Do All Graduate Students Do a Thesis?
Prior to entering graduate school, many students might wonder if all graduate students do a thesis. Despite what you might hear, a thesis isn't always a requirement for completing all graduate school programs. It often depends on the type of subject you study, but some schools offer both a thesis and a non-thesis route that lets students take more classes in lieu of doing a thesis. Once you learn more about the alternatives to a thesis, you can better decide which option is right for you.
What is a Thesis?
A thesis is a complex paper that you write during the last year of graduate school. Students generally want to take a topic that they studied in class and look at ways to research and build a paper around that topic. According to U.S. News and World Report , students should pick a topic that relates to their past experience. Students will submit your topic to their advisor and meet with their advisor as they research and begin writing their paper. A team of professors will later read their paper and determine if it meets the requirements necessary for graduating.
Capstone or Research Project
Those looking for an answer to the question of do all graduate students do a thesis should know that some schools allow students to complete a final research or capstone project in lieu of doing a thesis. This is often the best option for those who prefer hands on experience rather than doing even more classroom work. For example, a computer science major might create a new piece of software or a computer program instead of writing about recent innovations in the technology field.
Did you know that some graduate schools remove the thesis requirement for students who complete field experience? If you think this sounds like an easier option, keep in mind that your school may require that you complete 300 hours or more of supervised fieldwork after finishing your studies. This may also mean that it takes you three or more years to finish your degree. Students who do a thesis often finish within two years or less. Schools that offer fieldwork in lieu of a thesis often require that students complete detailed logs of the work they do and present those logs to the department before graduating.
Choosing the Right Option
As a student entering grad school, you need to know which option is right for you. Some want an answer to the question of do all graduate students do a thesis, because they dislike research and the idea of spending long hours in the library. A non-thesis route is great for those who want to learn more about their chosen field and take more classes without writing a separate paper. The research project option is best for those who want to create a detailed project without doing any research, and field experience programs appeal to those who don't mind spending extra time working before getting a degree.
Related Resource: Dissertation
Though some students assume that all graduate students require that students write a thesis, this isn't always true. The answer to the question of do all graduate students do a thesis is that it depends on the program and that some schools offer alternatives like fieldwork or a research project.
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Choosing Between a Thesis or Non-thesis Master's Degree
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- Resources Choosing Between a Thesis or Non-thesis Master's Degree
As of 2015, approximately 25.4 million Americans held advanced degrees , with more citizens joining these ranks each year. As studies continue to show the career advancement and salary benefits of completing a master's degree, more and more students elect to pursue advanced educations. When considering their options, many question whether to enroll in a master's requiring a thesis or not. The following guide examines some of the reasons degree seekers may want to write a thesis while also highlighting why they might not. Students on the fence about this important decision can find expert advice, actionable tips, and relevant guidance to help them make an informed choice in the guide that follows.
Understanding the Master's Thesis
What is the difference between a thesis & non-thesis master's program, the decision not to do a thesis.
As students research various master's programs in their chosen discipline, it's common to find that many degrees require a thesis – especially if they want to enter a research-heavy field. While this word gets thrown around a lot in academia, some learners may want more information regarding what it entails in order to make an informed decision.
What is a Master's Thesis?
The master's thesis is an original piece of scholarship allowing the student to dig into a topic and produce an expanded document that demonstrates how their knowledge has grown throughout the degree program. These documents require significant independent research of primary and secondary sources and, depending on the subject, may require interviews and/or surveys to support the overarching argument.
Individual schools and departments dictate the length of these documents, but they typically range between 60 and 100 pages – or approximately 20,000 to 40,000 words. While tackling a document of such heft may seem overwhelming at first, learners need not fret. Each master's candidate receives a faculty advisor early in their tenure to provide support, feedback, and guidance throughout the process. Because the final thesis is expected to be of a publishable quality, learners seeking the highest marks typically send their supervisor excerpts of the document as they write to ensure they are on the right track.
When picking a thesis topic, no magical formula exists. Students should consider their interests and read extensively on that topic to get a better sense of existing scholarship. They should also speak to other academics working in that sphere to familiarize themselves with ongoing projects. Only after they feel reasonably well-read should they begin looking for uncovered angles or interesting ways of using emerging methodologies to bring new light to the topic.
When considering formatting, degree seekers should check with their specific schools and departments, as they may have unique requirements. To get a general understanding of what to expect, learners can review Simon Fraser University's guidelines on thesis formatting. After completing the thesis, some programs require an oral defense before a committee while others read the document and provide a grade. Check with your prospective schools to get a better sense of procedure.
Format & Components of a Master's Thesis
While this guide attempts to provide helpful and actionable information about the process of deciding whether to follow a thesis or non-thesis track in a master's program, readers should remember that specific components and requirements of a thesis vary according to discipline, university, and department. That being said, some commonalities exist across all these – especially when it comes to what students must include in their final drafts.
