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what is a thesis undergrad

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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 needs your careful analysis of the evidence to understand how you arrived at this claim. You arrive at your thesis by examining and analyzing the evidence available to you, which might be text or other types of source material.

A thesis will generally respond to an analytical question or pose a solution to a problem that you have framed for your readers (and for yourself). When you frame that question or problem for your readers, you are telling them what is at stake in your argument—why your question matters and why they should care about the answer . If you can explain to your readers why a question or problem is worth addressing, then they will understand why it’s worth reading an essay that develops your thesis—and you will understand why it’s worth writing that essay.

A strong thesis will be arguable rather than descriptive , and it will be the right scope for the essay you are writing. If your thesis is descriptive, then you will not need to convince your readers of anything—you will be naming or summarizing something your readers can already see for themselves. If your thesis is too narrow, you won’t be able to explore your topic in enough depth to say something interesting about it. If your thesis is too broad, you may not be able to support it with evidence from the available sources.

When you are writing an essay for a course assignment, you should make sure you understand what type of claim you are being asked to make. Many of your assignments will be asking you to make analytical claims , which are based on interpretation of facts, data, or sources.

Some of your assignments may ask you to make normative claims. Normative claims are claims of value or evaluation rather than fact—claims about how things should be rather than how they are. A normative claim makes the case for the importance of something, the action that should be taken, or the way the world should be. When you are asked to write a policy memo, a proposal, or an essay based on your own opinion, you will be making normative claims.

Here are some examples of possible thesis statements for a student's analysis of the article “The Case Against Perfection” by Professor Michael Sandel.  

Descriptive thesis (not arguable)  

While Sandel argues that pursuing perfection through genetic engineering would decrease our sense of humility, he claims that the sense of solidarity we would lose is also important.

This thesis summarizes several points in Sandel’s argument, but it does not make a claim about how we should understand his argument. A reader who read Sandel’s argument would not also need to read an essay based on this descriptive thesis.  

Broad thesis (arguable, but difficult to support with evidence)  

Michael Sandel’s arguments about genetic engineering do not take into consideration all the relevant issues.

This is an arguable claim because it would be possible to argue against it by saying that Michael Sandel’s arguments do take all of the relevant issues into consideration. But the claim is too broad. Because the thesis does not specify which “issues” it is focused on—or why it matters if they are considered—readers won’t know what the rest of the essay will argue, and the writer won’t know what to focus on. If there is a particular issue that Sandel does not address, then a more specific version of the thesis would include that issue—hand an explanation of why it is important.  

Arguable thesis with analytical claim  

While Sandel argues persuasively that our instinct to “remake” (54) ourselves into something ever more perfect is a problem, his belief that we can always draw a line between what is medically necessary and what makes us simply “better than well” (51) is less convincing.

This is an arguable analytical claim. To argue for this claim, the essay writer will need to show how evidence from the article itself points to this interpretation. It’s also a reasonable scope for a thesis because it can be supported with evidence available in the text and is neither too broad nor too narrow.  

Arguable thesis with normative claim  

Given Sandel’s argument against genetic enhancement, we should not allow parents to decide on using Human Growth Hormone for their children.

This thesis tells us what we should do about a particular issue discussed in Sandel’s article, but it does not tell us how we should understand Sandel’s argument.  

Questions to ask about your thesis  

  • Is the thesis truly arguable? Does it speak to a genuine dilemma in the source, or would most readers automatically agree with it?  
  • Is the thesis too obvious? Again, would most or all readers agree with it without needing to see your argument?  
  • Is the thesis complex enough to require a whole essay's worth of argument?  
  • Is the thesis supportable with evidence from the text rather than with generalizations or outside research?  
  • Would anyone want to read a paper in which this thesis was developed? That is, can you explain what this paper is adding to our understanding of a problem, question, or topic?
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My Experience Writing an Undergraduate Thesis

This year, I’ve been working on a really exciting project… my undergraduate thesis! It's my fourth year of university, and I decided to write an undergraduate thesis in Political Science under the supervision of a professor. This week, I wanted to write about why I decided to take a thesis, how I enrolled, and how it’s been going so far! 

What is an undergraduate thesis?

An undergraduate thesis is usually a 40-60 page paper written under the supervision of a professor, allowing you to explore a topic of your interest in-depth. I primarily decided to write an undergraduate thesis to prepare me for graduate school - it's allowed me to get started on work I might continue in graduate school, hone my research skills, and test out whether academic research is for me.

How do I write an undergraduate thesis?

To write my undergraduate thesis, I had two options (this may vary depending on what department you're in!). First, I could join the Senior Thesis Seminar offered by department. These seminars group students together who are interested in doing a thesis and teach them research skills and background information. Students then simultaneously complete a thesis under the supervision of a professor. Senior Thesis Seminars often require applications to register in, so if you’re interested in this option, make sure you look into this in your third year of study!

Because I already had a close working relationship with a professor, I opted to instead do the second option, an Independent Study. An Independent Study allows you to work one-on-one with a professor and design whatever course you’re interested in. For either option, you’ll need to know what topic you're interested in writing your thesis on and ask a professor to work with you, so make sure you've figured this out. 

How's it going?

So far, I’m about half-way through my thesis and I’m having lots of fun. It’s a great way to get super involved in a topic I care about, and it's preparing me for graduate research much more than any course I’ve taken in my undergraduate degree. I’ve also been enjoying working one-on-one with a professor and learning a lot from them about the field of study I’m interested in, what being an academic researcher is like, and what my position in the field is. 

I will say that an undergraduate thesis is a considerable amount of work! It definitely requires more work than all my other classes, and because I’m working so closely with a professor, there’s no way I can slack on it or procrastinate.

Still, if you’re interested in a topic and want to pursue it after your undergraduate studies, I think writing an undergraduate thesis is an incredible opportunity. If you have any questions, feel free to ask in the comments below!

1 comment on “ My Experience Writing an Undergraduate Thesis ”

Is an undergrad thesis mandatory in order to graduate or to get into a Masters program? Also, I’ve heard most Profs only help those with really high grades for their thesis?

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what is a thesis undergrad

For many students at Harvard, whether or not to write a thesis is a question that comes up at least once during our four years.

For some concentrations, thesising is mandatory – you know when you declare that you will write a senior thesis, and this often factors into the decision-making process when it comes to declaring that field. For other concentrations, thesising is pretty rare – sometimes slightly discouraged by the department, depending on how well the subject lends itself to independent undergraduate research. 

In my concentration, Neuroscience on the Neurobiology track, thesising is absolutely optional. If you want to do research and writing a thesis is something that interests you, you can totally go for it, if you like research but just don’t want to write a super long paper detailing it, that’s cool too, and if you decide that neither is for you, there’s no pressure. 

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Some Thesis Work From My Thesis That Wasn't Meant To Be

This is from back when I thought I was writing a thesis! Yay data! Claire Hoffman

While this is super nice from the perspective that it allows students to create the undergraduate experiences that work best for them, it can be really confusing if you’re someone like me who can struggle a little with the weight of such a (seemingly) huge decision. So for anyone pondering this question, or thinking they might be in the future, here’s Claire’s patented list of advice:

1.    If you really want to thesis, thesis.

If it’s going to be something you’re passionate about, do it! When it comes to spending that much time doing something, if you’re excited about it and feel like it’s something you really want to do, it will be a rewarding experience. Don’t feel discouraged, yes it will be tough, but you can absolutely do this!

2.    If you really don’t want to write one, don’t let anyone tell you you should.  This is more the camp I fell into myself. I had somehow ended up writing a junior thesis proposal, and suddenly found myself on track to thesis, something I hadn’t fully intended to do. I almost stuck with it, but it mostly would have been because I felt guilty leaving my lab after leading them on- and guilt will not write a thesis for you. I decided to drop at the beginning of senior year, and pandemic or no, it was definitely one of the best decisions I made.

3.    This is one of those times where what your friends are doing doesn’t matter. I’m also someone who can (sometimes) be susceptible to peer pressure. Originally, I was worried because so many of my friends were planning to write theses that I would feel left out if I did not also do it. This turned out to be unfounded because one, a bunch of my friends also dropped their theses (senior year in a global pandemic is hard ok?), and two, I realized that even if they were all writing them and loved it, their joy would not mean that I could not be happy NOT writing one. It just wasn’t how I wanted to spend my (limited) time as a senior! On the other hand, if none of your friends are planning to thesis but you really want to, don’t let that stop you. Speaking from experience, they’ll happily hang out with you while you work, and ply you with snacks and fun times during your breaks.

Overall, deciding to write a thesis can be an intensely personal choice. At the end of the day, you just have to do what’s right for you! And as we come up on thesis submission deadlines, good luck to all my amazing senior friends out there who are turning in theses right now.  

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  • Dissertation

How to Write a Dissertation | A Guide to Structure & Content

A dissertation or thesis is a long piece of academic writing based on original research, submitted as part of an undergraduate or postgraduate degree.

The structure of a dissertation depends on your field, but it is usually divided into at least four or five chapters (including an introduction and conclusion chapter).

The most common dissertation structure in the sciences and social sciences includes:

  • An introduction to your topic
  • A literature review that surveys relevant sources
  • An explanation of your methodology
  • An overview of the results of your research
  • A discussion of the results and their implications
  • A conclusion that shows what your research has contributed

Dissertations in the humanities are often structured more like a long essay , building an argument by analysing primary and secondary sources . Instead of the standard structure outlined here, you might organise your chapters around different themes or case studies.

Other important elements of the dissertation include the title page , abstract , and reference list . If in doubt about how your dissertation should be structured, always check your department’s guidelines and consult with your supervisor.

Table of contents

Acknowledgements, table of contents, list of figures and tables, list of abbreviations, introduction, literature review / theoretical framework, methodology, reference list.

The very first page of your document contains your dissertation’s title, your name, department, institution, degree program, and submission date. Sometimes it also includes your student number, your supervisor’s name, and the university’s logo. Many programs have strict requirements for formatting the dissertation title page .

The title page is often used as cover when printing and binding your dissertation .

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The acknowledgements section is usually optional, and gives space for you to thank everyone who helped you in writing your dissertation. This might include your supervisors, participants in your research, and friends or family who supported you.

The abstract is a short summary of your dissertation, usually about 150-300 words long. You should write it at the very end, when you’ve completed the rest of the dissertation. In the abstract, make sure to:

  • State the main topic and aims of your research
  • Describe the methods you used
  • Summarise the main results
  • State your conclusions

Although the abstract is very short, it’s the first part (and sometimes the only part) of your dissertation that people will read, so it’s important that you get it right. If you’re struggling to write a strong abstract, read our guide on how to write an abstract .

In the table of contents, list all of your chapters and subheadings and their page numbers. The dissertation contents page gives the reader an overview of your structure and helps easily navigate the document.

All parts of your dissertation should be included in the table of contents, including the appendices. You can generate a table of contents automatically in Word.

If you have used a lot of tables and figures in your dissertation, you should itemise them in a numbered list . You can automatically generate this list using the Insert Caption feature in Word.

If you have used a lot of abbreviations in your dissertation, you can include them in an alphabetised list of abbreviations so that the reader can easily look up their meanings.

If you have used a lot of highly specialised terms that will not be familiar to your reader, it might be a good idea to include a glossary . List the terms alphabetically and explain each term with a brief description or definition.

In the introduction, you set up your dissertation’s topic, purpose, and relevance, and tell the reader what to expect in the rest of the dissertation. The introduction should:

  • Establish your research topic , giving necessary background information to contextualise your work
  • Narrow down the focus and define the scope of the research
  • Discuss the state of existing research on the topic, showing your work’s relevance to a broader problem or debate
  • Clearly state your objectives and research questions , and indicate how you will answer them
  • Give an overview of your dissertation’s structure

Everything in the introduction should be clear, engaging, and relevant to your research. By the end, the reader should understand the what , why and how of your research. Not sure how? Read our guide on how to write a dissertation introduction .

Before you start on your research, you should have conducted a literature review to gain a thorough understanding of the academic work that already exists on your topic. This means:

  • Collecting sources (e.g. books and journal articles) and selecting the most relevant ones
  • Critically evaluating and analysing each source
  • Drawing connections between them (e.g. themes, patterns, conflicts, gaps) to make an overall point

In the dissertation literature review chapter or section, you shouldn’t just summarise existing studies, but develop a coherent structure and argument that leads to a clear basis or justification for your own research. For example, it might aim to show how your research:

  • Addresses a gap in the literature
  • Takes a new theoretical or methodological approach to the topic
  • Proposes a solution to an unresolved problem
  • Advances a theoretical debate
  • Builds on and strengthens existing knowledge with new data

The literature review often becomes the basis for a theoretical framework , in which you define and analyse the key theories, concepts and models that frame your research. In this section you can answer descriptive research questions about the relationship between concepts or variables.

The methodology chapter or section describes how you conducted your research, allowing your reader to assess its validity. You should generally include:

  • The overall approach and type of research (e.g. qualitative, quantitative, experimental, ethnographic)
  • Your methods of collecting data (e.g. interviews, surveys, archives)
  • Details of where, when, and with whom the research took place
  • Your methods of analysing data (e.g. statistical analysis, discourse analysis)
  • Tools and materials you used (e.g. computer programs, lab equipment)
  • A discussion of any obstacles you faced in conducting the research and how you overcame them
  • An evaluation or justification of your methods

Your aim in the methodology is to accurately report what you did, as well as convincing the reader that this was the best approach to answering your research questions or objectives.

