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Guide to writing your thesis/dissertation, definition of dissertation and thesis.

The dissertation or thesis is a scholarly treatise that substantiates a specific point of view as a result of original research that is conducted by students during their graduate study. At Cornell, the thesis is a requirement for the receipt of the M.A. and M.S. degrees and some professional master’s degrees. The dissertation is a requirement of the Ph.D. degree.

Formatting Requirement and Standards

The Graduate School sets the minimum format for your thesis or dissertation, while you, your special committee, and your advisor/chair decide upon the content and length. Grammar, punctuation, spelling, and other mechanical issues are your sole responsibility. Generally, the thesis and dissertation should conform to the standards of leading academic journals in your field. The Graduate School does not monitor the thesis or dissertation for mechanics, content, or style.

“Papers Option” Dissertation or Thesis

A “papers option” is available only to students in certain fields, which are listed on the Fields Permitting the Use of Papers Option page , or by approved petition. If you choose the papers option, your dissertation or thesis is organized as a series of relatively independent chapters or papers that you have submitted or will be submitting to journals in the field. You must be the only author or the first author of the papers to be used in the dissertation. The papers-option dissertation or thesis must meet all format and submission requirements, and a singular referencing convention must be used throughout.

ProQuest Electronic Submissions

The dissertation and thesis become permanent records of your original research, and in the case of doctoral research, the Graduate School requires publication of the dissertation and abstract in its original form. All Cornell master’s theses and doctoral dissertations require an electronic submission through ProQuest, which fills orders for paper or digital copies of the thesis and dissertation and makes a digital version available online via their subscription database, ProQuest Dissertations & Theses . For master’s theses, only the abstract is available. ProQuest provides worldwide distribution of your work from the master copy. You retain control over your dissertation and are free to grant publishing rights as you see fit. The formatting requirements contained in this guide meet all ProQuest specifications.

Copies of Dissertation and Thesis

Copies of Ph.D. dissertations and master’s theses are also uploaded in PDF format to the Cornell Library Repository, eCommons . A print copy of each master’s thesis and doctoral dissertation is submitted to Cornell University Library by ProQuest.

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How to Write a Master's Thesis: A Guide to Planning Your Thesis, Pursuing It, and Avoiding Pitfalls

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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 .

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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.

master thesis is

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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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  •       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

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.

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  • October 15, 2023
  • Academic Advice

Thesis vs. Non-Thesis Master’s Programs: Which is Right for You?

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Continuing your educational journey within your chosen field is an experience that fosters personal and professional growth. The next milestone in your academic path often involves pursuing a Master’s degree , with options ranging from thesis-based programs to non-thesis alternatives.  Deciding between these two paths is significant as it shapes your academic and career paths.

But how can you decide which is right for you before getting decision fatigue?

Let’s explore the difference between thesis vs. non-thesis Master’s programs, their unique characteristics, and reasons for choosing one or the other. 

Do You Have to Write a Thesis for Your Master’s Program?

Whether you have to write a thesis for your Master’s program depends on the specific requirements of the program you’re enrolled in. It’s important to note that while not all Master’s programs require writing a thesis, a significant number of them do.

What is a Thesis vs. Non-Thesis Master’s Program?

A thesis Master’s program involves completing a large research project spanning over several semesters. Students are expected to conduct original research on a specific topic under a faculty advisor’s guidance, culminating in a thesis likely to be published. Completing and defending the thesis is a crucial part of the degree requirement.

A non-thesis Master’s program doesn’t involve a specific research focus but rather a more coursework and practical experience, allowing students to gain specific skills and knowledge applicable to their field of study. After completing their program’s core course requirements, students can choose any of the electives to meet their degree requirements. Depending on the institution, you may be required to do a Master’s Degree Capstone project, including reviewing previous courses, a comprehensive exam, or a summary project. 

Why Choose a Thesis Master’s Program?

why-choose-a-thesis-masters-program

Thesis Master’s programs offer several advantages, be that contributing to new findings in your field, close collaboration with professors and researchers, and standing out to potential employers with your abilities to work independently and analyze complex issues. However, the primary advantages are:

Research Experience

Thesis programs allow you to conduct extensive research on a specific topic that piques your interest.  This way, you’ll gain expertise and a comprehensive understanding of the subject matter. 

