The UW School of Social Work's MSW Program includes an OPTIONAL thesis option, which works well for a small number of students, particularly those who are interested in continuing on into a doctoral program or in academia.  The thesis credits (9) may count toward the student's elective credits.  A student graduating with a thesis has this noted on their transcript along with the title of the thesis.  EDP students interested in doing a thesis should contact Lin Murdock at before starting other steps.

A thesis (SOC W 700) must involve empirical research focusing on issues of human service practice, social service organization, or social policy.  A literature review is acceptable only if it is a systemic or meta-analytic review with a methods section. 


Many students may find potential research ideas and faculty to work with by checking current research occurring at the UW School of Social Work:


All required thesis forms and documentation are available on the MSW Program Reference Area website at:

These include:

All documents get turned in to Lin Murdock, Director of Student Services for inclusion in the student file.


Most students who are interested in completing a thesis have begun preliminary conversations regarding a research topic and have lined up at least a Thesis Committee Chair before the end of their foundation curriculum (for day students, by winter/spring of their 1st year, for EDP students, by fall/winter of their 2nd year.) 


What?                                                             When?

Submit Preliminary Statement of Intent          Before end of foundation curriculum

Complete IRB proposal                                   Before end of foundation curriculum

Committee Selection                                       Before the start of first registered quarter of Soc W 700

Literature Review                                           Often before, but complete by end of 1st quarter

Research Proposal and 1st Committee Mtg     First 3 weeks of first registered quarter of Soc W 700

Methodology draft to Committee                    End of first registered quarter

Data-collection/coding                                     First and second registered quarters

Data analysis and writing                                Third registered quarter of Soc W 700

Get warrant from Lin                                      Week 7 of last quarter of registration of Soc W 700

Near-to-final draft to committee                      Week 7 of last quarter of registration of Soc W 700

Submit signed approval form  to grad school  5pm on last day of instruction

Submit signed warrant to Lin                          5pm on last day of instruction

Submit final thesis                                           5pm on last day of instruction



  • Must involve complete process of empirical research
  • Must involve a minimum of 9 credits typically over 3 quarters
  • Committee must include at least 2 members, one of which must have Graduate Faculty Status with the Graduate School.
  • Must include:
  • Problem formation (This includes review of the literature, concept exploration and development, and the specification of questions and hypotheses.)
  • Development of a design (This includes selection of and rationale for type of design, sampling procedures, data-gathering methods, instruments, and measures.  Instruments may be existing ones or developed for the study.)
  • Data collection/coding and data analysis or re-analysis. (This includes gathering, collating, and coding data.)
  • Interpretation and implications for practice.


A statement of intent is completed at least 3 months before the planned start of a thesis, usually in the spring of the student’s first year in the MSW Program.  It is designed as an opportunity to make sure that both the student and the faculty advisor are clear about expectations and timeline – and to make sure that the project is a reasonable one.  It also provides time to get an IRB Review done, if necessary.  Form available on the MSW Program Reference Area website:


Students should discuss early any need for an IRB review with their proposed chair, since getting human subjects approval can take an extended period of time.  Best place to start is the UW Human Subjects Division website to determine if your project requires IRB review. 

All proposals must have attached the following form, available on the MSW Program Reference Area website:

“Use of Human and Animal Subjects for UW Graduate Student Theses and Dissertations.”


A proposal for research should contain clear descriptions of the plans for accomplishment of the particular combination of research tasks, which will be implemented, plus human subjects review.  Where the research is concerned only with implementation of previously designed research, the proposal should include a statement summarizing the problem formulation and design tasks.  Where the research is a secondary analysis of previously collected data, the proposal should contain a summary of the original problem formulation, design, and data-collection procedures as a framework for considering a newly proposed hypothesis which will be examined via the available data. 

Sample generic thesis proposals available at the following sites but yours must include all required components on the Thesis Proposal and Committee Constitution Form on the MSW Program Reference Area:


The UW School of Social work provides financial support to the Center for Social Science Computation and Research (CSSCR).  This on-campus resource center provides workshops on the use of different software programs used for data analysis.  They also provide 1:1 data consulting for students.


The committee chair MUST be a member of the Graduate School Faculty and be approved to chair thesis committees for the School of Social Work.  Students must verify that their proposed chair has such an appointment at:

The committee must have a minimum of 2 members and the second member may be a teaching or research faculty member at the UW (in or out of the department), a practicum instructor or agency supervisor, but if a student would like a 3rd member, that 3rd member must again be approved by the Graduate School (but may be in a department other than social work.)  This ensures that at least half of the committee are UW Graduate Faculty on any committee.

Students should review themselves and provide a copy to all committee members of the “Thesis Student and Committee Roles” document, which can be found on the MSW Program Reference Area website at:


Students will submit their Statement of Intent (see above) to, and, once all permissions have been granted, will be given a faculty ID code which will be used to register for their first quarter of Soc W 700.  Students will need to submit their full thesis proposal to receive the code to register for their subsequent quarters of thesis. 


The UW School of Social Work does not require a thesis defense nor will a masters “warrant” be necessary.  Students may choose to defend their thesis if they would like to do so.


Students considering a thesis should watch the video concerning the UW Graduate School processes, which includes the process for submitting the thesis electronically, at:


The thesis must be submitted by 5pm on the last day of instruction in the quarter of completion through the UW ETD site.  Along with the thesis, the student must submit a “Master’s Supervisory Committee Approval Form” with signatures from all committee members. More information and that form may be found at:​

*Note: students who have registered a preferred name with the UW may use it on their thesis title page and in the ETD administrator site.  Students may add a preferred name at


Students who have started a thesis but find that they are unable to complete the full scope of the project will have any completed Soc W 700 credits converted to Soc W 600: Independent Research in Social Work on their transcript and will be able to continue to use those completed credits toward their MSW elective requirement. 

These standards were updated September 2017.