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.
- Collapse All
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.
/images/cornell/logo35pt_cornell_white.svg" alt="thesis requirement masters"> Cornell University --> Graduate School
Required sections, guidelines, and suggestions.
Beyond those noted on the Formatting Requirements page , the Graduate School has no additional formatting requirements. The following suggestions are based on best practices and historic requirements for dissertations and theses but are not requirements for submission of the thesis or dissertation. The Graduate School recommends that each dissertation or thesis conform to the standards of leading academic journals in your field.
For both master’s and doctoral students, the same basic rules apply; however, differences exist in some limited areas, particularly in producing the abstract and filing the dissertation or thesis.
- Information in this guide that pertains specifically to doctoral candidates and dissertations is clearly marked with the term “ dissertation ” or “ doctoral candidates .”
- Information pertaining specifically to master’s candidates and theses is clearly marked with the term “ thesis ” or “ master’s candidates .”
- All other information pertains to both.
Examples of formatting suggestions for both the dissertation and thesis are available as downloadable templates .
Suggested numbering: Page included in overall document, but number not typed on page.
The following format for your title page is suggested, but not required.
- The title should be written using all capital letters, centered within the left and right margins, and spaced about 1.5 inches from the top of the page. (For an example, please see the template .)
- Carefully select words for the title of the dissertation or thesis to represent the subject content as accurately as possible. Words in the title are important access points to researchers who may use keyword searches to identify works in various subject areas.
- Use word substitutes for formulas, symbols, superscripts, Greek letters, etc.
- Below the title, at the vertical and horizontal center of the margins, place the following five lines (all centered):
Line 1: A Dissertation [or Thesis]
Line 2: Presented to the Faculty of the Graduate School
Line 3: of Cornell University
Line 4: in Partial Fulfillment of the Requirements for the Degree of
Line 5: Doctor of Philosophy [or other appropriate degree]
- Center the following three lines within the margins:
Line 2: Primary or Preferred Name [as registered with the University Registrar’s Office and displayed in Student Center]
Line 3: month and year of degree conferral [May, August, December; no comma between month and year]
Suggested numbering: Page included in overall document, but number not typed on page
The following format for your copyright page is suggested, but not required.
- A notice of copyright should appear as the sole item on the page centered vertically and horizontally within the margins: © 20__ [Primary or Preferred Name [as registered with the University Registrar’s Office]. Please note that there is not usually a page heading on the copyright page.
- The copyright symbol is a lowercase “c,” which must be circled. (On Macs, the symbol is typed by pressing the “option” and “g” keys simultaneously. If the font does not have the © symbol, type the “c” and circle it by hand. On PCs, in the insert menu, choose “symbol,” and select the © symbol.)
- The date, which follows the copyright symbol, is the year of conferral of your degree.
- Your name follows the date.
Suggested numbering: Page(s) not counted, not numbered
Abstract formats for the doctoral dissertation and master’s thesis differ greatly. The Graduate School recommends that you conform to the standards of leading academic journals in your field.
- TITLE OF DISSERTATION
- Student’s Primary or Preferred Name, Ph.D. [as registered with the University Registrar’s Office]
- Cornell University 20__ [year of conferral]
- Following the heading lines, begin the text of the abstract on the same page.
- The abstract states the problem, describes the methods and procedures used, and gives the main results or conclusions of the research.
- The abstract usually does not exceed 350 words in length (about one-and-one-half correctly spaced pages—but not more than two pages).
- In a thesis, the page heading is simply the word “ABSTRACT” in all capital letters and centered within the margins at the top of the page. (The thesis abstract does not display the thesis title, author’s name, degree, university, or date of degree conferral.)
- The abstract should state the problem, describe the methods and procedures used, and give the main results or conclusions.
- The abstract usually does not exceed 600 words in length, which is approximately two-and-one-half to three pages of correctly spaced typing.
- In M.F.A. theses, an abstract is not required.
Suggested numbering: iii (may be more than one page)
- Type number(s) on page(s).
The following content and format are suggested:
- The biographical sketch is written in third-person voice and contains your educational background. Sometimes additional biographical facts are included.
- As a page heading, use “BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCH” in all capital letters, centered on the page.
- Number this page as iii.
Suggested numbering: iv (may be more than one page)
The dedication page is not required and can contain whatever text that you would like to include. Text on this page does not need to be in English.
Suggested numbering: v (may be more than one page)
The following content and format are suggested, not required.
- The acknowledgements may be written in first-person voice. If your research has been funded by outside grants, you should check with the principal investigator of the grant regarding proper acknowledgement of the funding source. Most outside funding sources require some statement of acknowledgement of the support; some also require a disclaimer from responsibility for the results.
- As a page heading, use “ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS” in all capital letters, centered on the page.
Table of Contents
Suggested numbering: vi (may be more than one page)
The following are suggestions.
- As a page heading, use “TABLE OF CONTENTS” in all capital letters and centered on the page.
- List the sections/chapters of the body of the dissertation or thesis. Also, list preliminary sections starting with the biographical sketch. (Title page, copyright page, and abstract are not listed.)
- For theses and dissertations, the conventional format for page numbers is in a column to the right of each section/chapter title. The first page of each chapter/section is stated with a single number. Table of contents usually do not include a range of page numbers, such as 7-22.
- The table of contents is often single-spaced.
Two-Volume Theses or Dissertations
If the dissertation or thesis consists of two volumes, it is recommended, but not required, that you list “Volume II” as a section in the table of contents.
List of Figures, Illustrations, and Tables
Suggested numbering: vii (may be more than one page)
- If included, type number(s) on page(s).
