What Is a Master’s Thesis?
Before enrolling in a master’s degree program , it’s important that you know what a thesis is and whether you’ll need to write one. Your thesis is the sum of all of your learned knowledge from your master’s program and gives you a chance to prove your capabilities in your chosen field.
A thesis also involves a significant amount of research, and depending on the subject, may require you to conduct interviews, surveys and gather primary and secondary resources. Most graduate programs will expect you to dedicate enough time to developing and writing your thesis, so make sure to learn more about the department’s requirements before enrolling in your master’s program.
What is a Master’s Thesis?
Unlike thesis projects for undergraduates, which are shorter in length and scope, a master’s thesis is an extensive scholarly paper that allows you to dig into a topic, expand on it and demonstrate how you’ve grown as a graduate student throughout the program. Graduate schools often require a thesis for students in research-oriented degrees to apply their practical skills before culmination.
For instance, a psychology major may investigate how colors affect mood, or an education major might write about a new teaching strategy. Depending on your program, the faculty might weigh the bulk of your research differently.
Regardless of the topic or field of study, your thesis statement should allow you to:
- Help prove your idea or statement on paper
- Organize and develop your argument
- Provide a guide for the reader to follow
Once the thesis is completed, students usually must defend their work for a panel of two or more department faculty members.
What is the Difference Between a Thesis and a Non-Thesis Master’s Program?
A thesis is a common requirement in many research-focused fields, but not every master’s program will require you to complete one. Additionally, some fields allow you to choose between a thesis and a non-thesis track . In the case of a non-thesis program, you won’t have to write a lengthy paper, but you will have to take more classes to meet your graduation requirement.
Whether you choose a thesis or non-thesis program, you’ll still be required to complete a final project to prove your critical thinking skills. If you favor a non-thesis program, your project may be a capstone project or field experience.
Thesis vs. Dissertation
It's common for graduate students to mistakenly use the words "thesis" and "dissertation" interchangeably, but they are generally two different types of academic papers. As stated above, a thesis is the final project required in the completion of many master's degrees. The thesis is a research paper, but it only involves using research from others and crafting your own analytical points. On the other hand, the dissertation is a more in-depth scholarly research paper completed mostly by doctoral students. Dissertations require candidates create their own research, predict a hypothesis, and carry out the study. Whereas a master's thesis is usually around 100 pages, the doctoral dissertation is at least double that length.
Benefits of Writing a Thesis
There are several advantages that you can reap from choosing a master's program that requires the completion of a thesis project, according to Professor John Stackhouse . A thesis gives you the valuable opportunity to delve into interesting research for greater depth of learning in your career area. Employers often prefer students with a thesis paper in their portfolio, because it showcases their gained writing skills, authoritative awareness of the field, and ambition to learn. Defending your thesis will also fine-tune critical communication and public speaking skills, which can be applied in any career. In fact, many graduates eventually publish their thesis work in academic journals to gain a higher level of credibility for leadership positions too.
Tips for Your Master's Thesis
Writing your thesis paper will be a long process, so the first step is to make certain you have a close faculty advisor to guide you along the way. Before starting, consult with other scholarly texts to see exactly how a master's thesis should be structured with an introduction, literary review, main body, conclusion, and bibliography. Finding a thesis topic may be the simplest or hardest part for you, but choose one that interests you and gives you room to explore, according to Ta Da! Creating a detailed outline will prompt an easier flow of ideas for a well-written thesis. It's advised that you stay aware of your thesis defense date to allow enough time for proofreading and possibly sending your work to an editor.
Related Resource: Oral Exam Preparation
Overall, a master's thesis is designed to support a graduate student's academic and professional qualifications for a degree by presenting research findings. While it's important to note that some graduate programs offer non-thesis tracks for master's degrees, the thesis is the main capstone staple for many others. Now that you know what a thesis is, you can decide whether it's a good option for your career or whether a comprehensive exam would be better.
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How long is a thesis for a master’s?
A master’s thesis typically ranges from 100 to 300 pages , not including the bibliography. The length will depend on various factors, including the subject matter and method of your research. There’s no ‘correct’ page length you should aim for. Instead, your thesis should be long enough to properly convey all necessary information in a clear and concise manner.
Can you fail a master’s thesis?
While it’s not common, it is possible to fail your master’s thesis.
When you defend your thesis, the committee evaluates whether you understand your field and focus area. In most cases, the advisor you’re working with might help you go over your defense beforehand and address any questions that might come up during the final presentation. If you can’t correctly answer crucial questions from the committee, you will likely be given a chance to resubmit your thesis after making corrections.
Are there specific subjects that don’t require a thesis versus those that do?
Not all subjects will require a thesis at the end of your studies. Applied graduate school programs that focus on hands-on experience over theoretical work will mostly favor evaluating you through applied research projects. For example, nursing, education, and business programs prepare graduates for specific career placements and require them to complete internships or supervised fieldwork.
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- What Is a Thesis? | Ultimate Guide & Examples
What Is a Thesis? | Ultimate Guide & Examples
Published on September 14, 2022 by Tegan George . Revised on December 7, 2022.
A thesis is a type of research paper based on your original research. It is usually submitted as the final step of a master’s program or a capstone to a bachelor’s degree.