Academic Growth 

Writing a thesis helps sharpen your critical thinking, analytical, and writing skills. It also challenges you to think independently, analyze a large amount of data, and draw meaningful conclusions. Furthermore, it prepares you for doctoral studies, familiarizing you with the rigor of independent research and equips you with the necessary skills to succeed.

Why Choose a Non-Thesis Master’s Program?

Non-thesis master’s programs also come with numerous advantages for students, including flexibility in scheduling, a range of career opportunities, shorter competition time, etc. Here are the main advantages: 

Non-thesis programs prioritize coursework, fostering the development of practical skills and their real-world application. This approach enables you to actively engage in hands-on learning experiences highly sought after in today’s job market. Critical thinking, communication, problem-solving, and leadership abilities are some of those skills.

Suitability for Professionals

Another advantage to pursuing a non-thesis Master’s program is that it doesn’t take as much time as the thesis Master’s programs. That way you can enter the workforce faster. It’s also well-suited for professionals already established in their field who are seeking to further their education and advance in their careers. 

The Academic and Career Outcomes of Thesis vs. Non-Thesis Master’s Programs

the-academic-and-career-outcomes-of-thesis-vs-non-thesis-masters-programs

The academic outcomes for the thesis Master’s program graduates involve preparation for Ph.D. programs , opening doors to advanced research and specialized roles in research institutions. This provides solid research skills and helps them publish their work. Common career paths for graduates include research positions in academia, government, or private sectors. Some also pursue teaching careers in colleges and universities. Degree programs that usually require a thesis include sciences, social sciences, engineering, and humanities (history, philosophy, and language studies).

Non-thesis Master’s program graduates typically achieve academic outcomes focused on mastering practical, directly applicable skills within their field. While these programs are more career-oriented, graduates can still pursue a Ph.D. They can benefit from diverse career options in different settings and find employment in managerial, administrative, or specialized roles in their field. Degree programs that don’t usually require a thesis are business, education, healthcare administration, IT management, etc.

Thesis vs. Non-Thesis Master’s Programs, That is the Question 

With their abundance of advantages, choosing between the two can be pretty tricky. So, let’s compare thesis vs. non-thesis Master’s programs and help you make an informed decision. 

Personal and Career Goals

A thesis Master’s program is ideal if you’re interested in furthering in academia and want to pursue a Ph.D ., as these programs can provide the necessary tools to enhance your credentials for research-based careers. Meanwhile, a non-thesis Master’s program will suit you better if you’re seeking to gain practical skills to integrate into the industry immediately, as they can include practical projects or internships according to industry demands. 

Time and Financial Considerations

Thesis Master’s programs can extend the duration of your studies, as researching, writing, and defending the thesis can take several semesters to complete and can cause financial strain due to additional costs like lab fees and materials. In contrast, non-thesis ones can help you enter the job market promptly as they are shorter, allowing you to save time and money.

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Field of Study and Program Requirements

When deciding between a thesis and a non-thesis Master’s program, a crucial element to take into account is the field of study and the program’s specific requirements. A thesis Master’s program is better suited for those pursuing research-oriented fields, while a non-thesis program is a more fitting choice for individuals with a strong focus on their career. Furthermore, program requirements for thesis programs require substantial research to culminate in a thesis, whereas non-thesis ones require capstone projects, internships, or comprehensive exams. 

Switching from a Non-Thesis to a Thesis Master’s Program, or Vice Versa

Switching from a non-thesis to a thesis Master’s program, or vice versa, is possible in many institutions, although the process and requirements may vary. Switching from a non-thesis to a thesis program generally requires getting approval from the academic advisor or department, completing additional research methodology classes, finding a thesis advisor, and applying to the thesis program. 

Switching from a thesis to a non-thesis Master’s program requires having at least a 3.0 GPA, getting approval from the academic advisor, transferring credits of research methodology classes, and formally applying to the thesis program.

Choosing between a thesis and a non-thesis Master’s program ultimately depends on your career goals, research interests, and personal preferences. Thesis programs provide a robust foundation for research-oriented careers and advanced studies, while non-thesis programs offer practical skills tailored for immediate industry integration. Regardless of your choice, both paths offer unique advantages, ensuring you gain the knowledge and skills needed to thrive in your chosen field. 

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs):

What is the difference between a thesis vs. non-thesis master’s program.