Next, you report the results of your research . You can structure this section around sub-questions, hypotheses, or topics. Only report results that are relevant to your objectives and research questions. In some disciplines, the results section is strictly separated from the discussion, while in others the two are combined.

For example, for qualitative methods like in-depth interviews, the presentation of the data will often be woven together with discussion and analysis, while in quantitative and experimental research, the results should be presented separately before you discuss their meaning. If you’re unsure, consult with your supervisor and look at sample dissertations to find out the best structure for your research.

In the results section it can often be helpful to include tables, graphs and charts. Think carefully about how best to present your data, and don’t include tables or figures that just repeat what you have written  –  they should provide extra information or usefully visualise the results in a way that adds value to your text.

Full versions of your data (such as interview transcripts) can be included as an appendix .

The discussion  is where you explore the meaning and implications of your results in relation to your research questions. Here you should interpret the results in detail, discussing whether they met your expectations and how well they fit with the framework that you built in earlier chapters. If any of the results were unexpected, offer explanations for why this might be. It’s a good idea to consider alternative interpretations of your data and discuss any limitations that might have influenced the results.

The discussion should reference other scholarly work to show how your results fit with existing knowledge. You can also make recommendations for future research or practical action.

The dissertation conclusion should concisely answer the main research question, leaving the reader with a clear understanding of your central argument. Wrap up your dissertation with a final reflection on what you did and how you did it. The conclusion often also includes recommendations for research or practice.

In this section, it’s important to show how your findings contribute to knowledge in the field and why your research matters. What have you added to what was already known?

You must include full details of all sources that you have cited in a reference list (sometimes also called a works cited list or bibliography). It’s important to follow a consistent reference style . Each style has strict and specific requirements for how to format your sources in the reference list.

The most common styles used in UK universities are Harvard referencing and Vancouver referencing . Your department will often specify which referencing style you should use – for example, psychology students tend to use APA style , humanities students often use MHRA , and law students always use OSCOLA . M ake sure to check the requirements, and ask your supervisor if you’re unsure.

To save time creating the reference list and make sure your citations are correctly and consistently formatted, you can use our free APA Citation Generator .

Your dissertation itself should contain only essential information that directly contributes to answering your research question. Documents you have used that do not fit into the main body of your dissertation (such as interview transcripts, survey questions or tables with full figures) can be added as appendices .

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  • Undergraduate Thesis Writing Guidelines

Undergraduate Thesis Writing Guidelines

What is an Undergraduate Thesis?

How does undergraduate thesis differ from postgraduate thesis, how to choose a good undergraduate thesis topic, start early, ask questions, discuss your topic with your advisor.

An undergraduate thesis (also called Bachelor's dissertation) is a large academic writing piece that requires massive research on the chosen topic. It’s usually assigned during the final year of your degree program (undergraduate is for Bachelor’s degree). The topic choice depends on the interests of a student and the specialty one chooses.

Writing an undergraduate thesis paper is a true challenge for every student. Even if you’re the best in class, this doesn’t mean the volume of work, research, and writing won’t be strenuous for you. If any further assistance is needed, a our top-class thesis writing service  will be of great help!

An undergraduate thesis paper (also - a dissertation) is an important piece, like a term paper with double or triple the length, of about dissertation length . It’s focused on a narrow aspect of a subject and provides an opportunity to do extensive research and provide valuable results to the academic field. Some thesis papers or their parts are even published in scientific journals.

A university supervisor, a specialist in the area, works with the student on every chapter of a thesis paper to develop the right style, adjust the length, and meet every requirement.

There’s a rough classification of thesis papers: an undergraduate thesis and a postgraduate thesis. The first one you write in the last year of the Bachelor’s program . It’s usually around 10,000 to 15,000 words. Postgraduate (Master’s, PhD programs) papers are significantly larger than any term paper you have to write during the first years of study. You can check our detailed guid to find out how long does a thesis have to be . 

Another difference is the level of uniqueness of a paper. In any academic paper, you have to make the research independent and cite every source properly. However, you don’t have to present ideas and theories that haven’t been discovered before. While it’s still an individual thesis paper, the level of responsibility is lower.

All you have to do is to conduct extensive research, create an outline with all required parts, meet every requirement by the faculty, and write the paper. A thesis paper is a very difficult project to complete, no matter if it’s under or postgraduate. But high-quality sources, a great supervisor, and professional guidelines will help you refine it and submit before the deadline.

For a thesis, you’ll need to provide:

  • Critical thinking;
  • A great volume of research;
  • Distinct methodology;
  • Refined discussion section ;
  • Overall quality;
  • Formal style.

When you complete a thesis paper, it means the most difficult part of your college years is over. Even submitting the first draft means you’ve completed the standard mission of every student. 

This is a chance for you to write something important and individual, choosing whatever you are interested in and your faculty approves. Approach the choice of a topic with caution because you will have to focus on it for a long time.

If the topic is difficult to choose, there are special thesis topics  with over 100 options. Combine all the skills you’ve developed during studies and see which topic resonates. A thesis paper is your opportunity to be a real scholar.

We want to propose some recommendations on choosing a great research topic that will not be standard yet will meet every requirement set by your university.

While this is not the easiest advice to give, it’s a necessary and helpful one. If you’re already late for the early start, just think about saving time in order to meet the deadline. You can propose a topic even during the freshman year.

Also, start on writing a research proposal  as early as possible. When you choose the subject, you’ll have to make a submission to the faculty for them to approve it. This should be done later than the freshman year, of course. During the first years, read about thesis papers, learn what skills you will need to develop for yours.

If you’re writing a  thesis conclusion a couple of days or a week before the first presentation, you have started early. Now there’s enough time to do the final proofreading and get some rest from all the work you’ve done.

Don’t hesitate to ask questions. The overall knowledge isn’t enough for a draft submission. Think about the outline, discussion, classification of academic papers, formal style of writing. All the questions that emerge should be written down and answered in order to get a clear understanding of what to focus on. 

Teachers, peers, online sources will provide the most helpful information necessary for your curiosity satisfaction. 

When you get an advisor, they will be the main source of information for a while. Talk to them about everything, even the details like how to cite sources. Discuss the areas of your interest, which one will be the most suitable, how to format and connect different parts, etc.

Don’t cover yourself with notes and questions all the time. Give the information some time to settle down. Otherwise, you may get an overload and burn out before the beginning of the main work. When there’s free time, look at the parts required for a thesis paper, what you would include there, how you would write an introduction and an abstract to catch the readers’ attention.

Making your dissertation high-quality will improve chances for an honours degree . Start early, do extensive research, make sure the subject is something you’re really interested in. Every student has something to love about one's specialty, no matter the university. Choose your area of interest, make sure you have enough time to write, get a supervisor, and you will do it!

And remember, one of the best things you can do to get help is asking a professional for assistance with one chapter or the whole thesis paper. See the full list of our services and choose whatever will bring you closer to the deadline.

If you want to deliver a senior thesis and start a professional career quickly, then you need not only to research a topic well but also to find all the necessary information for the final work and know how to properly format and structure a thesis. Thus, having a clear plan and understanding what s...

Are you about to write a bachelor thesis? Congratulations - you are on the home straight and need to take the very last but important step to earn a bachelor’s degree. You have successfully handled all academic assignments; however, it doesn’t make bachelor thesis writing any easier. Writing a thesi...

Before graduating from school, some students wonder if everyone must do a college thesis. You might hear various things, but the truth is a thesis is not always required from graduate students to complete their school programs. Of course, it depends on many things, including the type of study. Some ...

What is an Undergraduate Dissertation?

While most discussions of ‘dissertations’ focus on postgraduate study, undergraduate students also frequently complete undergraduate dissertations as one part of their overall degree. This article will provide an overview of the undergraduate dissertation and its standard requirements at UK universities.

What is a Bachelor’s or Undergraduate Dissertation?

An undergraduate dissertation (or Bachelors dissertation) is essentially an extended piece of research and writing on a single subject. It is typically completed in the final year of a degree programme and the topic is chosen based on a student’s own area of interest. It allows the student to explore a narrow topic in greater depth than a traditional module. The student works with a single supervisor chosen from their departmental faculty, and this individual provides guidance and support throughout the course of the research.

How does Undergraduate Dissertation differ from Postgraduate Dissertation?

The bachelor’s dissertation varies significantly from postgraduate dissertations. First, it is considerably shorter in length, averaging only 10,000 – 15,000 words. While this is much shorter than a Masters or PhD dissertation, it is much longer than any other piece of writing required in undergraduate programmes.

Secondly, the undergraduate dissertation is not required to contain the same level of originality as postgraduate work. Students are still expected to complete the work independently and cite all sources, but they do not need to present any new ideas. It is sufficient to conduct thorough, sustained research and present a critical discussion of a relatively narrow research topic. It is not necessary to discuss the philosophical context of the research or to design a distinct methodology. However, it is important to note that the best bachelor’s dissertations demonstrate genuine critical thinking skills and an ability to combine information derived from many different sources.

Finally, the undergraduate dissertation also varies in the type of research conducted, which will be more focused on texts and documents rather than active field research. For the most part students will examine secondary sources or easily accessible primary sources, and they will not be required to pursue obscure or costly data sources. In some disciplines a practical element may be incorporated into the dissertation, but this is usually performed with less independence than would be expected at the postgraduate level.

Undergraduate Dissertation Requirements

  • Topic selection : At the end of the penultimate year of study students will be asked to select an area of research for the dissertation. You should be sure to choose a topic that is likely to hold your interest over a long period of time, as it is difficult and dangerous to change your topic once your research period has begun.
  • Finding a supervisor : Depending on the university, there may be a formal process in place for allocating supervisors or students may simply approach a member of faculty that they are interested in working with. It can be helpful to meet with potential supervisors before registering an intended research area, as they can help you to refine your proposed topic and give you suggestions for specific research questions. Once the formal dissertation period begins you will meet with your supervisor regularly to discuss your progress and refine your study.
  • Early research : Most students begin general reading around their chosen subject area in the summer before the final year. This period is truly key in developing a broad awareness of the subject, and it prepares you for more targeted research once your final year commences.
  • Research outline : Once the undergraduate dissertation module begins (usually at the start of year 3) you will be asked to draft a brief dissertation outline of about 2-3 pages in length. This should include a summary of  chapters  and a full bibliography. By now you should have decided upon a narrower aspect of your topic, and this should be formulated into a research title with the help of your supervisor.
  • Refined research and writing : At this stage, your research will be much more targeted, in order to pursue your proposed dissertation agenda. You should also begin writing as soon as possible. Most departments require students to submit a substantial piece of writing (3,000-5,000 words) by the end of the first term. Remember that you should submit at least one draft to your supervisor before this deadline, in order to give you time to make necessary revisions.
  • Final dissertation : When you’ve completed the writing process you should have roughly three or four chapters, as well as an Introduction and Conclusion. It must all be formatted according to university guidelines, and you must be certain to properly cite all if your sources.
  • Binding and submission : Unlike undergraduate essays, the undergraduate dissertation must be professionally bound before being submitted. This is usually done on campus but you need to allow enough time for the process before your submission deadline. The final due date is usually at the end of the second term of the student’s final year.

The marking system for undergraduate dissertations is the same that is used for all other aspects of the undergraduate degree. Students must generally achieve a minimum mark of 40 to pass, but most will aspire to higher marks than this. Marks of 60-69 earn a classification of 2:1 or B; Marks over 70 earn a First classification or A.

The dissertation is marked as a stand-alone module and it is combined with other module marks to determine the overall degree classification. There is no standard rule for UK universities regarding the weight of the dissertation mark when calculating the degree average, so it’s best to check with your university to understand their individual regulations.

For many students, the undergraduate dissertation provides their first taste of prolonged independent research. This can be a daunting experience but it is helpful to remember that your departmental supervisor can be called upon frequently for advice and support. If you work at a consistent and dedicated pace you will have no problem completing the dissertation on time. You will also develop important research skills that can prepare you for postgraduate study.

Bryan Greetham, 2009. How to Write your Undergraduate Dissertation (Palgrave Study Skills). Edition. Palgrave Macmillan.

Manchester Metropolitan University, 2008. Guidance on the Writing of Undergraduate Dissertations. Available: http://www.ioe.mmu.ac.uk/cpd/downloads/UNDERGRAD%20DISSERTATION%20HANDBOOK.pdf. Last accessed 08 Apr 2013.

University of Warwick, 2010. Dissertation Guidelines for Undergraduate Study. Available: http://www2.warwick.ac.uk/study/cll/currentstudents/undergraduatemodules/ce302dissertation/dissertation_guidelines_2010.pdf. Last accessed 08 Apr 2013. Nicholas Walliman, 2004. Your Undergraduate Dissertation: The Essential Guide for Success (SAGE Study Skills Series). 1 Edition. SAGE Publications Ltd.

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Writing a senior thesis: is it worth it.