Writing a thesis can be a daunting experience. Other than a dissertation , it is one of the longest pieces of writing students typically complete. It relies on your ability to conduct research from start to finish: choosing a relevant topic , crafting a proposal , designing your research , collecting data , developing a robust analysis, drawing strong conclusions , and writing concisely .
You can also download our full thesis template in the format of your choice below. Our template includes a ready-made table of contents , as well as guidance for what each chapter should include. It’s easy to make it your own, and can help you get started.
Download Word template Download Google Docs template
Table of contents
Thesis vs. thesis statement, how to structure a thesis, acknowledgements or preface, list of figures and tables, list of abbreviations, introduction, literature review, methodology, reference list, proofreading and editing, defending your thesis, frequently asked questions about theses.
You may have heard the word thesis as a standalone term or as a component of academic writing called a thesis statement . Keep in mind that these are two very different things.
- A thesis statement is a very common component of an essay, particularly in the humanities. It usually comprises 1 or 2 sentences in the introduction of your essay , and should clearly and concisely summarize the central points of your academic essay .
- A thesis is a long-form piece of academic writing, often taking more than a full semester to complete. It is generally a degree requirement for Master’s programs, and is also sometimes required to complete a bachelor’s degree in liberal arts colleges.
- In the US, a dissertation is generally written as a final step toward obtaining a PhD.
- In other countries (particularly the UK), a dissertation is generally written at the bachelor’s or master’s level.
The final structure of your thesis depends on a variety of components, such as:
- Your discipline
- Your theoretical approach
Humanities theses are often structured more like a longer-form essay . Just like in an essay, you build an argument to support a central thesis.
In both hard and social sciences, theses typically include an introduction , literature review , methodology section , results section , discussion section , and conclusion section . These are each presented in their own dedicated section or chapter. In some cases, you might want to add an appendix .
We’ve compiled a list of thesis examples to help you get started.
- Example thesis #1: “Abolition, Africans, and Abstraction: the Influence of the ‘Noble Savage’ on British and French Antislavery Thought, 1787-1807” by Suchait Kahlon.
- Example thesis #2: “’A Starving Man Helping Another Starving Man’: UNRRA, India, and the Genesis of Global Relief, 1943-1947″ by Julian Saint Reiman.
- Example thesis #3: “An Introduction to Higher-Order Frames in Communication: How Controversial Organizations Maintain Legitimacy Over Time” by Kees Smeets
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The very first page of your thesis contains all necessary identifying information, including:
- Your full title
- Your full name
- Your department
- Your institution and degree program
- Your submission date.
Sometimes the title page also includes your student ID, the name of your supervisor, or the university’s logo. Check out your university’s guidelines if you’re not sure.
Read more about title pages
The acknowledgements section is usually optional. Its main point is to allow you to thank everyone who helped you in your thesis journey, such as supervisors, friends, or family. You can also choose to write a preface , but it’s typically one or the other, not both.
Read more about acknowledgements Read more about prefaces
An abstract is a short summary of your thesis. Usually a maximum of 300 words long, it’s should include brief descriptions of your research objectives , methods, results, and conclusions. Though it may seem short, it introduces your work to your audience, serving as a first impression of your thesis.
Read more about abstracts
A table of contents lists all of your sections, plus their corresponding page numbers and subheadings if you have them. This helps your reader seamlessly navigate your document.
Your table of contents should include all the major parts of your thesis. In particular, don’t forget the the appendices. If you used heading styles, it’s easy to generate an automatic table Microsoft Word.
Read more about tables of contents
While not mandatory, if you used a lot of tables and/or figures, it’s nice to include a list of them to help guide your reader. It’s also easy to generate one of these in Word: just use the “Insert Caption” feature.
Read more about lists of figures and tables
If you have used a lot of industry- or field-specific abbreviations in your thesis, you should include them in an alphabetized list of abbreviations . This way, your readers can easily look up any meanings they aren’t familiar with.
Read more about lists of abbreviations
Relatedly, if you find yourself using a lot of very specialized or field-specific terms that may not be familiar to your reader, consider including a glossary . Alphabetize the terms you want to include with a brief definition.
Read more about glossaries
An introduction sets up the topic, purpose, and relevance of your thesis, as well as expectations for your reader. This should:
- Ground your research topic , sharing any background information your reader may need
- Define the scope of your work
- Introduce any existing research on your topic, situating your work within a broader problem or debate
- State your research question(s)
- Outline (briefly) how the remainder of your work will proceed
In other words, your introduction should clearly and concisely show your reader the “what, why, and how” of your research.
Read more about introductions
A literature review helps you gain a robust understanding of any extant academic work on your topic, encompassing:
- Selecting relevant sources
- Determining the credibility of your sources
- Critically evaluating each of your sources
- Drawing connections between sources, including any themes, patterns, conflicts, or gaps
A literature review is not merely a summary of existing work. Rather, your literature review should ultimately lead to a clear justification for your own research, perhaps via:
- Addressing a gap in the literature
- Building on existing knowledge to draw new conclusions
- Exploring a new theoretical or methodological approach
- Introducing a new solution to an unresolved problem
- Definitively advocating for one side of a theoretical debate
Read more about literature reviews
Your literature review can often form the basis for your theoretical framework, but these are not the same thing. A theoretical framework defines and analyzes the concepts and theories that your research hinges on.
Read more about theoretical frameworks
Your methodology chapter shows your reader how you conducted your research. It should be written clearly and methodically, easily allowing your reader to critically assess the credibility of your argument. Furthermore, your methods section should convince your reader that your method was the best way to answer your research question.
