The SMACT thesis is twofold, consisting of a dissertation and a realized project presented at the ACT Studio Final Review during the student’s last semester.

This curriculum worksheet (Class of 2020) and this list of thesis preparation guidelines may be useful to students as they prepare for writing their theses and prepare their theses documents for submission.

Preparing for thesis

It is a good idea for students to start looking for a thesis advisor and readers as early in their time at ACT as they can. In addition to being a good way to confirm the availability of faculty they would like to work with, it also gives them an opportunity to clarify their choice of topic, as well as network.

Once students have confirmed their topics, they might reach out to the ACT archivist, to discuss research resources that may be particularly relevant to their topics, including databases and special collections at MIT and elsewhere. Their assistance may be useful as soon as students’ second semester at ACT, if not earlier.

Thesis supervisors

Students’ thesis supervisor does not need to be the same faculty member as their academic advisor, who they consult with vis a vis their course selections, academic plan, and overall progress. Their thesis supervisor does need to be a tenured or tenure track ACT faculty member. Students should familiarize themselves with potential supervisors’ approaches to theory as well as their practice, and afterwards schedule a meeting with whichever faculty member(s) may be most interested to discuss likely thesis topics. A good place for students to begin their analysis of which ACT faculty member has research interests that may overlap with your their own is faculty profile pages: Students can only have one thesis supervisor.

Thesis readers

Students can recruit thesis readers from within ACT or Architecture, within MIT, or from outside the Institute. They should focus on individuals whose research interests and background are applicable to their topics. Students are required to have at least one reader from within MIT. Readers may be tenured or non-tenured. Students must have one and are encouraged to have two thesis readers.

How to find thesis readers

Once students have determined one or two likely topics for their theses, they should research scholars within MIT and elsewhere who may be well suited to provide guidance. Within MIT, a good way for them to begin looking for readers is to read what they can on MIT websites about individuals and research groups who may be investigating subjects similar to their topics.

Most department websites have profiles of faculty and groups that can give students a sense of the kind of scholarship taking place there.

On the Architecture website, these pages are

At the Media Lab, these listings are available at

If students are not sure which departments would be the best fit, they can browse through all department websites from this list of departments and programs:

Once students have found 4 or so faculty who may have interest in their thesis topic, they should contact them or their administrative assistants to arrange for meetings. Availability as well as relevance is important to consider when looking for readers.


During the second semester of students’ first year, they take 4.388, Thesis Preparation. Their final projects in this course are ten-page proposals for their thesis topics. The due date is specified in the course syllabus.

During their third semester, students enroll in 4.389 Thesis Tutorial; at the end of students’ third semesters, they officially confirm their thesis supervisor and two readers and submit their thesis committee forms to the academic assistant. They also submit twenty-page drafts of their final theses to the academic assistant for distribution to ACT faculty. The committee selections are forwarded to Architecture HQ.

Third semester deadlines:

  • December 1: Twenty-page thesis outline due.
  • First day of finals week:  Thesis Committee Form due.
  • The outline and committee forms must be submitted in order to obtain a passing grade in ACT Studio. A title must be included. The Registrar’s Office charges students an $85 late fee.

During their fourth semester, students apply for their degrees by the February deadline ($50 Registrar fee for late application), complete their theses and enroll in 4.THG, Thesis. Their final drafts are submitted to the academic assistant, thesis supervisor, and readers on April 1st. Two copies of the signed and approved, archival-ready written thesis must be submitted to Cynthia Stewart (7337G) in the Department of Architecture in early May by the Institute deadline for Master’s theses as published in the MIT Academic Calendar, with email or other written confirmation of submission to the Academic Assistant. Students must adhere to the Specifications for Thesis Preparation published by MIT Libraries. All thesis preparation requirements are addressed in this list of thesis preparation guidelines. Confirmations of these dates will be provided on the ACT Calendar. Theses cannot be completed over the summer, as ACT faculty will not be present.

Fourth semester deadlines:

  • February: Institute deadline to apply for degree. $50 late fee. See MIT Graduation Checklist.
  • April: See MIT Graduation Checklist. Order your cap and gown by the deadline this month if you have not already done so. Thesis due to committee and academic assistant April 1.
  • ACT Studio Finals: Thesis project presented during ACT Studio Final Reviews.
  • Institute Masters’ Thesis deadline: Final thesis submitted to Arch HQ.

Thesis submission

Before printing the thesis on archival paper, students should see Cynthia Stewart or Tonya Miller in Architecture HQ for a thesis formatting pre-check. See the checklist for details on thesis submission requirements.

Digital Copy

Students can upload high-resolution color PDFs of their theses to MIT’s DSpace repository. If they do not elect to do so, low-res black and white scans of the hard copy submitted to Architecture HQ will be archived instead.