Master's Thesis

As an integral component of the Master of Science in Statistical Science program, you can submit and defend a Master's Thesis. Your Master's Committee administers this oral examination. If you choose to defend a thesis, it is advisable to commence your research early, ideally during your second semester or the summer following your first year in the program. It's essential to allocate sufficient time for the thesis writing process. Your thesis advisor, who also serves as the committee chair, must approve both your thesis title and proposal. The final thesis work necessitates approval from all committee members and must adhere to the Master's thesis requirements set forth by the Duke University Graduate School.

Master’s BEST Award 

Each second-year Duke Master’s of Statistical Science (MSS) student defending their MSS thesis may be eligible for the Master’s BEST Award. The Statistical Science faculty BEST Award Committee selects the awardee based on the submitted thesis of MSS thesis students, and the award is presented at the departmental graduation ceremony. 

Thesis Proposal

All second-year students choosing to do a thesis must submit a proposal (not more than two pages) approved by their thesis advisor to the Master's Director via Qualtrics by November 10th. The thesis proposal should include a title,  the thesis advisor, committee members, and a description of your work. The description must introduce the research topic, outline its main objectives, and emphasize the significance of the research and its implications while identifying gaps in existing statistical literature. In addition, it can include some of the preliminary results. 

Committee members

MSS Students will have a thesis committee, which includes three faculty members - two must be departmental primary faculty, and the third could be from an external department in an applied area of the student’s interest, which must be a  Term Graduate Faculty through the Graduate School or have a secondary appointment with the Department of Statistical Science. All Committee members must be familiar with the Student’s work. The department coordinates Committee approval. The thesis defense committee must be approved at least 30 days before the defense date.

Thesis Timeline and  Departmental Process:

Before Defense:

  1. Intent to Graduate: Students must file an Intent to Graduate in ACES, specifying "Thesis Defense" during the application. For graduation deadlines, please refer to

  2. Scheduling Thesis Defense: The student collaborates with the committee to set the date and time for the defense and communicates this information to the department, along with the thesis title. The defense must be scheduled during regular class sessions. Be sure to review the thesis defense and submission deadlines at

  3. Room Reservations: The department arranges room reservations and sends confirmation details to the student, who informs committee members of the location.

  4. Defense Announcement: The department prepares a defense announcement, providing a copy to the student and chair. After approval, it is signed by the Master's Director and submitted to the Graduate School. Copies are also posted on department bulletin boards.

  5. Initial Thesis Submission: Two weeks before the defense, the student submits the initial thesis to the committee and the Graduate School. Detailed thesis formatting guidelines can be found at

  6. Advisor Notification: The student requests that the advisor email, confirming the candidate's readiness for defense. This step should be completed before the exam card appointment.

  7. Format Check Appointment: One week before the defense, the Graduate School contacts the student to schedule a format check appointment. Upon approval, the Graduate School provides the Student Master’s Exam Card, which enables the student to send a revised thesis copy to committee members.

  8. MSS Annual Report Form: The department provides the student with the MSS Annual Report Form to be presented at the defense.

Post Defense:

  1. Communication of Defense Outcome: The committee chair conveys the defense results to the student, including any necessary follow-up actions in case of an unsuccessful defense.

  2. In Case of Failure: If a student does not pass the thesis defense, the committee's decision to fail the student must be accompanied by explicit and clear comments from the chair, specifying deficiencies and areas that require attention for improvement.

  3. Documentation: The student should ensure that the committee signs the Title Page, Abstract Page, and Exam Card.

  4. Annual Report Form: The committee chair completes the Annual Report Form.

  5. Master's Director Approval: The Master's director must provide their approval by signing the Exam Card.

  6. Form Submission: Lastly, the committee chair is responsible for returning all completed and signed forms to the Department.

  7. Final Thesis Submission: The student must meet the Graduate School requirement by submitting the final version of their Thesis to the Graduate School via ProQuest before the specified deadline. For detailed information, visit