As described in the formatting requirements above, figures and tables should be consecutively numbered. The Graduate School recommends that you conform to the styles set by the leading academic journals in your field. The items below are formatting suggestions based on best practices or historic precedents.
Table of contents format:
- As a page heading, use “LIST OF FIGURES,” “LIST OF ILLUSTRATIONS,” or “LIST OF TABLES” in all capital letters, centered on the page.
- There should be separate pages for “LIST OF FIGURES,” “LIST OF ILLUSTRATIONS,” or “LIST OF TABLES” even if there is only one example of each.
- The list should contain enough of the titles or descriptions so readers can locate items using the list. (It may not be necessary to include entire figure/illustration/table captions.)
- The list should contain the page number on which each figure, illustration, or table is found, as in a table of contents.
- The list of figures/illustrations/tables may be single-spaced.
- Figures/illustrations/tables should be placed as close as possible to their first mention in the text. They may be placed on a page with no text above or below, or placed directly into the text. If a figure/illustration/table is placed directly into the text, text may appear above or below the figure/illustration/table; no text may wrap around the figure/illustration/table.
- If a figure/illustration/table appears on a page without other text, it should be centered vertically within the page margins. Figures/illustrations/tables should not be placed at the end of the chapter or at the end of the dissertation or thesis.
- Figure/illustration/table numbering should be either continuous throughout the dissertation or thesis, or by chapter (e.g. 1.1, 1.2; 2.1, 2.2, etc.). The word “Figure,” “Illustration,” or “Table” must be spelled out (not abbreviated), and the first letter must be capitalized.
- A caption for a figure/illustration should be placed at the bottom of the figure/illustration. However, a caption for a table must be placed above the table.
- If the figure/illustration/table, not including the caption, takes up the entire page, the figure/illustration/table caption should be placed alone on the preceding page and centered vertically and horizontally within the margins. (When the caption is on a separate page, the List of Figures or List of Illustrations or List of Tables can list the page number containing the caption.)
- If the figure/illustration/table, not including the caption, takes up more than two pages, it should be preceded by a page consisting of the caption only. The first page of the figure/illustration/table must include the figure/illustration/table (no caption), and the second and subsequent pages must also include, at the top of the figure/illustration/table, words that indicate its continuance—for example, “Figure 5 (Continued)”—and on these pages the caption is omitted.
- If figures/illustrations/tables are too large, they may be reduced slightly so as to render a satisfactory product or they must either be split into several pages or be redone. If a figure/illustration/table is reduced, all lettering must be clear, readable, and large enough to be legible. All lettering, including subscripts, must still be readable when reduced 25% beyond the final version. All page margin requirements must be maintained. Page numbers and headings must not be reduced.
- While there are no specific rules for the typographic format of figure/illustration/table captions, a consistent format should be used throughout the dissertation or thesis.
- The caption of a figure/illustration/table should be single-spaced, but then captions for all figures/illustrations/tables must be single-spaced.
- Horizontal figures/illustrations/tables should be positioned correctly—i.e., the top of the figure/illustration/table will be at the left margin of the vertical page of the dissertation or thesis (remember: pages are bound on the left margin). Figure/illustration/table headings/captions are placed with the same orientation as the figure/illustration/table when they are on the same page as the figure/illustration/table. When they are on a separate page, headings and captions are always placed in vertical orientation, regardless of the orientation of the figure/illustration/table. Page numbers are always placed as if the figure/illustration/table was vertical on the page.
Photographs should be treated as illustrations. To be considered archival, photographs must be black-and-white. (If actual color photographs are necessary, they should be accompanied by black-and-white photographs of the same subject.) Color photos obtained digitally do not need to be accompanied by a black-and-white photograph. Make a high-resolution digital version of each photograph and insert it into your electronic document, following the guideline suggestions for positioning and margins.
List of abbreviations.
As a page heading, use “LIST OF ABBREVIATIONS” in all capital letters, centered on the page.
List of Symbols
As a page heading, use “LIST OF SYMBOLS” in all capital letters, centered on the page.
Suggested numbering: xi (may be more than one page)
As a page heading, use “PREFACE” in all capital letters, centered on the page.
Body of the Dissertation or Thesis: Text
Suggested numbering: Begin page number at 1
- Text (required)
- Appendix/Appendices (optional)
- Bibliography, References, or Works Cited (required)
Please note that smaller font size may be appropriate for footnotes or other material outside of the main text. The following suggestions are based on best practice or historic precedent, but are not required.
- Chapter headings may be included that conform to the standard of your academic field.
- Textual notes that provide supplementary information, opinions, explanations, or suggestions that are not part of the text must appear at the bottom of the page as footnotes. Lengthy footnotes may be continued on the next page. Placement of footnotes at the bottom of the page ensures they will appear as close as possible to the referenced passage.
Appendix (or Appendices)
An appendix (-ces) is not required for your thesis or dissertation. If you choose to include one, the following suggestions are based on best practice or historic precedent.
- As a page heading, use “APPENDIX” in all capital letters, centered on the page.
- Place in an appendix any material that is peripheral, but relevant, to the main text of the dissertation or thesis. Examples could include survey instruments, additional data, computer printouts, details of a procedure or analysis, a relevant paper that you wrote, etc.
- The appendix may include text that does not meet the general font and spacing requirements of the other sections of the dissertation or thesis.
Bibliography (or References or Works Cited)
A bibliography, references, or works cited is required for your thesis or dissertation. Please conform to the standards of leading academic journals in your field.
- As a page heading, use “BIBLIOGRAPHY” (or “REFERENCES” or “WORKS CITED”) in all capital letters, centered on the page. The bibliography should always begin on a new page.
