Article type icon

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

#scribendiinc

Part 1: Initial Considerations

Who needs to write a master’s thesis.

Thesis writing is one of the more daunting challenges of higher education. That being said, not all master's students have to write a thesis. For example, fields that place a stronger emphasis on applied knowledge, such as nursing, business, and education, tend to have projects and exams to test students on the skills and abilities associated with those fields. Conversely, in disciplines that require in-depth research or highly polished creative abilities, students are usually expected to prove their understanding and independence with a thesis.

What's Your Goal?

Do you want to write a thesis? The process is a long one, often spanning years. It's best to know exactly what you want before you begin. Many people are motivated by career goals. For example, hiring managers may see a master's degree as proof that the candidate is an expert within their field and can lead, motivate, and demonstrate initiative for themselves and others. Others dream of earning their doctorate, and they see a master's degree as a stepping stone toward their Ph.D .

writing thesis master's degree

No matter what your desired goal is, you should have one before you start your thesis. With your goal in mind, your work will have a purpose, which will allow you to measure your progress more easily.

Major Types of Theses

Once you've carefully researched or even enrolled in a master's program—a feat that involves its own planning and resources —you should know if you are expected to produce a quantitative (which occurs in many math and science programs), qualitative (which occurs in many humanities programs), or creative (which occurs in many creative writing, music, or fine arts programs) thesis.

Time and Energy Considerations

Advanced degrees are notoriously time and energy consuming. If you have a job, thesis writing will become your second job. If you have a family, they will need to know that your thesis will take a great deal of your attention, energy, and focus.

writing thesis master's degree

Your studies should not consume you, but they also should not take a back seat to everything else. You will be expected to attend classes, conduct research, source relevant literature, and schedule meetings with various people as you pursue your master's, so it's important to let those you care about know what's going on.

As a general note, most master's programs expect students to finish within a two-year period but are willing to grant extra time if requested, especially if that time is needed to deal with unexpected life events (more on those later).

Part 2: Form an Initial Thesis Question, and Find a Supervisor

When to begin forming your initial thesis question.

Some fields, such as history, may require you to have already formed your thesis question and to have used it to create a statement of intent (outlining the nature of your research) prior to applying to a master’s program. Others may require this information only after you've been accepted. Most of the time, you will be expected to come up with your topic yourself. However, in some disciplines, your supervisor may assign a general research topic to you.

Overall, requirements vary immensely from program to program, so it's best to confirm the exact requirements of your specific program.

What to Say to Your Supervisor

You will have a supervisor during your master's studies. Have you identified who that person will be? If yes, have you introduced yourself via email or phone and obtained information on the processes and procedures that are in place for your master's program? Once you've established contact, request an in-person meeting with him or her, and take a page of questions along with you. Your questions might include:

  • Is there a research subject you can recommend in my field?
  • I would like to pursue [target research subject] for my thesis. Can you help me narrow my focus?
  • Can you give me an example of a properly formatted thesis proposal for my program?

Don't Be Afraid to Ask for Help (to a Degree)

Procedures and expectations vary from program to program, and your supervisor is there to help remove doubt and provide encouragement so you can follow the right path when you embark on writing your thesis. Since your supervisor has almost certainly worked with other graduate students (and was one at some point), take advantage of their experience, and ask questions to put your mind at ease about how to write a master’s thesis.

That being said, do not rely too heavily on your supervisor. As a graduate student, you are also expected to be able to work independently. Proving your independent initiative and capacity is part of what will earn you your master's degree.

Part 3: Revise Your Thesis

Read everything you can get your hands on.

Whether you have a question or need to create one, your next step is simple and applies to all kinds of theses: read.

writing thesis master's degree

Seek Out Knowledge or Research Gaps

Read everything you can that relates to the question or the field you are studying. The only way you will be able to determine where you can go is to see where everyone else has been. After you have read some published material, you will start to spot gaps in current research or notice things that could be developed further with an alternative approach. Things that are known but not understood or understood but not explained clearly or consistently are great potential thesis subjects. Addressing something already known from a new perspective or with a different style could also be a potentially valuable project. Whichever way you choose to do it, keep in mind that your project should make a valuable contribution to your field.

writing thesis master's degree

Talk with Experts in Your Field (and Don't Be Afraid to Revise Your Thesis)

To help narrow down your thesis topic, talk to your supervisor. Your supervisor will have an idea of what is current in your field and what can be left alone because others are already working on it. Additionally, the school you are attending will have programs and faculty with particular areas of interest within your chosen field.

On a similar note, don't be surprised if your thesis question changes as you study. Other students and researchers are out there, and as they publish, what you are working on can change. You might also discover that your question is too vague, not substantial enough, or even no longer relevant. Do not lose heart! Take what you know and adjust the question to address these concerns as they arise. The freedom to adapt is part of the power you hold as a graduate student.

Part 4: Select a Proposal Committee

What proposal committees are and why they're useful.

When you have a solid question or set of questions, draft a proposal.

writing thesis master's degree

You'll need an original stance and a clear justification for asking, and answering, your thesis question. To ensure this, a committee will review your thesis proposal. Thankfully, that committee will consist of people assigned by your supervisor or department head or handpicked by you. These people will be experts who understand your field of study and will do everything in their power to ensure that you are pursuing something worthwhile. And yes, it is okay to put your supervisor on your committee. Some programs even require that your supervisor be on your committee.

Just remember that the committee will expect you to schedule meetings with them, present your proposal, respond to any questions they might have for you, and ultimately present your findings and thesis when all the work is done. Choose those who are willing to support you, give constructive feedback, and help address issues with your proposal. And don't forget to give your proposal a good, thorough edit and proofread before you present it.

How to Prepare for Committee Meetings

Be ready for committee meetings with synopses of your material for committee members, answers for expected questions, and a calm attitude. To prepare for those meetings, sit in on proposal and thesis defenses so you can watch how other graduate students handle them and see what your committee might ask of you. You can even hold rehearsals with friends and fellow students acting as your committee to help you build confidence for your presentation.

writing thesis master's degree

Part 5: Write Your Thesis

What to do once your proposal is approved.

After you have written your thesis proposal and received feedback from your committee, the fun part starts: doing the work. This is where you will take your proposal and carry it out. If you drafted a qualitative or quantitative proposal, your experimentation or will begin here. If you wrote a creative proposal, you will now start working on your material. Your proposal should be strong enough to give you direction when you perform your experiments, conduct interviews, or craft your work. Take note that you will have to check in with your supervisor from time to time to give progress updates.

writing thesis master's degree

Thesis Writing: It's Important to Pace Yourself and Take Breaks

Do not expect the work to go quickly. You will need to pace yourself and make sure you record your progress meticulously. You can always discard information you don't need, but you cannot go back and grab a crucial fact that you can't quite remember. When in doubt, write it down. When drawing from a source, always create a citation for the information to save your future self time and stress. In the same sense, you may also find journaling to be a helpful process.

Additionally, take breaks and allow yourself to step away from your thesis, even if you're having fun (and especially if you're not). Ideally, your proposal should have milestones in it— points where you can stop and assess what you've already completed and what's left to do. When you reach a milestone, celebrate. Take a day off and relax. Better yet, give yourself a week's vacation! The rest will help you regain your focus and ensure that you function at your best.

How to Become More Comfortable with Presenting Your Work

Once you start reaching your milestones, you should be able to start sharing what you have. Just about everyone in a graduate program has experience giving a presentation at the front of the class, attending a seminar, or watching an interview. If you haven't (or even if you have), look for conferences and clubs that will give you the opportunity to learn about presenting your work and become comfortable with the idea of public speaking. The more you practice talking about what you are studying, the more comfortable you'll be with the information, which will make your committee defenses and other official meetings easier.

Published authors can be called upon to present at conferences, and if your thesis is strong, you may receive an email or a phone call asking if you would share your findings onstage.

Presenting at conferences is also a great way to boost your CV and network within your field. Make presenting part of your education, and it will become something you look forward to instead of fear.

What to Do If Your Relationship with Your Supervisor Sours

A small aside: If it isn't already obvious, you will be communicating extensively with others as you pursue your thesis. That also means that others will need to communicate with you, and if you've been noticing things getting quiet, you will need to be the one to speak up. Your supervisor should speak to you at least once a term and preferably once a week in the more active parts of your research and writing. If you give written work to your supervisor, you should have feedback within three weeks.

If your supervisor does not provide feedback, frequently misses appointments, or is consistently discouraging of your work, contact your graduate program advisor and ask for a new supervisor. The relationship with your supervisor is crucial to your success, especially if she or he is on your committee, and while your supervisor does not have to be friendly, there should at least be professional respect between you.

What to Do If a Crisis Strikes

If something happens in your life that disrupts everything (e.g., emotional strain, the birth of a child, or the death of a family member), ask for help. You are a human being, and personal lives can and do change without warning. Do not wait until you are falling apart before asking for help, either. Learn what resources exist for crises before you have one, so you can head off trauma before it hits. That being said, if you get blindsided, don't refuse help. Seek it out, and take the time you need to recover. Your degree is supposed to help you become a stronger and smarter person, not break you.

Part 6: Polish and Defend Your Master's Thesis

How to write a master’s thesis: the final stages.