The key difference between a thesis and a non-thesis Master’s program is that thesis Master’s programs require original research and completion of a thesis, whereas non-thesis ones focus on coursework and practical experiences. 

Do I have to write a thesis for a Master’s program?

If you’re pursuing a research-oriented Master’s degree in sciences, engineering, social sciences, humanities, etc., you’ll probably have to write a thesis. Whereas, if you’re pursuing a Master’s degree in education, business healthcare administration, or IT management, you’re more likely not to have to complete a thesis. 

Is a thesis required for all Master’s degree programs?

Although a thesis isn’t required for all master’s degree programs, many programs require one.

What should I consider when deciding between a thesis and non-thesis program?

There are several factors to consider when choosing between a thesis and a non-thesis Master’s program, including your career goals, interest in research, duration of studies, personal strengths and preferences, cost, and program requirements.

Are there any financial and duration differences between thesis and non-thesis Master’s programs?

There can be financial and duration differences between thesis and non-thesis Master’s programs. Thesis programs can be more expensive as you’ll have to spend additional resources on materials, lab fees, and data collection. In contrast, the main cost for non-thesis programs is tuition fees, which can be slightly lower. Furthermore, thesis programs require additional time to conduct research, write, and defend the thesis. In contrast, non-thesis programs allow students to earn the degree in a shorter period. 

Why should I choose a thesis Master’s program?

You should choose a thesis Master’s program if you’re interested in a research-heavy discipline and want to showcase your knowledge and expertise in an evidence-based, thorough thesis. 

Why should I choose a non-thesis Master’s program?

You should choose a non-thesis Master’s program if you want to enter the workforce earlier, don’t want to spend several semesters collecting data, and want to focus more on application than research.

Can non-thesis Master’s graduates still pursue doctoral studies later?

Yes, non-thesis Master’s graduates can still get accepted into a doctoral program. However, thesis Master’s graduates can go through the process more efficiently, as admissions panels want to gain insight into your academic interests and ability to engage in nuanced thought.

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Master of Science in Computer Science

The Master of Science in Computer Science enhances cybersecurity careers in developing and maintaining secure networked systems.

About the Master of Science in Computer Science

Computer Science careers are on the rise in both public and private sectors worldwide, ranging in everything from research in artificial intelligence and machine learning to secure systems design to software development. A Master of Science in Computer Science from Embry‑Riddle prepares graduates to either begin or further advance their careers in the fields of technology and cybersecurity.

The Electrical Engineering and Computer Science’s (EECS) Industry Advisory Board ensures that curriculum and research activities are aligned with what’s going on in the software industry. The accelerated program is a cutting-edge degree in a dynamic, growing field.

Student Learning Outcomes

What you will learn while pursuing a Computer Science degree: 

  • Apply fundamental computer science professional practices to analyze, design and implement systems.
  • Apply knowledge of advanced topics in cybersecurity engineering and in computer science.
  • Communicate effectively on issues pertaining to computer science and cybersecurity.

Computer Science Career Opportunities

Careers and employers.

Computer Science master's graduates often secure positions such as:

  • AI researchers
  • Computer scientists
  • Cybersecurity consultants
  • Cybersecurity engineers
  • Digital forensics investigators
  • Machine learning engineers
  • Software engineers

Computer Science Salary Information

As of 2023, graduates with a degree in Computer Science receive competitive salaries , with an average income of $112,000 annually.

About Computer Science at the Daytona Beach, FL Campus

About computer science at the daytona beach campus.

Housed in the Electrical Engineering and Computer Science Department in the College of Engineering , the Master of Science in Computer Science prepares students to address challenges in the development of algorithms and data structures as well as maintaining secure operations and cybersecurity policy.

The Daytona Beach Campus is home to the Cybersecurity Engineering Laboratory (CybEL), a Real-Time Systems Laboratory, a Digital Systems Laboratory and a Software Development Laboratory, all of which offer students systems design and hands-on experience as it relates to cybersecurity attacks and corresponding mitigations, as well as software development and programming.