A methodology section should generally include:
- Your overall approach ( quantitative vs. qualitative )
- Your research methods (e.g., a longitudinal study )
- Your data collection methods (e.g., interviews or a controlled experiment
- Any tools or materials you used (e.g., computer software)
- The data analysis methods you chose (e.g., statistical analysis , discourse analysis )
- A strong, but not defensive justification of your methods
Read more about methodology sections
Your results section should highlight what your methodology discovered. These two sections work in tandem, but shouldn’t repeat each other. While your results section can include hypotheses or themes, don’t include any speculation or new arguments here.
Your results section should:
- State each (relevant) result with any (relevant) descriptive statistics (e.g., mean , standard deviation ) and inferential statistics (e.g., test statistics , p values )
- Explain how each result relates to the research question
- Determine whether the hypothesis was supported
Additional data (like raw numbers or interview transcripts ) can be included as an appendix . You can include tables and figures, but only if they help the reader better understand your results.
Read more about results sections
Your discussion section is where you can interpret your results in detail. Did they meet your expectations? How well do they fit within the framework that you built? You can refer back to any relevant source material to situate your results within your field, but leave most of that analysis in your literature review.
For any unexpected results, offer explanations or alternative interpretations of your data.
Read more about discussion sections
Your thesis conclusion should concisely answer your main research question. It should leave your reader with an ultra-clear understanding of your central argument, and emphasize what your research specifically has contributed to your field.
Why does your research matter? What recommendations for future research do you have? Lastly, wrap up your work with any concluding remarks.
Read more about conclusions
In order to avoid plagiarism , don’t forget to include a full reference list at the end of your thesis, citing the sources that you used. Choose one citation style and follow it consistently throughout your thesis, taking note of the formatting requirements of each style.
Which style you choose is often set by your department or your field, but common styles include MLA , Chicago , and APA.
Create APA citations Create MLA citations
In order to stay clear and concise, your thesis should include the most essential information needed to answer your research question. However, chances are you have many contributing documents, like interview transcripts or survey questions . These can be added as appendices , to save space in the main body.
Read more about appendices
Once you’re done writing, the next part of your editing process begins. Leave plenty of time for proofreading and editing prior to submission. Nothing looks worse than grammar mistakes or sloppy spelling errors!
Consider using a professional thesis editing service to make sure your final project is perfect.
Once you’ve submitted your final product, it’s common practice to have a thesis defense, an oral component of your finished work. This is scheduled by your advisor or committee, and usually entails a presentation and Q&A session.
After your defense , your committee will meet to determine if you deserve any departmental honors or accolades. However, keep in mind that defenses are usually just a formality. If there are any serious issues with your work, these should be resolved with your advisor way before a defense.
The conclusion of your thesis or dissertation shouldn’t take up more than 5–7% of your overall word count.
If you only used a few abbreviations in your thesis or dissertation , you don’t necessarily need to include a list of abbreviations .
If your abbreviations are numerous, or if you think they won’t be known to your audience, it’s never a bad idea to add one. They can also improve readability, minimizing confusion about abbreviations unfamiliar to your reader.
When you mention different chapters within your text, it’s considered best to use Roman numerals for most citation styles. However, the most important thing here is to remain consistent whenever using numbers in your dissertation .
A thesis or dissertation outline is one of the most critical first steps in your writing process. It helps you to lay out and organize your ideas and can provide you with a roadmap for deciding what kind of research you’d like to undertake.
Generally, an outline contains information on the different sections included in your thesis or dissertation , such as:
- Your anticipated title
- Your abstract
- Your chapters (sometimes subdivided into further topics like literature review , research methods , avenues for future research, etc.)
A thesis is typically written by students finishing up a bachelor’s or Master’s degree. Some educational institutions, particularly in the liberal arts, have mandatory theses, but they are often not mandatory to graduate from bachelor’s degrees. It is more common for a thesis to be a graduation requirement from a Master’s degree.
Even if not mandatory, you may want to consider writing a thesis if you:
- Plan to attend graduate school soon
- Have a particular topic you’d like to study more in-depth
- Are considering a career in research
- Would like a capstone experience to tie up your academic experience
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What is a Master's Thesis?
Home >> Masters Thesis >> What is a Master's Thesis?
The main purpose of a masters thesis is to show that the candidate can work scholarly and be familiar with major issues and published research on the topic. A good thesis is well-researched, demonstrates rigorous critical thinking and analysis. It provides a detailed methodology and accurate results and includes extensive verification of knowledge claims.
It makes a unique contribution to the field of legal scholarship. Therefore, the word of the thesis should be between 20,000 and 25,000 long and not exceed 35,000 words.
Your thesis statement should enable you to:
- Assist in putting your idea or statement on paper.
- Organize and expand on your argument.
- Make a road map for the reader to follow.
After completing their thesis, students must defend their work in front of a panel of two or more department faculty members.
A thesis is an important part of every master’s and doctoral graduate program.
Steps to Write a Successful Master’s Thesis
A brief guide below represents steps to write a successful thesis for graduate schools.
- 1. Make a Strong and Engaging Introduction
The introduction to your research paper should be strong and engaging. It informs the readers about new information. It should include the three key points listed below.
- The history of the topic or theme you chose for your thesis.