After your work is done and everything is written down, you will have to give your thesis a good, thorough polishing. This is where you will have to organize the information, draft it into a paper format with an abstract, and abbreviate things to help meet your word-count limit. This is also where your final editing and proofreading passes will occur, after which you will face your final hurdle: presenting your thesis defense to your committee. If they approve your thesis, then congratulations! You are now a master of your chosen field.

Conclusion and Parting Thoughts

Remember that you do not (and should not) have to learn how to write a master’s thesis on your own. Thesis writing is collaborative, as is practically any kind of research.

writing thesis master's degree

While you will be expected to develop your thesis using your own initiative, pursue it with your own ambition, and complete it with your own abilities, you will also be expected to use all available resources to do so. The purpose of a master's thesis is to help you develop your own independent abilities, ensuring that you can drive your own career forward without constantly looking to others to provide direction. Leaders get master's degrees. That's why many business professionals in leadership roles have graduate degree initials after their last names. If you already have the skills necessary to motivate yourself, lead others, and drive change, you may only need your master's as an acknowledgement of your abilities. If you do not, but you apply yourself carefully and thoroughly to the pursuit of your thesis, you should come away from your studies with those skills in place.

A final thought regarding collaboration: all theses have a section for acknowledgements. Be sure to say thank you to those who helped you become a master. One day, someone might be doing the same for you.

Image source: Falkenpost/Pixabay.com 

We’re Masters at Master’s Theses! Make Yours Shine.

Let our expert academic editors perfect your writing, or get a free sample, about the author.

Anthony Granziol

A Scribendi in-house editor, Anthony is happily putting his BA in English from Western University to good use with thoughtful feedback and incisive editing. An avid reader and gamer, he can be found during his off hours enjoying narrative-driven games and obscure and amusing texts, as well as cooking for his family.

Have You Read?

"The Complete Beginner's Guide to Academic Writing"

Related Posts

How to Write a Thesis or Dissertation

How to Write a Thesis or Dissertation

Selecting a Thesis Committee

Selecting a Thesis Committee

Thesis/Dissertation Writing Series: How to Write a Literature Review

Thesis/Dissertation Writing Series: How to Write a Literature Review

Upload your file(s) so we can calculate your word count, or enter your word count manually.

We will also recommend a service based on the file(s) you upload.

English is not my first language. I need English editing and proofreading so that I sound like a native speaker.

I need to have my journal article, dissertation, or term paper edited and proofread, or I need help with an admissions essay or proposal.

I have a novel, manuscript, play, or ebook. I need editing, copy editing, proofreading, a critique of my work, or a query package.

I need editing and proofreading for my white papers, reports, manuals, press releases, marketing materials, and other business documents.

I need to have my essay, project, assignment, or term paper edited and proofread.

I want to sound professional and to get hired. I have a resume, letter, email, or personal document that I need to have edited and proofread.

 Prices include your personal % discount.

 Prices include % sales tax ( ).

writing thesis master's degree

  • PRO Courses Guides New Tech Help Pro Expert Videos About wikiHow Pro Upgrade Sign In
  • EDIT Edit this Article
  • EXPLORE Tech Help Pro About Us Random Article Quizzes Request a New Article Community Dashboard This Or That Game Popular Categories Arts and Entertainment Artwork Books Movies Computers and Electronics Computers Phone Skills Technology Hacks Health Men's Health Mental Health Women's Health Relationships Dating Love Relationship Issues Hobbies and Crafts Crafts Drawing Games Education & Communication Communication Skills Personal Development Studying Personal Care and Style Fashion Hair Care Personal Hygiene Youth Personal Care School Stuff Dating All Categories Arts and Entertainment Finance and Business Home and Garden Relationship Quizzes Cars & Other Vehicles Food and Entertaining Personal Care and Style Sports and Fitness Computers and Electronics Health Pets and Animals Travel Education & Communication Hobbies and Crafts Philosophy and Religion Work World Family Life Holidays and Traditions Relationships Youth
  • Browse Articles
  • Learn Something New
  • Quizzes Hot
  • This Or That Game New
  • Train Your Brain
  • Explore More
  • Support wikiHow
  • About wikiHow
  • Log in / Sign up
  • Education and Communications
  • College University and Postgraduate
  • Academic Degrees
  • Doctoral Studies
  • Theses and Dissertations

How to Write a Master's Thesis

Last Updated: June 1, 2023 Fact Checked

This article was co-authored by Christopher Taylor, PhD . Christopher Taylor is an Adjunct Assistant Professor of English at Austin Community College in Texas. He received his PhD in English Literature and Medieval Studies from the University of Texas at Austin in 2014. This article has been fact-checked, ensuring the accuracy of any cited facts and confirming the authority of its sources. This article has been viewed 607,501 times.

Students learning how to write a Master's Thesis will first learn that a central thesis question must be presented and subsequently answered. A Master's Thesis will be the most prominent piece of your graduate work up to this point, and a pertinent thesis question that forms the spine of this work elevates it from the prosaic to the significant.

Choosing a Topic

Step 1 Think about the objectives of writing a thesis.

  • To get a degree - topic should be difficult enough, but manageable too.
  • To enjoy the work - topic that you are truly interested in, something that you will not grow bored of after a short period of time.
  • To get a job afterward - if you know what specifically you want to do after your studies and/or for which company, it might be useful to choose a topic, that will help with this goal.
  • To be useful - thesis might actually be useful to help to make the world a little better place.
  • Try thinking about your favorite subject of study - it may be a particular author, theory, time period, etc. Imagine how you might further the study of that subject.
  • You might consider skimming through papers you wrote for your graduate courses and see if there is any apparent topic that you tend to gravitate towards.
  • Consult with faculty members, favorite professors. They might have some good suggestions to write about. Generally, you'll be required to meet with your thesis advisor at least once before you start working.
  • Consider consulting with industry partners. Your favorite company might have some work to do which might be done as a master's thesis. This might also help you get a job within the company afterward and maybe even some money for the thesis.
  • If you want to help the world to be a better place, you might want to consult with your local non-profits and charities or check the Internet for possible thesis topics to write about.
  • 3 Choose the right topic. From the possible topics generated in the previous step, find the one which best fits the objectives from the first step, especially the objectives most important to you. Make sure that you have a clear, specific, and organized plan on how to write a master's thesis which you will be able to then defend.

Step 4 Choose your thesis question.

  • Make sure that your question and the answers provided will provide original content to the body of research in existence. A judicious question will also keep research focused, organized, and interesting.
  • Once you've formulated your topic and direction of inquiry, try formulating 5-10 different questions around your intended research. This forces you to think flexibly about your topic and visualize how small changes in wording can change the trajectory of your research.

Step 5 Conduct your research.

  • Usually, your committee chair will be in place before you formally start your thesis. They can help guide you and provide input into your project, so the earlier you can get their commitment, the better.
  • Nothing is more frustrating than your thesis progress being held up by a professor who has too many obligations to make time to meet with you.

Selecting Your Texts

Step 1 Complete a literature review.

  • For example, a novel written by Ernest Hemingway or a scientific journal article in which new results are documented for the first time would both be considered primary sources.

Step 3 Choose your secondary sources.

  • For example, a book written about Ernest Hemingway's novel or a scientific journal article examining the findings of someone else's experiment would both be considered secondary sources.

Step 4 Manage your citations.

  • Use the in-text citation format appropriate to your discipline. [3] X Research source The most common formats are MLA, APA, and Chicago.
  • Create a coordinating works cited or reference entry for each source you cite in the text of your document or in a footnote.
  • Consider using a citation management software such as EndNote, Mendeley, or Zotero. These will enable you to insert and move citations within your word processor program and will automatically populate a works cited or reference page for you.

Planning an Outline

Step 1 Know the requirements for your field/department.

  • Qualitative. This type of thesis involves completing a project that is exploratory, analytical, or creative in some way. Usually, students in the humanities will complete this kind of thesis.
  • Quantitative. This type of thesis involves conducting experiments, measuring data, and recording results. Students in the sciences usually complete this kind of thesis.

Step 2 Nail down your thesis idea.

  • Signature page (with the completed signatures of your advising committee - usually attained at the defense, or after the project is deemed complete )
  • Abstract - this is a short (one paragraph or so) description/summary of the work completed in your thesis
  • Table of Contents (with page numbers)
  • Introduction
  • Body of paper
  • Works Cited or Bibliography
  • Any necessary appendices or endnotes

Moving through the Writing Process

Step 1 Make a schedule.

  • If you do not already have a review of literature written, it’s time to do your research! The review of literature is essentially a summary of all of the existing scholarship about your topic with plenty of direct quotations from the primary and secondary sources that you’re referencing.

Step 8 Contextualize your work.

Finalizing Your Thesis

Step 1 Compare your draft with your university's requirements.

  • Many departments or programs provide a document template for theses and dissertations. If you have one of these, it may be easiest to use such a template from the beginning of your work (rather than copying and pasting your writing into it).

Step 2 Re-read the entire thesis for correctness.

  • Alternatively, ask a trusted colleague or friend to read over your thesis to help you catch any minor grammar/spelling/punctuation errors and typos.

Step 3 Follow all printing guidelines according to your department's policies.