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Before coming to Yale, I thought a thesis was the main argument of a paper. I quickly learned that an undergraduate thesis is about fifty times harder and fifty pages longer than any thesis arguments I wrote in high school. At Yale, every senior has some sort of senior requirement, but thesis projects vary by department. Some departments require students to do a semester-long project, where you write a longer paper (25-35 pages) or expand, through writing, the research you’ve been working on (mostly applies to STEM majors). In some departments you can take two senior seminars and complete a longer project at the end of the semester. And other departments have an option to complete a year-long thesis: you spend your senior year (and in some cases your junior year), intensely researching and writing about a topic you choose or create yourself.

Both my departments––English and Ethnicity, Race, and Migration––offer all three of these options, and each student decides what they think is best for them. As a double major, I had the additional option to write an even longer thesis combining both my majors, but that seemed like way too much work––especially since I would have to take two senior thesis classes at the same time. Instead, I chose a year-long thesis for ER&M that combined my literary interests with various theoretical frameworks and the two senior seminars for English. This spring I’m taking my second seminar. Really, I chose the option to torture myself for a whole year, the end result being a minimum of 50 pages of innovative thinking and writing. I wanted to rise to the challenge, proving to myself I could do it. But there also seemed to be the pressure of “this is what everyone in the major does,” and a “thesis is proof that you actually learned.” Although these sentiments influenced my decision to complete a thesis, I know a long research paper does not validate my education or work as a scholar the last four years. It is not the end all be all.

My senior thesis focuses on Caribbean literature - specifically, two novels written by Caribbean women that really look at what it means to come from an immigrant family, to move, and to find yourself in completely new spaces. These experiences are all too relatable to my own life as a second-generation woman of color with immigrant parents enrolled at Yale. In my writing, I focus on how these women make sense of “home” (a very broad and complicated topic, I know), and what their stories tell us about the diasporic experience in general. The project is very personal to me, and I chose it because I wanted to understand my family’s history and their task in making “home” in the U.S., whatever that means. But because it’s so personal, it’s also been really difficult. I’ve experienced a lot of writer’s block or often felt unmotivated and judgmental towards my work. I’ve realized how difficult it is to devote your time and energy to such a long process––not only is it research heavy, but you have to write and rewrite drafts, constantly adjusting to make sure you’re being as clear as possible. Really, writing a thesis is like writing a portion of a book. And that’s crazy! You’re writing two or three whole chapters of academic work as an undergraduate student.

The process is definitely not for everyone, and I’ve certainly thought “Why did I want to do this again?” But what’s really kept me going is the support from my advisors and friends. The ER&M department faculty does an amazing job of providing us mentorship, revisions, and support throughout the process; my advisor has served as my editor but also the person who reminds me most that this work is important, as I often forget that. It also helps to have many friends and people in the major also writing their theses. I’ve found different spaces to just have a thesis study hall or working time, with other people also struggling through. Recently, I submitted my first full draft (note: it was kind of unfinished but it’s okay because it’s a draft!), and it was crazy to think that I wrote 50+ pages, most of which are just my own original thoughts and analysis on two books that have almost no scholarship written about them. It was a relief for sure. This week I will be taking a full break from it, but it reminded me of why I began this journey. It reminded me of all the people who’ve supported me along the way, and how I really couldn’t have done it without them. And now, I’m really looking forward to how good it will feel to turn in my fully written thesis mid-April. I’ve realized that this project shouldn’t be about making it good for Yale’s standard, but for myself, for my family, and for the people who believe in this work as much as I do.

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Thesis Writing

Thesis Format

Caleb S.

Thesis Format Essentials: Structure, Tips, and Templates

Published on: Apr 23, 2019

Last updated on: Nov 11, 2023

Thesis Format

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Are you feeling overwhelmed by the thought of formatting your thesis or dissertation? It's a common challenge that many graduate students and researchers face. 

The requirements and guidelines for thesis writing can be complex and demanding, leaving you in a state of confusion.

You may find yourself struggling with questions like:  

How do I structure my thesis properly? 

What are the formatting rules I need to follow? 

Don't worry! 

In this comprehensive blog, we will explain the thesis format step by step. 

Whether you're a graduate student or a postdoctoral researcher, our thesis format guide will assist you in academic writing.

Let's get started!

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What is a Thesis and a Dissertation? 

At some point in your academic journey, you've likely come across the terms "thesis" and "dissertation," but what exactly are they, and how do they differ? 

A thesis and a dissertation both represent substantial pieces of academic work, sharing some similarities, but they also have distinct characteristics.

A thesis is typically associated with undergraduate or master's degree programs. It represents a student's independent research and findings on a specific topic. The objective is to demonstrate a deep understanding of the subject matter and the ability to conduct research.

On the other hand,

A dissertation is commonly linked with doctoral programs. It's a more extensive and comprehensive research project that delves into a specific area of study in great detail. Doctoral candidates are expected to make an original contribution to their field of knowledge through their dissertation.

Give a read to our thesis vs dissertation blog to learn the difference!

How to Structure a Thesis - The Formatting Basics 

Structuring your thesis is a crucial aspect of academic writing. The thesis format font size and spacing follows a specific framework.

A well-organized thesis not only enhances readability but also reflects your dedication to the research process.

The structure can be divided into three main sections: Front Matter, Body, and End Matter.

Front Matter 

  • Title Page: The title page is the very first of preliminary pages of your thesis. It typically includes the thesis title, your name, the name of your institution, and the date of submission.
  • Abstract: The abstract is a concise summary of your thesis, providing readers with a brief overview of your research problem, methodology, key findings, and conclusions.
  • Table of Contents: A well-organized table of contents lists all the main sections, subsections, and corresponding page numbers within your thesis.
  • List of Figures and Tables: If your thesis contains figures and tables, create a separate list with captions and page numbers for easy reference.
  • List of Abbreviations or Acronyms: If you've used abbreviations or acronyms in your thesis, include a list to explain their meanings.
  • List of Symbols: If your research involves symbols or special characters, provide a list of these elements and their definitions.
  • Acknowledgments: In this section, you can acknowledge individuals or institutions that have supported your research and thesis writing process.
  • Dedication (Optional): Some students choose to include a dedication page to honor someone or express personal sentiments.
  • Preface (Optional): In the preface, you can explain the background and context of your research, providing additional context for the reader.
  • Introduction: The introduction sets the stage for your thesis. It introduces the research problem, its significance, research objectives, and research questions.
  • Literature Review: The literature review section provides a comprehensive review of existing literature and research related to your topic. It helps establish the context for your research.
  • Methodology: Describe the research methods and techniques you employed in your study. Explain how you collected and analyzed data.
  • Results: Present your research findings in a clear and organized manner. Use tables, figures, and charts to illustrate key points.
  • Discussion: Interpret the results and discuss their implications. Address any limitations and suggest areas for future research.
  • Conclusion: Summarize the main findings and their importance. Restate the research questions and provide a final perspective on the topic.

End Matter 

  • References: List all the sources you cited in your thesis, following a specific citation style (e.g., APA, MLA, Chicago).
  • Appendices: Include any supplementary materials, such as raw data, surveys, questionnaires, or additional information that supports your research.
  • Vita (Optional): Some academic institutions require or allow a vita, which is essentially a brief academic resume or biography.

By following this structured framework for your thesis, you'll ensure that your research is presented in a clear and organized manner, meeting the formatting basics and academic standards.

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Thesis Format Guidelines 

Formatting your thesis makes your research work not just look good but also helps others understand it easily. 

These guidelines show you how to structure and organize your thesis neatly, from the title page to the reference section. 

  • Page Layout:
  • Use standard 8.5 x 11-inch paper.
  • Set 1-inch margins on all sides.
  • Use a readable and professional font such as Times New Roman, Arial, or Calibri.
  • Font size for the main text should typically be 12 points.
  • Line Spacing:
  • Use double-spacing throughout the document.
  • Exceptions include footnotes, long quotations, and the bibliography , which may be single-spaced.
  • Heading Structure:
  • Use a clear and hierarchical heading structure to organize your content.
  • Differentiate between main headings and subheadings with bold, italics, or size variations.
  • Page Numbering:
  • Page numbers are typically placed in the header or footer.
  • Number the pages consecutively throughout the document.
  • Arabic numerals or roman numerals are used for the body of the thesis.
  • Title Page:
  • The title page should include the thesis title, your name, institutional affiliation, and the date of thesis submission.
  • Follow your institution's specific guidelines for title page formatting.
  • Table of Contents:
  • Create a well-organized table of contents listing all sections and subsections with corresponding page numbers.
  • Use a clear and consistent format for this section.
  • List of Figures and Tables:
  • If applicable, provide separate lists for figures and tables, including captions and page numbers.
  • Ensure consistent formatting for these lists.
  • Present a concise summary of the thesis, highlighting the research problem, methodology , key findings, and conclusions.
  • Typically, the abstract is on a separate page immediately following the title page.
  • Citations and References:
  • Follow a specific citation style consistently throughout your thesis (e.g., APA, MLA, Chicago).
  • Ensure that in-text citations and references are accurate and properly formatted.
  • Page Breaks:
  • Use page breaks to separate sections properly. This ensures that your chapters and other major divisions begin on new pages.
  • Maintain the required margins (usually 1 inch) on all sides, including the top, bottom, left, and right.
  • Appendices:
  • If you include appendices, ensure they follow the same formatting rules as the main body of the thesis.

You can also refer to the below-given document to understand the format template of a thesis paper.

Thesis Format Template

Thesis Format Sample

Here are some thesis format examples to get a better understanding.

MLA Thesis Format

APA Thesis Format

Baby Thesis Format

Undergraduate Thesis Format

Master Thesis Format pdf

PhD Thesis Format Pdf

Thesis Format for Computer Science

Research Thesis Format

Thesis Paper Formatting Tips

Formatting your thesis paper correctly is not only about making it look neat and professional but also about meeting the stringent requirements set by your academic institution.

Whether you're in the early stages of writing your thesis or preparing for submission, these tips will help you in formatting.

  • Adhere to Institutional Guidelines: Follow your institution's specific formatting requirements, including thesis format margins, font styles, and citation styles.
  • Consistency in Formatting: Maintain uniform font, font size, and spacing throughout the thesis for a professional appearance.
  • Proper Page Numbering: Place page numbers correctly in the header or footer, starting with the first chapter after the front matter.
  • Title Page Accuracy: Ensure the title page contains the accurate title, your name, institutional affiliation, and submission date.
  • Organized Table of Contents: Create a well-structured table of contents listing all sections and subsections with page numbers.
  • List of Figures and Tables: Provide separate, well-labeled lists for figures and tables, including captions and page numbers.

In conclusion, this blog has provided valuable insights into the essential aspects of formatting a thesis paper.

By following these tips, students can ensure that their research is not only well-structured and polished but also meets the rigorous standards set by their academic institutions.

Formatting and writing a thesis is a challenging task for most people, as it requires a lot of time.

Instead of risking your grades, hire an expert writer who is dedicated and experienced in his work. MyPerfectWords.com is a professional paper writing service that focuses on providing high-quality standards.

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What is a thesis statement?

Your thesis statement is one of the most important parts of your paper.  It expresses your main argument succinctly and explains why your argument is historically significant.  Think of your thesis as a promise you make to your reader about what your paper will argue.  Then, spend the rest of your paper--each body paragraph--fulfilling that promise.

Your thesis should be between one and three sentences long and is placed at the end of your introduction.  Just because the thesis comes towards the beginning of your paper does not mean you can write it first and then forget about it.  View your thesis as a work in progress while you write your paper.  Once you are satisfied with the overall argument your paper makes, go back to your thesis and see if it captures what you have argued.  If it does not, then revise it.  Crafting a good thesis is one of the most challenging parts of the writing process, so do not expect to perfect it on the first few tries.  Successful writers revise their thesis statements again and again.

A successful thesis statement:

- makes an historical argument

- takes a position that requires defending

- is historically specific

- is focused and precise

- answers the question, "so what?"

How to write a thesis statement:

Suppose you are taking an early American history class and your professor has distributed the following essay prompt:

"Historians have debated the American Revolution's effect on women.  Some argue that the Revolution had a positive effect because it increased women's authority in the family.  Others argue that it had a negative effect because it excluded women from politics.  Still others argue that the Revolution changed very little for women, as they remained ensconced in the home.  Write a paper in which you pose your own answer to the question of whether the American Revolution had a positive, negative, or limited effect on women."

Using this prompt, we will look at both weak and strong thesis statements to see how successful thesis statements work.

1. A successful thesis statement makes an historical argument. It does not announce the topic of your paper or simply restate the paper prompt.

Weak Thesis: The Revolution had little effect on women because they remained ensconced in the home.

While this thesis does take a position, it is problematic because it simply restates the prompt.  It needs to be more specific about how the Revolution had a limited effect on women and why it mattered that women remained in the home.

Revised Thesis: The Revolution wrought little political change in the lives of women because they did not gain the right to vote or run for office.  Instead, women remained firmly in the home, just as they had before the war, making their day-to-day lives look much the same.