As the first section a reader encounters after moving through the table of contents and other anterior text, the introductory allows the writer to firmly establish what they want to accomplish. Sometimes also called the "research question" section, the introductory must clearly state the goals of the paper and the overarching hypothesis guiding the argument. This should be written in a professional yet accessible tone that allows individuals without specializations in the field to understand the text.
This section allows learners to demonstrate their deep knowledge of the field by providing context to existing texts within their chosen discipline Learners review the main bodies of work, highlighting any issues they find within each. Constructive criticism often centers around shortcomings, blind spots, or outdated hypotheses.
Students use this section to explain how they went about their work. While scientists may point to a specific method used to reach conclusions, historians may reference the use of an emerging framework for understanding history to bring new light to a topic. The point of this section is to demonstrate the thought processes that led to your findings.
This section allows for learners to show what they learned during the research process in a non-biased way. Students should simply state what information they gathered by utilizing a specific framework or methodology and arrange those findings, without interpretation, in an easy-to-read fashion.
After providing readers with all the necessary information, the discussion section exists for candidates to interpret the raw data and demonstrate how their research led to a new understanding or contributed a unique perspective to the field. This section should directly connect to the introduction by reinforcing the hypothesis and showing how you answered the questions posed.
Even though the previous sections give prospective degree seekers a better sense of what to expect if they decide to write a thesis during their master's program, they don't necessarily help learners decide whether to pursue a thesis or non-thesis track. The following section highlights some of the reasons students frequently choose to complete a thesis or bypass the process altogether by providing a pros and cons list.
Why a Thesis Program
- Especially when entering a research-heavy discipline, completing a thesis shows prospective schools and employers that you possess the skills needed for researching and writing long-form reports.
- Students hoping to pursue a Ph.D. stand in better stead with admissions panels if they wrote a thesis during a master's program.
- Individuals hoping to enter a field that values syntax and grammar often better their writing skills by completing a thesis.
- Students who write a thesis can submit the final product to various academic journals, increasing their chances of getting published.
- Theses expand students' understanding of what they're capable of, deepen their ability to carry out an argument, and develop their skills in making connections between ideas.
Why a Non-thesis Program
- Because they don't require a significant written product, non-thesis master's tend to take less time to complete.
- Often mirrors a bachelor's program in terms of structure, allowing learners to complete classes and take exams without a great deal of research or writing.
- Students who excel in project-based assignments can continue building skills in this arena rather than focusing on skills they don't plan to use (e.g. research)
- Provides learners the opportunity to work more closely and more frequently with faculty on real-world projects since they don't spend hundreds of hours researching/writing.
- Allows learners to take more classes and gain hands-on skills to fill the time they would have spent researching and writing a thesis.
How to Choose a Master's Program: FAQs
Within some academic disciplines and professional fields, research and writing plays a key role in work done on a daily basis. Because of this, master's programs in these fields require learners to complete theses to compete against peers and be seen as competent in their work. Other disciplines, conversely, rely on other tools to accomplish work and progress ideas – making theses less important.
Yes. Master's programs focused more on application than research typically don't require a thesis – although they may still give students the option. Examples of common non-thesis master's programs include nursing, business, and education.
Even though non-thesis students won't be writing a 100-page paper, that doesn't mean they avoid completing a significant project. In place of a thesis, most applied master's programs require students to take part in at least one internship or complete a culminating project. These projects typically ask learners to take what they learned throughout coursework and create an expansive final project – examples include case studies, creative works, or portfolios.
While students who followed a non-thesis path routinely receive acceptance to Ph.D. programs, those with theses often find the process easier. Even if a learner pursues a Ph.D. in a discipline that isn't research-heavy, admissions panels still want to get a sense of your academic interests and ability to engage in independent, nuanced thought. Students with theses can provide solid proof of these skills, while those without may struggle to demonstrate preparedness as thoroughly.
The answer to this question depends on many factors, but typically it is okay not to do a thesis if you plan to enter a field that doesn't depend heavily on research or writing, or if you don't plan to complete a Ph.D.
Students wanting to work in academic, research, or writing should always opt for the thesis track. They should also follow this path if they have any doctoral degree aspirations.
Ultimately, the decision of whether or not to complete a thesis rests with the individual student. Figuring out how to proceed on this front requires lots of careful consideration, and learners should ensure they consider various aspects before coming to a final decision. The following section helps students consider how they should and should not come to a conclusion.
Dos and Don'ts of Choosing a Thesis or Non-thesis Program
- Consider the longevity of your decision: will you feel the same in 5-10 years or are you making a decision based on current desires?
- Talk to others who with experience in this area. Ask them questions about their decision-making process and if they regret their choice.
- Research potential thesis topics before starting a program. Going in with a game plan can help you feel more confident and settled about the process than if you're scrambling for a topic while in school.
- Reach out to prospective schools to speak with faculty and/or current students following both tracks. This will provide knowledge specific to the school while also expanding your network if you choose to attend there.