  • Some institutions require you to submit your thesis for a formatting check prior to uploading the document to ProQuest. Be sure to check with your department’s Director of Graduate Studies for specific instructions.
  • Be aware of thesis submission deadlines, which are often well in advance of your graduation date. Late submission of your thesis may force you to push back your graduation date, which may affect your employment or continuing graduate studies.

Masters Thesis Outline

writing thesis master's degree

Expert Q&A

Christopher Taylor, PhD

  • Remember why you are writing a Master's thesis and who will want to read and use the material. You write a Master's thesis for members of your community, so keep in mind that they will have extensive knowledge and experience before reading your work. Don't bore them with unnecessary material. Thanks Helpful 2 Not Helpful 0
  • Choosing the perfect question before starting research will prevent frustration and save time. Rigorous effort on finding the perfect question is probably the most important task when learning how to write a Master's thesis. Thanks Helpful 2 Not Helpful 0
  • Consult other people who have completed a Master's thesis and obtained a Master's degree. It can be a long, grueling process, and having the support and advice of someone who has already done it can be very valuable. Thanks Helpful 1 Not Helpful 0

writing thesis master's degree

You Might Also Like

Write a Thesis Statement

  • ↑ https://umb.libguides.com/PrimarySources/secondary
  • ↑ https://www.scribbr.com/citing-sources/in-text-citation-styles/
  • ↑ https://www.unk.edu/academics/gradstudies/admissions/grad-files/Grad%20Files/ThesisGdlnsFinal08.pdf
  • ↑ https://u.osu.edu/hackingthethesis/managing-stuff/your-content/outline/
  • ↑ http://www.imm.dtu.dk/~janba/MastersThesisAdvice.pdf

About This Article

Christopher Taylor, PhD

To write a master's thesis, make it a goal to write 500 words every day, which will help you meet your deadline without having to rush at the last minute. It's also helpful if you work in 25-minute increments and take a 5-minute break in between, which will make your work sessions less overwhelming. Also, figure out a writing time that works best for you, whether it's in the morning or at night, and stick with it so you're more productive. For more help writing your master's thesis, like how to make an outline, keep reading! Did this summary help you? Yes No

  • Send fan mail to authors

Reader Success Stories

Abdijabaar S.

Abdijabaar S.

Did this article help you?

Joseph Pertey

Joseph Pertey

Aug 24, 2018

Jackson Kwakwa

Jackson Kwakwa

Nov 21, 2017

Genc Zhushi

Genc Zhushi

Apr 18, 2016

İsmail Binmasudi

İsmail Binmasudi

Jul 20, 2016

Am I a Narcissist or an Empath Quiz

Featured Articles

Enjoy Your Early Teen Years

Trending Articles

Introduce Friends to Other Friends

Watch Articles

Aerating Wine: Benefits, the Breakdown, & Which Wines You Can Skip

  • Terms of Use
  • Privacy Policy
  • Do Not Sell or Share My Info
  • Not Selling Info

Get all the best how-tos!

Sign up for wikiHow's weekly email newsletter

/images/cornell/logo35pt_cornell_white.svg" alt="writing thesis master's degree"> Cornell University --> Graduate School

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

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

Formatting Requirement and Standards

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

“Papers Option” Dissertation or Thesis

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

ProQuest Electronic Submissions

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

Copies of Dissertation and Thesis

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

  • Home »

find your perfect postgrad program Search our Database of 30,000 Courses

How to write a masters dissertation or thesis: top tips.

How to write a masters dissertation

It is completely normal to find the idea of writing a masters thesis or dissertation slightly daunting, even for students who have written one before at undergraduate level. Though, don’t feel put off by the idea. You’ll have plenty of time to complete it, and plenty of support from your supervisor and peers.

One of the main challenges that students face is putting their ideas and findings into words. Writing is a skill in itself, but with the right advice, you’ll find it much easier to get into the flow of writing your masters thesis or dissertation.

We’ve put together a step-by-step guide on how to write a dissertation or thesis for your masters degree, with top tips to consider at each stage in the process.

1. Understand your dissertation (or thesis) topic

There are slight differences between theses and dissertations , although both require a high standard of writing skill and knowledge in your topic. They are also formatted very similarly.

At first, writing a masters thesis can feel like running a 100m race – the course feels very quick and like there is not as much time for thinking! However, you’ll usually have a summer semester dedicated to completing your dissertation – giving plenty of time and space to write a strong academic piece.

By comparison, writing a PhD thesis can feel like running a marathon, working on the same topic for 3-4 years can be laborious. But in many ways, the approach to both of these tasks is quite similar.

Before writing your masters dissertation, get to know your research topic inside out. Not only will understanding your topic help you conduct better research, it will also help you write better dissertation content.

Also consider the main purpose of your dissertation. You are writing to put forward a theory or unique research angle – so make your purpose clear in your writing.

Top writing tip: when researching your topic, look out for specific terms and writing patterns used by other academics. It is likely that there will be a lot of jargon and important themes across research papers in your chosen dissertation topic. 

2. Structure your dissertation or thesis

Writing a thesis is a unique experience and there is no general consensus on what the best way to structure it is. 

As a postgraduate student , you’ll probably decide what kind of structure suits your research project best after consultation with your supervisor. You’ll also have a chance to look at previous masters students’ theses in your university library.

To some extent, all postgraduate dissertations are unique. Though they almost always consist of chapters. The number of chapters you cover will vary depending on the research. 

A masters dissertation or thesis organised into chapters would typically look like this: 

Write down your structure and use these as headings that you’ll write for later on.

Top writing tip : ease each chapter together with a paragraph that links the end of a chapter to the start of a new chapter. For example, you could say something along the lines of “in the next section, these findings are evaluated in more detail”. This makes it easier for the reader to understand each chapter and helps your writing flow better.

3. Write up your literature review

One of the best places to start when writing your masters dissertation is with the literature review. This involves researching and evaluating existing academic literature in order to identify any gaps for your own research.

Many students prefer to write the literature review chapter first, as this is where several of the underpinning theories and concepts exist. This section helps set the stage for the rest of your dissertation, and will help inform the writing of your other dissertation chapters.

What to include in your literature review

The literature review chapter is more than just a summary of existing research, it is an evaluation of how this research has informed your own unique research.

Demonstrate how the different pieces of research fit together. Are there overlapping theories? Are there disagreements between researchers?

Highlight the gap in the research. This is key, as a dissertation is mostly about developing your own unique research. Is there an unexplored avenue of research? Has existing research failed to disprove a particular theory?

Back up your methodology. Demonstrate why your methodology is appropriate by discussing where it has been used successfully in other research.

4. Write up your research

Your research is the heart and soul of your dissertation. Conducting your actual research is a whole other topic in itself, but it’s important to consider that your research design will heavily influence the way you write your final dissertation.

For instance, a more theoretical-based research topic might encompass more writing from a philosophical perspective. Qualitative data might require a lot more evaluation and discussion than quantitative research. 

Methodology chapter

The methodology chapter is all about how you carried out your research and which specific techniques you used to gather data. You should write about broader methodological approaches (e.g. qualitative, quantitative and mixed methods), and then go into more detail about your chosen data collection strategy. 

Data collection strategies include things like interviews, questionnaires, surveys, content analyses, discourse analyses and many more.

Data analysis and findings chapters

The data analysis or findings chapter should cover what you actually discovered during your research project. It should be detailed, specific and objective (don’t worry, you’ll have time for evaluation later on in your dissertation)

Write up your findings in a way that is easy to understand. For example, if you have a lot of numerical data, this could be easier to digest in tables.

This will make it easier for you to dive into some deeper analysis in later chapters. Remember, the reader will refer back to your data analysis section to cross-reference your later evaluations against your actual findings – so presenting your data in a simple manner is beneficial.

Think about how you can segment your data into categories. For instance, it can be useful to segment interview transcripts by interviewee. 

Top writing tip : write up notes on how you might phrase a certain part of the research. This will help bring the best out of your writing. There is nothing worse than when you think of the perfect way to phrase something and then you completely forget it.

5. Discuss and evaluate

Once you’ve presented your findings, it’s time to evaluate and discuss them.

It might feel difficult to differentiate between your findings and discussion sections, because you are essentially talking about the same data. The easiest way to remember the difference is that your findings simply present the data, whereas your discussion tells the story of this data.

Your evaluation breaks the story down, explaining the key findings, what went well and what didn’t go so well.

In your discussion chapter, you’ll have chance to expand on the results from your findings section. For example, explain what certain numbers mean and draw relationships between different pieces of data.

Top writing tip: don’t be afraid to point out the shortcomings of your research. You will receive higher marks for writing objectively. For example, if you didn’t receive as many interview responses as expected, evaluate how this has impacted your research and findings. Don’t let your ego get in the way!

6. Write your introduction

Your introduction sets the scene for the rest of your masters dissertation. You might be wondering why writing an introduction isn't at the start of our step-by-step list, and that’s because many students write this chapter last.

Here’s what your introduction chapter should cover:

Problem statement

Research question

Significance of your research

This tells the reader what you’ll be researching as well as its importance. You’ll have a good idea of what to include here from your original dissertation proposal , though it’s fairly common for research to change once it gets started.

Writing or at least revisiting this section last can be really helpful, since you’ll have a more well-rounded view of what your research actually covers once it has been completed and written up.