This revision is an improvement over the first attempt because it states what standards the writer is using to measure change (the right to vote and run for office) and it shows why women remaining in the home serves as evidence of limited change (because their day-to-day lives looked the same before and after the war).  However, it still relies too heavily on the information given in the prompt, simply saying that women remained in the home.  It needs to make an argument about some element of the war's limited effect on women.  This thesis requires further revision.

Strong Thesis: While the Revolution presented women unprecedented opportunities to participate in protest movements and manage their family's farms and businesses, it ultimately did not offer lasting political change, excluding women from the right to vote and serve in office.

This is a stronger thesis because it complicates the information in the prompt.  The writer admits that the Revolution gave women important new opportunities, but argues that, in the end, it led to no substantial change.  This thesis recognizes the complexity of the issue, conceding that the Revolution had both positive and negative effects for women, but that the latter outweighed the former.  Remember that it will take several rounds of revision to craft a strong thesis, so keep revising until your thesis articulates a thoughtful and compelling argument.

2.  A succesful thesis statement takes a position that requires defending. Your argument should not be an obvious or irrefutable assertion.  Rather, make a claim that requires supporting evidence.

Weak Thesis: The Revolutionary War caused great upheaval in the lives of American women.

Few would argue with the idea that war brings upheaval.  Your thesis needs to be debatable:  it needs to make a claim against which someone could argue.  Your job throughout the paper is to provide evidence in support of your own case.  Here is a revised version:

Strong Thesis: The Revolution caused particular upheaval in the lives of women.  With men away at war, women took on full responsibility for running households, farms, and businesses.  As a result of their increased involvement during the war, many women were reluctant to give up their new-found responsibilities after the fighting ended.

This is a stronger thesis because it says exactly what kind of upheaval the war wrought, and it makes a debatable claim.  For example, a counterargument might be that most women were eager to return to the way life was before the war and thus did not try to usurp men's role on the home front.  Or, someone could argue that women were already active in running households, farms, and businesses before the war, and thus the war did not mark a significant departure.  Any compelling thesis will have counterarguments.  Writers try to show that their arguments are stronger than the counterarguments that could be leveled against them.

3.  A successful thesis statement is historically specific. It does not make a broad claim about "American society" or "humankind," but is grounded in a particular historical moment.

Weak Thesis: The Revolution had a negative impact on women because of the prevailing problem of sexism.

Sexism is a vague word that can mean different things in different times and places.  In order to answer the question and make a compelling argument, this thesis needs to explain exactly what attitudes toward women were in early America, and how those attitudes negatively affected women in the Revolutionary period.

Strong Thesis: The Revolution had a negative impact on women because of the belief that women lacked the rational faculties of men.  In a nation that was to be guided by reasonable republican citizens, women were imagined to have no place in politics and were thus firmly relegated to the home.

This thesis is stronger because it narrows in on one particular and historically specific attitude towards women:  the assumption that women had less ability to reason than men.  While such attitudes toward women have a long history, this thesis must locate it in a very specific historical moment, to show exactly how it worked in revolutionary America.

4.  A successful thesis statement is focused and precise. You need to be able to support it within the bounds of your paper.

Weak Thesis: The Revolution led to social, political, and economic change for women.

This thesis addresses too large of a topic for an undergraduate paper.  The terms "social," "political," and "economic" are too broad and vague for the writer to analyze them thoroughly in a limited number of pages.  The thesis might focus on one of those concepts, or it might narrow the emphasis to some specific features of social, political, and economic change.

Strong Thesis: The Revolution paved the way for important political changes for women.  As "Republican Mothers," women contributed to the polity by raising future citizens and nurturing virtuous husbands.  Consequently, women played a far more important role in the new nation's politics than they had under British rule.

This thesis is stronger because it is more narrow, and thus allows the writer to offer more in-depth analysis.  It states what kind of change women expected (political), how they experienced that change (through Republican Motherhood), and what the effects were (indirect access to the polity of the new nation).

5.  A successful thesis statement answers the question, "so what?" It explains to your reader why your argument is historically significant.  It is not a list of ideas you will cover in your paper;  it explains why your ideas matter.

Weak Thesis: The Revolution had a positive effect on women because it ushered in improvements in female education, legal standing, and economic opportunity.

This thesis is off to a strong start, but it needs to go one step further by telling the reader why changes in these three areas mattered.  How did the lives of women improve because of developments in education, law, and economics?  What were women able to do with these advantages?  Obviously the rest of the paper will answer these questions, but the thesis statement needs to give some indication of why these particular changes mattered.

Strong Thesis: The Revolution had a positive impact on women because it ushered in improvements in female education, legal standing, and economic opportunity.  Progress in these three areas gave women the tools they needed to carve out lives beyond the home, laying the foundation for the cohesive feminist movement that would emerge in the mid-nineteenth century.

This is a stronger thesis because it goes beyond offering a list of changes for women, suggesting why improvements in education, the law, and economics mattered.  It outlines the historical significance of these changes:  they helped women build a cohesive feminist movement in the nineteenth century.

Thesis Checklist

When revising your thesis, check it against the following guidelines:

1.  Does my thesis make an historical argument ?

2.  Does my thesis take a position that requires defending?

3.  Is my thesis historically specific ?

4.  Is my thesis focused and precise ?

5.  Does my thesis answer the question, "so what?"

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The Writing Center • University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

Honors Theses

What this handout is about.

Writing a senior honors thesis, or any major research essay, can seem daunting at first. A thesis requires a reflective, multi-stage writing process. This handout will walk you through those stages. It is targeted at students in the humanities and social sciences, since their theses tend to involve more writing than projects in the hard sciences. Yet all thesis writers may find the organizational strategies helpful.

Introduction

What is an honors thesis.

That depends quite a bit on your field of study. However, all honors theses have at least two things in common:

  • They are based on students’ original research.
  • They take the form of a written manuscript, which presents the findings of that research. In the humanities, theses average 50-75 pages in length and consist of two or more chapters. In the social sciences, the manuscript may be shorter, depending on whether the project involves more quantitative than qualitative research. In the hard sciences, the manuscript may be shorter still, often taking the form of a sophisticated laboratory report.

Who can write an honors thesis?

In general, students who are at the end of their junior year, have an overall 3.2 GPA, and meet their departmental requirements can write a senior thesis. For information about your eligibility, contact:

  • UNC Honors Program
  • Your departmental administrators of undergraduate studies/honors

Why write an honors thesis?

Satisfy your intellectual curiosity This is the most compelling reason to write a thesis. Whether it’s the short stories of Flannery O’Connor or the challenges of urban poverty, you’ve studied topics in college that really piqued your interest. Now’s your chance to follow your passions, explore further, and contribute some original ideas and research in your field.

Develop transferable skills Whether you choose to stay in your field of study or not, the process of developing and crafting a feasible research project will hone skills that will serve you well in almost any future job. After all, most jobs require some form of problem solving and oral and written communication. Writing an honors thesis requires that you:

  • ask smart questions
  • acquire the investigative instincts needed to find answers
  • navigate libraries, laboratories, archives, databases, and other research venues
  • develop the flexibility to redirect your research if your initial plan flops
  • master the art of time management
  • hone your argumentation skills
  • organize a lengthy piece of writing
  • polish your oral communication skills by presenting and defending your project to faculty and peers

Work closely with faculty mentors At large research universities like Carolina, you’ve likely taken classes where you barely got to know your instructor. Writing a thesis offers the opportunity to work one-on-one with a with faculty adviser. Such mentors can enrich your intellectual development and later serve as invaluable references for graduate school and employment.

Open windows into future professions An honors thesis will give you a taste of what it’s like to do research in your field. Even if you’re a sociology major, you may not really know what it’s like to be a sociologist. Writing a sociology thesis would open a window into that world. It also might help you decide whether to pursue that field in graduate school or in your future career.

How do you write an honors thesis?

Get an idea of what’s expected.

It’s a good idea to review some of the honors theses other students have submitted to get a sense of what an honors thesis might look like and what kinds of things might be appropriate topics. Look for examples from the previous year in the Carolina Digital Repository. You may also be able to find past theses collected in your major department or at the North Carolina Collection in Wilson Library. Pay special attention to theses written by students who share your major.

Choose a topic

Ideally, you should start thinking about topics early in your junior year, so you can begin your research and writing quickly during your senior year. (Many departments require that you submit a proposal for an honors thesis project during the spring of your junior year.)

How should you choose a topic?

  • Read widely in the fields that interest you. Make a habit of browsing professional journals to survey the “hot” areas of research and to familiarize yourself with your field’s stylistic conventions. (You’ll find the most recent issues of the major professional journals in the periodicals reading room on the first floor of Davis Library).
  • Set up appointments to talk with faculty in your field. This is a good idea, since you’ll eventually need to select an advisor and a second reader. Faculty also can help you start narrowing down potential topics.
  • Look at honors theses from the past. The North Carolina Collection in Wilson Library holds UNC honors theses. To get a sense of the typical scope of a thesis, take a look at a sampling from your field.

What makes a good topic?

  • It’s fascinating. Above all, choose something that grips your imagination. If you don’t, the chances are good that you’ll struggle to finish.
  • It’s doable. Even if a topic interests you, it won’t work out unless you have access to the materials you need to research it. Also be sure that your topic is narrow enough. Let’s take an example: Say you’re interested in the efforts to ratify the Equal Rights Amendment in the 1970s and early 1980s. That’s a big topic that probably can’t be adequately covered in a single thesis. You need to find a case study within that larger topic. For example, maybe you’re particularly interested in the states that did not ratify the ERA. Of those states, perhaps you’ll select North Carolina, since you’ll have ready access to local research materials. And maybe you want to focus primarily on the ERA’s opponents. Beyond that, maybe you’re particularly interested in female opponents of the ERA. Now you’ve got a much more manageable topic: Women in North Carolina Who Opposed the ERA in the 1970s and 1980s.
  • It contains a question. There’s a big difference between having a topic and having a guiding research question. Taking the above topic, perhaps your main question is: Why did some women in North Carolina oppose the ERA? You will, of course, generate other questions: Who were the most outspoken opponents? White women? Middle-class women? How did they oppose the ERA? Public protests? Legislative petitions? etc. etc. Yet it’s good to start with a guiding question that will focus your research.

Goal-setting and time management

The senior year is an exceptionally busy time for college students. In addition to the usual load of courses and jobs, seniors have the daunting task of applying for jobs and/or graduate school. These demands are angst producing and time consuming If that scenario sounds familiar, don’t panic! Do start strategizing about how to make a time for your thesis. You may need to take a lighter course load or eliminate extracurricular activities. Even if the thesis is the only thing on your plate, you still need to make a systematic schedule for yourself. Most departments require that you take a class that guides you through the honors project, so deadlines likely will be set for you. Still, you should set your own goals for meeting those deadlines. Here are a few suggestions for goal setting and time management:

Start early. Keep in mind that many departments will require that you turn in your thesis sometime in early April, so don’t count on having the entire spring semester to finish your work. Ideally, you’ll start the research process the semester or summer before your senior year so that the writing process can begin early in the fall. Some goal-setting will be done for you if you are taking a required class that guides you through the honors project. But any substantive research project requires a clear timetable.

Set clear goals in making a timetable. Find out the final deadline for turning in your project to your department. Working backwards from that deadline, figure out how much time you can allow for the various stages of production.

Here is a sample timetable. Use it, however, with two caveats in mind:

  • The timetable for your thesis might look very different depending on your departmental requirements.
  • You may not wish to proceed through these stages in a linear fashion. You may want to revise chapter one before you write chapter two. Or you might want to write your introduction last, not first. This sample is designed simply to help you start thinking about how to customize your own schedule.

Sample timetable

Avoid falling into the trap of procrastination. Once you’ve set goals for yourself, stick to them! For some tips on how to do this, see our handout on procrastination .

Consistent production

It’s a good idea to try to squeeze in a bit of thesis work every day—even if it’s just fifteen minutes of journaling or brainstorming about your topic. Or maybe you’ll spend that fifteen minutes taking notes on a book. The important thing is to accomplish a bit of active production (i.e., putting words on paper) for your thesis every day. That way, you develop good writing habits that will help you keep your project moving forward.

Make yourself accountable to someone other than yourself

Since most of you will be taking a required thesis seminar, you will have deadlines. Yet you might want to form a writing group or enlist a peer reader, some person or people who can help you stick to your goals. Moreover, if your advisor encourages you to work mostly independently, don’t be afraid to ask him or her to set up periodic meetings at which you’ll turn in installments of your project.

Brainstorming and freewriting

One of the biggest challenges of a lengthy writing project is keeping the creative juices flowing. Here’s where freewriting can help. Try keeping a small notebook handy where you jot down stray ideas that pop into your head. Or schedule time to freewrite. You may find that such exercises “free” you up to articulate your argument and generate new ideas. Here are some questions to stimulate freewriting.

Questions for basic brainstorming at the beginning of your project:

  • What do I already know about this topic?
  • Why do I care about this topic?
  • Why is this topic important to people other than myself
  • What more do I want to learn about this topic?
  • What is the main question that I am trying to answer?
  • Where can I look for additional information?
  • Who is my audience and how can I reach them?
  • How will my work inform my larger field of study?
  • What’s the main goal of my research project?