- Bibliographies may be single-spaced within each entry but should include 24 points of space between entries.
Suggested numbering: Continue page numbering from body
If you choose to include a glossary, best practices and historic precedent suggest using a page heading, use “GLOSSARY” in all capital letters, centered on the page.
Suggested numbering: Continue page numbering from glossary
If you choose to include one, best practices and historic precedent suggest using a page heading, use “INDEX” in all capital letters, centered on the page.
Sample macintosh fonts.
- Palatino 12
- Garamond 14
- New Century School Book
- Helvetica 12 or Helvetica 14
- Times New Roman 12
- Times 14 (Times 12 is not acceptable)
- Symbol 12 is acceptable for symbols
Sample TeX and LaTeX Fonts
- CMR 12 font
- Any font that meets the above specifications
Sample PC Fonts
- Helvetica 12
- Skip navigation
- Current Students
- Friends & Neighbors
Graduate school, master's thesis guidelines.
A master’s student with a thesis requirement will submit the file through Brown's electronic theses and dissertation (ETD) system . The system is designed to collect and archive the thesis or dissertation as a text-based PDF file. An electronic file submitted through the ETD will appear in the Library's discovery service and in the Brown digital repository .
In the spirit of the dissemination of new knowledge that is a hallmark of higher education, a thesis or dissertation will be subject to web searches and unrestricted downloads unless the student requests to opt out of the system and have the thesis or dissertation unavailable for download outside of the Brown community. A request to restrict download access to a thesis or dissertation has an initial two-year window from the time of degree conferral. Guidelines associated with restricted dissertation access are:
- The full text version will be available for download only to members of the Brown community.
- Web searches including the citation and abstract of restricted theses or dissertations will continue to be available to the general public.
- After two years the restriction will elapse.
- Restrictions on full text download may be renewed for two-year periods up to a total of ten years from the date of degree conferral. Requests for additional two-year restrictions should be made to the Graduate School.
- Any requests to extend the restriction beyond ten years must go to the Graduate Council for approval.
- In cases where the thesis or dissertation is a co-worked piece and there is disagreement between the student and the advisor over whether the material will or will not be available for download outside of the Brown community, the dispute will be brought before the Graduate Council for resolution.
To use the ETD system, the student must possess a valid username and password for accessing Brown’s computer network. If you are unable to create an account in the system, please contact [email protected] for assistance.
DEADLINES Graduate students are eligible to have degrees conferred, and to receive their diploma, at three different times over the course of the academic year.
October For students who complete their degree requirements the preceding summer term. Deadline: September 9, 2022
February For students who complete their requirements the preceding fall term. Deadline: January 13, 2023
May For students who complete their requirements over the preceding spring term. Deadline: May 1, 2023 (please note, the Application to Graduate for May is April 21, 2023)
The master's thesis and all of the associated forms and documents related to the completion of the degree must be submitted to the Graduate School by the deadlines listed above.
REGISTRATION If a student registers for Semester I and completes all of the requirements for the degree during that semester, a fee for Semester II will not be charged.
Title Page: See sample.
The Signature Page: As part of the overall completion process, the student must separately submit one signature page, which may be sent electronically to [email protected] . The signature page should bear the signature of the director (not the graduate representative or chairperson). The typed name of the director should appear under the signature line. Electronic signatures are acceptable. An unsigned copy of the signature page should be uploaded to the ETD system . See sample.
The Text: Every effort should be made to have the manuscript as perfect as possible in form and appearance. Pages containing handwritten corrections, typewritten strikeovers and unsightly erasures and the like will not be accepted. Good references for editorial details are the MLA Handbook for Writers of Research Papers, Theses, and Dissertations (Modern Language Association), Kate Turabian's A Manual for Writers of Term Papers, Theses and Dissertations (University of Chicago Press), and The Chicago Manual of Style (University of Chicago Press). The department should also be consulted regarding its policies or preferences in matters of format and style.
If publication of the thesis is anticipated, the medium of publication likely to be used should be considered when preparing the manuscript. If it is known in advance that the thesis will be published by a particular publisher or journal, the editorial practices of that publisher or journal should be followed. The form of footnotes and bibliography, in particular, may vary with different publishers and journals.
Type and Spacing Standard: Typefaces set to print at 10-, 11-, or 12-point font are acceptable. Typing or printing should be double-spaced, except for footnotes (single-space footnotes, with double spacing to separate one note from the next).
Page Numbers: Be consistent. Either put all page numbers (both Roman and Arabic) at the top of the page, or put all page numbers (both Roman and Arabic) at the bottom of the page.
Most theses consist of preliminary pages which are numbered using Roman numerals, and the thesis proper, which is numbered using Arabic numerals.
The preliminary pages must appear in the following order:
- Title page (do not number)
- Signature page (ii)
- Vita* (iii)
- Preface and acknowledgments (iv)
- Table of contents (v)
- List of tables vi List of illustrations (vii)
Should any element of the preliminary pages be longer than one page, number the pages consecutively. The preliminary pages should appear in this order but not necessarily with the page numbers shown above.
The thesis proper (including introduction, main body of the text, illustrations, appendices, and bibliography) is numbered using Arabic numerals. The numbering begins with 1 and runs consecutively to the end.
* The vita is an optional statement giving a short biography of the candidate, including institutions attended, degrees and honors, titles of publications, teaching or professional experience, and other pertinent information. Do not include date or location of birth or phone numbers.
Dating the Thesis: Because degrees are conferred three times a year, the title page should include the date that the degree is conferred.