- Research Ph.D. entrance requirements to ascertain if the majority expect learners to possess a thesis when applying. This will give you a sense of whether you may experience issues later on if you do not complete one.
- Decide not to complete a thesis simply because you have never taken on such a task and feel overwhelmed or fearful that you will fail.
- Complete a thesis simply because you think it will look good on your resume. Theses require intense devotion over an extended amount of time; learners who complete them without conviction often find the process miserable.
- Forget to research alternatives to writing a thesis. Just because you don't complete a research paper doesn't mean a non-thesis track lacks rigor or challenging coursework.
- Forget to read examples of theses by previous students. If you feel overwhelmed by the task, reading work other people have done can often make the task at hand feel less scary.
- Let yourself off easy by taking the non-thesis path. If you find you have extra time in the program, talk to your advisor about taking more classes, develop meaningful projects for yourself, or see about presenting at an academic conference.
From the Expert
Sudiksha Joshi, Ph.D. is a learning advocate. Her mission is to empower our youth to think bigger, bolder thoughts and forge a career path that will change the world. She taps into her natural curiosity and ability to identify strengths to help students and those in transition find their path from feeling lost in the traditional ways of achieving success to charting their own path. Her work has been featured in Forbes, Huffington Post, Thrive Global, Medium and LinkedIn.
Why might a student decide to follow a thesis track? Why might they follow a non-thesis track?
A student might decide to take a thesis track if she/he wants to pursue a Ph.D. Also, if the students want to focus on careers where research and writing have a strong focus, the students opt for the thesis option. Research assistantships at the graduate level are also more often available to students who opt for the thesis option.
A student who might feel that writing is not one of their strengths might choose to go the non-thesis track. Likewise, a student who has other work commitments may find a non-thesis option more convenient.
Do you have any tips for deciding on a program?
I chose a thesis option because being able to conduct independent research was a big reason to go to graduate school. Also, showing the ability that I could do research was what afforded me research assistantships which meant that my tuition was paid for and I got a stipend that paid for expenses while I was in graduate school. This also allowed me the opportunity to work closely with the faculty mentor that provided me with the support and the accountability I wanted.
I would not recommend taking a non-thesis option if all the degree requires is for you to take courses. You have little to show in terms of your learning other than your grades unless you are already working on something on the side that does that for you and all you need is a certificate.
Opt for a non-thesis option if you can still work closely with a professor or on a project and if you'd rather be involved in multiple projects rather than focus on a single project. If you already have a good (informed) reason for choosing one over the other, go for it.
What's the most important thing to consider when choosing a program?
The most important thing to consider when choosing a program is getting excited about the projects that at least one of the faculty members are involved in. Do some research and see why you are excited about a particular work that at least one of the faculty members have been involved in.
Who should students talk to when considering options?
Students should talk to other students and also reach out directly to the graduate coordinator and even individual faculty members. This means that students should have done prior homework and have some good questions ready. Asking good questions will get you at least halfway through to make the right decision.
/images/cornell/logo35pt_cornell_white.svg" alt="what is a thesis graduate school"> Cornell University --> Graduate School
Guide to writing your thesis/dissertation, definition of dissertation and thesis.
The dissertation or thesis is a scholarly treatise that substantiates a specific point of view as a result of original research that is conducted by students during their graduate study. At Cornell, the thesis is a requirement for the receipt of the M.A. and M.S. degrees and some professional master’s degrees. The dissertation is a requirement of the Ph.D. degree.
Formatting Requirement and Standards
The Graduate School sets the minimum format for your thesis or dissertation, while you, your special committee, and your advisor/chair decide upon the content and length. Grammar, punctuation, spelling, and other mechanical issues are your sole responsibility. Generally, the thesis and dissertation should conform to the standards of leading academic journals in your field. The Graduate School does not monitor the thesis or dissertation for mechanics, content, or style.
“Papers Option” Dissertation or Thesis
A “papers option” is available only to students in certain fields, which are listed on the Fields Permitting the Use of Papers Option page , or by approved petition. If you choose the papers option, your dissertation or thesis is organized as a series of relatively independent chapters or papers that you have submitted or will be submitting to journals in the field. You must be the only author or the first author of the papers to be used in the dissertation. The papers-option dissertation or thesis must meet all format and submission requirements, and a singular referencing convention must be used throughout.
ProQuest Electronic Submissions
The dissertation and thesis become permanent records of your original research, and in the case of doctoral research, the Graduate School requires publication of the dissertation and abstract in its original form. All Cornell master’s theses and doctoral dissertations require an electronic submission through ProQuest, which fills orders for paper or digital copies of the thesis and dissertation and makes a digital version available online via their subscription database, ProQuest Dissertations & Theses . For master’s theses, only the abstract is available. ProQuest provides worldwide distribution of your work from the master copy. You retain control over your dissertation and are free to grant publishing rights as you see fit. The formatting requirements contained in this guide meet all ProQuest specifications.