- Thesis statement deliberation
- Outline your thesis.
- 2. Include a Literature Review
You must include a literature review in your master thesis. Essentially, it is a survey of information gathered from various sources, such as academic journals, books, articles, newspapers, etc.
This section provides a summary of key concepts, facts, and relevant information about the topic.
You can use direct quotations from the scholarly sources from which you gathered the information for your research.
- 3. Analyze Your Work
After reviewing the literature, explain how your thesis adds to the knowledge already available in scholarly sources.
- 4. Create a Body Paragraph
Using the topic you've chosen, you can finish the main part of your thesis. In this section, mention the following things:
- Tell the readers about the topic
- How you gather the information
- How reliable the information is
- 5. Finish with a Strong Conclusion
After writing a body, the conclusion part comes at the end of the thesis. Many graduate students do not understand how to write a master’s thesis conclusion properly. First and foremost, it should be powerful.
The main goal of the conclusion is to summarize the significance of your research topic. In addition, it must show how your thesis has made a significant original research contribution.
The conclusion should be engaging and include a list of references for future research on the topic.
Hire a Professional Thesis Writer
Writing a thesis paper is a very difficult task. It takes time and good writing skills. So, if you're not sure how to write an outstanding thesis or need expert assistance, GradSchoolGenius.com is here to help.
Our team of the best thesis writers will gladly meet all of your 'write my thesis' requirements. Our team of experts has been providing master or doctoral dissertations for years. They can write thesis papers in any field of study.
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Please do not hesitate to contact us if you need a successful thesis and dissertation right now.
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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.
With a majority of Master’s programs, graduation is earned after the submission of a Thesis. There are Master’s degrees that do not require a Thesis in the areas of Management. But programs that stem from departments like the arts and humanities, and the sciences, generally ask for a Master Thesis. There is also an option to choose between programs that are Thesis-based or Non-Thesis-based. This resource guide analyzes what a Master Thesis is, its format and structure, guidelines and tips to write one, and much more.
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What is a Master’s Thesis
A common enough question on most students’ minds is, “what is a Master’s Thesis?” The answer to that question is not rocket science! A Master Thesis is a creative document that illustrates (a) how much knowledge the student has assimilated throughout the Master’s program, (b) the student’s fresh, original, creative, and unique research into a subject using proper scientific and research methodology, and (c) the ability of the student to assess, evaluate, and interpret results and outcomes from such research, and finally infer and draw conclusions accordingly.
The following points sum up everything that a Master’s Thesis is:
- It is a creative work but based a lot on scientific methodology and data researched from other scientific works.
- It covers only one original idea, problem, topic, theory, or proposition.
- It demonstrates the ability to evaluate information, think critically, and present findings and results systematically and in a logical manner.
- It is usually an academic requirement for graduation.
- It is almost always prepared and submitted at the end of the Master’s program.
- It provides an opportunity to demonstrate analytical, logical, and reasoning skills through the defense of the chosen idea/topic.
Format and Components of Master’s Thesis
Students need to factor in two key aspects when writing a Master Thesis – Format and Components. While formatting takes care of the presentation part of the Thesis, the components cover all the content that must go in. Together, the two can make the final document a compelling read while adhering to all guidelines and Thesis requirements in general.
Although each college or program may have its requirements for how a Thesis should be written, here is an example of a generic Master Thesis outline:
- FORMAT Formatting is essential to make all the content of the Thesis clear, legible, and presentable. There are several formatting aspects that students should make sure they implement throughout their Thesis.
- The name of the major should be absolutely correct.
- The title of the Thesis must be in CAPITAL letters and double-spaced.
- The date must be the month and year of graduation.
- The front matter must preferably be numbered with lower case Roman numerals.
- A ‘Table of Contents’ , with a list of tables, a list of figures, acknowledgments, chapters, references or bibliography, and appendices (with titles), should be included.
- The Chapter Titles in the Table of Contents should be identical to the actual Chapter Titles used in the text of the Thesis.
- Chapters should be numbered consistently. (example: Chapter Four, Chapter 4, or Chapter IV)
- Page 1 should be the first page of the Thesis and must sequentially continue till the end without breaking.
- Running headers should preferably be avoided.
- Page numbers should not be embellished. (example: Page 7, -7-, or 107a)
- Fonts should be standardized and legible.
- Depending on the font, a size between 10pts. and 13pts. is suggested for body text, and between 14pts. and 18pts. for headings.
- The font size of all headings should be consistent. (example: all main headings are 18pts. and sub-headings are 16pts.)
- Italic text should be limited to foreign words, book and journal titles, and special emphasis.
- Margins should be maintained equally and consistently across all pages, preferably 0.75 inches or 1 inch on all sides.
- Line spacing should be consistent and reasonable, of say 1.2pts to 1.5pts.
- Each chapter should begin on a new page.
- There should be no blank pages in the entire document.
- When submitting a soft copy of the Thesis, the Portable Document Format (PDF) should be used, and the file name should be short and simple, without using special characters.
- COMPONENTS The main part of a Master’s Thesis is, of course, the content. It is important to cover all generic and necessary components while including those that may have been specifically asked for. The list of components below presents a rough idea of what an entire Thesis would consist of:
- (a) Title Page The Title Page will typically consist of only the Title of the Thesis and the month and year of graduation. This page should always be unnumbered.
- (b) Committee/Faculty Page The Committee Page lists the names and titles of faculty members who have approved the work.
