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Caltech Theses: Submitting your Thesis

Ph.D. theses must be submitted in electronic form as part of the graduation requirements for Caltech. This guide serves as a stepping-off point for this process.

Required Documents for PhD Candidates

Official certification of degree completion will not be provided until all the steps have been completed.

  • Required Forms in REGIS: Log on to the Graduate Degree Progress application within REGIS using your Access credentials.
    • Ph.D. Candidacy: Ph.D. Candidacy must be completed before beginning fourth year of residence.  Students should log on to the Graduate Degree Progress application within REGIS to schedule candidacy and obtain the necessary approvals.
    • Final Ph.D. Defense: Final exam committee - Students should log on to the Graduate Degree Progress application within REGIS to schedule the final exam and select an approved committee for the defense.  An approved committee consists of four total voting members, three of whom must be current Caltech faculty.  The chair of the committee must hold the rank of Professor, not including emeriti.
  • Required Forms not in REGIS:
    • Proofreader Agreement.  You must turn this in with at least a draft copy (electronic or paper - call the Grad Office first) of your thesis to the Grad Office before your defense and at least 2 weeks ahead. You can make the recommended changes after you get it back either before or after your defense – discuss the best option for you with your advisor.
      •   You may send PDFs of both your thesis and the Proofreader's Agreement to the Grad Office either via email or via the Caltech Dropbox
    • CaltechTHESIS submission   Deposit the final version of your thesis after your defense, and once all final edits have been made.
    • Survey of Earned Doctorates   After your successful defense, fill out the electronic form and send an email notification of completion to Natalie Gilmore in the Grad Office.
  • Optional Forms not in REGIS:
      • Proquest/UMI can register your thesis at the U.S. Copyright Office for you for a fee that you are expeteced to pay.  However, you can register your copyright yourself directly with the U.S. Copyriht Office for a smaller fee.
      • Proquest/UMI provides a printing and binding service for theses.  Please be aware that they wil not be able to do so until they receive a PDF copy pf your thesis, and that we do not forward any theses onto them until they are cleared for public availability in CaltechTHESIS, which means that it may be a year or more before any print cop[ies can be generated by them.
      • Please note:  your thesis will remain in  a buffer under the library's control and will not be forwarded to Proquest UMI until it has cleared for public release in CaltechTHESIS.
      • More information is available under the UMI Form & Fees tab.

Submission Process

  1. Retrieve and fill out all the forms necessary from the Grad Office.
  2. Make sure you have taken care of all copyright considerations related to your thesis. 
    • Publishers' policies vary on how they handle thesis copyright issues. 
    • Contact the copyright owners (usually the publishers) by email.  Save the email responses for future use.
    • Call or email the library if you need help with this.
  3. Send in an electronic (preferred) or deliver a hard copy of your thesis to the Grad Office for proofreading at least two weeks before your defense. Call the Grad Office to finds out what their current preference is at it can vary by assigned proofreader.
    • Give yourself more time (at least 4 weeks) if you are defending within 6 weeks of graduation.
  4. Retrieve Petition for Examination form and your proofread copy from the Grad Office in time for your defense.
    • 1-2 days ahead is normal.
  5. Defend your thesis.  Good luck!
  6. Make required changes in your thesis.  Include committee-required and -recommended changes as well as proofreader's changes.
  7. Fill out and submit the Survey of Earned Doctorates.  This is a required form!
  8. Submit the FINAL version of your thesis to CaltechTHESIS
    • You must upload your thesis to CaltechTHESIS to be able to graduate!  Proquest/UMI and CaltechTHESIS are completely unrelated databases.
    • Use your IMSS credentials to create an account.
    • Make sure all your thesis files have embedded fonts.
    • Check for common mistakes before submitting.
  9. OPTIONAL: Fill out and submit the online ProQuest/UMI Dissertation Publishing Agreement form ("UMI form"). 
    • You may fill out the UMI form whether or not you want to file for copyright and/or have bound copies printed by them.
    • Create an account first.  Once on the home screen,click on the Log In link on the upper right, and choose Student.  Click on the Create New Student Account link to get started. Once that’s done, you’ll be able to get to the form.
    • Upload the file for your full thesis.  The library will NOT forward your record and file to Proquest UMI until your thesis has been released to public view in CaltechTHESIS.
    • PLEASE NOTE: no payment is required to submit this form.  Charges are only incurred if you decide to pay for copyright and/or purchase hard copies of your thesis through Proquest/UMI. Your credit card will be charged at the time you submit your UMI form for any payments to which you've agreed.
    • More information is available under the UMI Form & Fees tab.
  10. DO NOT submit a new record when there are corrections to be made.  See our corrections instructions for further details

Important Links for the Submission Process


Please note: As of October 21st, 2015, the Caltech seal is no longer approved for use on thesis title pages and covers.  You may use the Caltech logo instead, or eliminate it completely.   As of this date, theses already submitted or in the pipeline are grandfathered.