Copies of Dissertation and Thesis
Copies of Ph.D. dissertations and master’s theses are also uploaded in PDF format to the Cornell Library Repository, eCommons . A print copy of each master’s thesis and doctoral dissertation is submitted to Cornell University Library by ProQuest.
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Dissertation vs. Thesis: A Comparison
No matter what your field or specialty is, earning a graduate degree is one of the best ways to advance your career. In fact, for some professionals, earning a master’s degree and a doctoral degree is a requirement. A graduate degree program nurtures professional critical-thinking skills and refines field-specific knowledge, enabling you to prove your expertise and competence.
When completing a graduate degree program, students are required to produce a major research and writing project, such as a dissertation in a doctoral program or thesis in a master’s program. These two projects are often confused, so what is the difference between a dissertation vs. thesis? There are a few major differences and similarities between the two that are important for any potential graduate student to know.
What Is a Thesis?
A thesis is an academic paper completed near the end of a student’s course of study for a master’s degree program. Note that most master’s degrees require the completion of a thesis for graduation. Some bachelor’s degree programs even require students to write an undergraduate thesis, which is typically shorter and less in-depth than a master’s degree thesis.
To write a master’s thesis, students select a reasonably narrow topic of interest in their field. For example, if you’re earning a degree in nutrition science , you might examine the effects of varying compositions of pregame meals on athletic performance.
The next step is to conduct an in-depth review of existing research on your topic. You would then formulate an academic argument (for example, that high-carb pre-game meals are advantageous for endurance athletes) and use the existing research to prove your assertion.
A thesis is typically structured in a relatively rigid format, depending on the policies of the university and the individual department. The following components are often required:
- Abstract (summary)
- Table of contents
- Table of figures/maps
- Body, typically divided into chapters
What Is a Dissertation?
In contrast to a thesis, students working on a doctoral dissertation conduct their own original research after reviewing the established research. The goal of a dissertation is not only to prove the student’s own knowledge and skills but also to add to the existing body of knowledge in their field.
Students may present a new theory or hypothesis in their field or present research disproving a previously presented theory. Alternatively, they may tackle a new angle, taking the established research in a new direction.
The traditional order is to take doctoral courses, complete the qualifying exams and then write the dissertation. However, there are exceptions to this. At some universities, the dissertation process is integrated into the coursework. This allows students to get a jumpstart on their research while working toward the completion of their course requirements. As a result, they may graduate more quickly.
The process of writing a dissertation begins in a way similar to the process for a master’s thesis. Students select their topic and then conduct a literature review, which is a thorough analysis of the existing research on that topic. From there, students can work on developing a new theory, debunking a previously established theory or finding a new angle on an existing theory.
The dissertation defense is often one of the most intimidating aspects of the doctoral degree program. However, students work closely with their selected committees throughout the dissertation process. This means you can rest assured that if your committee has allowed your work to proceed to the point of the dissertation defense point, then your dissertation will almost certainly be accepted, and you will be granted your degree after your successful defense.
Like that of a thesis, the specific makeup of a dissertation depends on the policies and requirements of the university and the doctoral candidate’s department. In general, however, dissertations include the following:
- Literature review and theoretical framework
- Discussion of findings (interpretation, analysis and applications)
- Reference list
Differences Between a Dissertation vs. Thesis
The primary difference between a dissertation vs thesis is the degree programs that require these projects. Students in a master’s degree program will write a thesis, whereas students in a doctoral degree program will complete a dissertation.
Another difference between the two projects is that a dissertation usually requires an oral defense, whereas a thesis generally does not. After submitting the completed dissertation to their dissertation committees, students will schedule dates for the oral presentation of their work. The committee members will ask questions and sometimes pose challenges. Students must be able to justify their methodology and interpretation of their findings.
Additionally, as you might expect, a typical master’s thesis is far shorter than a typical doctoral degree dissertation. A thesis might be between 40 and 80 pages, although it can vary from one degree program to the next. In contrast, the average dissertation is between 100 and 300 pages.
Similarities Between a Dissertation and a Thesis
Despite the differences, there are some similarities between a dissertation and a thesis. Both require intensive research and the completion of a lengthy paper comprised of original writing.
In addition, both projects require the following:
- The skillful defense of an academic argument (the stance or main point of the paper)
- Analytical reasoning and critical thinking
- In-depth expertise about the subject area
- A significant investment of time (years for dissertations and months for theses)
- A willingness to rewrite and edit based on feedback from professors, peers or committee members
Another similarity is the committee. All doctoral degree students work with a committee comprised of faculty members, advisors and similar professionals who guide the student’s research and writing. It’s also customary for students writing a master’s thesis to have a committee.
In both thesis and dissertation committees, the committee chair is the primary point of contact for the student. In other words, the chair is the person who is most closely involved with shaping the direction of the student’s research, academic arguments and writing.
For both types of degree programs, the thesis or dissertation is a requirement to graduate with the degree. It is typically considered the capstone project.