Questions for reflection throughout your project:

  • What’s my main argument? How has it changed since I began the project?
  • What’s the most important evidence that I have in support of my “big point”?
  • What questions do my sources not answer?
  • How does my case study inform or challenge my field writ large?
  • Does my project reinforce or contradict noted scholars in my field? How?
  • What is the most surprising finding of my research?
  • What is the most frustrating part of this project?
  • What is the most rewarding part of this project?
  • What will be my work’s most important contribution?

Research and note-taking

In conducting research, you will need to find both primary sources (“firsthand” sources that come directly from the period/events/people you are studying) and secondary sources (“secondhand” sources that are filtered through the interpretations of experts in your field.) The nature of your research will vary tremendously, depending on what field you’re in. For some general suggestions on finding sources, consult the UNC Libraries tutorials . Whatever the exact nature of the research you’re conducting, you’ll be taking lots of notes and should reflect critically on how you do that. Too often it’s assumed that the research phase of a project involves very little substantive writing (i.e., writing that involves thinking). We sit down with our research materials and plunder them for basic facts and useful quotations. That mechanical type of information-recording is important. But a more thoughtful type of writing and analytical thinking is also essential at this stage. Some general guidelines for note-taking:

First of all, develop a research system. There are lots of ways to take and organize your notes. Whether you choose to use note cards, computer databases, or notebooks, follow two cardinal rules:

  • Make careful distinctions between direct quotations and your paraphrasing! This is critical if you want to be sure to avoid accidentally plagiarizing someone else’s work. For more on this, see our handout on plagiarism .
  • Record full citations for each source. Don’t get lazy here! It will be far more difficult to find the proper citation later than to write it down now.

Keeping those rules in mind, here’s a template for the types of information that your note cards/legal pad sheets/computer files should include for each of your sources:

Abbreviated subject heading: Include two or three words to remind you of what this sources is about (this shorthand categorization is essential for the later sorting of your sources).

Complete bibliographic citation:

  • author, title, publisher, copyright date, and page numbers for published works
  • box and folder numbers and document descriptions for archival sources
  • complete web page title, author, address, and date accessed for online sources

Notes on facts, quotations, and arguments: Depending on the type of source you’re using, the content of your notes will vary. If, for example, you’re using US Census data, then you’ll mainly be writing down statistics and numbers. If you’re looking at someone else’s diary, you might jot down a number of quotations that illustrate the subject’s feelings and perspectives. If you’re looking at a secondary source, you’ll want to make note not just of factual information provided by the author but also of his or her key arguments.

Your interpretation of the source: This is the most important part of note-taking. Don’t just record facts. Go ahead and take a stab at interpreting them. As historians Jacques Barzun and Henry F. Graff insist, “A note is a thought.” So what do these thoughts entail? Ask yourself questions about the context and significance of each source.

Interpreting the context of a source:

  • Who wrote/created the source?
  • When, and under what circumstances, was it written/created?
  • Why was it written/created? What was the agenda behind the source?
  • How was it written/created?
  • If using a secondary source: How does it speak to other scholarship in the field?

Interpreting the significance of a source:

  • How does this source answer (or complicate) my guiding research questions?
  • Does it pose new questions for my project? What are they?
  • Does it challenge my fundamental argument? If so, how?
  • Given the source’s context, how reliable is it?

You don’t need to answer all of these questions for each source, but you should set a goal of engaging in at least one or two sentences of thoughtful, interpretative writing for each source. If you do so, you’ll make much easier the next task that awaits you: drafting.

The dread of drafting

Why do we often dread drafting? We dread drafting because it requires synthesis, one of the more difficult forms of thinking and interpretation. If you’ve been free-writing and taking thoughtful notes during the research phase of your project, then the drafting should be far less painful. Here are some tips on how to get started:

Sort your “evidence” or research into analytical categories:

  • Some people file note cards into categories.
  • The technologically-oriented among us take notes using computer database programs that have built-in sorting mechanisms.
  • Others cut and paste evidence into detailed outlines on their computer.
  • Still others stack books, notes, and photocopies into topically-arranged piles.There is not a single right way, but this step—in some form or fashion—is essential!

If you’ve been forcing yourself to put subject headings on your notes as you go along, you’ll have generated a number of important analytical categories. Now, you need to refine those categories and sort your evidence. Everyone has a different “sorting style.”

Formulate working arguments for your entire thesis and individual chapters. Once you’ve sorted your evidence, you need to spend some time thinking about your project’s “big picture.” You need to be able to answer two questions in specific terms:

  • What is the overall argument of my thesis?
  • What are the sub-arguments of each chapter and how do they relate to my main argument?

Keep in mind that “working arguments” may change after you start writing. But a senior thesis is big and potentially unwieldy. If you leave this business of argument to chance, you may end up with a tangle of ideas. See our handout on arguments and handout on thesis statements for some general advice on formulating arguments.

Divide your thesis into manageable chunks. The surest road to frustration at this stage is getting obsessed with the big picture. What? Didn’t we just say that you needed to focus on the big picture? Yes, by all means, yes. You do need to focus on the big picture in order to get a conceptual handle on your project, but you also need to break your thesis down into manageable chunks of writing. For example, take a small stack of note cards and flesh them out on paper. Or write through one point on a chapter outline. Those small bits of prose will add up quickly.

Just start! Even if it’s not at the beginning. Are you having trouble writing those first few pages of your chapter? Sometimes the introduction is the toughest place to start. You should have a rough idea of your overall argument before you begin writing one of the main chapters, but you might find it easier to start writing in the middle of a chapter of somewhere other than word one. Grab hold where you evidence is strongest and your ideas are clearest.

Keep up the momentum! Assuming the first draft won’t be your last draft, try to get your thoughts on paper without spending too much time fussing over minor stylistic concerns. At the drafting stage, it’s all about getting those ideas on paper. Once that task is done, you can turn your attention to revising.

Peter Elbow, in Writing With Power, suggests that writing is difficult because it requires two conflicting tasks: creating and criticizing. While these two tasks are intimately intertwined, the drafting stage focuses on creating, while revising requires criticizing. If you leave your revising to the last minute, then you’ve left out a crucial stage of the writing process. See our handout for some general tips on revising . The challenges of revising an honors thesis may include:

Juggling feedback from multiple readers

A senior thesis may mark the first time that you have had to juggle feedback from a wide range of readers:

  • your adviser
  • a second (and sometimes third) faculty reader
  • the professor and students in your honors thesis seminar

You may feel overwhelmed by the prospect of incorporating all this advice. Keep in mind that some advice is better than others. You will probably want to take most seriously the advice of your adviser since he/she carries the most weight in giving your project a stamp of approval. But sometimes your adviser may give you more advice than you can digest. If so, don’t be afraid to approach him/her—in a polite and cooperative spirit, of course—and ask for some help in prioritizing that advice. See our handout for some tips on getting and receiving feedback .

Refining your argument

It’s especially easy in writing a lengthy work to lose sight of your main ideas. So spend some time after you’ve drafted to go back and clarify your overall argument and the individual chapter arguments and make sure they match the evidence you present.

Organizing and reorganizing

Again, in writing a 50-75 page thesis, things can get jumbled. You may find it particularly helpful to make a “reverse outline” of each of your chapters. That will help you to see the big sections in your work and move things around so there’s a logical flow of ideas. See our handout on  organization  for more organizational suggestions and tips on making a reverse outline

Plugging in holes in your evidence

It’s unlikely that you anticipated everything you needed to look up before you drafted your thesis. Save some time at the revising stage to plug in the holes in your research. Make sure that you have both primary and secondary evidence to support and contextualize your main ideas.

Saving time for the small stuff

Even though your argument, evidence, and organization are most important, leave plenty of time to polish your prose. At this point, you’ve spent a very long time on your thesis. Don’t let minor blemishes (misspellings and incorrect grammar) distract your readers!

Formatting and final touches

You’re almost done! You’ve researched, drafted, and revised your thesis; now you need to take care of those pesky little formatting matters. An honors thesis should replicate—on a smaller scale—the appearance of a dissertation or master’s thesis. So, you need to include the “trappings” of a formal piece of academic work. For specific questions on formatting matters, check with your department to see if it has a style guide that you should use. For general formatting guidelines, consult the Graduate School’s Guide to Dissertations and Theses . Keeping in mind the caveat that you should always check with your department first about its stylistic guidelines, here’s a brief overview of the final “finishing touches” that you’ll need to put on your honors thesis:

  • Honors Thesis
  • Name of Department
  • University of North Carolina
  • These parts of the thesis will vary in format depending on whether your discipline uses MLA, APA, CBE, or Chicago (also known in its shortened version as Turabian) style. Whichever style you’re using, stick to the rules and be consistent. It might be helpful to buy an appropriate style guide. Or consult the UNC LibrariesYear Citations/footnotes and works cited/reference pages  citation tutorial
  • In addition, in the bottom left corner, you need to leave space for your adviser and faculty readers to sign their names. For example:

Approved by: _____________________

Adviser: Prof. Jane Doe

  • This is not a required component of an honors thesis. However, if you want to thank particular librarians, archivists, interviewees, and advisers, here’s the place to do it. You should include an acknowledgments page if you received a grant from the university or an outside agency that supported your research. It’s a good idea to acknowledge folks who helped you with a major project, but do not feel the need to go overboard with copious and flowery expressions of gratitude. You can—and should—always write additional thank-you notes to people who gave you assistance.
  • Formatted much like the table of contents.
  • You’ll need to save this until the end, because it needs to reflect your final pagination. Once you’ve made all changes to the body of the thesis, then type up your table of contents with the titles of each section aligned on the left and the page numbers on which those sections begin flush right.
  • Each page of your thesis needs a number, although not all page numbers are displayed. All pages that precede the first page of the main text (i.e., your introduction or chapter one) are numbered with small roman numerals (i, ii, iii, iv, v, etc.). All pages thereafter use Arabic numerals (1, 2, 3, 4, 5, etc.).
  • Your text should be double spaced (except, in some cases, long excerpts of quoted material), in a 12 point font and a standard font style (e.g., Times New Roman). An honors thesis isn’t the place to experiment with funky fonts—they won’t enhance your work, they’ll only distract your readers.
  • In general, leave a one-inch inch margin on all sides. However, for the copy of your thesis that will be bound by the library, you need to leave a 1.25-inch margin on the left.

How do I defend my honors thesis?

Graciously, enthusiastically, and confidently. The term defense is scary and misleading—it conjures up images of a military exercise or an athletic maneuver. An academic defense ideally shouldn’t be a combative scene but a congenial conversation about the work’s merits and weaknesses. That said, the defense probably won’t be like the average conversation that you have with your friends. You’ll be the center of attention. And you may get some challenging questions. Thus, it’s a good idea to spend some time preparing yourself. First of all, you’ll want to prepare 5-10 minutes of opening comments. Here’s a good time to preempt some criticisms by frankly acknowledging what you think your work’s greatest strengths and weaknesses are. Then you may be asked some typical questions:

  • What is the main argument of your thesis?
  • How does it fit in with the work of Ms. Famous Scholar?
  • Have you read the work of Mr. Important Author?

NOTE: Don’t get too flustered if you haven’t! Most scholars have their favorite authors and books and may bring one or more of them up, even if the person or book is only tangentially related to the topic at hand. Should you get this question, answer honestly and simply jot down the title or the author’s name for future reference. No one expects you to have read everything that’s out there.

  • Why did you choose this particular case study to explore your topic?
  • If you were to expand this project in graduate school, how would you do so?

Should you get some biting criticism of your work, try not to get defensive. Yes, this is a defense, but you’ll probably only fan the flames if you lose your cool. Keep in mind that all academic work has flaws or weaknesses, and you can be sure that your professors have received criticisms of their own work. It’s part of the academic enterprise. Accept criticism graciously and learn from it. If you receive criticism that is unfair, stand up for yourself confidently, but in a good spirit. Above all, try to have fun! A defense is a rare opportunity to have eminent scholars in your field focus on YOU and your ideas and work. And the defense marks the end of a long and arduous journey. You have every right to be proud of your accomplishments!

Works consulted

We consulted these works while writing this handout. This is not a comprehensive list of resources on the handout’s topic, and we encourage you to do your own research to find additional publications. Please do not use this list as a model for the format of your own reference list, as it may not match the citation style you are using. For guidance on formatting citations, please see the UNC Libraries citation tutorial . We revise these tips periodically and welcome feedback.

Atchity, Kenneth. 1986. A Writer’s Time: A Guide to the Creative Process from Vision Through Revision . New York: W.W. Norton.

Barzun, Jacques, and Henry F. Graff. 2012. The Modern Researcher , 6th ed. Belmont, CA: Wadsworth Cengage Learning.

Elbow, Peter. 1998. Writing With Power: Techniques for Mastering the Writing Process . New York: Oxford University Press.

Graff, Gerald, and Cathy Birkenstein. 2014. “They Say/I Say”: The Moves That Matter in Academic Writing , 3rd ed. New York: W.W. Norton and Company.

Lamott, Anne. 1994. Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life . New York: Pantheon.

Lasch, Christopher. 2002. Plain Style: A Guide to Written English. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press.