- (c) Abstract or Summary An Abstract is a brief outline of the Thesis that typically includes a summary of the study, techniques, and methods used for research, and the findings or conclusions.
- (d) Table of Contents The Table of Contents is a compilation of headings and page numbers that correspond to headings and page numbers in the text of the Thesis.
- (e) Lists of Figures, Tables, Maps, Abbreviations, or Multimedia Items Separate pages for figures, tables, etc., should be used to list them out with their captions and page numbers. Ensure that the same captions are used in the text of the Thesis, and the page numbers match.
- (f) Preface (optional) A Preface is not mandatory. But if the author finds a need to explain the genesis of the work, or if the author’s contribution to a multiple-authored work needs citing, a preface could be included.
- (g) Main Content The Main Content is the bulk, essence, and substance of the entire Thesis. It generally outlines an Introduction, Methodology, Findings and Results, Discussion, and Conclusion.
- (h) Acknowledgments (optional) Acknowledgments must be made only if the author has been granted permission to use copyrighted material. In such cases, the grant sources should be acknowledged. If federal funds were used for the Thesis, they too must be acknowledged with a disclaimer that the findings of the Thesis do not necessarily reflect the view of the funding agency.
- (i) Bibliography or References All works that were referred to for the Thesis should be mentioned in the Bibliography or References page.
- (j) Appendices An Appendix may contain relevant material but is tangential or very detailed (raw data, procedural explanations, etc.). These should be labeled A, B, C, etc., and not 1, 2, 3 or I, II, III.
Important: Students are advised to check with their faculty members and/or their Program Thesis Guidelines (that is often a part of the student’s curriculum) for more and exact information on Thesis requirements. This is because such requirements may vary by college or program.
Top Tips for writing the Master’s Thesis
Preparing for and writing a Master Thesis can be difficult for some. Many students become anxious and nervous when they have to either begin with their research or have finished their research but have to piece it all together in the form of a Thesis. Here are a few top tips for writing a Master’s Thesis with relative ease:
- Locate an Easy Idea, Topic, or Problem Area The first step before even contemplating the writing of a Thesis is to find a topic that is easy for the individual to carry out research, write about, and defend. Students must avoid complex Thesis topics that may be hard to research and leave much to be desired.
- What is the research problem?
- What is its importance?
- What are the other comparative works available to read?
- What have others researched, found, and concluded?
- What are the comparisons that one can make?
- What are the yardsticks, parameters, and methods of the study?
- Brainstorm Read, read, and read more! The more one reads, the more one’s knowledge increases. Find publications, journals, and other Theses that are relevant to the topic. That done, toss all ideas and thoughts onto some sheets of paper or a book. These could be brief points, keywords, statistical figures, etc., but should be considered important at this stage.
- Analyze and Assess & Conclude With any Thesis, it is important to look for trends and patterns that will help understand the significance of results obtained. In their research, students should check for commonalities and distinctions between comparative situations and how to describe them. They should explain trends and patterns while also illustrating unexpected and expected ones. Furthermore, any results should be justifiable coherently, and their significance outlined in the conclusion of the Thesis. In conclusion, one must mention the overall impact of the study and how it furthers one’s understanding of the topic while also highlighting the areas that need further investigation. Predictive potential, if any, can also be added.
- Organize and Structure Collected data is key to writing a good Thesis. Find reliable and relevant data sources and findings and design a framework to organize such data and interpret it. Use empirical categories to segregate findings such that they become easier to include in the Thesis. Finally, structure everything to create a logical flow and presentation of all findings, data, interpretations, results, and conclusions.
- Write a Draft Compiling all critical components of a Thesis and writing the first draft is always advisable. A first draft can be a compilation and culmination of all the points – from 2 to 5. That done, read the first draft to make changes, correct text, and generally build upon it.
- Review a Second Draft Once the first draft has given way to a second and more complete draft, it is best to ask a faculty member, mentor, or senior (such as a doctorate student) to review this draft and provide critical feedback. Based on this feedback, additional changes should be made, after which a third or final draft can be prepared for proofreading.
Thesis Vs Dissertation
Many students interchange the terms Thesis and Dissertation. While they do have their similarities, they are distinctly different in more ways than one. To begin with, since a Thesis is shorter than a Dissertation, it is generally looked upon as the first step towards a Doctorate. In Science-related Master’s programs, students tend to take up advanced coursework and gain hands-on experience working on a research project, but not to the lengths that a Doctoral student would go to. Students are expected and encouraged to put forth their ideas in a Master’s program, but more emphasis is on gaining professional knowledge than conducting original research. In certain disciplines, for example, Chemistry, individuals can write truncated research as a Master’s Thesis without actually having to undergo a Master’s program and eventually go on to pursue a Doctorate.
In conclusion, the Thesis vs. Dissertation confusion can be cleared up by this summation: A Thesis is generally applicable to Graduate students to earn a Master’s degree, while a Dissertation applies to Doctoral students to earn a Ph.D.
Thesis Vs Non Thesis Masters
The battle of Thesis vs. Non-Thesis Masters always flummoxes students when they are applying for a Graduate program. Even though the job market does not concern itself much with either of these tracks of programs, so long as you, the candidate, has one, taking up a Thesis or Non-Thesis track can significantly impact students’ skills throughout their academic career.