Grand Canyon University offers a wide range of master's and doctoral degree programs to choose from. GCU is committed to helping students enhance their career qualifications, transition to new careers or simply fuel their passion for learning. Click on the Request Info button above to learn more about GCU’s graduate degree programs and how to apply
The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author’s and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of Grand Canyon University. Any sources cited were accurate as of the publish date.
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What Is a Thesis?
Writing a thesis is often required in US university degree programs. But what exactly is a thesis? Do you know the difference between a thesis statement and a thesis project? Read on to learn more.
If you are considering studying in the US, you may have come across the term “thesis” in your research. Writing a thesis is an important part of completing your degree. Read our guide to find out what a thesis is in the US, the benefits of writing a thesis, and why colleges in the US value them.
What Is a Thesis?
In the US, students may use the term “thesis” to describe two distinct academic requirements:
Thesis statement—the focus of an academic paper. Papers with a clear thesis statement are typically required in liberal arts classes, such as literature or history, and can vary in length and citation style.
Final thesis—a longer academic paper required to complete a degree program. These often require months (or even years) of research and may be defended in front of a university committee.
Let us take a closer look at both meanings.
What Is a Thesis Statement?
A thesis statement is one to three sentences in the introduction of an academic essay outlining what the reader can expect. It is an argument, or claim, that will be defended through your research. A strong thesis statement identifies the topic to be discussed, summarizes the main arguments, and persuades your audience to continue reading.
Typically, a good thesis statement consists of two components:
Topic—tells the reader what your essay is about.
Argument about the topic—explains your logical claims and ideas about the topic.
What Are the Different Types of Thesis Statements?
The thesis statement you write may vary depending on the type of academic paper you are writing.
Argumentative—presents a topic which is debatable and reasons supporting the topic.
Analytical—presents a claim and explains how it is supported.
Expository—presents a topic and explains what the reader will learn in your paper.
How to Write a Good Thesis
When looking at how to write a thesis statement, it is important to understand the meaning of a thesis. A thesis identifies a question on a topic that relates to your degree program, which you then have to answer with a sensible argument, using credible research and findings.
Here are some tips you can use when you are writing a thesis:
Research and identify your thesis topic —To write a good thesis, consider what your thesis is going to be about. Are there any areas in your field that you would like to explore further? Research is an important foundation to your thesis. Give yourself enough time to conduct enough research to support your central argument. (Professors and advisors can help you with time management and making a research plan.) Collecting evidence to support your claims and reading a wide range of sources on the topic can help you build a sound foundation for your thesis.
Work on a strong thesis statement —A good thesis needs a strong opening statement. Your thesis statement gives those who are reading and grading your work a summary of what will be discussed, why your claim is important, and persuades them to read more. Consider the following scenario: If someone asked, “what is a thesis statement?” and you showed them your paper, would they be able to identify the thesis right away? You always want to be as clear and convincing as possible when putting together your central argument.
Put all your information together —Once you have built a strong thesis statement, organize all your research and supporting information. Analyze your data and identify whether it is relevant to your research topic. A thesis should be persuasive. Acknowledge that there could be multiple sides to your argument, while also keeping your thesis specific, comprehensive, and decisive.
Build a solid structure —It is important that the flow of your thesis is logical and straightforward. Make an outline to organize your ideas and provide a roadmap before you start writing.
Review and take your time to edit —Take time to edit your thesis. As you revise, reevaluate your points, see where you can strengthen your arguments, and fill in any gaps.
Include citations —Citing your sources provides credibility – and also ensures you won’t plagiarize another scholar’s work.
Don’t hesitate to ask for help —You can speak to your professor, an advisor, or a classmate for guidance on how to write a thesis statement, the structure of your thesis, or any other sections you want to clarify. They can provide valuable feedback to improve your project.
Some important questions to ask yourself during the thesis writing process are:
What is a thesis and why am I writing it?
Will the reader understand my thesis statement meaning and intention?
Have I answered the question my thesis is based on?
Do I have a strong thesis statement?
Does my thesis add value to my field?
Remember: Your professors and advisors want you to succeed. Speak to your Shorelight advisor if you’re struggling with writing a thesis paper or final thesis – our academic counselors are here to help!
Which Subjects Require a Thesis Statement in Academic Papers?
Many college professors assign academic papers for students to explore subject topics further — this information can be found on your course syllabus , giving you plenty of time to prepare! In almost every undergraduate-level subject you study, you may be required to develop thesis statements for your academic papers. Writing a thesis statement paper helps improve your critical thinking skills, as it requires you to identify and analyze multiple sources of information to form strong arguments — a useful skill in both the classroom and the workplace.
How Is a Thesis Statement Graded?
Your thesis statement will be evaluated based on how well you have used research to support your argument, and how effectively you have communicated your ideas (e.g., whether your paper is well written, clear, and specific). How your thesis statement is evaluated will vary depending on your subject area and the university, but your course syllabus should include detailed grading requirements.
What Is a Final Thesis or Dissertation?