How to write a masters dissertation

Masters dissertation writing tips

When to start writing your thesis or dissertation.

When you should start writing your masters thesis or dissertation depends on the scope of the research project and the duration of your course. In some cases, your research project may be relatively short and you may not be able to write much of your thesis before completing the project. 

But regardless of the nature of your research project and of the scope of your course, you should start writing your thesis or at least some of its sections as early as possible, and there are a number of good reasons for this:

Academic writing is about practice, not talent. The first steps of writing your dissertation will help you get into the swing of your project. Write early to help you prepare in good time.

Write things as you do them. This is a good way to keep your dissertation full of fresh ideas and ensure that you don’t forget valuable information.

The first draft is never perfect. Give yourself time to edit and improve your dissertation. It’s likely that you’ll need to make at least one or two more drafts before your final submission.

Writing early on will help you stay motivated when writing all subsequent drafts.

Thinking and writing are very connected. As you write, new ideas and concepts will come to mind. So writing early on is a great way to generate new ideas.

How to improve your writing skills

The best way of improving your dissertation or thesis writing skills is to:

 Finish the first draft of your masters thesis as early as possible and send it to your supervisor for revision. Your supervisor will correct your draft and point out any writing errors. This process will be repeated a few times which will help you recognise and correct writing mistakes yourself as time progresses.

If you are not a native English speaker, it may be useful to ask your English friends to read a part of your thesis and warn you about any recurring writing mistakes. Read our section on English language support for more advice. 

Most universities have writing centres that offer writing courses and other kinds of support for postgraduate students. Attending these courses may help you improve your writing and meet other postgraduate students with whom you will be able to discuss what constitutes a well-written thesis.

Read academic articles and search for writing resources on the internet. This will help you adopt an academic writing style, which will eventually become effortless with practice.

Keep track of your bibliography 

When studying for your masters dissertation, you will need to develop an efficient way of organising your bibliography – this will prevent you from getting lost in large piles of data that you’ll need to write your dissertation. 

The easiest way to keep the track of all the articles you have read for your research is to create a database where you can summarise each article/chapter into a few most important bullet points to help you remember their content. 

Another useful tool for doing this effectively is to learn how to use specific reference management software (RMS) such as EndNote. RMS is relatively simple to use and saves a lot of time when it comes to organising your bibliography. This may come in very handy, especially if your reference section is suspiciously missing two hours before you need to submit your dissertation! 

Avoid accidental plagiarism

Plagiarism may cost you your postgraduate degree and it is important that you consciously avoid it when writing your thesis or dissertation. 

Occasionally, postgraduate students commit plagiarism unintentionally. This can happen when sections are copy and pasted from journal articles they are citing instead of simply rephrasing them. Whenever you are presenting information from another academic source, make sure you reference the source and avoid writing the statement exactly as it is written in the original paper.

What kind of format should your thesis have?

How to write a masters dissertation

Read your university’s guidelines before you actually start writing your thesis so you don’t have to waste time changing the format further down the line. However in general, most universities will require you to use 1.5-2 line spacing, font size 12 for text, and to print your thesis on A4 paper. These formatting guidelines may not necessarily result in the most aesthetically appealing thesis, however beauty is not always practical, and a nice looking thesis can be a more tiring reading experience for your postgrad examiner .

When should I submit my thesis?

The length of time it takes to complete your MSc or MA thesis will vary from student to student. This is because people work at different speeds, projects vary in difficulty, and some projects encounter more problems than others. 

Obviously, you should submit your MSc thesis or MA thesis when it is finished! Every university will say in its regulations that it is the student who must decide when it is ready to submit. 

However, your supervisor will advise you whether your work is ready and you should take their advice on this. If your supervisor says that your work is not ready, then it is probably unwise to submit it. Usually your supervisor will read your final thesis or dissertation draft and will let you know what’s required before submitting your final draft.

Set yourself a target for completion. This will help you stay on track and avoid falling behind. You may also only have funding for the year, so it is important to ensure you submit your dissertation before the deadline – and also ensure you don’t miss out on your graduation ceremony ! 

To set your target date, work backwards from the final completion and submission date, and aim to have your final draft completed at least three months before that final date.

Don’t leave your submission until the last minute – submit your work in good time before the final deadline. Consider what else you’ll have going on around that time. Are you moving back home? Do you have a holiday? Do you have other plans?

If you need to have finished by the end of June to be able to go to a graduation ceremony in July, then you should leave a suitable amount of time for this. You can build this into your dissertation project planning at the start of your research.

It is important to remember that handing in your thesis or dissertation is not the end of your masters program . There will be a period of time of one to three months between the time you submit and your final day. Some courses may even require a viva to discuss your research project, though this is more common at PhD level . 

If you have passed, you will need to make arrangements for the thesis to be properly bound and resubmitted, which will take a week or two. You may also have minor corrections to make to the work, which could take up to a month or so. This means that you need to allow a period of at least three months between submitting your thesis and the time when your program will be completely finished. Of course, it is also possible you may be asked after the viva to do more work on your thesis and resubmit it before the examiners will agree to award the degree – so there may be an even longer time period before you have finished.

How do I submit the MA or MSc dissertation?

Most universities will have a clear procedure for submitting a masters dissertation. Some universities require your ‘intention to submit’. This notifies them that you are ready to submit and allows the university to appoint an external examiner.

This normally has to be completed at least three months before the date on which you think you will be ready to submit.

When your MA or MSc dissertation is ready, you will have to print several copies and have them bound. The number of copies varies between universities, but the university usually requires three – one for each of the examiners and one for your supervisor.

However, you will need one more copy – for yourself! These copies must be softbound, not hardbound. The theses you see on the library shelves will be bound in an impressive hardback cover, but you can only get your work bound like this once you have passed. 

You should submit your dissertation or thesis for examination in soft paper or card covers, and your university will give you detailed guidance on how it should be bound. They will also recommend places where you can get the work done.

The next stage is to hand in your work, in the way and to the place that is indicated in your university’s regulations. All you can do then is sit and wait for the examination – but submitting your thesis is often a time of great relief and celebration!

Some universities only require a digital submission, where you upload your dissertation as a file through their online submission system.

Related articles

What Is The Difference Between A Dissertation & A Thesis

How To Get The Most Out Of Your Writing At Postgraduate Level

Dos & Don'ts Of Academic Writing

Dispelling Dissertation Drama

Dissertation Proposal

Essay Tips For Out of Practice Postgrads

Choosing A Unique Dissertation Topic

How To Edit Your Own Postgraduate Writing

Basic Essay Writing Skills For Postgrads

Postgrad Solutions Study Bursaries

Postgrad.com

Exclusive bursaries Open day alerts Funding advice Application tips Latest PG news

Sign up now!

Postgrad Solutions Study Bursaries

Take 2 minutes to sign up to PGS student services and reap the benefits…

  • The chance to apply for one of our 5 PGS Bursaries worth £2,000 each
  • Fantastic scholarship updates
  • Latest PG news sent directly to you.

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?
  • picture_as_pdf Thesis
  • Technical Support
  • Find My Rep

You are here

How to Write a Master's Thesis

How to Write a Master's Thesis

  • Yvonne N. Bui - San Francisco State University, USA
  • Description

See what’s new to this edition by selecting the Features tab on this page. Should you need additional information or have questions regarding the HEOA information provided for this title, including what is new to this edition, please email [email protected] . Please include your name, contact information, and the name of the title for which you would like more information. For information on the HEOA, please go to http://ed.gov/policy/highered/leg/hea08/index.html .

For assistance with your order: Please email us at [email protected] or connect with your SAGE representative.

SAGE 2455 Teller Road Thousand Oaks, CA 91320 www.sagepub.com

“Yvonne Bui’s How to Write a Master’s Thesis should be mandatory for all thesis track master’s students.  It steers students away from the shortcuts students may be tempted to use that would be costly in the long run. The step by step intentional approach is what I like best about this book.”

“This is the best textbook about writing an M.A. thesis available in the market.” 

“This is the type of textbook that students keep and refer to after the class.”

Excellent book. Thorough, yet concise, information for students writing their Master's Thesis who may not have had a strong background in research.

Clear, Concise, easy for students to access and understand. Contains all the elements for a successful thesis.

I loved the ease of this book. It was clear without extra nonsense that would just confuse the students.

Clear, concise, easily accessible. Students find it of great value.

NEW TO THIS EDITION:             

  • Concrete instruction and guides for conceptualizing the literature review help students navigate through the most challenging topics.        
  • Step-by-step instructions and more screenshots give students the guidance they need to write the foundational chapter, along with the latest online resources and general library information.          
  • Additional coverage of single case designs and mixed methods help students gain a more comprehensive understanding of research methods.           
  • Expanded explanation of unintentional plagiarism within the ethics chapter shows students the path to successful and professional writing.       
  • Detailed information on conference presentation as a way to disseminate research , in addition to getting published, help students understand all of the tools needed to write a master’s thesis.    