The Abstract If it is appropriate for the thesis to be accompanied by an abstract, it should, in a concise manner, present the problem of the dissertation, discuss the materials and procedure or methods used, and state the results or conclusions. Mathematical formulas, diagrams, and other illustrative materials should be avoided. The abstract should not be part of the thesis itself nor should it be included in the table of contents. It should be headed as follows:
Abstract of (TITLE OF THESIS), by (AUTHOR'S NAME), Degree [A.M., or ScM.], Brown University, May (YEAR IN WHICH DEGREE IS TO BE AWARDED).
The abstract should be prepared carefully since it will be published without editing or revision. The abstract should be double-spaced and may not exceed 350 words (maximum 2,450 characters — including spaces and punctuation — about 70 characters per line with a maximum of 35 lines).
SUBMISSION OF THE FINAL THESIS When the thesis is submitted electronically to the Graduate School, it must be in final form. It may not be revised in any way after it is presented. See the list of required items below and note that some, where noted, may be sent electronically to the Graduate School’s Academic Affairs Manager, Barbara Bennett. The thesis will not be accepted and the student’s degree will not be conferred if any item from this list is missing or incomplete. The online submission system will send notifications when each document has been received and approved by the Graduate School.
- One copy of the title page, which may be sent electronically.
- One signed signature page, which may be sent electronically to to [email protected] .
DIGITAL SUPPLEMENTARY MATERIAL Students interested in depositing digital supplementary materials along with their thesis are welcome to contact the Library for assistance. Please contact: Andrew Creamer in the Library at [email protected] .
PUBLISHING THE DISSERTATION It is University policy that all research done at the University under its sponsorship must be freely published without restriction. Since 1954, the Graduate School has required that dissertations be published. In 1985, the Graduate Council reaffirmed that decision and approved the following policy:
"All Ph.D. dissertations and Master's theses will be open documents. The Graduate Council will not recommend the awarding of the Ph.D. or Master's degree until the dissertation or thesis is submitted to the Graduate School and accorded unlimited distribution status."
Exceptions to this requirement will be made only if there is a letter from a publisher stating that the dissertation will be published within one year after the degree is awarded and that requests that circulation of the dissertation be withheld for twelve months after the degree is conferred. Six months will be allowed for the clearing of a patent.
If you have a question about temporarily removing your dissertation from the Library's digital repository , please contact Joseph Rhoads (University Library, Integrated Technology Services).
THE DIPLOMA The Office of the Registrar's Application to Graduate provides the degree candidate with an opportunity to indicate how the diploma name should appear. Otherwise, the name that will appear on the diploma and in the Commencement program, and under which the Library will catalog the dissertation, is the name under which the candidate is officially registered. Any request for a change of registered name should be addressed to the Office of the Registrar and accompanied by supporting legal documentation, such as a court order, marriage license, passport, driver’s license, or social security card.
CERTIFICATE OF COMPLETION If all academic requirements for the degree and all financial obligations have been met before May 1, the Office of the Registrar will issue a certificate of completion within three weeks of the candidate's request.
If you have any questions regarding the submission of your thesis, please contact Barbara Bennett in the Graduate School at (401) 863-2843.
- About the Graduate School
- Healthy Brown FAQs for Graduate Students
- Ph.D. Requirements
- Master's Requirements
- Fields of Study
- Post-Baccalaureate Research Education Program (PREP)
- Fifth-Year Master's Degree
- Concurrent Bachelor's/Master's Degrees
- Distinctive Opportunities
- Graduate Advising and Mentoring
- Student Status Issues
- Activities Outside of Stipended Appointments
- Course Registration
- Professional Development
- Training Opportunities, Events & Tools
- Partnerships & Exchanges
- Living & Resources
- Financing & Support
- Admitted Students & Orientation
- Application Information
- For Graduate Students
- For Faculty and Staff
- Sample: Thesis Authorization
- Sample: Thesis Signature Page
- Sample: Thesis Title Page
The Graduate College at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Graduate college thesis requirements, organizing your thesis.
The links below will direct you to the Graduate College thesis requirements, as well as sample pages and templates to further guide you in formatting your thesis. When organizing your thesis, be sure to follow the required order, which is shown below.
We also offer basic full-document templates to help you begin formatting your work. You may adapt these templates to fit your needs. If you have issues with formatting your document, please visit our Formatting Tutorials page to access written and video tutorials.
Doctoral Template (MS Word download)
Master's Template (MS Word download)
LaTeX Template (Link to Box folder with files)
Looking for a good example?
The following theses and dissertations passed the Graduate College review with very few, if any, corrections requested by the Thesis Office:
- Civil Engineering
- Crop Sciences
- Electrical and Computer Engineering
- Mechanical Engineering
- Natural Resources and Environmental Sciences
- Neuroscience (includes supplementary files; see the appendix of the thesis and document uploaded with the thesis)
- Veterinary Clinical Medicine
- Curriculum and Instruction (includes IRB approval letter in an appendix)
- Human Development and Family Studies (includes IRB approval letter in an appendix)
Note the absence of List of Tables and List of Figures sections from the examples above. These sections are generally not necessary, and the Thesis Office advises students who are interested in a quick review with few or no corrections requested to leave these sections out of the thesis or dissertation. Also note that the Table of Contents is most useful for the reader when entries are limited to chapter-level titles only or to chapter-level titles and first-level (main) section headings, as has been done in the examples above.
A note on departmental requirements
This list describes only Graduate College requirements for student theses. The University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign confers graduate degrees in over 100 units, and many of these departments have additional, discipline-specific format requirements. Students should consult with their program regarding departmental format requirements and departmental thesis review procedures.
Note: The Graduate College Thesis Office will not begin the thesis format review without notification of departmental approval.