A final thesis, sometimes known as a dissertation, is a compilation of research on a specific topic. Typically, a thesis or dissertation is required to complete a master’s degree in the US. While it is not common, you may be expected to write a thesis to complete your bachelor’s degree. For example, in some liberal arts colleges, writing a thesis is a degree requirement, a way to showcase what you have learned over your program of study, and may even add to the body of research in your specialization. A final thesis or dissertation is significantly longer than a thesis statement, and may take months or even years to complete.
What Are the Main Components of a Final Thesis or Dissertation?
Generally, a final thesis consists of five major sections.
Introduction —The introduction of your thesis explains the topic and central argument to the reader at a high level. The introduction should go over why you chose the topic, and act as a summary of what you will be covering in the pages to follow.
Literature Review —This section includes research papers, studies, and articles related to your topic area. You also are expected to identify gaps and weaknesses in existing research, which helps you build counterarguments and develop a strong claim.
Methodology —This section explains the methods and data used to conduct your research.
Results —The results section presents the findings of your study.
Discussion and Conclusion —This section summarizes why and how you conducted your research, the results of your research, and presents conclusions based on the results.
What Is a Citation in a Thesis?
When writing either a shorter academic paper with a thesis statement or a final thesis, you are required to include your research sources. Throughout your work, when you directly quote another text or paraphrase ideas, you must cite the source. There are two types of citations:
In-text citation —this reference is included in the text at the point of mention, such as an on-page footnote or parenthetical citation.
End-of-paper citation —also known as endnotes, these are references included at the end of your paper or dissertation.
How Long Does it Take to Complete a Thesis?
A final thesis to earn a master’s degree requires you to be familiar with previous work in the field and demonstrate your capability of carrying out independent research. From conducting in-depth research to listening to feedback from professors, completing a thesis can be a major commitment.
Many universities in the US may require you to dedicate a semester or longer to complete your research. You will have to work with a faculty committee member to ensure your research and writing is on track. As you compare different graduate programs, you can get a better sense of each program’s dissertation requirements (looking at time, research, and more) and which best align with your academic and professional plans .
How Is a Thesis Graded?
Generally, a master’s thesis or dissertation in the US is not graded, but you will have to defend it, or present your research and findings before a university committee. For example, at American University , a thesis is evaluated based on how students demonstrate their capacity to conduct independent research. However, the evaluation of your thesis may vary depending on the university and your subject area.
So, once you have completed your thesis, the next important step is to prepare well for your thesis defense.
What Is a Thesis Defense?
If you are pursuing a master’s degree, you are required to meet with a thesis committee upon completion of your thesis to defend what you worked on. At this stage, you will have already worked closely with faculty advisors and received ongoing evaluations. A thesis defense can take many forms, from presenting in front of a panel and taking questions and answers to a more informal discussion with select faculty and advisors. Your individual program will have a clear and established process regarding this important final task required for your degree.
Are a Thesis and a Dissertation the Same?
The terms thesis and dissertation may be used interchangeably. While they are similar in terms of the structure, in the US, there are differences between a thesis and a dissertation.
Type of degree
Generally required to complete a master’s degree
Required at the doctoral level
Will vary by program, but expect at least 60–80 pages plus the bibliography
At least double the length of a thesis or more
Proves how well you understood what you learned during your graduate program
Contribution of a new study or knowledge to your field
Is Writing a Thesis Mandatory?
Whether writing a thesis is required or not depends upon the program you choose to study. For example, if you are pursuing a liberal arts degree consisting of a wide variety of majors, including literature, history, and philosophy, writing a thesis can help you make connections across subjects.
Some universities and colleges in the US may offer both a thesis and a non-thesis option. For example, if you are a student who is interested in taking more classes to learn about your subject, you could choose the non-thesis option. So, instead of writing a thesis, you could either work on a research project or complete supervised fieldwork.
Whether you are writing a shorter paper with a thesis statement for a single class or working on a longer final thesis for your degree, making an argument and supporting that argument with established research gives you a skillset that is versatile and applicable to many fields. While conducting research for the thesis, you will refer to multiple sources, analyze information, and learn how to form strong arguments that will set you up for success wherever you go.
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Thesis Vs. Dissertation — Know the difference and similarities!
The academic world is filled with many different types of writing assignments, each with its own unique set of requirements and expectations. One common source of confusion for students is the distinction between a thesis and a dissertation. Both are long-form academic works, but there are several key differences between the two that are important to understand.
In Shakespeare’s day, a candidate for a master’s degree would write a thesis, an original paper in which he maintained a certain proposition. Whereas, completion of a doctoral program required submission and defense of a dissertation. He would read his thesis to his committee, after which he sat in silence while two faculty members gave point-by-point refutations of everything the candidate said.
The focus here was on the student’s ideas and his ability to arrange and express them clearly. If a student wished to advance further in academia he could pursue a dissertation. This was more of a literature review . He would read widely in a particular area and write up his findings, discussing the various authorities and their opinions. The point was to demonstrate that he was well-versed in the literature of the field. While the confusion between the two terms is understandable, we shall tackle the dissertation vs. thesis topic in this article and provide unambiguous insights on it.