KEY FEATURES:  

  • An advanced chapter organizer provides an up-front checklist of what to expect in the chapter and serves as a project planner, so that students can immediately prepare and work alongside the chapter as they begin to develop their thesis.
  • Full guidance on conducting successful literature reviews includes up-to-date information on electronic databases and Internet tools complete with numerous figures and captured screen shots from relevant web sites, electronic databases, and SPSS software, all integrated with the text.
  • Excerpts from research articles and samples from exemplary students' master's theses relate specifically to the content of each chapter and provide the reader with a real-world context.
  • Detailed explanations of the various components of the master's thesis and concrete strategies on how to conduct a literature review help students write each chapter of the master's thesis, and apply the American Psychological Association (APA) editorial style.
  • A comprehensive Resources section features "Try It!" boxes which lead students through a sample problem or writing exercise based on a piece of the thesis to reinforce prior course learning and the writing objectives at hand. Reflection/discussion questions in the same section are designed to help students work through the thesis process.

Sample Materials & Chapters

1: Overview of the Master's Degree and Thesis

3: Using the Literature to Research Your Problem

For instructors

Select a purchasing option, related products.

Doing Your Masters Dissertation

Have a language expert improve your writing

Run a free plagiarism check in 10 minutes, generate accurate citations for free.

  • Knowledge Base
  • Dissertation

How to Write a Dissertation or Thesis Proposal

Published on September 21, 2022 by Tegan George . Revised on July 18, 2023.

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 of your research. It helps you choose a type of research to pursue, as well as whether to pursue qualitative or quantitative methods and what your research design will look like.

You can download our templates in the format of your choice below.

Download Word template Download Google Docs template

Instantly correct all language mistakes in your text

Upload your document to correct all your mistakes in minutes

upload-your-document-ai-proofreader

Table of contents

What should your proposal contain, dissertation question examples, what should your proposal look like, dissertation prospectus examples, other interesting articles, frequently asked questions about proposals.

Prior to jumping into the research for your thesis or dissertation, you first need to develop your research proposal and have it approved by your supervisor. It should outline all of the decisions you have taken about your project, from your dissertation topic to your hypotheses and research objectives .

Depending on your department’s requirements, there may be a defense component involved, where you present your research plan in prospectus format to your committee for their approval.

Your proposal should answer the following questions:

  • Why is your research necessary?
  • What is already known about your topic?
  • Where and when will your research be conducted?
  • Who should be studied?
  • How can the research best be done?

Ultimately, your proposal should persuade your supervisor or committee that your proposed project is worth pursuing.

Prevent plagiarism. Run a free check.

Strong research kicks off with a solid research question , and dissertations are no exception to this.

Dissertation research questions should be:

  • Focused on a single problem or issue
  • Researchable using primary and/or secondary sources
  • Feasible to answer within the timeframe and practical constraints
  • Specific enough to answer thoroughly
  • Complex enough to develop the answer over the space of a paper or thesis
  • Relevant to your field of study and/or society more broadly
  • What are the main factors enticing people under 30 in suburban areas to engage in the gig economy?
  • Which techniques prove most effective for 1st-grade teachers at local elementary schools in engaging students with special needs?
  • Which communication streams are the most effective for getting those aged 18-30 to the polls on Election Day?

An easy rule of thumb is that your proposal will usually resemble a (much) shorter version of your thesis or dissertation. While of course it won’t include the results section , discussion section , or conclusion , it serves as a “mini” version or roadmap for what you eventually seek to write.

Be sure to include:

  • A succinct introduction to your topic and problem statement
  • A brief literature review situating your topic within existing research
  • A basic outline of the research methods you think will best answer your research question
  • The perceived implications for future research
  • A reference list in the citation style of your choice

The length of your proposal varies quite a bit depending on your discipline and type of work you’re conducting. While a thesis proposal is often only 3-7 pages long, a prospectus for your dissertation is usually much longer, with more detailed analysis. Dissertation proposals can be up to 25-30 pages in length.

Writing a proposal or prospectus can be a challenge, but we’ve compiled some examples for you to get your started.

  • Example #1: “Geographic Representations of the Planet Mars, 1867-1907” by Maria Lane
  • Example #2: “Individuals and the State in Late Bronze Age Greece: Messenian Perspectives on Mycenaean Society” by Dimitri Nakassis
  • Example #3: “Manhood Up in the Air: A Study of Male Flight Attendants, Queerness, and Corporate Capitalism during the Cold War Era” by Phil Tiemeyer

The only proofreading tool specialized in correcting academic writing - try for free!

The academic proofreading tool has been trained on 1000s of academic texts and by native English editors. Making it the most accurate and reliable proofreading tool for students.

writing thesis master's degree

Try for free

If you want to know more about AI for academic writing, AI tools, or research bias, make sure to check out some of our other articles with explanations and examples or go directly to our tools!

Research bias

  • Survivorship bias
  • Self-serving bias
  • Availability heuristic
  • Halo effect
  • Hindsight bias
  • Deep learning
  • Generative AI
  • Machine learning
  • Reinforcement learning
  • Supervised vs. unsupervised learning

 (AI) Tools

  • Grammar Checker
  • Paraphrasing Tool
  • Text Summarizer
  • AI Detector
  • Plagiarism Checker
  • Citation Generator

The research methods you use depend on the type of data you need to answer your research question .

  • If you want to measure something or test a hypothesis , use quantitative methods . If you want to explore ideas, thoughts and meanings, use qualitative methods .
  • If you want to analyze a large amount of readily-available data, use secondary data. If you want data specific to your purposes with control over how it is generated, collect primary data.
  • If you want to establish cause-and-effect relationships between variables , use experimental methods. If you want to understand the characteristics of a research subject, use descriptive methods.

A thesis or dissertation outline is one of the most critical first steps in your writing process. It helps you to lay out and organize your ideas and can provide you with a roadmap for deciding what kind of research you’d like to undertake.

Generally, an outline contains information on the different sections included in your thesis or dissertation , such as:

  • Your anticipated title
  • Your abstract
  • Your chapters (sometimes subdivided into further topics like literature review , research methods , avenues for future research, etc.)

A well-planned research design helps ensure that your methods match your research aims, that you collect high-quality data, and that you use the right kind of analysis to answer your questions, utilizing credible sources . This allows you to draw valid , trustworthy conclusions.

The priorities of a research design can vary depending on the field, but you usually have to specify:

  • Your research questions and/or hypotheses
  • Your overall approach (e.g., qualitative or quantitative )
  • The type of design you’re using (e.g., a survey , experiment , or case study )
  • Your sampling methods or criteria for selecting subjects
  • Your data collection methods (e.g., questionnaires , observations)
  • Your data collection procedures (e.g., operationalization , timing and data management)
  • Your data analysis methods (e.g., statistical tests  or thematic analysis )

A dissertation prospectus or proposal describes what or who you plan to research for your dissertation. It delves into why, when, where, and how you will do your research, as well as helps you choose a type of research to pursue. You should also determine whether you plan to pursue qualitative or quantitative methods and what your research design will look like.

It should outline all of the decisions you have taken about your project, from your dissertation topic to your hypotheses and research objectives , ready to be approved by your supervisor or committee.

Note that some departments require a defense component, where you present your prospectus to your committee orally.

Formulating a main research question can be a difficult task. Overall, your question should contribute to solving the problem that you have defined in your problem statement .

However, it should also fulfill criteria in three main areas:

  • Researchability
  • Feasibility and specificity
  • Relevance and originality

Cite this Scribbr article

If you want to cite this source, you can copy and paste the citation or click the “Cite this Scribbr article” button to automatically add the citation to our free Citation Generator.

George, T. (2023, July 18). How to Write a Dissertation or Thesis Proposal. Scribbr. Retrieved March 12, 2024, from https://www.scribbr.com/dissertation/thesis-dissertation-proposal/

Is this article helpful?

Tegan George

Tegan George

Other students also liked, a step-by-step guide to the writing process, 10 research question examples to guide your research project, dissertation & thesis outline | example & free templates, what is your plagiarism score.

white paper texture

Thesis Writing and Filing

The following guidelines are only for master’s students. If you are pursuing a doctoral degree, please see the Dissertation Filing Guide .

Filing your master’s thesis at the Graduate Division is one of the final steps leading to the award of your graduate degree. Your manuscript is a scholarly presentation of the results of the research you conducted. UC Berkeley upholds the tradition that you have an obligation to make your research available to other scholars. This is done when the Graduate Division submits your manuscript to the University Library.

Your faculty committee supervises the intellectual content of your manuscript and your committee chair will guide you on the arrangement within the text and reference sections of your manuscript. Consult with your committee chair early in the preparation of your manuscript.

The specifications in the following pages were developed in consultation with University Library. These standards assure uniformity in the degree candidates’ manuscripts to be archived in the University Library, and ensure as well the widest possible dissemination of student-authored knowledge.

Research Protocols

Eligibility, fall and spring semesters, summer filing, formatting your manuscript, special page formats, organizing your manuscript, procedure for filing your thesis, permission to include previously published or co-authored material, inclusion of publishable papers or article-length essays, withholding your thesis, changes to a thesis after filing, diploma, transcript, and certificate of completion, certificate of completion, common mistakes, mixed media guidelines, definitions and standards, electronic formats and risk categories, frequently asked questions.

If your research activities involve human or animal subjects, you must follow the guidelines and obtain an approved protocol  before you begin your research.   Learn more on our website   or contact the Committee for the Protection of Human Subjects ( http://cphs.berkeley.edu/  or 642-7461) or the Animal Care and Use Committee ( http://www.acuc.berkeley.edu/  or 642-8855).