Turabian, Kate. 2018. A Manual for Writers of Term Papers, Theses, Dissertations , 9th ed. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

You may reproduce it for non-commercial use if you use the entire handout and attribute the source: The Writing Center, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

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Identifying what an undergraduate thesis, a Masters’ thesis and a doctoral dissertation entail, and based on that, narrowing the research thesis topic

As I was leaving my office to head to the airport to fly to Mexico City for a workshop on conflicts in extractive industries, I saw the completed printout of Rafael’s dissertation sitting on my desk. Rafael is my soon-to-graduate PhD student. I felt an extreme amount of pride, while also realizing what an enormous amount of work this doctoral dissertation has entailed. Rafa did ethnographic fieldwork for two years analyzing three cases of water conflict, plus a quantitative analysis of a global dataset. I think it’s a testament to his effort that his thesis is already being referenced as a key source for the topic. But reaching the point where we could narrow his topic wasn’t easy. Most of my students have extremely ambitious goals for their undergraduate honors and graduate (Masters and PhD) thesis. Often, I worry if this is because I’m a demanding supervisor and they feel they need to do grandiose, ambitious, all-encompassing projects or because we all face a challenge trying to narrow a topic. I think it’s more the latter than the former. We all tend to want to do research that is broad in scope.

My office at CIDE Region Centro during and after writing a paper

This morning, I mused on Twitter that I found my students to be over-eager and really excited about their research topics, and that they often want to “solve the world’s problems” with their theses/final papers/dissertations. You can read my Twitter thread here and the excellent responses to it.

I need to write a blog post about narrowing topics for a thesis. My experience mentoring and graduating students tells me it’s important. — Dr Raul Pacheco-Vega (@raulpacheco) July 15, 2017

Obviously, there are a few things that I want to highlight about doing a supervised research project that I think are worth remembering, in particular because my students often ask me “so, how narrow is narrow?”. This is a question that necessitates an in-depth discussion between each individual student and their advisors.

Many students come to me wanting to do broad-ranging, ambitious topics. I always tell them to be focused on a narrowly defined project. I find that it’s easier to expand the scope of a project than to narrow it. I also worry when the project is vaguely defined and unclear. There are clear differences between types of research and writing projects.

1. A doctoral dissertation In my view, a doctoral dissertation is a long-term piece of research that demonstrates competency in conducting independent, in-depth scholarly investigations where the domain knowledge is broad, and where the research contribution is original and quite clear. This is challenging for a lot of students because the “what is a contribution” question pops up. I believe you can make theoretical and empirical contributions, and PhD dissertations often have both, but they need at least one of these. One reason why the 3 papers model for a PhD thesis is so popular is because it allows the student to demonstrate competency, depth and originality in a broad range of topics. Depth and breadth of insight are usually tested through doctoral qualifying/comprehensive exams (though I’m well aware of the British model that doesn’t involve comprehensives).

For me, doing a PhD is about showing an ability to conduct competently executed, adequately deep and broad research with a contribution. — Dr Raul Pacheco-Vega (@raulpacheco) July 15, 2017

In my view, two elements are fundamental to the development of a doctoral dissertation: independence and degree of dominion of the knowledge domain. As a doctoral researcher, you should be able to conduct your research independently, even if the advisor is there to guide you. You should also have covered the literature broadly and deeply enough. At the doctoral thesis’ defence, it should be obvious that the student has now become the master at the topic.

2 key elements in PhD-level work are independence & domain knowledge. You *have* to independently become THE expert at topic & teach ME. — Dr Raul Pacheco-Vega (@raulpacheco) July 15, 2017

The SOCK test (specific, original contribution to knowledge) is a good one that should be applied to doctoral theses all around.

Our chair always pushed for a SOCK (specific, original contribution to knowledge). — Arne Wackenhut (@AWackenhut) July 15, 2017

2. A Masters’ thesis In my view, a Masters’ thesis (as its name indicates) is supposed to demonstrate mastery. We may define mastery in different ways, but I do believe you need to show that you’re competent at investigating a particular research topic and at undertaking theoretical or empirical work that moves our understanding of a phenomenon forward. For example, for me, a Masters-level thesis is an empirical examination of patterns of bottled water consumption. Or a collated and analysed set of stories about consuming bottled water and the rationales behind them (both of these are Masters’ theses of two of my students).

I get Masters’ students wanting to do PhD-level research with fewer funds and shorter time frames. You can’t do that. Narrow the topic! — Dr Raul Pacheco-Vega (@raulpacheco) July 15, 2017

The problem with Masters’ students wanting to do PhD-level kind of work (or too broad of a project) is that they are often given a shorter time frame, which often requires them to rush through courses and do their thesis under financial duress and time constraints. Thus the importance of narrowing the research topic.

It’s also important that the Masters’ student supervisor/advisor is realistic in terms of expectations and ability to achieve goals within the shortened time frame, and often within tight budgets or the risk of facing a shortage of funds.

Important conversation for those of us teaching/learning in masters level programs. Alignment of expectations, pedagogy is key. https://t.co/nUs3dC03Zg — pdkh® (@phalcon7) July 15, 2017

While it’s important that the topic is adequately covered and that the contribution is original, it doesn’t need to be a grandiose or far-ranging contribution. As Dr. Prieto indicates in her response to my tweet, an in-depth case study or an application of a theory to a different dataset could be an original contribution.

Master’s theses should make an original scholarly contribution too. Just within a narrower scope, as you say. — Laura R. Prieto (@Laura_R_Prieto) July 15, 2017
A good, narrow thesis topic is often a case study, w rich context. Again original but publishers tend to want wider scope. — Laura R. Prieto (@Laura_R_Prieto) July 15, 2017
Masters student this year… I want to examine why stock prices are volatile — brian lucey (@brianmlucey) July 15, 2017

It IS important that the topic of the Masters thesis is narrow in scope, but competently executed.

3. An undergraduate (honors) thesis.

I teach in the undergraduate program in public policy at CIDE. My undergraduate students tend to be REALLY ambitious and want to change the world, and I am grateful for that. But that’s not the goal with their undergraduate theses. For me, an undergraduate thesis can be a systematic literature review, an application of a research technique to an interesting topic, a test of a theory or an empirically-inclined paper using data that are often not available. An undergraduate thesis doesn’t necessitate an original contribution in the sense of a Masters’ or PhD- level one.

There are various reasons why undergraduate students (or even graduate ones) want to do very broad topics, resulting in thesis that are not narrow enough.

My experience has been that the bigger hurdle is emotional – “narrowing” feels like giving up on ideas that are important. — Corrine McConnaughy (@cmMcConnaughy) July 15, 2017

But as discussed above, you can do a perfectly competent undergraduate honours thesis just by doing a systematic policy analysis, a solid literature review, an interesting exploration of a known quantitative or qualitative research technique, an empirical (or descriptive) case study, etc.

4. A seminar research paper Seminar research papers tend to also be overly ambitious, as Dr. McConnaughy indicates below.

Could add the layer of seminar paper, too. You can’t write a thesis as a seminar paper! I find resistance to “narrowing” as if it is bad. No — Corrine McConnaughy (@cmMcConnaughy) July 15, 2017

What I have done in my seminar courses is create a blueprint, a template for students to do their final papers. That way, I define the scope of the project in very narrow terms, I give them the tools they need to apply and I let them do the empirical testing or the archival or secondary source searches (though some students of mine even collect primary data!)

A few other things to consider and pieces of advice to remember:

Best thesis-writing advice I got when I was in grad school was, “remember this is *not* your life’s work; it’s just your way in.” — Chester Scoville (@ChesterScoville) July 15, 2017
Students need to remember that a thesis is also an administrative exercise. Get it done and then move on to interesting work. — Adam Wellstead (@amwellstead) July 15, 2017

Narrowing the research topic should entail a conversation with your advisor. You can start reading broadly, but you should be able to pare down the topic asking a few questions such as:

  • Can this study be undertaken within a reasonable (12 months/24 months) time frame?
  • Do I have the necessary funding for the entire period of time that this study will require me to do work/fieldwork/laboratory experiments?
  • Am I trying to do more cases than needed to prove the hypotheses I’m testing or answer the research questions I’ve posited?
  • Are the research questions posited aligned with time, budgetary and resource constraints?

Again, and let me reiterate this: narrowing the topic should be a dialogue with your supervisor. You’re not alone in the process.

If you liked this blog post, you may also be interested in my Resources for Graduate Students page, and on my reading notes of books I’ve read on how to do a doctoral degree.

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By Raul Pacheco-Vega – July 15, 2017

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Thank you! I have asked 3 of my advisers, what is a dissertation, and they have not been able to give me a solid response. The best I got was, “it is journeyman’s work,” with no explanation of what that means. Of course, I thought about that statement a lot, and it simply means that the disseration is a steppingstone project of sorts. (You also state this above, and it is also important to know.) But, as you also point out, there are a variety of stepping-stone project on the path to the PhD, each with different expectations. The undergraduate thesis, a Masters’ thesis and a doctoral dissertation.

Here, in three short paragraphs (on dissertation), you have demystified the goal: to become the master of one particular topic selection. To be able to teach this going forward. And, to demonstrate mastery over the tools/processes of research/knowledge generation. This puts the research into perspective and sets out clear goals for what this project is for, and what it is that you are being evaluated on (mastery of research skills & topic knowledge, identifying and working up an original contribution). While this may seem obvious to some, to me, it was clearly not obvious. THANK YOU.

This is insightful. Thank you.

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Thesis - The Basics

"The starting point for any thesis has to be a critique of present circumstances, which opens up possibilities of radical and practical changes in the world."

- Zegarski / Enos (2016)

What is Thesis?

The Undergraduate Thesis Research Studio offers a unique opportunity to continue your design education at NewSchool. You will plan, develop, and execute a self-generated self-directed architectural research project. You will identify a problem based on your personal interests and propose an architectural solution by navigating and expanding on a given methodology comprised of research and design tasks. You will self-evaluate and clearly convey a critical position grounded in the learning outcomes of the architectural program at NewSchool.

"An architectural thesis should be seen as a desire to map, create, draw, or plan a certain kind of spatiality through a critical/ radical critique of a specific aspect within the process of archietctural production that is representative of everyday life within our current urbanized process of spatial production." Zegarski/ Enos (2016)

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  • Copyright Page
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What Is a Dissertation? | Guide, Examples, & Template

Structure of 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 to know where to begin.

Your department likely has guidelines related to how your dissertation should be structured. When in doubt, consult with your supervisor.

You can also download our full dissertation template in the format of your choice below. The template includes a ready-made table of contents with notes on what to include in each chapter, easily adaptable to your department’s requirements.

Download Word template Download Google Docs template

  • In the US, a dissertation generally refers to the collection of research you conducted to obtain a PhD.
  • In other countries (such as the UK), a dissertation often refers to the research you conduct to obtain your bachelor’s or master’s degree.

Table of contents

Dissertation committee and prospectus process, how to write and structure a dissertation, acknowledgements or preface, list of figures and tables, list of abbreviations, introduction, literature review, methodology, reference list, proofreading and editing, defending your dissertation, free checklist and lecture slides.

When you’ve finished your coursework, as well as any comprehensive exams or other requirements, you advance to “ABD” (All But Dissertation) status. This means you’ve completed everything except your dissertation.

Prior to starting to write, you must form your committee and write your prospectus or proposal . Your committee comprises your adviser and a few other faculty members. They can be from your own department, or, if your work is more interdisciplinary, from other departments. Your committee will guide you through the dissertation process, and ultimately decide whether you pass your dissertation defense and receive your PhD.

Your prospectus is a formal document presented to your committee, usually orally in a defense, outlining your research aims and objectives and showing why your topic is relevant . After passing your prospectus defense, you’re ready to start your research and writing.

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The structure of your dissertation depends on a variety of factors, such as your discipline, topic, and approach. Dissertations in the humanities are often structured more like a long essay , building an overall argument to support a central thesis , with chapters organized around different themes or case studies.

However, hard science and social science dissertations typically include a review of existing works, a methodology section, an analysis of your original research, and a presentation of your results , presented in different chapters.

Dissertation examples

We’ve compiled a list of dissertation examples to help you get started.

  • Example dissertation #1: Heat, Wildfire and Energy Demand: An Examination of Residential Buildings and Community Equity (a dissertation by C. A. Antonopoulos about the impact of extreme heat and wildfire on residential buildings and occupant exposure risks).
  • Example dissertation #2: Exploring Income Volatility and Financial Health Among Middle-Income Households (a dissertation by M. Addo about income volatility and declining economic security among middle-income households).
  • Example dissertation #3: The Use of Mindfulness Meditation to Increase the Efficacy of Mirror Visual Feedback for Reducing Phantom Limb Pain in Amputees (a dissertation by N. S. Mills about the effect of mindfulness-based interventions on the relationship between mirror visual feedback and the pain level in amputees with phantom limb pain).

The very first page of your document contains your dissertation title, your name, department, institution, degree program, and submission date. Sometimes it also includes your student number, your supervisor’s name, and the university’s logo.

Read more about title pages

The acknowledgements section is usually optional and gives space for you to thank everyone who helped you in writing your dissertation. This might include your supervisors, participants in your research, and friends or family who supported you. In some cases, your acknowledgements are part of a preface.