Apply to Rowan
- Undergraduate Admissions
- Tours & Open Houses
- Financial Aid
- Graduate, Degree Completion, & Online
- Medical Education & Research Degrees
- International Admissions
- Transfer Students
- Costs & Value
- Colleges & Schools
- Degrees & Programs
- Courses, Schedules & Registration
- Student Success
- Winter & Summer Sessions
- Camden Campus
- Rowan University Libraries
- The Arts at Rowan
- Athletics & Sports Recreation
- Health & Safety
- Housing & Dining
- Technology on Campus
- Entertainment & Culture
- Rowan Thrive
- Medical Education
- Patient Care
- Cooper Medical School of Rowan University
- Rowan School of Osteopathic Medicine
- School of Nursing & Health Professions
- Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences
- Rowan University School of Veterinary Medicine
- Office of Research
- Research Centers & Institutes
- South Jersey Technology Park
- Research Success Stories
- Our Past, Present & Future
- Visiting Rowan
- Working at Rowan
- Rowan Fast Facts
- Giving to Rowan
- News & Events
- In the Media
- Rowan Today
- • Students
- • Employees
- • Alumni
- • Parents
- • Donors
- Student Email
- Faculty & Staff Email
- Rowan Online - Canvas
- University Libraries
- Self-Service Banner
- Rowan NetID
- Rowan Success Network (RSN)
- Section Tally
- Thesis and Dissertation Requirements
Rowan students pursuing a doctoral degree or a master’s degree with a thesis requirement (or option) as part of their fulfillment for graduation are required to submit their thesis/dissertation to the Office of Graduate Research Services for final format approval. The Office of Graduate Research Services coordinates the final format review process and is responsible for ensuring that all theses/dissertations adhere to the format and style as prescribed in the Thesis & Dissertation Manual prior to final approval with the Registrar for graduation purposes.
Please note that thesis/dissertation approval is only one of the requirements for graduation. Students must also meet all requirements of the department or college in which they are enrolled as a student for graduation approval. Students should verify exit requirements as established by the department or college in which enrolled as a student.
For a better understanding of the entire thesis/dissertation process, including when to turn in the necessary forms and what to expect during the final format review, please take a look at the step-by-step guide available here . There is also a helpful PDF of the Thesis & Dissertation Paperwork and Formatting Workshop presentation available here .
Please also find many resources and samples in the Template and Sample Documents link in the sidebar.
Please note: These policies do not apply to students enrolled in the Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences. GSBS students please visit: http://www.rowan.edu/som/gsbs/current/forms.php
Thesis/Dissertation Process Workshop
The Office of Graduate Research Services offers workshops for students whose graduate programs require them to produce a thesis or dissertation. The workshop explains the general thesis and dissertation process at Rowan University, and students will benefit greatly from understanding these requirements even before their thesis or dissertation work begins. Though each program has its own expectations for course work, timing, research, and writing, there are many elements (fees, paperwork, formatting, submission method, deadlines) that are the same for every thesis- or dissertation-track graduate student on the Glassboro campus. All students and faculty members enrolled or teaching in thesis-track masters or doctoral programs are welcome to attend. Come learn the process, ask questions, and find out what resources are available to you.
Please RSVP using this Google Form in order to be invited to the WebEx meeting.
Spring 2023 Dates January 17th, 2023 (Tuesday) February 8th, 2023 (Wednesday) March 9th, 2023 (Thursday) April 14th, 2023 (Friday)
Thesis & Dissertation Manual
The Thesis & Dissertation Manual is Rowan University’s official document which students must consult and adhere to regarding procedures, formatting, and submission of theses/dissertations as part of their graduation requirements. A great deal of time, thought, and effort on the part of many individuals has gone into the preparation of the manual, and students are urged to read it thoroughly as they prepare their document for submission.
In order to ensure consistency in format and style for all theses/dissertations completed by Rowan University students, documents will not receive final approval until they are properly formatted in accordance with the requirements prescribed in the manual. While every attempt has been made to cover or anticipate most issues dealing with the preparation of your thesis or dissertation, some questions or problems may arise. Should you need further clarification of any items addressed in the Thesis & Dissertation Manual , or for general inquiries, please email the Office of Graduate Research Services at [email protected] .
Thesis & Dissertation Submission Requirements
For purposes of format review and final approval of your thesis/dissertation document, please follow the submission requirements as outlined below:
- Submit the required $75 Thesis and Dissertation Fee through the Rowan University Online Marketplace within the first two semesters of the master’s/doctoral degree program. Payments must be made online here . When prompted for an email address, please use your Rowan email.
- Upon payment of this fee, you will be automatically enrolled in the required online Pre-Submittal Workshop administered through the Canvas learning management system, and will receive notification via email once your enrollment is complete. Please follow the instructions provided in the email to access the required workshop.
- In consultation with your Thesis/Dissertation Advisor, you should appoint the Thesis/Dissertation Committee within the first two semesters of the master’s/doctoral degree program. The Committee must be comprised of at least three members, including the Thesis/Dissertation Advisor. Further requirements for the formation of the committee are determined by the department/college in which you are enrolled.
- Upon the selection of the Thesis/Dissertation Committee, please complete and seek the appropriate signatures on the Thesis/Dissertation Committee Appointment Form. This form must be submitted in PDF format via the Pre-Submittal Workshop as soon as it has received all but the final signature in order to be signed and completed by the Dean of the School of Graduate Studies. If the form is not properly filled out (lacking signatures, not enough committee members, etc.) you will be asked to reach back out to your committee, your Program Director, your Department Chair/Head, or your Dean for any missing signatures.
- Complete your program’s course requirements.