Table of Contents
What Is a Thesis?
A thesis is a critically written scholarly piece of research work. Typically, it is submitted by students graduating from a master’s program. The purpose of a thesis is to allow students to showcase their knowledge and expertise within the subject matter they have been studying as part of the program.
What Is a Dissertation?
A dissertation is a comparatively lengthier piece of scholarly writing that accounts for your research work throughout the doctoral program. A researcher earns the Ph.D. after submitting and defending his/her dissertation. It includes all information about the original research or expanded research on a new or existing topic conducted by the Ph.D. candidate.
Dissertation vs. Thesis: Differences
- The primary difference between a thesis and a dissertation is the time when they are completed. As mentioned earlier, a thesis is presented at the culmination of a master’s program, whereas, a dissertation is presented to earn a Ph.D.
- A thesis is a compilation of research ensuring that the researcher is well-informed and has knowledge about the research topic learned in the study program. On the other hand, a dissertation provides an opportunity for the researcher to contribute new theories and information to the existing literature in the research field.
- A thesis is a presentation of learned and existing information, while the purpose of a dissertation is to develop a unique concept and defend it based on theoretical and practical results.
- A master’s thesis is approximately 100 pages in length. However, a Ph.D. dissertation should be much longer than a thesis and must include background and research information. A dissertation must include your research proposal, grant proposal, literature review , ideation of research topic, and every other minute detail about your research. Ideally, a dissertation inclusive of all details mentioned above should be three times the length of a master’s thesis.
Dissertation vs. Thesis: Similarities
- Both a thesis and a dissertation are considered final projects and are required to graduate from respective programs.
- The thesis and dissertation both require a deep and accurate understanding of the research problem.
- Both forms of scholarly written pieces must address specific research questions.
- Academic writing skills are imperative for a thesis as well as a dissertation.
- Ethical practices must be followed while collating and documenting research data.
- Plagiarism is not accepted in either.
- Both require analytical skills to support the findings.
- The thesis and dissertation, both require intense editing and critical proofreading before final submission.
Dissertation vs. Thesis: Europe
In Europe, the original distinction between a thesis and a dissertation has been largely retained. A doctoral thesis is a focused piece of original research that is performed to obtain a Ph.D. A dissertation is part of a broader post-graduate research project.
However, the thesis has evolved since original research nowadays requires plenty of background research . So, a thesis will contain extensive citations and references to earlier work, although the focus remains on the original work that comes out of it.
Dissertation vs. Thesis: USA
In the United States, the definition of a thesis is almost the opposite of that in Europe. Because a thesis is shorter than a dissertation it gradually came to mean a preliminary degree on the way to a doctorate. A thesis is now performed to earn a Master’s degree. In scientific fields, a master’s candidate takes advanced coursework and gains hands-on experience in a research project but does not direct the project to the same extent that he would in a doctoral program. In a master’s project, the student’s ideas are welcomed and expected but the focus is on obtaining technical expertise, not doing original research. Engineering students commonly obtain Master’s degrees and seldom go on to get PhDs. In other fields such as Chemistry, the opposite is true, with a Master’s degree no longer being required as the first step for a doctorate. Almost everyone I know who received a Master’s degree in Chemistry got one because they dropped out of graduate school and wrote their truncated research as a Master’s project.
In a Nutshell
Needless to say, the dissertation vs. thesis facts are real. Therefore, using one term instead of another is not acceptable as an academic. One must remember the purpose of each and use them accordingly. However, one is not undermined by the other. Whether you are writing a thesis or a dissertation, both must be done with the same seriousness. Both require critical technical and soft skills. Improving your time management and academic writing skills plays a major role in acing both forms of scholarly writing.
How do you decipher dissertation vs. thesis? Should the interchanged usage of these terms be acceptable? How is your approach to writing a thesis different from that of a dissertation? What are the other differences associated with the thesis and dissertation? Let us know in the comments section below!
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What is the Difference Between a Thesis and a Dissertation?
If you're contemplating graduate school, you may have heard that a comprehensive paper is required to graduate, and you likely wonder what exactly is the difference between a thesis and a dissertation. It's good that you're thinking ahead. There are definite differences between the two terms, though they are sometimes used interchangeably and often confused. Both papers are similar in their structure, as they contain an introduction, literary review, body, conclusion, bibliography and appendix. Beyond that, the similarities basically end. Let's delve further into the definition of each and the differences between them.
Basic Thesis and Dissertation Differences
The main difference between a thesis and a dissertation is when they are completed. The thesis is a project that marks the end of a master's program, while the dissertation occurs during doctoral study. The two are actually quite different in their purpose, as well. A thesis is a compilation of research that proves you are knowledgeable about the information learn throughout your graduate program. A dissertation is your opportunity during a doctorate program to contribute new knowledge, theories or practices to your field. The point is to come up with an entirely new concept, develop it and defend its worth.