Read more about acknowledgements Read more about prefaces

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The abstract is a short summary of your dissertation, usually about 150 to 300 words long. Though this may seem very short, it’s one of the most important parts of your dissertation, because it introduces your work to your audience.

Your abstract should:

  • State your main topic and the aims of your research
  • Describe your methods
  • Summarize your main results
  • State your conclusions

Read more about abstracts

The table of contents lists all of your chapters, along with corresponding subheadings and page numbers. This gives your reader an overview of your structure and helps them easily navigate your document.

Remember to include all main parts of your dissertation in your table of contents, even the appendices. It’s easy to generate a table automatically in Word if you used heading styles. Generally speaking, you only include level 2 and level 3 headings, not every subheading you included in your finished work.

Read more about tables of contents

While not usually mandatory, it’s nice to include a list of figures and tables to help guide your reader if you have used a lot of these in your dissertation. It’s easy to generate one of these in Word using the Insert Caption feature.

Read more about lists of figures and tables

Similarly, if you have used a lot of abbreviations (especially industry-specific ones) in your dissertation, you can include them in an alphabetized list of abbreviations so that the reader can easily look up their meanings.

Read more about lists of abbreviations

In addition to the list of abbreviations, if you find yourself using a lot of highly specialized terms that you worry will not be familiar to your reader, consider including a glossary. Here, alphabetize the terms and include a brief description or definition.

Read more about glossaries

The introduction serves to set up your dissertation’s topic, purpose, and relevance. It tells the reader what to expect in the rest of your dissertation. The introduction should:

  • Establish your research topic , giving the background information needed to contextualize your work
  • Narrow down the focus and define the scope of your research
  • Discuss the state of existing research on the topic, showing your work’s relevance to a broader problem or debate
  • Clearly state your research questions and objectives
  • Outline the flow of the rest of your work

Everything in the introduction should be clear, engaging, and relevant. By the end, the reader should understand the what, why, and how of your research.

Read more about introductions

A formative part of your research is your literature review . This helps you gain a thorough understanding of the academic work that already exists on your topic.

Literature reviews encompass:

  • Finding relevant sources (e.g., books and journal articles)
  • Assessing the credibility of your sources
  • Critically analyzing and evaluating each source
  • Drawing connections between them (e.g., themes, patterns, conflicts, or gaps) to strengthen your overall point

A literature review is not merely a summary of existing sources. Your literature review should have a coherent structure and argument that leads to a clear justification for your own research. It may aim to:

  • Address a gap in the literature or build on existing knowledge
  • Take a new theoretical or methodological approach to your topic
  • Propose a solution to an unresolved problem or advance one side of a theoretical debate

Read more about literature reviews

Theoretical framework

Your literature review can often form the basis for your theoretical framework. Here, you define and analyze the key theories, concepts, and models that frame your research.

Read more about theoretical frameworks

Your methodology chapter describes how you conducted your research, allowing your reader to critically assess its credibility. Your methodology section should accurately report what you did, as well as convince your reader that this was the best way to answer your research question.

A methodology section should generally include:

  • The overall research approach ( quantitative vs. qualitative ) and research methods (e.g., a longitudinal study )
  • Your data collection methods (e.g., interviews or a controlled experiment )
  • Details of where, when, and with whom the research took place
  • Any tools and materials you used (e.g., computer programs, lab equipment)
  • Your data analysis methods (e.g., statistical analysis , discourse analysis )
  • An evaluation or justification of your methods

Read more about methodology sections

Your results section should highlight what your methodology discovered. You can structure this section around sub-questions, hypotheses , or themes, but avoid including any subjective or speculative interpretation here.

Your results section should:

  • Concisely state each relevant result together with relevant descriptive statistics (e.g., mean , standard deviation ) and inferential statistics (e.g., test statistics , p values )
  • Briefly state how the result relates to the question or whether the hypothesis was supported
  • Report all results that are relevant to your research questions , including any that did not meet your expectations.

Additional data (including raw numbers, full questionnaires, or interview transcripts) can be included as an appendix. You can include tables and figures, but only if they help the reader better understand your results. Read more about results sections

Your discussion section is your opportunity to explore the meaning and implications of your results in relation to your research question. Here, interpret your results in detail, discussing whether they met your expectations and how well they fit with the framework that you built in earlier chapters. Refer back to relevant source material to show how your results fit within existing research in your field.

Some guiding questions include:

  • What do your results mean?
  • Why do your results matter?
  • What limitations do the results have?

If any of the results were unexpected, offer explanations for why this might be. It’s a good idea to consider alternative interpretations of your data.

Read more about discussion sections

Your dissertation’s conclusion should concisely answer your main research question, leaving your reader with a clear understanding of your central argument and emphasizing what your research has contributed to the field.

In some disciplines, the conclusion is just a short section preceding the discussion section, but in other contexts, it is the final chapter of your work. Here, you wrap up your dissertation with a final reflection on what you found, with recommendations for future research and concluding remarks.

It’s important to leave the reader with a clear impression of why your research matters. What have you added to what was already known? Why is your research necessary for the future of your field?

Read more about conclusions

It is crucial to include a reference list or list of works cited with the full details of all the sources that you used, in order to avoid plagiarism. Be sure to choose one citation style and follow it consistently throughout your dissertation. Each style has strict and specific formatting requirements.

Common styles include MLA , Chicago , and APA , but which style you use is often set by your department or your field.

Create APA citations Create MLA citations

Your dissertation should contain only essential information that directly contributes to answering your research question. Documents such as interview transcripts or survey questions can be added as appendices, rather than adding them to the main body.

Read more about appendices

Making sure that all of your sections are in the right place is only the first step to a well-written dissertation. Don’t forget to leave plenty of time for editing and proofreading, as grammar mistakes and sloppy spelling errors can really negatively impact your work.

Dissertations can take up to five years to write, so you will definitely want to make sure that everything is perfect before submitting. You may want to consider using a professional dissertation editing service , AI proofreader or grammar checker to make sure your final project is perfect prior to submitting.

After your written dissertation is approved, your committee will schedule a defense. Similarly to defending your prospectus, dissertation defenses are oral presentations of your work. You’ll present your dissertation, and your committee will ask you questions. Many departments allow family members, friends, and other people who are interested to join as well.

After your defense, your committee will meet, and then inform you whether you have passed. Keep in mind that defenses are usually just a formality; most committees will have resolved any serious issues with your work with you far prior to your defense, giving you ample time to fix any problems.

As you write your dissertation, you can use this simple checklist to make sure you’ve included all the essentials.

Checklist: Dissertation

My title page includes all information required by my university.

I have included acknowledgements thanking those who helped me.

My abstract provides a concise summary of the dissertation, giving the reader a clear idea of my key results or arguments.

I have created a table of contents to help the reader navigate my dissertation. It includes all chapter titles, but excludes the title page, acknowledgements, and abstract.

My introduction leads into my topic in an engaging way and shows the relevance of my research.

My introduction clearly defines the focus of my research, stating my research questions and research objectives .

My introduction includes an overview of the dissertation’s structure (reading guide).

I have conducted a literature review in which I (1) critically engage with sources, evaluating the strengths and weaknesses of existing research, (2) discuss patterns, themes, and debates in the literature, and (3) address a gap or show how my research contributes to existing research.

I have clearly outlined the theoretical framework of my research, explaining the theories and models that support my approach.

I have thoroughly described my methodology , explaining how I collected data and analyzed data.

I have concisely and objectively reported all relevant results .

I have (1) evaluated and interpreted the meaning of the results and (2) acknowledged any important limitations of the results in my discussion .

I have clearly stated the answer to my main research question in the conclusion .

I have clearly explained the implications of my conclusion, emphasizing what new insight my research has contributed.

I have provided relevant recommendations for further research or practice.

If relevant, I have included appendices with supplemental information.

I have included an in-text citation every time I use words, ideas, or information from a source.

I have listed every source in a reference list at the end of my dissertation.

I have consistently followed the rules of my chosen citation style .

I have followed all formatting guidelines provided by my university.

Congratulations!

The end is in sight—your dissertation is nearly ready to submit! Make sure it's perfectly polished with the help of a Scribbr editor.

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What is a Dissertation? Undergrad, Masters & PhD

A dissertation is a long written piece of academic research completed as part of a university degree.

The dissertation will be the longest thing you write at university. It might be anywhere from:

  • Shortest: 5000 words long (a baby undergraduate dissertation), up to
  • Longest: 100,000 words (a PhD dissertation in the social sciences).

Your dissertation will explain the processes and results of research that you conducted. You would also write an analysis of the results and recommendations for further research.

You usually complete your dissertation at the end of your degree, so in North America you might hear people calling it the “capstone project”.

Difference between a Dissertation and Thesis

We often use the terms ‘dissertation’ and ‘thesis’ interchangeably. I’ve also read a lot of articles out there on the internet that claim that there are clear differences between the two. There aren’t.

I’ve completed an undergraduate and a doctoral dissertation. I’ve supervised well over 100 dissertation students at undergraduate, masters and PhD level. I’ve taught at universities in Europe, Australia and North America. In all my time, it’s been quite apparent to me that people use the terms interchangeably.

Now, there is also another time we use the term ‘thesis’. A thesis is also known as your main argument in an essay and/or dissertation.

So, technically, a dissertation contains a thesis . The dissertation is the written report that you can pick up and carry around. The thesis is the key argument you’re making within the written report.

But save yourself the stress of trying to differentiate between the two: in 90% of all situations, when someone says ‘dissertation’ or ‘thesis’ they mean the same thing: they just mean “that big project you’ve been working on for the past 2 years of your life and you want to throw out the window.”

What is a Dissertation Supervisor?

When you start your dissertation, you’ll be allocated a dissertation supervisor. Your supervisor will guide you through the process.

For undergraduate students, this may be the first time you’ve worked closely in a one-to-one environment with a university professor before. You’ll meet up for regular meetings and they’ll look over drafts of your work and tell you how to improve it.

The 3 Levels of Dissertation

Dissertations can be written during undergraduate and postgraduate studies. Here are the three different levels:

Honors or Undergraduate Dissertation

You may be asked to write a dissertation to get your undergraduate degree. Outside of North America, this is a requirement if you want to graduate “with honors”.

An undergraduate dissertation will range from about 5,000 to 30,000 words. Most undergraduate dissertations that I’ve come across usually come out at about 10,000 words and take their full senior to complete. However, different universities have different standards.

Undergraduate students are not usually asked to do complicated research studies. It’s an introduction to academic research, so you’re likely only going to do a small pilot study, but it’s good for learning how research happens and getting your toes wet.

You’ll also get to zoom-in on a topic of your choice, so it’s a chance to show future employers what your interests are and how you’ve pursued them at university level.

Masters Dissertation

A masters dissertation is completed by people who choose to do a masters degree “by research”. Some masters by coursework degrees don’t have a dissertation component, so you may not have to do a dissertation at all.

At masters level, you’ll need to step up your game a little. Masters-level dissertations typically range from 15,000 to 50,000 words and involve a small but rigorous research study.

Many of the masters students who I have supervised in the past have conducted case study or ‘action research’ projects where they did a study in their own workplace.

Others have done standalone studies where they’ve come up with a topic to research and gone ahead to conduct the research over about a 12 to 24 month period.

PhD Dissertation

A PhD or doctorate dissertation is the big kahuna of dissertations. If you successfully write one of these, you can call yourself ‘Doctor’ for the rest of your days (but you won’t be one of those doctors – you know, the ones with stethoscopes).

Most PhD dissertations are 80,000 to 100,000 words long – or about the length of your average novel. Now that’s a lot of words!

Your PhD absolutely has to (at a minimum) make a unique contribution to knowledge. That means you need to study something no one else has ever studied before and convince experts in the field that it was a well-done and valid study. Ideally you should also be able to tell people that you’re a world-leading expert in the topic you studied.

What is the Structure of a Dissertation?

There are many different ways you can structure your dissertation. Different disciplines have different expectations and standards.

Many of my students freak out that they have to write such long pieces of work. But, by splitting the dissertation up into sections like I have done below, they come to realize that it’s just a whole lot of short pieces all glued together to make a coherent, interesting story.

Here’s one of the most common structures that 95% of all of my students in Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences follow:

1. Introduction (10%)

The introduction gives an overview of the topic to readers and lets them know of its importance. It will introduce the reader to the research topic and the question you’re studying. It might also introduce some key terms and give an overview of the structure of the piece to come.

2. Literature Review (15 – 25%)

A literature review will give a detailed overview of everything that’s currently known about the topic. It’ll show the reader that you have deep knowledge of the topic and that you’re qualified to conduct the study.

Ideally, you’ll also use the literature review to show how your study builds upon what’s already known. You don’t want to just do a study that’s already been done, but you can learn a lot from previous studies and use their knowledge to make your work better.

3. Theoretical Framework (15 – 25%)

This section isn’t always used (you’ll probably skip it for an undergraduate dissertation), but it is common in some Masters and PhD level studies. It outlines what lens you’re using to critique concepts. Maybe you’ll use a theory like ‘grounded theory’, ‘ postmodernism ’, ‘ critical theory ’ or ‘feminist theory’ to study something from a particular perspective. You’ll need to show your reader that you have deep knowledge of that theory that you’re using, and why the theory is worth employing in your study.