- Apply for graduation through the Rowan University Registrar for the term in which you anticipate the completion of all degree requirements, which includes receiving final approval of the thesis/dissertation document.
- Following a successful defense of the thesis/dissertation (if required), you must complete and seek corresponding signatures on the Thesis/Dissertation Approval Form (Parts A, B, C and D)
- Properly signed Thesis/Dissertation Approval Form
- Properly formatted, advisor approved Thesis or Dissertation Document in PDF format
For more information regarding thesis/dissertation submission, please email: [email protected]
The required online Pre-Submittal Workshop is provided to assist students in the preparation of their thesis or dissertation document for submission to the Office of Graduate Research Services for final format review and approval. The content is self-guided and organized into sections for easy accessibility, and includes sample pages as well as a video walk-through of formatting guidelines. Additionally, students are required to submit the signed Thesis/Dissertation Committee Appointment Form via the workshop.
The Goals of the online Pre-Submittal Workshop are:
- To provide information on the submission and review process, and address the format requirements for document approval.
- To provide direct communication with the Graduate Research Services Specialist through Virtual Office Hours, during which students can ask questions about the thesis/dissertation approval process or receive feedback on early versions of their thesis/dissertation document’s formatting.
- To allow students to check their document for proper formatting prior to submission for final format review, in order to minimize the number of rounds of revisions required to receive final document approval.
- To provide access to the ProQuest ETD Administrator for thesis/dissertation submission.
Students are encouraged to take full advantage of all of the materials available in the workshop as they prepare their thesis/dissertation. A clear understanding of the guidelines and requirements set forth in the Manual prior to submission to the Office of Graduate Research Services will save students considerable time and effort as they go through the final format review process.
Please note: Students must submit the Thesis/Dissertation Committee Appointment Form and complete the Pre-Submittal Agreement within the required online Pre-Submittal Workshop in order to unlock the final module and gain access to the ProQuest ETD Administrator for thesis/dissertation submission.
To enroll in the Pre-Submittal Workshop, you must submit the $75 Thesis and Dissertation Fee. Please see the Thesis and Dissertation Submission Requirements outlined above for payment instructions.
ProQuest ETD Administrator
All theses and dissertations are required to be submitted for final format review through the ProQuest ETD Administrator site. The Rowan University ProQuest ETD Administrator site is accessed within the required online Pre-Submittal Workshop once the student has completed the Pre-Submittal Agreement. Materials will not be accepted via email.
When you submit your thesis or dissertation to ProQuest ETD for your formal formatting review, you will be offered the opportunity to allow ProQuest to register your copyright with the U.S. Copyright Office. This document provides students with information about copyright.
Publishing Options (Delayed Release/Embargo)
ProQuest ETD gives the option of delaying the release of your thesis or dissertation as part of the submission process. The “Publishing Options” sections of the submission process (“PQ publishing options” and “IR publishing options”) allow students to choose to delay the public release of their thesis or dissertation for six months, one year, two years, or until any future date. “PQ publishing” refers to publishing your work through ProQuest’s Thesis & Dissertation collection, and “IR publishing” refers to publishing your work through Rowan University’s internal repository, called Rowan Digital Works. In order to make sure that your work is not available to the public, you will have to choose to delay release for both ProQuest ETD and Rowan Digital Works (or, both PQ and IR).
There are many reasons to choose to delay the release of your thesis or dissertation. You may be planning to publish your work in another journal that does not allow previous publication, or you may want to protect the subjects involved in your research. You will have the option to choose your reason for delaying release, or you can choose “Other.”
If you are intending to publish your thesis or dissertation material with a journal or other publisher, always make sure to check if they allow for the same material to have appeared elsewhere first. If not, you will need to delay release on ProQuest Thesis & Dissertation and Rowan Digital Works in order to avoid potential rejection with that publisher.
If you have any questions about delayed release/embargo, please reach out to [email protected]
There is no formal deadline for the submission of theses/dissertations, however, students should be aware of the following:
- Students must pay the $75 Thesis and Dissertation Fee to enroll in the required online Pre-Submittal Workshop within the first two semesters of the master’s/doctoral degree program. Students must then appoint the Thesis/Dissertation Committee and submit the Thesis/Dissertation Committee Appointment Form via the Pre-Submittal Workshop.
- June 15th for a May 30th date on Transcript and Official Diploma (Spring Graduation)
- January 15th for a December 30th date on Transcript and Official Diploma (Fall Graduation)
- February 15th for a January 30th date on Transcript and Official Diploma (Winter Graduation)
- September 15th for an August 30th date on Transcript and Official Diploma (Summer Graduation)
- If a student misses the deadline to submit their graduation requirements in the semester for which they applied, they are not required to pay to re-apply, but their graduation application will be rejected, and they will have to contact the Registrar to see what their next steps are in order to graduate in the next available semester.
- Please visit https://sites.rowan.edu/registrar/graduation-info/index.html for more information.
Thesis & Dissertation Forms
- Thesis/Dissertation Committee Appointment Form This form should be completed during the first two semesters of the master’s program or the first two years of a doctoral program, and must be signed by all committee members, the Program Coordinator, the Department Chair/Head, and the College Dean prior to submission to the Office of Graduate Research Services. This form must be submitted by the student in PDF format via the Pre-Submittal Workshop. Once submitted via the workshop, the Dean of the School of Graduate Studies will review and sign the form. Please note, this form will not be signed by the Dean of the School of Graduate Studies unless it has been properly completed and submitted through the Pre-Submittal Workshop.