  • Naming your thesis files
    • Your thesis file names should include your own name as well as your graduation date.  Please do not use "thesis.pdf" as the file name for your uploaded thesis. 
      • smith_jane_2012_thesis.pdf ; SmithJane2012thesis.pdf ;
      • smith_jane_2012_thesis_ch1.pdf ; SmithJane2012ThesisCh1.pdf ;
      • smith_jane_thesis_bibliography.pdf ; SmithJaneThesisBibliography.pdf
  • Templates

Symbols and special characters

Many authors have trouble replicating the appearance of their thesis' abstract in the CaltechTHESIS record.  Below are some tips to get you started.  While your abstract may look funny in the user mode, it should display correctly in public mode.  Save your changes as you go along and check the abstract's view in the Preview mode.  If you have any questions, please don't hesitate to call!

  • HTML coding can be used to break up paragraphs:
    • <p>at the beginning of each paragraph
    • </p> at the end of each paragraph
  • Superscripts can be similarly noted:
    • <sup> ... </sup>  ex: <sup>4</sup>, or <sup>123</sup> - for superscripts
    • <sub> ... </sub> - for subscripts
  • There are many tables online that have useful coding that can be copy-pasted into the abstract.  This is one I find particularly useful:
    • Some day-to-day symbols, "&", ">' and "<", are particularly problematic, and you should use the number column display (&#...;) in their place
    • For others, you can copy-paste either the entry in the entity displayed column or the number column
  • If you need further help, just ask!  We have other helpful web pages at our fingertips, especially for math and astronomy

Format and Presentation Guidelines

File format and presentation

  • The final text of the deposited thesis must be in PDF format.
  • Please use the Grad Office Ph.D. thesis regulations for format and presentation (Updated Jan. 2016)as your primary guideline in formatting your thesis.
  • Include a separate page with a bibliography of all published, or accepted-for-publication, material included in the thesis.  Include the URLs as part of the citations if possible.
  • You may also consult UMI's guidelines in formatting and preparing your thesis documents and files.  These also include information on handling supplemental material and acceptable file types.
  • If one of your files requires specific software to run it that is not regularly or easily obtainable, consider uploading a copy of that software as a zipped file.   Ther same applies to programs you may have written for material in your thesis.
  • Data sets can be loaded as supplementary material.  Add them as zipped files if they are extremely large (>100 Mb - use your judgement).

Embedding fonts

Original source files

  • We highly encourage you to upload your original source files (i.e, your thesis in its pre-PDF format), and store them as archival sources in the Withheld section of your CaltechTHESIS record.  This well help us as we deal with format migration and obsolesence in the future, and also preserve a copy for you should you ever need one.

Abstract presentation in CaltechTHESIS

  • If your abstract has mutiple paragraphs, include HTML paragraph coding (<p>...</p>) in your abstract to ensure your paragraphs display properly.
  • Problematic symbols and special characters in an abstract:
    • If your abstract contains the mathematical symbols "<" or ">" AND you are using any kind of HTML coding as well, you will need to replace the ">" with "&gt;", and the "<" with "&lt;" to prevent display errors in the text block of the abstract.
    • Avoid the use of and ampersand (&), and use the word "and" instead.
    • Check out Character Entity References in HTML 4 and XHTML 1.0 for alternatives for the dispaly of special characters.

File size restrictions

  • We set no limit to the size of any of the files you submit for your thesis. We do require 1 file with the full thesis.  However, do additionally consider uploading separate chapter files to make it easier for readers to download.

Inclusion of published content

  • Check for copyright restrictions
  • If necessary, contact the copyright owners (usually publishers) by email for permission to include the published material in your thesis.  Save the email responses and upload them as withheld documents into your CaltechTHESIs record. 
  • Cite the published material
    • Include a separate page with a bibliography of all published, or accepted-for-publication, material included in the thesis.  Include the URLs as part of the citations if possible.
    • Most publishers require that citations be added to the article/chapter included in the thesis. 
      • They usually have a specific citation format they want you to follow.  Check the publisher's website.
      • The citation is most commonly added at the bottom of the first page of the article/chapter included in the thesis.

Common Mistakes Made During Submission

Do NOT create a new record when resubmitting your thesis.  Simply make the required changes on the original record and resubmit that one.  If you need help, call x6065.

We will return the submitted thesis to you for corrections if the following common mistakes have been made:

      •    The Degree Date in the Thesis Details section of the Description tab should also be your graduation year.  This could be a different calendar year from the current one, depending on when your thesis defense submission dates occur in relation to upcoming commencement cerremonies.
      • Your defense date needs to be on your title page, under your graduation year.
      •  You did not add a non-Caltech email address in the Author's field in the Description tab.
      • Advisor and committee member addresses are missing.
      • If the advisor is also on the committee, his/her name must appear appear in both areas.
      • Individuals' roles for advisor/committee section must be designated. Use the pull-down menu options.
      • Email addresses must be included.
      • The thesis availability in the Description tab and the file access statuses under "Upload Open" or "Upload Withheld" Files don't coordinate. This can be confusing.  Please read the instructions carefully, or call us directly for further clarification.
      • You did not add a restriction end date for the restructed or embargoed file(s).  Open "Options" for each file and add a specific date in the "Access-Visible" field.
      • You did not upload a file including the complete thesis, although all the chapters have been uploaded as separate files.We need a single file with the complete thesis.  
      • If you are withholding specific chapters for patenting or publication reasons, you may also withhold the full thesis file for the same length of time.