If this is all too confusing to you now, never mind: you may not even need to use a theoretical framework , depending on the requirements of your course.

4. Methodology (15 – 25%)

A methodology section outlines how you will conduct your study. What methods, procedure and ethical guidelines will you use? How will you ensure your work is honest, trustworthy, reliable or accurate?

5. Results (10%)

The results section outlines what you found out. Particularly in quantitative work (that’s a study that uses methods that measure things using numbers and algorithms), you’ll have a results section separate from the analysis section. In qualitative work , often the results and analysis are blended together.

6. Analysis (15 – 25%)

The analysis is the section where you critique the results. What do the results reveal about your topic? How do your results show us something new or provide fresh insights into an old topic?

7. Conclusion (10%)

The conclusion will usually sum up what you’ve said and explain its relevance for researchers or practitioners. You will give recommendations to future researchers on what studies they might want to undertake, or you might tell practitioners how your findings could be used to improve their workplace.

Conclusions also often outline weaknesses or challenges you faced. This is important to show that you’ve reflected on your blindspots and acknowledged them. No study is perfect.

How to Conduct a Research Study for a Dissertation

You’ll have to choose a research topic, study it in depth, and conduct original research on it. It seems like a daunting task, but with your dissertation supervisor, you’ll work together to break it down into manageable chunks.

An Example: Laura’s Undergraduate Dissertation

Let’s say Laura has to write a 10,000 word undergraduate dissertation in her Education Studies degree. This would be pretty common if she wants to graduate with honors. Here’s what she might do:

1. Choose a Topic

Laura needs to choose a topic to write about. She is really interested in play-based learning , so she chose this as her topic for her dissertation.

>>>RELATED POST: 51 BEST EDUCATION DISSERTATION TOPIC IDEAS

2. Conduct a Literature Review

Laura started reading up about the topic and write a 2,500 word review of all of the literature that’s out there on play-based learning. She found a few themes in the articles she read, so she split it up into 6 sections for the 5 themes she found, with 500 words in each section.

3. Come up with a Research Question

Now that Laura has some in-depth knowledge about her topic, she’s going to have to conduct some original research of her own to prove her expertise in the topic. Usually, we ask students to do research that no one has done before so that it is unique and tells us something new about the topic. Fortunately, because she’s done her literature review, Laura will now have deep knowledge of the topic and know things about play-based learning that haven’t been researched in the past.

Let’s say Laura decided that she wanted to interview teachers about the challenges they face during play-based learning lessons. She has decided to go out and interview, say, 10 teachers at the local school.

4. Devise a Methodology

Because it’s an academic study, Laura needs to prove that she did the research systematically. If she doesn’t have a procedure to follow, her results won’t be valid. So, she has to write a section in her dissertation about how she conducted the research to ensure it is reliable. This might be another 2,500 words and explain her methodology (procedure) and how she did it ethically (didn’t cheat or harm anyone).

5. Get Approval to Conduct the Study

Before Laura conducts the study, she’ll have to get it approved by:

  • Her supervisor
  • Her university’s research ethics committee

Usually, she’ll have to present a written research proposal that outlines her plans and shows she’s thought about her methodology and literature review. This can be a long process, but it’s helped by the fact that he’s already conducted her literature review, written her methodology, and gotten them checked by her supervisor on a regular basis.

6. Conduct the Study

Once she’s gotten approval, Laura will have to go out and conduct the study!

She’ll go out to schools and interview the 10 teachers using a recording device – asking them all the same questions – and then come back to university and look over their answers.

7. Analyze the Results

Laura will have to look through the interviews to see what key points were that kept coming up in her interviews. We call these recurring points ‘key themes’.

The first thing Laura will do is transcribe the interviews. This means she’ll listen to the interviews and type them up word-for-word (‘verbatum’). Then, she’ll print them out and highlight important or revealing quotes that she thinks appeared multiple times in each interview.

Sometimes, people use software to help them find these themes.

8. Write up the Results

Now that Laura thinks she has some key themes from the interviews, she’ll write her ‘analysis’ and /or ‘results’ sections of her dissertation. She will write about all the themes she found and provide some quotes from the teachers to back up her points.

9. Write an Introduction and Conclusion

Lastly, Laura needs to write her introduction and conclusion . These come last when everything else was written. The introduction will give the reader a fly-by of what is said throughout the dissertation. The conclusion will highlight the importance of the results, maybe discuss some weaknesses of her study, and make recommendations for practitioners or future researchers based on her newfound knowledge.

How to Get Started

what is a dissertation?

I’ve got a ton of resources on this website to help you write your dissertation. My goal is to show you how to do it in easy to understand language – no academic B.S.! I recommend you get started with your dissertation by reading my post on how to choose a dissertation topic .

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Chris Drew (PhD)

Dr. Chris Drew is the founder of the Helpful Professor. He holds a PhD in education and has published over 20 articles in scholarly journals. He is the former editor of the Journal of Learning Development in Higher Education. [Image Descriptor: Photo of Chris]

  • Chris Drew (PhD) https://helpfulprofessor.com/author/chris-drew-phd/ 41 Important Classroom Expectations (for This School Year)
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Interview with Jere Behrman, Professor of Economics and Sociology at the University of Pennsylvania The Brover Fixed Effect

In this episode, I interview Jere Behrman, professor of economics and sociology at the University of Pennsylvania. Dr. Behrman was one of my advisors during my undergraduate research projects and supervised my honors thesis my senior year. We talk about basketball, Dr. Behrman's reflections on developments in Penn Economics and economics in general throughout his career, and Dr. Behrman's incredible productivity habits. I also learned that Dr. Behrman and Dr. Todd share the same birthday! Dr. Behrman's website: https://economics.sas.upenn.edu/people/jere-r-behrman As always, you can find more about me in my linktree, https://linktr.ee/russianecon. My contact form is open in case you have an idea for an episode. I hope to hear from you, and thank you for listening to this episode!

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  1. Process Of Writing An Undergrad Thesis.

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  2. Understanding What a Thesis Proposal is and How to Write it

    what is a thesis undergrad

  3. (PDF) Undergrad Thesis pdf

    what is a thesis undergrad

  4. Undergraduate Thesis Reviews

    what is a thesis undergrad

  5. Undergrad Thesis Format2012

    what is a thesis undergrad

  6. Undergrad thesis

    what is a thesis undergrad

VIDEO

  1. Thesis Guidelines Part One(Thesis guidelines for Master level students)

  2. Engineering Capstone Research Project Ideas

  3. Engineering Capstone Research Project Ideas

  4. Science, Technology and Engineering Capstone Research Project Ideas

  5. Prototype 8cc rotary engine powered generator

  6. VLOG: Working On My Senior Thesis

COMMENTS

  1. What Is a Thesis?

    Dissertation What Is a Thesis? | Ultimate Guide & Examples What Is a Thesis? | Ultimate Guide & Examples Published on September 14, 2022 by Tegan George . Revised on November 21, 2023. A thesis is a type of research paper based on your original research.

  2. What are the main differences between undergraduate, master's, and

    In a Bachelor or Master thesis, you have to show that you are able to apply the knowledge of your field to solve a typical problem in your field. In a PhD thesis, you have to show that you are able to extend the knowledge of your field to solve new problems. The distinction between a Bachelor and a Master thesis may be a bit subtle.

  3. 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.

  4. My Experience Writing an Undergraduate Thesis

    Creds: giphy.com What is an undergraduate thesis? An undergraduate thesis is usually a 40-60 page paper written under the supervision of a professor, allowing you to explore a topic of your interest in-depth.

  5. How to Write a Thesis Statement

    Placement of the thesis statement. Step 1: Start with a question. Step 2: Write your initial answer. Step 3: Develop your answer. Step 4: Refine your thesis statement. Types of thesis statements. Other interesting articles. Frequently asked questions about thesis statements.

  6. Thesis

    A thesis ( pl.: theses ), or dissertation [note 1] (abbreviated diss. ), [2] is a document submitted in support of candidature for an academic degree or professional qualification presenting the author's research and findings. [3]

  7. PDF A Guide to

    mon mistakes and pitfalls that often result in a lower quality of work and lower thesis grades. Once you have reviewed this handbook, please feel free to contact the Undergraduate Program Office with any concerns about the thesis process in general or your project in particular.

  8. To Thesis or Not to Thesis?

    Some Thesis Work From My Thesis That Wasn't Meant To Be This is from back when I thought I was writing a thesis! Yay data! Claire Hoffman While this is super nice from the perspective that it allows students to create the undergraduate experiences that work best for them, it can be really confusing if you're someone like me who can struggle a little with the weight of such a (seemingly) huge ...

  9. How to Write a Dissertation

    A dissertation or thesis is a long piece of academic writing based on original research, submitted as part of an undergraduate or postgraduate degree. The structure of a dissertation depends on your field, but it is usually divided into at least four or five chapters (including an introduction and conclusion chapter).

  10. How to Write a Dissertation or Thesis Proposal

    When starting your thesis or dissertation process, one of the first requirements is a research proposal or a prospectus. It describes what or who you want to examine, delving into why, when, where, and how you will do so, stemming from your research question and a relevant topic. The proposal or prospectus stage is crucial for the development ...

  11. Undergraduate Thesis Writing Guide to Make Your Life Easier

    An undergraduate thesis (also called Bachelor's dissertation) is a large academic writing piece that requires massive research on the chosen topic. It's usually assigned during the final year of your degree program (undergraduate is for Bachelor's degree). The topic choice depends on the interests of a student and the specialty one chooses.

  12. What is an Undergraduate Dissertation?

    An undergraduate dissertation (or Bachelors dissertation) is essentially an extended piece of research and writing on a single subject. It is typically completed in the final year of a degree programme and the topic is chosen based on a student's own area of interest.

  13. Thesis Writing Basics: Choosing an Undergraduate Thesis Topic

    An undergraduate thesis is the culmination of a college experience, and if you have the opportunity (or obligation) to write one, you will probably approach it with a mix of anxiety and anticipation. It is your chance to write something that is almost entirely self-directed: it will bring together the information and skills that you have ...

  14. Prize-Winning Thesis and Dissertation Examples

    Award: 2017 Royal Geographical Society Undergraduate Dissertation Prize. Title: Refugees and theatre: an exploration of the basis of self-representation. University: University of Washington. Faculty: Computer Science & Engineering. Author: Nick J. Martindell. Award: 2014 Best Senior Thesis Award. Title: DCDN: Distributed content delivery for ...

  15. Writing a Senior Thesis: Is it Worth it?

    Really, writing a thesis is like writing a portion of a book. And that's crazy! You're writing two or three whole chapters of academic work as an undergraduate student. The process is definitely not for everyone, and I've certainly thought "Why did I want to do this again?"

  16. Thesis Format Guide

    What is a Thesis and a Dissertation? At some point in your academic journey, you've likely come across the terms "thesis" and "dissertation," but what exactly are they, and how do they differ? A thesis and a dissertation both represent substantial pieces of academic work, sharing some similarities, but they also have distinct characteristics.

  17. Thesis Statements

    Weak Thesis: The Revolution led to social, political, and economic change for women. This thesis addresses too large of a topic for an undergraduate paper. The terms "social," "political," and "economic" are too broad and vague for the writer to analyze them thoroughly in a limited number of pages.

  18. Honors Theses

    What is an honors thesis? That depends quite a bit on your field of study. However, all honors theses have at least two things in common: They are based on students' original research. They take the form of a written manuscript, which presents the findings of that research.

  19. Identifying what an undergraduate thesis, a Masters' thesis and a

    1. A doctoral dissertation In my view, a doctoral dissertation is a long-term piece of research that demonstrates competency in conducting independent, in-depth scholarly investigations where the domain knowledge is broad, and where the research contribution is original and quite clear.

  20. Basics

    What is Thesis? The Undergraduate Thesis Research Studio offers a unique opportunity to continue your design education at NewSchool. You will plan, develop, and execute a self-generated self-directed architectural research project. You will identify a problem based on your personal interests and propose an architectural solution by navigating and expanding on a given methodology comprised of ...

  21. How to Write an Undergraduate Honors Thesis

    Some departments may require that your thesis includes original research (such as interviews or data you collect yourself), while others may allow you to conduct a synthesis of existing research...

  22. PDF Senior Thesis Advising Guide

    Getting to see the undergrad(s) you're advising experience the excitement of designing and carrying out an original research project. Witnessing (Being able to help) the development of a research idea into a thesis. Seeing how a students' thoughts develop and the enthusiasm they bring to their work.

  23. 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 ...

  24. What is a Dissertation? Undergrad, Masters & PhD (2023)

    Undergrad, Masters & PhD. A dissertation is a long written piece of academic research completed as part of a university degree. The dissertation will be the longest thing you write at university. It might be anywhere from: Shortest: 5000 words long (a baby undergraduate dissertation), up to. Longest: 100,000 words (a PhD dissertation in the ...

  25. ‎The Brover Fixed Effect: Interview with Jere Behrman, Professor of

    In this episode, I interview Jere Behrman, professor of economics and sociology at the University of Pennsylvania. Dr. Behrman was one of my advisors during my undergraduate research projects and supervised my honors thesis my senior year. We talk about basketball, Dr. Behrman's reflections on devel…