In addition to the considerations explained below, your Expected Graduation Term (EGT) must match the term for which you intend to file. EGT can be updated at any time using an eForm available in CalCentral.

To be eligible to file for your degree, you must be registered or on approved Filing Fee status for the semester in which you file. We encourage you to file your thesis as early in the semester as you can and to come in person to our office to submit your supporting documents. If you cannot come to our office, it is helpful if you have a friend bring your documents. The deadline to file your thesis in its final form is the last day of the semester for your degree to be awarded as of that semester.

Filing during the summer has a slightly different set of eligibility requirements. If you were fully registered during the immediately preceding Spring semester, and have not used Filing Fee already, you may file your thesis during the summer with no additional cost or application required. This option is available for both Plan I master’s degree students filing a thesis and Plan II students completing a capstone. Summer is defined as the period from the day after the Spring semester ends (mid-May) until the last day of the Summer Sessions (mid-August).

International students completing degree in the Summer must consult Berkeley International Office before finalizing plans, as in some cases lack of Summer enrollment could impact visa status or post-completion employment.

If you have already used Filing Fee previously, or were not registered the preceding Spring semester, you will need to register in 1.0 unit in Summer Sessions in order to file.

Theses filed during the summer will result in a summer degree conferral.

You must be advanced to candidacy, and in good standing (not lapsed), in order to file.

All manuscripts must be submitted electronically in a traditional PDF format.

  • Page Size : The standard for a document’s page size is 8.5 x 11 inches. If compelling reasons exist to use a larger page size, you must contact the Graduate Division for prior approval.
  • Basic manuscript text must  be a non-italic type font and at a size of 12-point or larger. Whatever typeface and size you choose for the basic text, use it consistently throughout your entire manuscript. For footnotes, figures, captions, tables, charts, and graphs, a font size of 8-point or larger is to be used.
  • You may include color in your thesis, but your basic manuscript text must be black.
  • For quotations, words in a foreign language, occasional emphasis, book titles, captions, and footnotes, you may use italics. A font different from that used for your basic manuscript may be used for appendices, charts, drawings, graphs, and tables.
  • Pagination:   Your manuscript is composed of preliminary pages and the main body of text and references. Page numbers must be positioned either in the upper right corner, lower right corner, or the bottom center and must be at least ¾ of an inch from the edges. The placement of the page numbers in your document must be consistent throughout.

Be Careful!   If you have any pages that are rotated to a landscape orientation, the page numbers still need to be in a consistent position throughout the document (as if it were printed and bound).

  • Do not count or number the title page or the copyright page. All other pages must have numbers. DO NOT SKIP PAGE ” 1 “.
  • The remaining preliminary pages may include a table of contents, a dedication, a list of figures, tables, symbols, illustrations, or photographs, a preface, your introduction, acknowledgments, and curriculum vitae. You must number these preliminary pages using   lower case Roman numerals  beginning with the number “i” and continue in sequence to the end of the preliminary pages (i, ii, iii, iv, v, etc.).
  • An abstract is optional, but if you chose to include one, your abstract must have  Arabic numeral  page numbers. Start numbering your abstract with the number “1” and continue in sequence (1, 2, 3, etc.)
  • The main body of your text and your references also use Arabic numerals. Start the numbering of the main body with the number “1” and continue in sequence (1, 2, 3, etc.), numbering consecutively throughout the rest of the text, including illustrative materials, bibliography, and appendices.

Yes! The first page of your abstract and the first page of your main text both start with ‘1’

  • Margins:   For the manuscript material, including headers, footers, tables, illustrations, and photographs, all margins must be at least 1 inch from the edges of the paper. Page numbers must be ¾ of an inch from the edge.
  • Spacing:  Your manuscript must be single-spaced throughout, including the abstract, dedication, acknowledgments, and introduction.
  • Tables, charts, and graphs   may be presented horizontally or vertically and must fit within the required margins. Labels or symbols are preferred rather than colors for identifying lines on a graph.

You may choose to reduce the size of a page to fit within the required margins, but be sure that the resulting page is clear and legible.

  • Guidelines for Mixed Media:   please see Appendix B for details.

Certain pages need to be formatted in a very specific way. Links are included here for examples of these pages.

Do not deviate from the wording and spacing in the examples, except for details applicable to you (e.g. name, major, committee, etc.)

  • As noted in the above section on pagination, the abstract is optional but if included must be numbered  separately  with arabic numerals starting with ‘1’
  • IMPORTANT: A physical signature page should no longer be included with your thesis. Approvals by your committee members will be provided electronically using an eForm.
  • The title page does not contain page numbers.
  • Do not bold any text on your title page.
  • The yellow bubbles in the sample are included for explanatory purposes only. Do not include them in your submission.
  • If you are receiving a joint degree, it must be listed on your title page ( Click here for sample with joint degree )

The proper organization and page order for your manuscript is as follows:

  • Copyright page or a blank page
  • Dedication page
  • Table of contents
  • List of figures, list of tables, list of symbols
  • Preface or introduction
  • Acknowledgements
  • Curriculum Vitae
  • References or Bibliography

After you have written your thesis, formatted it correctly, assembled the pages into the correct organization, and obtained verbal approval from all members of your committee, you are ready to file it with UC Berkeley’s Graduate Division.

Step 1:  Convert your thesis to a standard PDF file.

Step 2: Log into your CalCentral account. Under Student Resources in your Dashboard find Submit a Form and choose Final Signature Submission .

Step 3:  Complete the eForm in its entirety and hit submit once all  required documents are submitted:

  • Attach the PDF of your thesis and
  • Attach a copy of the approval letter for your study protocol from the Committee for Protection of Human Subjects, or the Animal Care and Use Committee if your research involved human or animal subjects. 

(Step 4): Congratulations you’re done! The traditional lollipop will be mailed to you following the end of the semester. Please be sure to update your mailing addresses (especially the diploma mailing address).

Important Notes: 

  • DO NOT SUBMIT A DRAFT. Once your thesis has been submitted, you will not be allowed to make changes. Be sure that it is in its final form!
  • Check your email regularly. Should revisions be necessary the eForm will be “recycled” to you and you will be notified via email. To resubmit your thesis, go back to Student Resources in your CalCentral account find Manage Your Forms and select Update Pending Forms . Here you can search for your submitted Final Signature form and make necessary updates and/or attach your revised thesis.
  • After your thesis has been approved by Graduate Division, it will be routed to the listed committee members for electronic approval. Once all members have provided approval you will be notified.
  • The review of your thesis may take up to four business days.

Important note for students in a Concurrent Degree Program (e.g. Landscape Architecture & City Planning):

  • If you are filing a thesis to satisfy both master’s degrees, do not submit two eForms. Please select one plan only on the eForm and the Graduate Division will update your record accordingly.

If you plan use of your own previously published and/or co-authored material in your manuscript, your committee chair must attest that the resulting thesis represents an original contribution of ideas to the field, even if previously published co – authored articles are included, and that major contributors of those articles have been informed.

Previously published material must be incorporated into a larger argument that binds together the whole thesis. The common thread linking various parts of the research, represented by individual papers incorporated in the thesis, must be made explicit, and you must join the papers into a coherent unit. You are required to prepare introductory, transitional, and concluding sections. Previously published material must be acknowledged appropriately, as established for your discipline or as requested in the original publication agreement (e.g. through a note in acknowledgments, a footnote, or the like).

If co-authored material is to be incorporated (whether published or unpublished), all major contributors should be informed of the inclusion in addition to being appropriately credited in the thesis according to the norms of the field.

If you are incorporating co-authored material in your thesis, it is your responsibility to inform major contributors. This documentation need not be submitted to the Graduate Division. The eform used by your committee chair to sign off on your thesis will automatically include text indicating that by signing off they attest to the appropriateness and approval for inclusion of previously published and/or co-authored materials. No addition information or text needs to be added.

Publishable papers and article-length essays arising from your research project are acceptable only if you incorporate that text into a larger argument that binds together the whole dissertation or thesis. Include introductory, transitional, and concluding sections with the papers or essays.

Occasionally, there are unusual circumstances in which you prefer that your thesis not be published immediately.  Such circumstances may include the disclosure of patentable rights in the work before a patent can be granted, similar disclosures detrimental to the rights of the author, or disclosures of facts about persons or institutions before professional ethics would permit.

The Dean of the Graduate Division may permit the thesis to be held without shelving for a specified and limited period of time beyond the default, under substantiated circumstances of the kind indicated and with the endorsement of and an explanatory letter from the chair of the thesis committee.  If you need to request that your manuscript be withheld, please consult with the chair of your committee, and have him or her submit a letter requesting this well before you file for your degree. The memo should be addressed to the cognizant Associate Dean, in care of Graduate Services: Degrees, 318 Sproul Hall.

Changes are normally not allowed after a manuscript has been filed.  In exceptional circumstances, changes may be requested by having the chair of your thesis committee submit a memo to the cognizant Associate Dean, in care of Graduate Services: Degrees, 318 Sproul Hall.  The memo must describe in detail the specific changes requested and must justify the reason for the request.  If the request is approved, the changes must be made prior to the official awarding of the degree.  Once your degree has been awarded, you may not make changes to the manuscript.