To find out which type of Master’s is most suitable for an individual, the following questions need to be answered, based on which the right choice becomes more apparent:
- What kind of academic skills is one looking to acquire?
- What are the academic needs and professional objectives that need to be met?
- Does one prefer to learn in a classroom environment or prefer to be more self-directed?
- Is one interested in research, and does one want to dive deeper into a particular study area?
The list below further illustrates the difference between a Thesis Master’s and a Non-Thesis Master’s and may also help students with making their decision of which one that suits their needs:
A Thesis Program is better suited for students who:
- want to pursue a Ph.D.;
- wish to publish their Thesis in one or more Academic Journals;
- need to acquire skills that are required to study for or work in research-intensive disciplines;
- build critical, analytical, and logical reasoning skills necessary to deduce and infer coherently, and defend and argue effectively;
- desire to work in fields that value writing skills, vocabulary, grammar, and syntax.
A Non-Thesis Program is better suited for students who:
- are not so interested in research or writing at length;
- want to graduate in as little time as possible. (Non-Thesis programs tend to be shorter than Thesis-based ones);
- prefer to gain exposure by working with faculty on real-world projects, rather than spending time on research;
- desire to take up additional courses to widen their scope, amass more knowledge, and gain hands-on-skills, rather than researching and writing on one topic;
- wish to emulate the structure of their Undergraduate degree/s, with more coursework, assignments, and examinations, instead of research.
Do’s and Dont’s for choosing between Thesis and Non-Thesis Masters Programs
Students are often faced with the dilemma of Thesis vs. Non-Thesis Masters. There should be compelling reasons to sign up for a Master Thesis instead of a Non-Thesis Masters, and vice versa. Here are a few things to do and not do when deciding to choose between the two tracks of Master’s degrees:
Taking everything into account, the one-degree path is not better than the other one. Each type of Master’s track – Thesis, or Non-Thesis, offers its benefits, which students must assess themselves. Both tracks provide a high-quality education that will lead to success.
One deciding factor could be that a Non-Thesis Master’s degree will help students change fields when returning to school after a sabbatical or help them advance in their careers faster. A Thesis Master’s degree, on the other hand, could be more invaluable for those who have a desire to pursue a career in research and development or study a Ph.D.
Another factor to think about is the learning style. While a Non-Thesis degree is better suited for students who love coursework, working in group projects, and taking up assignments, students who like to dive deep into topics and are independent thinkers are best suited for a Thesis degree.
In the end, students must identify their individual needs, know their style of learning, and what their ultimate academic and professional goals are.
Note: Students should connect with their school’s faculty or admissions office for more information on the two tracks of degrees. After all, the knowledge and skills one gains from the degree are far more important than the title of the degree!
FAQs about Master Thesis
Additional Resources for writing Master Thesis
There are many resources students can tap into for help on writing a Master Thesis. However, one should remember that these resources should only serve as information, references, or insights and not be misused to write a Thesis (especially by copying and pasting). Here are a few from many more that are available to get started:
- Rutgers University Libraries Rutgers University Libraries have a long list of online resources that are of use when preparing for or writing a Master’s Thesis. There are sample Theses, formatting tips, and common style guides as well.
- The Thesis Whisperer The Thesis Whisperer has a wealth of content that is tailored around students and academic supervisors. The website also has insightful articles and links to other resources.
- wikiHow wikiHow has a detailed write-up on how to write a Master’s Thesis with pictures. It illustrates how one can choose a topic, select the text, plan an outline, move through the writing process, and finalize the Thesis.
- Patter Patter is a very interesting site that claims to be about research education, academic writing, public engagement, funding, and other eccentricities (as it says)!
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How to Write a Master's Thesis: A Guide to Planning Your Thesis, Pursuing It, and Avoiding Pitfalls
Part 1: Initial Considerations
Who needs to write a master’s thesis.
Thesis writing is one of the more daunting challenges of higher education. That being said, not all master's students have to write a thesis. For example, fields that place a stronger emphasis on applied knowledge, such as nursing, business, and education, tend to have projects and exams to test students on the skills and abilities associated with those fields. Conversely, in disciplines that require in-depth research or highly polished creative abilities, students are usually expected to prove their understanding and independence with a thesis.
What's Your Goal?
Do you want to write a thesis? The process is a long one, often spanning years. It's best to know exactly what you want before you begin. Many people are motivated by career goals. For example, hiring managers may see a master's degree as proof that the candidate is an expert within their field and can lead, motivate, and demonstrate initiative for themselves and others. Others dream of earning their doctorate, and they see a master's degree as a stepping stone toward their Ph.D .
No matter what your desired goal is, you should have one before you start your thesis. With your goal in mind, your work will have a purpose, which will allow you to measure your progress more easily.
Major Types of Theses
Once you've carefully researched or even enrolled in a master's program—a feat that involves its own planning and resources —you should know if you are expected to produce a quantitative (which occurs in many math and science programs), qualitative (which occurs in many humanities programs), or creative (which occurs in many creative writing, music, or fine arts programs) thesis.
Time and Energy Considerations
Advanced degrees are notoriously time and energy consuming. If you have a job, thesis writing will become your second job. If you have a family, they will need to know that your thesis will take a great deal of your attention, energy, and focus.
Your studies should not consume you, but they also should not take a back seat to everything else. You will be expected to attend classes, conduct research, source relevant literature, and schedule meetings with various people as you pursue your master's, so it's important to let those you care about know what's going on.