Tracks/Specialties and/or Certificates

Computer Science graduates may select one of two areas of concentration: 

  • Computer Science: 9 credits
  • Cybersecurity Engineering: 9 credits

Computer Science Information 

  • Credits: 30
  • Online or In-Person: In-Person
  • Thesis: Thesis & Graduate Research Project Options

Helpful Links 

  • Tour our Daytona Beach Campus
  • Discover the Department's Faculty
  • Explore the Fields of Study: Engineering & Computer & Technology & Security, Intelligence and Safety
  • Find Related Clubs & Organizations

Students will:

  • Have an ability to apply fundamental computer science professional practices to analyze, design, and implement security-critical systems.
  • Have an ability to apply knowledge of advanced topics in cybersecurity engineering and/or computer science.
  • Have an ability to communicate effectively on issues pertaining to computer science and/or cybersecurity.

Degree Requirements

The Master of Science in  Computer Science degree is granted to students who complete the coursework described below. The program consists of  nine  hours of core  courses, nine hours of Area of Concentration courses,  and  nine hours of open   electives for the Graduate Research Project Option or six hours of open electives for the Thesis Option.

Program Core Requirements

Area of concentration.

Students may choose one of the two Areas of Concentration as shown below.

Computer Science

Cybersecurity engineering.

Students may choose the Graduate Research Project or Thesis option, as shown below.

Graduate Research Project Option

Thesis option, get started now:.

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RELATED DEGREES

You may be interested in the following degrees:

Master of Science in Cyber Intelligence & Security

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COMMENTS

  1. What Is A Master's Thesis?

    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.

  2. What Is a Thesis?

    Revised on April 16, 2024. 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.

  3. The Ultimate Guide on How to Write a Master's Thesis

    A thesis could consist of an average of 70 to 100 pages, including a bibliography, citations, and various sections. It is written under the guidance of a faculty advisor and should be publishable as an article. Your master's thesis reflects the literature in your field, challenges, evidence, and arguments around your writing topics.

  4. Thesis

    Thesis. Your thesis is the central claim in your essay—your main insight or idea about your source or topic. Your thesis should appear early in an academic essay, followed by a logically constructed argument that supports this central claim. A strong thesis is arguable, which means a thoughtful reader could disagree with it and therefore ...

  5. How to Write a Thesis: A Guide for Master's Students

    Tip #2: Begin Work on the Thesis Statement and Break Up the Thesis into Manageable Sections. After selecting an appropriate topic and developing a central research question for the thesis statement, it is then necessary to apply the research and writing skills you have learned throughout your degree program.

  6. Guide to Writing Your Thesis/Dissertation : Graduate School

    Definition of Dissertation and Thesis. The dissertation or thesis is a scholarly treatise that substantiates a specific point of view as a result of original research that is conducted by students during their graduate study. At Cornell, the thesis is a requirement for the receipt of the M.A. and M.S. degrees and some professional master's ...

  7. How to Write a Master's Thesis (with Pictures)

    1. Complete a literature review. Review the literature and research currently available that is relevant to your Master's thesis. This review of the literature must be exhaustive to ensure that your Master's thesis will be important and not be redundant. It is important that your thesis idea be original and relevant.

  8. How to Write a Master's Thesis: A Guide to Planning Your Thesis

    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 ...

  9. What Is a Dissertation?

    A dissertation is a long-form piece of academic writing based on original research conducted by you. It is usually submitted as the final step in order to finish a PhD program. Your dissertation is probably the longest piece of writing you've ever completed. It requires solid research, writing, and analysis skills, and it can be intimidating ...

  10. PDF 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

  11. Master's Thesis

    A thesis or research paper based on joint work with other researchers is allowed, provided that a unique and separate document is presented by each degree candidate. The candidate must include a concise account of his or her contribution to the whole work. Authorship of a master's thesis or research paper by more than one degree candidate is ...

  12. Developing A Thesis

    A good thesis has two parts. It should tell what you plan to argue, and it should "telegraph" how you plan to argue—that is, what particular support for your claim is going where in your essay. Steps in Constructing a Thesis. First, analyze your primary sources. Look for tension, interest, ambiguity, controversy, and/or complication.

  13. A complete guide to writing a master's thesis

    Step 1 - Understand your research questions. The first step in the reading phase of your master's thesis is knowing what research questions you are trying to answer. Hopefully you have identified these questions with your supervisor before you started to work on your thesis.

  14. Choosing Between a Thesis & Non-Thesis Master's Degree

    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 ...