- Thesis Approval Form This form must be filled out by the student before the defense takes place and must be presented for the committee’s approval and signatures on Part A. Once all feedback is addressed, it must be presented again to the committee chair for their signature on Part B. At that point, it will be presented to the student's appropriate College Dean alongside the student's thesis document for the Dean's approval and signature on part C. Once Parts A, B, and C are signed, the student must submit the Thesis Approval Form alongside their properly formatted thesis document to ProQuest ETD for formatting review by following the instructions found in the "Submit Your Thesis/Dissertation" module on the Pre-Submittal Workshop on Canvas.
- Dissertation Approval Form This form must be filled out by the student before the defense takes place and must be presented for the committee’s approval and signatures on Part A. Once all feedback is addressed, it must be presented again to the committee for their signatures on Part B. At that point, it will be presented to the student's appropriate College Dean alongside the student's dissertation document for the Dean's approval and signature on part C. Once Parts A, B, and C are signed, the student must submit the Dissertation Approval Form alongside their properly formatted dissertation document to ProQuest ETD for formatting review by following the instructions found in the "Submit Your Thesis/Dissertation" module on the Pre-Submittal Workshop on Canvas.
Quick Guide: Thesis & Dissertation Format Checklist
The Thesis & Dissertation Format Checklist is to be used in conjunction with the Thesis & Dissertation Manual. The page numbers in parentheses refer to specific parts of the manual. Please make sure you have checked off all items on this list prior to submitting your document to the Office of Graduate Research Services for final document approval. Click here to download the Thesis & Dissertation Format Checklist .
Note: This checklist does not serve as a substitute for the Thesis & Dissertation Manual.
Graduate Writing Support
There are several types of writing support available to graduate students, sponsored by both the School of Graduate Studies and the Rowan University Writing Center. For information on offerings beyond what is listed below, please see the Writing Center's Graduate Writing Support webpage .
Thesis, Dissertation, and Academic Paper Drop-Off
The Writing Center offers a drop-off service for longer pieces of graduate student writing. After uploading your document, your work will be assigned to a Graduate Tutor. Your tutor will read your uploaded document, keeping in mind any special areas of concern you have indicated, and will respond as a reader. This feedback will be sent to you in a client report form through the automated system. There is a 25-page limit to the documents uploaded to the drop-off service; if you intend to send a document that is longer than 25 pages, please know that your assigned tutor will only work on 25 pages per drop-off. If you so choose, you may schedule an appointment with your tutor, to discuss your feedback after your tutor has returned it to you.
To access this service, please visit https://rowan.mywconline.com/ and be sure to indicate your standing as a Graduate student in the form you complete as you make your appointment.
“Thesis bootcamps” are commonly offered in universities across the US and beyond, and have been found to be very successful in boosting student productivity as they draw closer to semester deadlines. The goal is to take away all excuses each student might have to not be writing, and in doing so, make writing their number one priority for each day of the camp. If you find yourself having trouble maintaining focus, having trouble starting a particularly daunting part of your draft, or just overwhelmed by the sheer amount of work that is ahead of you, Hootcamp is the perfect place to come and find the support you need.
To learn more, or to sign up for the next Hootcamp session, please visit the Hootcamp webpage .
One-On-One Writing Tutoring
If you are looking for hands-on assistance from an experienced writing tutor, you may reach out to the Writing Center at [email protected] for individualized assistance. In your email, please indicate that you are a graduate student, and let us know what your area of study is, what kind of assistance you are looking for, and how far along you are in your program. Please keep in mind that writing tutors are not editors; they will not fix your grammar, spelling, and punctuation errors for you, but if it is requested, they will point those errors out to you and explain how you can fix them yourself throughout the document. Try to be as specific as possible when explaining the kind of help that you need, so that the Writing Center can place you with the best possible tutor for the situation.
School of Graduate Studies
- Graduate Research Services
- Template and Sample Documents
- Recently Published Theses and Dissertations
- Three Minute Thesis Competition
- Hootcamp Thesis & Dissertation Retreat
- Rowan on Twitter
- Rowan on Facebook
- Rowan on Instagram
- Rowan on YouTube
- Rowan on Flickr
Rowan University • 201 Mullica Hill Road • Glassboro, New Jersey 08028 • 856-256-4000
©2023 Rowan University. Consumer Disclosures .
Read the Notice of Availability of Rowan’s Annual Security & Fire Safety Report
- Computer Science
- Criminal Justice
- Environmental Management
- Forensic Psychology
- Healthcare Admin
- Human Resources
- Project Management
- Social work
- Special Education
- Sports Management
- Supply Chain Management
- Adult Education
- Business Intelligence
- Early Childhood Education
- Educational Technology
- Homeland Security
- Information Systems Security
- Information Technology
- International Business
- Management Information Systems
- Nonprofit Management
- School Counseling
- Academic Publishing Guide
- Building a Graduate School Resume or CV
Choosing Between a Thesis or Non-thesis Master's Degree
- Expert Guide to Studying Abroad
- FAQ: Online Master's Degrees
- Grad School Guide Book
- Graduate School for Students with Disabilities
- Green Graduate Degrees
- How to Be a Successful Grad Student
- How to Choose the Right Graduate Program
- How to Get a Master's Degree in an Unrelated Field
- How to Transfer College Credits in Grad School
- How to Write a Winning Personal Statement
- Inside Graduate Admissions
- Ivy League Grad Schools
- Master's Degrees for Veterans
- Master's Degree for Women
- Mental Health in Grad School
- Progressive LGBTQ Graduate Degrees
- Should You Apply for a Graduate School Assistantship?