As a general note, most master's programs expect students to finish within a two-year period but are willing to grant extra time if requested, especially if that time is needed to deal with unexpected life events (more on those later).
Part 2: Form an Initial Thesis Question, and Find a Supervisor
When to begin forming your initial thesis question.
Some fields, such as history, may require you to have already formed your thesis question and to have used it to create a statement of intent (outlining the nature of your research) prior to applying to a master’s program. Others may require this information only after you've been accepted. Most of the time, you will be expected to come up with your topic yourself. However, in some disciplines, your supervisor may assign a general research topic to you.
Overall, requirements vary immensely from program to program, so it's best to confirm the exact requirements of your specific program.
What to Say to Your Supervisor
You will have a supervisor during your master's studies. Have you identified who that person will be? If yes, have you introduced yourself via email or phone and obtained information on the processes and procedures that are in place for your master's program? Once you've established contact, request an in-person meeting with him or her, and take a page of questions along with you. Your questions might include:
- Is there a research subject you can recommend in my field?
- I would like to pursue [target research subject] for my thesis. Can you help me narrow my focus?
- Can you give me an example of a properly formatted thesis proposal for my program?
Don't Be Afraid to Ask for Help (to a Degree)
Procedures and expectations vary from program to program, and your supervisor is there to help remove doubt and provide encouragement so you can follow the right path when you embark on writing your thesis. Since your supervisor has almost certainly worked with other graduate students (and was one at some point), take advantage of their experience, and ask questions to put your mind at ease about how to write a master’s thesis.
That being said, do not rely too heavily on your supervisor. As a graduate student, you are also expected to be able to work independently. Proving your independent initiative and capacity is part of what will earn you your master's degree.
Part 3: Revise Your Thesis
Read everything you can get your hands on.
Whether you have a question or need to create one, your next step is simple and applies to all kinds of theses: read.
Seek Out Knowledge or Research Gaps
Read everything you can that relates to the question or the field you are studying. The only way you will be able to determine where you can go is to see where everyone else has been. After you have read some published material, you will start to spot gaps in current research or notice things that could be developed further with an alternative approach. Things that are known but not understood or understood but not explained clearly or consistently are great potential thesis subjects. Addressing something already known from a new perspective or with a different style could also be a potentially valuable project. Whichever way you choose to do it, keep in mind that your project should make a valuable contribution to your field.
Talk with Experts in Your Field (and Don't Be Afraid to Revise Your Thesis)
To help narrow down your thesis topic, talk to your supervisor. Your supervisor will have an idea of what is current in your field and what can be left alone because others are already working on it. Additionally, the school you are attending will have programs and faculty with particular areas of interest within your chosen field.
On a similar note, don't be surprised if your thesis question changes as you study. Other students and researchers are out there, and as they publish, what you are working on can change. You might also discover that your question is too vague, not substantial enough, or even no longer relevant. Do not lose heart! Take what you know and adjust the question to address these concerns as they arise. The freedom to adapt is part of the power you hold as a graduate student.
Part 4: Select a Proposal Committee
What proposal committees are and why they're useful.
When you have a solid question or set of questions, draft a proposal.
You'll need an original stance and a clear justification for asking, and answering, your thesis question. To ensure this, a committee will review your thesis proposal. Thankfully, that committee will consist of people assigned by your supervisor or department head or handpicked by you. These people will be experts who understand your field of study and will do everything in their power to ensure that you are pursuing something worthwhile. And yes, it is okay to put your supervisor on your committee. Some programs even require that your supervisor be on your committee.
Just remember that the committee will expect you to schedule meetings with them, present your proposal, respond to any questions they might have for you, and ultimately present your findings and thesis when all the work is done. Choose those who are willing to support you, give constructive feedback, and help address issues with your proposal. And don't forget to give your proposal a good, thorough edit and proofread before you present it.
How to Prepare for Committee Meetings
Be ready for committee meetings with synopses of your material for committee members, answers for expected questions, and a calm attitude. To prepare for those meetings, sit in on proposal and thesis defenses so you can watch how other graduate students handle them and see what your committee might ask of you. You can even hold rehearsals with friends and fellow students acting as your committee to help you build confidence for your presentation.
Part 5: Write Your Thesis
What to do once your proposal is approved.
After you have written your thesis proposal and received feedback from your committee, the fun part starts: doing the work. This is where you will take your proposal and carry it out. If you drafted a qualitative or quantitative proposal, your experimentation or will begin here. If you wrote a creative proposal, you will now start working on your material. Your proposal should be strong enough to give you direction when you perform your experiments, conduct interviews, or craft your work. Take note that you will have to check in with your supervisor from time to time to give progress updates.
Thesis Writing: It's Important to Pace Yourself and Take Breaks
Do not expect the work to go quickly. You will need to pace yourself and make sure you record your progress meticulously. You can always discard information you don't need, but you cannot go back and grab a crucial fact that you can't quite remember. When in doubt, write it down. When drawing from a source, always create a citation for the information to save your future self time and stress. In the same sense, you may also find journaling to be a helpful process.
Additionally, take breaks and allow yourself to step away from your thesis, even if you're having fun (and especially if you're not). Ideally, your proposal should have milestones in it— points where you can stop and assess what you've already completed and what's left to do. When you reach a milestone, celebrate. Take a day off and relax. Better yet, give yourself a week's vacation! The rest will help you regain your focus and ensure that you function at your best.