  15. How to Write a Thesis or Dissertation Introduction

    To help guide your reader, end your introduction with an outline of the structure of the thesis or dissertation to follow. Share a brief summary of each chapter, clearly showing how each contributes to your central aims. However, be careful to keep this overview concise: 1-2 sentences should be enough. Note.

  16. The Thesis Process

    The Thesis Process. The thesis is an opportunity to work independently on a research project of your own design and contribute to the scholarly literature in your field. You emerge from the thesis process with a solid understanding of how original research is executed and how to best communicate research results.

  17. A guide on how to write the master's thesis

    The objective of this guide is to show you what a master's thesis written in the monograph form involves. If you are writing an article-based thesis, please see the guide written for article-based masters theses. The way a thesis is structured will vary, depending on professions, the academic disciplines, its

  18. Masters Thesis vs. PhD Dissertation: Key Differences

    Generally, a doctoral dissertation has greater breadth, depth, and intention than a master's thesis since it is based on original research. While the standard length of a master's thesis is around 100 pages, a doctoral dissertation can be upwards of 400-500 pages. While most students can finish their PhD dissertation or thesis in as little ...

  19. Thesis

    For bachelors programme the thesis is called bakalářská práce (bachelor's thesis), for master's degrees and also doctor of medicine or dentistry degrees it is the diplomová práce (master's thesis), and for Philosophiae doctor (PhD.) degree it is dissertation dizertační práce.

  20. Thesis vs. Non-Thesis Master's Programs: Which is Right for You?

    Conclusion. Choosing between a thesis and a non-thesis Master's program ultimately depends on your career goals, research interests, and personal preferences. Thesis programs provide a robust foundation for research-oriented careers and advanced studies, while non-thesis programs offer practical skills tailored for immediate industry integration.

  21. Master Thesis or Master's Thesis

    Final Thoughts. "Master's Thesis" is an expression that means "the thesis of a master". Because of the strong sense of belonging it presents, it's important to use it with the correct possessive form, including an apostrophe. "Master's Thesis" is the correct form. "Master Thesis" is incorrect and should always be avoided.

  22. Dissertation & Thesis Outline

    Dissertation & Thesis Outline | Example & Free Templates. Published on June 7, 2022 by Tegan George. Revised on November 21, 2023. A thesis or dissertation outline ... Tegan is an American based in Amsterdam, with master's degrees in political science and education administration. While she is definitely a political scientist at heart, her ...

  23. Submission and Formatting 101: Master the Dissertation, Thesis, and

    Who: Students completing a dissertation, thesis or report; faculty and staff who assist students with submission; Where: Virtual and in-person (Admin 404 - limit for room is 30); (register to attend online and receive participation instructions) Registration: Please register to receive handouts via email or attend online. The seminar will be ...

  24. Is this ethical of a PI? Masters thesis & lab work

    Masters thesis & lab work . academic Hello! I am wondering if this is normal/to be expected in a research environment as it is all new to me. I come from a cs background, going into a bioinformatics masters. I have been hired for a few months prior to starting my masters program as a lab tech. I saw this as a golden opportunity to get more ...

  25. Master's Degree Information : Sociology : UMass Amherst

    MA Thesis Option. In most cases the master's thesis will be an empirical paper which the student uses as a comps with the approval of your comprehensive exam committee. (A separate defense for the comps is not required.) A theoretical paper or analytic review of a literature may serve as a master's thesis with the approval of the thesis advisor.

  26. Master's Degree in Computer Science

    The Master of Science in Computer Science degree is granted to students who complete the coursework described below. The program consists of nine hours of core courses, nine hours of Area of Concentration courses, and nine hours of open electives for the Graduate Research Project Option or six hours of open electives for the Thesis Option.

  27. How to Write a Thesis Statement

    Step 1: Start with a question. You should come up with an initial thesis, sometimes called a working thesis, early in the writing process. As soon as you've decided on your essay topic, you need to work out what you want to say about it—a clear thesis will give your essay direction and structure.

  28. Three-time UP graduate aces master's with distinction

    Ile graduated from UP with a Bachelor of Engineering in Mining in 2019 and completed her honours in the subject, also at UP, in 2020. Her thesis is an investigation into the use of backfill to reinforce pillars in hard rock bord (rock that requires a lot of energy to be broken) and pillar layouts.