Other types of mistakes that could affect completion and/or graduation:

      • If you don't resubmit it, the thesis will sit in your buffer, where our reviewers can't see it. We will not be able to review it and send it on to Grad Office for final approval.
      • Even if your thesis has been satisfactorily submitted and we have forwarded it to the Grad office for final approval, they will most likely withhold approval if all your forms have not been handed in to them.
      • Check the list carefully, and have someone in the Grad Office double-check the paperwork you hand in to make sure nothing is missing.
      • The Survey of Earned Doctorates is the form missed most often.  You can fill it outl electronically, and email a copy of the certificate of completion directly to the Grad Office

Access and Restriction Options

Thesis Availability Options

Important Notes - please read these carefully:

You should consider these options carefully. Feel free to ask Caltech Intellectual Property Office or legal counsel for advice, and to discuss this with your advisor.

  • If you have any patent information included in your thesis, you may want to consider embargoing at least portions of your thesis.
  • If you intend to work with a publisher regarding journal or book publications, be sure you understand their policies and any agreements you would sign.
  • The library will NOT submit a copy of your thesis to UMI as long as it is embargoed or restricted to campus, even in part. The file wil reside in the UMI/Caltech staff-managed buffer until is is sent to UMI by library staff.
  • Restricted thesis files are automatically released when the expiry date is reached. If you wish to extend the restriction, you must contact the library before the expiry date.
  • Withheld thesis files are NOT automatically released when the expiry date is reached. You can either contact the library to have them released early, or the library will contact you after the expiry date is reached.

CaltechTHESIS gives you four options for affording electronic access to your thesis. The online submission form in CaltechTHESIS, allow you to indicates your choice byf file and by record.  The choice made at the record level must reflect the choices made at the individual file level:

  1. Public: Recommended. Thesis will be freely available worldwide.
  2. Restricted to Caltech community only: Thesis will be freely available to the Caltech community only, but unavailable to others.  This restriction on access is only for a period of one year. To protect you, the Institute will allow the period to be extended, a year at a time, as long as necessary, and will not release your work until you and your advisor provide written authorization.
    1. CaltechTHESIS automatically releases restricted thesis files when the expiry date is reached. 
    2. If you wish to extend the restriction, you must contact the library.
  3. Withheld: Thesis will be completely embargoed, even disallowing access by the Caltech community.  This option addresses situations such as when a patent application is planned, or when proprietary interests are at stake. To protect you, the Institute will allow the period to be extended, a year at a time, as long as necessary, and will not release your work until you and your advisor provide written authorization.
    1. The average embargo period is 1 or 2 years.
    2. Withheld files are NOT automatically released.
    3. You can either contact the library to have them released early, or the library will contact you after the expiry date is reached.
  4. Mixed availability, specified at file level: If the thesis includes multiple files, access restrictions can be set differently for each file For example, you could have some files restricted or embargoed, while others are publicly available.

You must use the Embargo Expiry Date option in CaltechTHESIS if you are restricting access to all of or parts of your thesis in any way. This will allow us to process your thesis more efficiently and know when to ask for permission to release the file and eventually forward it on to UMI.

Last Steps

  • Make sure you have turned in ALL your Caltech forms to the Grad Office, and optionally submitted the electronic UMI one.  Delay in turning in all your forms could affect your ability to graduate on time.
  • Once your thesis submission to CaltechTHESIS has been approved by the Grad Office, both you and the registrar's office will receive an automated email from CaltechTHESIS indicating your thesis has been approved.
    • If you have indicated that your thesis can be released publicly or restricted to campus in any way, your thesis will then be released to the general CaltechTHESIS database. 
    • If you have indicated that your thesis should be completely withheld (embargoed), it will not be released until approval to do so has been received.
  • You will also receive an automated email from UMI indicating that your thesis has been acccepted.
    • If you have indicated that your thesis can be released publicly, your thesis will then be sent to UMI by the library. 
    • If you have indicated that your thesis should be restricted or withheld in any way, it will NOT be sent to UMI until after it has been released to public view in CaltechTHESIS.
  • Once the registrar has noted the final thesis approval in your REGIS record, you should be able to access and download, within REGIS, a PDF copy of a letter of proof of degree completion.  This letter can be sent to future employers.


Kathy Johnson
Sherman Fairchild Library 1-43
Rm. 324
(626) 395-6065