, Industrial Design

Recent Industrial Design graduate Rohit Sen shares his thesis and experience in the MFA program.

Thesis Presentation: Joon June Yoon, Digital + Media

Recent Digital + Media graduate June Joon Yoon shares her thesis and experience in the MFA program.


Each graduate department has its own written thesis guidelines. Please consult your graduate program director and thesis chair, and familiarize yourself with departmental guidelines for written thesis criteria and deadlines for proposals, outlines, drafts and final copy.

Past graduate thesis books—which are archived in the RISD Fleet Library and stored in many departmental offices—provide general examples. The Center for Arts & Language offers thesis workshops, individual tutoring and additional support materials.

Grad Show 2020

Featuring work by the more than 200 graduate students who earned degrees this year, RISD Grad Show 2020 highlights the creativity of students at all stages of the thesis process, from sketches and drafts to completed works. Thesis work in the show is accompanied by links to the artist websites and social media accounts of the now RISD alumni, who will continue to add to this publication throughout the summer as studio access comes available and works are completed.