Structural Differences Between a Thesis and a Dissertation
A master's thesis is kind of like the sorts of research papers you are familiar with from undergrad. You research a topic, then analyze and comment upon the information you gleaned and how it relates to the particular subject matter at hand. The point of the thesis is to show your ability to think critically about a topic and to knowledgeably discuss the information in-depth. Also, with a thesis, you usually take this opportunity to expand upon a subject that is most relevant to a specialty area you wish to pursue professionally. In a dissertation, you utilize others' research merely as guidance in coming up with and proving your own unique hypothesis, theory or concept. The bulk of the information in a dissertation is attributed to you.
Finally, there is a difference in length between these two major works. A master's thesis should be at least 100 pages in length, likely a bit beyond that. However, a doctoral dissertation should be much longer, because they involve a great deal of background and research information, along with every detail of your proposal and how you arrived at the information, according to Purdue University . A dissertation is an extremely complex work. It will likely be two, possibly even three, times the length of a thesis. You will receive guidance from a faculty member who will serve as your dissertation adviser. This adviser will be there to point you in the right direction if you are stuck, can assist in locating resources and ensure that your proposal is on the right track.
Related Resource: Capstone Project
Each school and program has its own guidelines for what a thesis and dissertation should contain, as well as its structure. However, you now have an overview of the difference between a thesis and a dissertation.
What Is the Difference Between a Thesis and a Dissertation?
Learn some tips on how to write the best thesis or dissertation..
So you are beginning your graduate program, reading over all the material and trying to prepare yourself as best as possible for the next two to three years. You’re already looking forward to graduation and figuring out exactly what will be required in order to receive your degree on time. What you’ve probably discovered is that whether you are pursuing a masters degree or a doctoral degree, the main goal in graduate school is to complete original research or projects, depending on your degree program.
The words “thesis” and “dissertation” are often used interchangeably, leading to some confusion in academia about what each individual word actually means. The main similarity between the dissertation and the thesis is the structure. Both have an introduction, literary review, main body, conclusion, bibliography and appendix. But that is the extent in which they are similar.
Differences Between a Masters Thesis and Doctoral Dissertation
Generally in the US, a thesis is the final project for the masters degree and a dissertation leads to a doctoral degree. Those pursuing a masters degree must perform research on a specific subject that demonstrates their knowledge acquired through their program. Seeking a PhD is different in that your dissertation must contribute something completely new and undiscovered to your field. In other words, you have to contribute original knowledge to the subject. So the main difference between a thesis and a dissertation is the depth of knowledge you must attain in order to write the paper.
A masters degree thesis is more closely related to a research paper that you would have completed during college. You are expected only to use the research of others and provide your own analysis on your discoveries. It demonstrates your level of critical and analytical thinking and defines the subject that you are most interested in pursuing within your field. With a dissertation, you are expected to use the research of others only to guide you in your own research to come up with a completely new hypothesis.
Another way in which the thesis and dissertation differ are in length. A masters degree thesis is typically over 100 pages. However, the dissertation is usually at least double and sometimes triple the length of a thesis. To determine the length of your thesis or dissertation, remember you should always first consult your grad school.
Tips For Writing a Thesis or Dissertation
The first step in writing your thesis or dissertation (or any other academic paper) is setting a deadline. You don’t want your deadline to be the due date of the paper because you need to leave enough time to get it proofread and to make any additional changes. You should keep a journal of your ideas to help with the writing process. The next step is to create a detailed outline of your paper.
When beginning to write your thesis or dissertation, keep in mind that you are writing an academic paper. Not many people besides your professors and academic advisors will read your thesis, so make sure to keep your writing style formal.
Consult a scholarly text to see how your thesis or dissertation should be structured. Once you have written and edited your thesis or dissertation, you should find an editor. Some editors will only check spelling and grammar issues, while others will check for overall continuity and flow. Determine what you need before searching for an editor.
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Overall, a master's thesis is designed to support a graduate student's academic and professional qualifications for a degree by presenting
A thesis is a complex paper that you write during the last year of graduate school. Students generally want to take a topic that they studied in class and look
The master's thesis is an original piece of scholarship allowing the student to dig into a topic and produce an expanded document that
The dissertation or thesis is a scholarly treatise that substantiates a specific point of view as a result of original research that is conducted by students
A thesis is an academic paper completed near the end of a student's course of study for a master's degree program. Note that most master's
Final thesis—a longer academic paper required to complete a degree program. These often require months (or even years) of research and may be defended in front
A thesis is a critically written scholarly piece of research work. Typically, it is submitted by students graduating from a master's program. The purpose of a
A thesis is a compilation of research that proves you are knowledgeable about the information learn throughout your graduate program. A dissertation is your
Generally in the US, a thesis is the final project for the masters degree and a dissertation leads to a doctoral degree. Those pursuing a
Students who are interested in writing a master's thesis should begin thinking about possible topics early in their academic program. Good research questions