How to Become More Comfortable with Presenting Your Work
Once you start reaching your milestones, you should be able to start sharing what you have. Just about everyone in a graduate program has experience giving a presentation at the front of the class, attending a seminar, or watching an interview. If you haven't (or even if you have), look for conferences and clubs that will give you the opportunity to learn about presenting your work and become comfortable with the idea of public speaking. The more you practice talking about what you are studying, the more comfortable you'll be with the information, which will make your committee defenses and other official meetings easier.
Published authors can be called upon to present at conferences, and if your thesis is strong, you may receive an email or a phone call asking if you would share your findings onstage.
Presenting at conferences is also a great way to boost your CV and network within your field. Make presenting part of your education, and it will become something you look forward to instead of fear.
What to Do If Your Relationship with Your Supervisor Sours
A small aside: If it isn't already obvious, you will be communicating extensively with others as you pursue your thesis. That also means that others will need to communicate with you, and if you've been noticing things getting quiet, you will need to be the one to speak up. Your supervisor should speak to you at least once a term and preferably once a week in the more active parts of your research and writing. If you give written work to your supervisor, you should have feedback within three weeks.
If your supervisor does not provide feedback, frequently misses appointments, or is consistently discouraging of your work, contact your graduate program advisor and ask for a new supervisor. The relationship with your supervisor is crucial to your success, especially if she or he is on your committee, and while your supervisor does not have to be friendly, there should at least be professional respect between you.
What to Do If a Crisis Strikes
If something happens in your life that disrupts everything (e.g., emotional strain, the birth of a child, or the death of a family member), ask for help. You are a human being, and personal lives can and do change without warning. Do not wait until you are falling apart before asking for help, either. Learn what resources exist for crises before you have one, so you can head off trauma before it hits. That being said, if you get blindsided, don't refuse help. Seek it out, and take the time you need to recover. Your degree is supposed to help you become a stronger and smarter person, not break you.
Part 6: Polish and Defend Your Master's Thesis
How to write a master’s thesis: the final stages.
After your work is done and everything is written down, you will have to give your thesis a good, thorough polishing. This is where you will have to organize the information, draft it into a paper format with an abstract, and abbreviate things to help meet your word-count limit. This is also where your final editing and proofreading passes will occur, after which you will face your final hurdle: presenting your thesis defense to your committee. If they approve your thesis, then congratulations! You are now a master of your chosen field.
Conclusion and Parting Thoughts
Remember that you do not (and should not) have to learn how to write a master’s thesis on your own. Thesis writing is collaborative, as is practically any kind of research.
While you will be expected to develop your thesis using your own initiative, pursue it with your own ambition, and complete it with your own abilities, you will also be expected to use all available resources to do so. The purpose of a master's thesis is to help you develop your own independent abilities, ensuring that you can drive your own career forward without constantly looking to others to provide direction. Leaders get master's degrees. That's why many business professionals in leadership roles have graduate degree initials after their last names. If you already have the skills necessary to motivate yourself, lead others, and drive change, you may only need your master's as an acknowledgement of your abilities. If you do not, but you apply yourself carefully and thoroughly to the pursuit of your thesis, you should come away from your studies with those skills in place.
A final thought regarding collaboration: all theses have a section for acknowledgements. Be sure to say thank you to those who helped you become a master. One day, someone might be doing the same for you.
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Have you Read?
"The Complete Beginner's Guide to Academic Writing"
How to Write a Thesis or Dissertation
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Thesis/Dissertation Writing Series: How to Write a Literature Review
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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Your thesis is the sum of all of your learned knowledge from your master’s program and gives you a chance to prove your capabilities in your chosen field. A thesis also involves a significant amount of research, and depending on the subject, may require you to conduct interviews, surveys and gather primary and secondary resources.
A thesis is a type of research paper based on your original research. It is usually submitted as the final step of a master’s program or a capstone to a bachelor’s degree. Writing a thesis can be a daunting experience. Other than a dissertation, it is one of the longest pieces of writing students typically complete.
Steps to Write a Successful Master’s Thesis. 1. Make a Strong and Engaging Introduction. The introduction to your research paper should be strong and engaging. It informs the readers about new ... 2. Include a Literature Review. 3. Analyze Your Work. 4. Create a Body Paragraph. 5. Finish with a ...
What is a Master’s Thesis? A master’s thesis is a piece of original scholarship written under the direction of a faculty advisor. A master’s thesis is similar to a doctoral dissertation, but it is generally shorter and more narrowly focused. As a rule of thumb, a master’s thesis should be publishable
Format & Components of a Master's Thesis Introduction. As the first section a reader encounters after moving through the table of contents and other anterior... Review of the literature. This section allows learners to demonstrate their deep knowledge of the field by providing... Methods. Students ...
A Master Thesis is a creative document that illustrates (a) how much knowledge the student has assimilated throughout the Master’s program, (b) the student’s fresh, original, creative, and unique research into a subject using proper scientific and research methodology, and (c) the ability of the student to assess, evaluate, and interpret results …
The purpose of a master's thesis is to help you develop your own independent abilities, ensuring that you can drive your own career forward without constantly looking to others to provide direction. Leaders get master's degrees. That's why many business professionals in leadership roles have graduate degree initials after their last names.
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.