After your thesis is accepted by Graduate Services: Degrees, it is held here until the official awarding of the degree by the Academic Senate has occurred.  This occurs approximately two months after the end of the term.  After the degree has officially been awarded, the manuscripts are shipped to the University Library.

Posting the Degree to Your Transcript

Your degree will be posted to your transcript approximately 3 months after the conferral date of your degree.  You can order a transcript from the Office of the Registrar (https://registrar.berkeley.edu/academic-records/transcripts-diplomas/).

Diploma Your diploma will be available from the Office of the Registrar approximately 4 months after the conferral date of your degree.  For more information on obtaining your diploma, visit the Registrar’s website .  You can obtain your diploma in person at the Office of the Registrar, 120 Sproul Hall, or submit a form to have it mailed to you. Unclaimed diplomas are retained for a period of five (5) years only, after which they are destroyed.

If you require evidence that you have completed your degree requirements prior to the degree being posted to your transcript, request a “ Certificate of Degree Completion “.

Please note that we will not issue a Certificate of Completion after the degree has been posted to your transcript.

  • The most common mistake is following a fellow (or previous) student’s example. Read the current guidelines carefully!
  • An incorrect committee — the committee listed on your title page must match your currently approved committee. If you have made any changes to your committee since Advancement to Candidacy, you must request an official change from the Graduate Division. Consult your departmental adviser for details.
  • Do not use a different name than that which appears in the system (i.e. the name on your transcript and Cal Central Profile). Students are allowed to use a Lived Name, which can be updated by self-service in CalCentral.
  • Page numbers — Read the section on pagination carefully. Many students do not paginate their document correctly.
  • Page rotation — some pages may be rotated to a landscape orientation. However, page numbers must appear in the same place throughout the document (as if it were bound like a book).
  • Do not include the signature/approval page in your electronic thesis. Signatures will be provided electronically using the eForm.
  • Do not include previous degrees on your title page.

In May, 2005, the Graduate Council established new guidelines for the inclusion of mixed media content in theses.  It was considered crucial that the guidelines allow theses s to remain as accessible as possible and for the longest period possible while balancing the extraordinary academic potential of these new technologies.

The thesis has three components: a core thesis, essential supporting material, and non-essential supplementary material.

Core Thesis.   The core thesis must be a self-contained, narrative description of the argument, methods, and evidence used in the thesis project.  Despite the ability to present evidence more directly and with greater sophistication using mixed media, the core thesis must provide an accessible textual description of the whole project.

The core thesis must stand alone and be printable on paper, meeting the formatting requirements described in this document. The electronic version of the thesis must be provided in the most stable and universal format available—currently Portable Document Format (PDF) for textual materials. These files may also include embedded visual images in TIFF (.tif) or JPEG (.jpg) format.

Essential Supporting Material.   Essential supporting material is defined as mixed media content that cannot be integrated into the core thesis, i.e., material that cannot be adequately expressed as text.  Your faculty committee is responsible for deciding whether this material is essential to the thesis.  Essential supporting material does  not  include the actual project data.  Supporting material is essential if it is necessary for the actual argument of the thesis, and cannot be integrated into a traditional textual narrative.

Essential supporting material  must  be submitted in the most stable and least risky format consistent with its representation (see below), so as to allow the widest accessibility and greatest chance of preservation into the future.

Non-essential Supplementary Material.   Supplementary material includes any supporting content that is useful for understanding the thesis, but is not essential to the argument. This might include, for example, electronic files of the works analyzed in the thesis (films, musical works, etc.) or additional support for the argument (simulations, samples of experimental situations, etc.).

Supplementary material is to be submitted in the most stable and most accessible format, depending on the relative importance of the material (see below). Clearly label the CD, DVD, audiotape, or videotape with your name, major, thesis title, and information on the contents. Only one copy is required to be filed with your thesis.  A second copy should be left with your department.

Note . ProQuest and the Library will require any necessary 3rd party software licenses and reprint permission letters for any copyrighted materials included in these electronic files.

The following is a list of file formats in descending order of stability and accessibility. This list is provisional, and will be updated as technologies change. Faculty and students should refer to the Graduate Division website for current information on formats and risk categories.

Category A:

  • TIFF (.tif) image files
  • WAV (.wav) audio files

Category B:

  • JPEG, JPEG 2000 (.jpg) image files
  • GIF (.gif) image files

Category C:

  • device independent audio files (e.g., AIFF, MIDI, SND, MP3, WMA, QTA)
  • note-based digital music composition files (e.g., XMA, SMF, RMID)

Category D:

  • other device independent video formats (e.g., QuickTime, AVI, WMV)
  • encoded animations (e.g., FLA or SWF Macromedia Flash, SVG)

For detailed guidelines on the use of these media, please refer to the Library of Congress website for digital formats at  http://www.digitalpreservation.gov/formats/index.shtml .

Q1: Can I file my thesis during the summer?

A1: Yes. There are 2 ways to file during the summer:

1)     If you have never used Filing Fee before AND you were registered during the immediately preceding spring semester, you can file your thesis during the summer with no further application or payment required. Simply submit your thesis as usual and the Graduate Division staff will confirm your eligibility. If you are an international student, you must consult the Berkeley International Office for guidance as this option may have visa implications for you.

2)     If you weren’t registered in spring, you can register for at least 1.0 unit through Berkeley Summer Sessions.

Q2: If I chose that option, does it matter which session I register in during the summer session?

A2: No. You can register for any of the sessions (at least 1.0 unit). The deadline will always be the last day of the last session.

Q3: If I file during the summer, will I receive a summer degree?

A3: Yes. If you file before the last day of summer session, you will receive an August degree. If you file during the summer, remember to write “Summer” on your title page!

Q1: I’ve seen other theses from former students that were / that had  __________, should I follow that format?

A1: No. The formatting guidelines can be changed from time to time, so you should always consult the most current guidelines available on our website.

Q2: I want to make sure that my thesis follows the formatting rules. What’s the best way to do this?

A2: If you’ve read and followed the current guidelines available on our website, there shouldn’t be any problems. You are also always welcome to bring sample pages into the Graduate Degrees Office at 318 Sproul Hall to have a staff member look over your manuscript.

Q3:  Does my signature page need to be printed on some special paper?

A3: Signatures are now an eForm process. A physical signature page is no longer required.

Q1: I’m away from Berkeley. Is there any way to file my thesis remotely?

A1: Yes! The whole process is done remotely.

Q2: Can I have a friend file my thesis for me?

A2: No. You will need to CalNet authenticate in order to file.

Q3: What’s a Receipt of Filing? Do I need one?

A3: The Receipt of Filing is an official document that we produce that certifies that you have successfully filed your thesis on the specified day and that, if all other requirements are met, the date of the degree conferral.

Some students may need the receipt in order to prove to an outside agency that they have officially filed their thesis. Many students simply keep the receipt as a memento. Picking up your receipt is not required.

Q4: What’s the difference between a Receipt of Filing and a Certificate of Completion?

A4: A Receipt of Filing is automatically produced for all students upon successful filing of their thesis. However, it only certifies that the thesis has been accepted. The Certificate of Degree Completion  must be requested. It will state that all requirements  have   been met and notes the date that the degree will be conferred. This is a useful document for students who file early in the semester and need some verification of their degree in advance of its conferral (note: degrees are only conferred twice each year).

Q5: How to I know if I’m eligible for a Certificate of Completion?

A5: In order to be eligible to receive a Certificate of Completion, you must:

1) Successfully file your thesis

2) Have a completed (satisfied) Academic Progress Report. Your department can assist you with this if you have questions.

3) Pay all of your registration fees. If you have a balance on your account, we may be unable to provide a Certificate of Completion.

Q6: I’m supposed to submit my approval letter for research with human subjects or vertebrate animals, but it turns out my research didn’t use this after all. What should I do?

A6: If you’re research protocol has changed since you advanced to candidacy for your degree, you’ll need to ask you thesis chair to write a letter to the Graduate Division explaining the change. It would be best to submit this in advance of filing.

Q7: My thesis uses copyrighted or previously published material. How to I get approval?

A7: The policy on this has recently changed. There is no need to for specific approval to be requested.

Q9: I found a typo in my thesis that has already been accepted! What do I do?

A9: Once a thesis has been submitted and accepted, no further changes will be permitted. Proofread your document carefully. Do not submit a draft. In extreme circumstances, your thesis chair may write a letter to the Graduate Division requesting additional changes to be made.

Q10: Oh no! A serious emergency has caused me to miss the filing deadline! What do I do? Are extensions ever granted?

A10: In general, no. In exceptional circumstances, the Head Graduate Advisor for your program may write to the Graduate Division requesting an extension. Requests of this type are considered on a case by case basis and, if granted, may allow you to file after the deadline. However, even if such an exception is granted you will receive the degree for the subsequent term. Your first step is to consult with your department if an emergency arises.

  • Graduate School

How to Write a Master's Thesis Proposal

How to Write a Master's Thesis Proposal

How to write a master’s thesis proposal is one of the most-asked questions by graduate students. A master's thesis proposal involves a copious amount of data collection, particular presentation ethics, and most importantly, it will become the roadmap to your full thesis. Remember, you must convince your committee that your idea is strong and unique, and that you have done enough legwork to begin with the first few drafts of your final thesis. Your proposal should serve as a foundational blueprint on which you will later build your entire project. To have the perfect thesis proposal, you need to have original ideas, solid information, and proper presentation. While it is a good idea to take assistance from thesis writing services , you still need to personally understand the elements that contribute to a master’s thesis proposal worthy of approval. In this blog, we will discuss the process of writing your master’s thesis proposal and give you tips for making your proposal strong. Stay tuned!