- Surviving Grad School with a Family
- Taking a Gap Year Before Grad School
- Women in STEM Graduate Resources
- Writing a Successful Statement of Purpose
- Alternative Ways to Pay for School
- The Best Part-Time Jobs During Grad School
- Company Funded Graduate School
- FAFSA For Grad Students
- Financial Aid Resources
- Graduate Student Loans
- Paying for Your Master's Degree
- Paying Off Student Loans
- Paying for Your PhD
- Fellowship Opportunities
- LGBTQ Scholarships
- MBA Scholarships
- Scholarship Resources
- Scholarships for Veterans
- Scholarships for Women
- Crushing the GRE Guidebook
- GMAT Guidebook
- Guide to the LSAT
- MCAT Prep for Medical School
- Study Guide: Exam Resources
- TOEFL Prep for Non-Native English Speakers
- 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.
- Staff directory
- About McGill
- Administration & Governance
- Alumni Resources
- Campus Life
- Employment Opportunities
- Faculties & Departments
- McGill in the Community
- Research & Innovation
- Teaching & Learning
- Human Resources
- Academic Personnel Office
- IT Services
- Financial Services
- Directory of Resources
- McGill Reporter
- Other Publications
- Programs & Courses
- Tuition & Fees
- Financial Aid
- Important Dates
- Career Planning
- Graduate Students
- Faculty & Staff
- General requirements
- Preparation of a thesis
- Initial Thesis Submission
- Thesis examination
- Doctoral oral defence
- Final Thesis Submission
General Requirements for Master's and Doctoral Theses
The following are general requirements for McGill theses. Academic Units* are encouraged to provide additional written guidance to students outlining expectations of the particular discipline.
Once a thesis is submitted it exists in the public domain unless the candidate and the thesis supervisor request to temporarily withhold a thesis from circulation . Graduate students have the right to use the data they have generated for their thesis. In the event of a of a conflict, the student and thesis supervisor can make a request to Graduate and Postdoctoral Studies to temporarily withhold the thesis from circulation (up to one year). A thesis must be written in English or French, except for those submitted by students in language Units*. McGill University requires that all theses conform to the McGill University specifications for Master’s and Doctoral theses.
- A thesis for the Master's degree must show familiarity with previous work in the field and must demonstrate the ability to carry out research, organize results, and defend the approach and conclusions in a scholarly manner according to disciplinary norms.
- An exhaustive review of work in the particular field of study is not necessarily required. Expectation for the level of original scholarship at the Master’s level varies with the discipline.
- The thesis must be written in compliance with norms for academic and scholarly expression and for publication in the public domain (see section: withholding a thesis from circulation temporarily ).
- A thesis for the Doctoral degree must constitute original scholarship and must be a distinct contribution to knowledge.
- It must show familiarity with previous work in the field and must demonstrate ability to plan and carry out research, organize results, and defend the approach and conclusions in a scholarly manner.
- The research presented must meet current standards of the discipline; as well, the thesis must clearly demonstrate how the research advances knowledge in the field.
- Finally, the thesis must be written in compliance with norms for academic and scholarly expression and for publication in the public domain (see section: withholding a thesis from circulation temporarily ).
The nature of academic research requires adherence to McGill’s policies on research ethics and intellectual property, as described below.
Research involving human participants, animal subjects, micro-organisms, living cells, other biohazards, and/or radioactive materials must have had the appropriate compliance certification. Copies of any certificates of compliance must be retained by the supervisor and student in accordance with McGill’s policies on research ethics. Supervisors indicate on the Nomination of Examiners and Thesis Submission Form that the thesis research has complied with all ethical standards. See the Ethics and Compliance webpage for further information about certification and training requirements.
Any issues regarding intellectual property deriving from the research, leading up to the thesis, or in the completed thesis itself should conform to McGill’s Policy on Inventions and Software . In addition:
- Students, supervisors, and any other collaborators must have written intellectual property agreements regarding thesis research.
- These agreements must be consistent with the requirements of thesis examination and availability in the public domain.
- Students must be aware of any limitations or approvals required for publication of the research, including the examination and publication of a thesis.
Please Note: When previously published copyrighted material is presented in a thesis, the student must obtain signed permissions/waivers from the publisher(s). Permission must also be obtained from co-authors of manuscripts submitted or in preparation for inclusion in the thesis; an email to that effect should suffice.
*Unit refers to a department, a division, a school, an institute, or a Faculty/University-wide program.
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution Non-Commercial 4.0 International License . Graduate and Postdoctoral Studies, McGill University .
Department and University Information
Graduate and postdoctoral studies.
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 ...
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.
Line 1: A Dissertation [or Thesis] Line 2: Presented to the Faculty of the Graduate School Line 3: of Cornell University Line 4: in Partial Fulfillment of the Requirements for the Degree of Line 5: Doctor of Philosophy [or other appropriate degree] Center the following three lines within the margins: Line 1: by
The master's thesis and all of the associated forms and documents related to the completion of the degree must be submitted to the Graduate School by the deadlines listed above. REGISTRATION If a student registers for Semester I and completes all of the requirements for the degree during that semester, a fee for Semester II will not be charged.
Organizing your thesis. The links below will direct you to the Graduate College thesis requirements, as well as sample pages and templates to further guide you in formatting your thesis. When organizing your thesis, be sure to follow the required order, which is shown below.
Thesis and Dissertation Requirements. Rowan students pursuing a doctoral degree or a master’s degree with a thesis requirement (or option) as part of their fulfillment for graduation are required to submit their thesis/dissertation to the Office of Graduate Research Services for final format approval. The Office of Graduate Research Services ...
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.
Master’s Theses A thesis for the Master's degree must show familiarity with previous work in the field and must demonstrate the ability... An exhaustive review of work in the particular field of study is not necessarily required. Expectation for the level of... The thesis must be written in ...