>> Want us to help you get accepted? Schedule a free strategy call here . <<

Article Contents 8 min read

How to decide the goals for your master's thesis.

If you are pursuing a master’s or a PhD , you will be undertaking a major research paper or a thesis. Thus, writing a thesis proposal becomes inevitable. Your major objective for pursuing a master’s degree is to improve your knowledge in your field of study. When you start your degree, you delve deeper into different concepts in your discipline and try to search for answers to all kinds of questions. If you come across a question that no one can answer, you can select that question as your research thesis topic.

A master's thesis proposal will have multiple sections depending on your decided layout. These sections will continuously support your argument and try to convince the reader of your core argument. The structure will also help you arrange the various parts of the paper to have a greater impact on the readers. A paper should always begin with you giving a brief summary of the topic and how you have come across it. The introduction is particularly important because it will give the readers a brief idea about the topic of discussion and win their interest in the matter.

After the summary has been given, slowly you need to progress into the body of the thesis proposal which would explain your argument, research methodology, literary texts that have a relation to the topic, and the conclusion of your study. It would be similar to an essay or a literary review consisting of 3 or 4 parts. The bibliography will be placed at the end of the paper so that people can cross-check your sources.

Let's take a look at the sections most master's thesis proposals should cover. Please note that each university has its own guidelines for how to structure and what to include in a master’s thesis proposal. The outline we provide below is general, so please make sure to follow the exact guidelines provided by your school:

Restate your primary argument and give us a glimpse of what you will include in the main master\u2019s thesis. Leave the reader wanting more. Your research proposal should talk about what research chapters you are trying to undertake in your final thesis. You can also mention the proposed time in which you will complete these chapters.  ","label":"Conclusion and proposed chapters","title":"Conclusion and proposed chapters"}]" code="tab1" template="BlogArticle">

A thesis proposal needs to be convincing enough to get approval. If the information is not enough to satisfy the evaluation committee, it would require revision. Hence, you need to select and follow the right methodology to make your argument convincing. When a research proposal is presented, the reader will determine the validity of your argument by judging the strength of your evidence and conclusions. Therefore, even writige:ng a proposal will require extensive research on your part. You should start writing your thesis proposal by working through the following steps.

Interested in a summary of the points covered below? Check out this infographic:

Exploring your topic in detail

You need to delve deeper into your chosen topic to see if your idea is original. In the process of this exploration, you will find tons of materials that will be supportive of your argument. When choosing your research topic and the problem you want to explore, you should always consider your primary research interest (yes, the one which you had mentioned in your research interest statement during grad school applications) for a better master’s thesis. You have a high probability of performing better in an area that you have always liked as compared to any other research area or topic.

Reviewing the literature

You have to include all the sources from where you have formed your argument and mention them in the thesis proposal. If you neglect to mention important source texts, the reader may consider it to be plagiarism. Furthermore, you want to keep track of all your research because it will be easier to provide references if you know the exact source of each piece of information.

Finding opposing arguments for your study

You should also mention any texts that would counter your argument and try to disprove their claims in the thesis. Make sure to use evidence if you try to disprove the counterarguments you face.

Emphasizing the importance of your research

At the end of the thesis proposal, you need to convince the reader why your proposal is important to your chosen field of study, which would ultimately help you in getting your topic approved. Thus, it is essential to outline the importance of your research thoroughly.

Drafting your proposal

After doing proper research, you should go ahead and draft your proposal. Remember you will not get it right in just one draft, it will take at least 50 attempts to come up with a satisfactory proposal. You should proofread your draft several times and even have a fellow student review it for you before sending it further to your research supervisor.

Getting your proposal evaluated by your supervisor

After you have written sufficient drafts, you need to get your proposal evaluated by your research supervisor. This is necessary to meet the graduate research requirements. It will ensure the clarity and correctness of your proposal. For your supervisor to evaluate your proposal, you should complete the research methodology part along with sufficient proposed work.

Since your supervisor will play a crucial role in your master's research thesis, you must choose a supervisor who can be your ultimate guide in writing your master's thesis. They will be your partner and support system during your study and will help you in eliminating obstacles to achieving your goal.

Choosing the ideal supervisor is a pretty daunting task. Here’s how you can go about the process:

You should approach your professor with an open mind and discuss the potential goals of your research. You should hear what they think and then if you both mutually agree, you can choose them as your supervisor for your master\u2019s thesis. "}]">

Length of a Master’s Thesis Proposal

The length of a master’s thesis proposal differs from university to university and depends on the discipline of research as well. Usually, you have to include all the above-mentioned sections, and the length is around 8 pages and can go up to 12-15 pages for subjects such as the liberal arts. Universities might also define the number of words in the guidelines for your master’s thesis proposal and you have to adhere to that word limit.

Are you debating between pursuing a Masters or a PhD? This video has details that can help you decide which is best for you:

How to Format a Research Thesis Proposal Correctly?

Now that you know how to write a thesis proposal, you must make it presentable. Although your school might give your specific instructions, you can keep in mind some of the general advice:

  • You can use some basic font like Times New Roman and keep the font size to 10 or 12 points.
  • The left margin should be 1.5 inches and all other margins should be 1 inch each.
  • You should follow double-spacing for your content.
  • The first line of paragraphs should be indented 0.5 inches and the paragraphs should be left or center aligned.

Tips to Write a Strong Master's Thesis Proposal

When you are writing your master’s thesis proposal, you should keep these tips in mind to write an excellent master’s thesis proposal with all the correct elements to get approval from the evaluating committee:

Select your research objectives wisely

You should be clear on what you wish to learn from your research. Your learning objectives should stem from your research interests. If you are unsure, refer to your grad school career goals statement to review what you wanted out of grad school in the first place. Then, choose your objectives around it.

Write a clear title

The title of your research proposal should be concise and written in a language that can be understood easily by others. The title should be able to give the reader an idea of your intended research and should be interesting.

Jot down your thoughts, arguments, and evidence

You should always start with a rough outline of your arguments because you will not miss any point in this way. Brainstorm what you want to include in the proposal and then expand those points to complete your proposal. You can decide the major headings with the help of the guidelines provided to you.

Focus on the feasibility and importance

You should consider whether your research is feasible with the available resources. Additionally, your proposal should clearly convey the significance of your research in your field.

Use simple language

Since the evaluation committee can have researchers from different subject areas, it is best to write your proposal in a simple language that is understandable by all.

Stick to the guidelines

Your university will be providing the guidelines for writing your research proposal. You should adhere to those guidelines strictly since your proposal will be primarily evaluated on the basis of those.

Have an impactful opening section

It is a no-brainer that the opening statement of your proposal should be powerful enough to grasp the attention of the readers and get them interested in your research topic. You should be able to convey your interest and enthusiasm in the introductory section.

Peer review prior to submission

Apart from working with your research supervisor, it is essential that you ask some classmates and friends to review your proposal. The comments and suggestions that they give will be valuable in helping you to make the language of your proposal clearer.

You have worked hard to get into grad school and even harder on searching your research topic. Thus, you must be careful while building your thesis proposal so that you have maximum chances of acceptance.

If you're curious how your graduate school education will differ from your undergraduate education, take a look at this video so you know what to expect:

Writing the perfect research proposal might be challenging, but keeping to the basics might make your task easier. In a nutshell, you need to be thorough in your study question. You should conduct sufficient research to gather all relevant materials required to support your argument. After collecting all data, make sure to present it systematically to give a clearer understanding and convince the evaluators to approve your proposal. Lastly, remember to submit your proposal well within the deadline set by your university. Your performance at grad school is essential, especially if you need a graduate degree to gain admission to med school and your thesis contributes to that performance. Thus, start with a suitable research problem, draft a strong proposal, and then begin with your thesis after your proposal is approved.

In your master’s thesis proposal, you should include your research topic and the problem statement being addressed in your research, along with a proposed solution. The proposal should explain the importance and limitations of your research.

The length of a master’s thesis proposal is outlined by the university in the instructions for preparing your master’s thesis proposal.

The time taken to write a master’s thesis proposal depends upon the study which you are undertaking and your discipline of research. It will take a minimum time of three months. The ideal time can be around six months. 

You should begin your master’s thesis proposal by writing an introduction to your research topic. You should state your topic clearly and provide some background. Keep notes and rough drafts of your proposal so you can always refer to them when you write the first real draft.

The basic sections that your master’s thesis proposal should cover are the problem statement, research methodology, proposed activities, importance, and the limitations of your research.

A master’s thesis proposal which clearly defines the problem in a straightforward and explains the research methodology in simple words is considered a good thesis proposal.

You can use any classic font for your master’s thesis proposal such as Times New Roman. If you are recommended a specific font in the proposal guidelines by your institution, it would be advisable to stick to that.

The ideal font size for your master’s thesis proposal will be 10 or 12 points.

Want more free tips? Subscribe to our channels for more free and useful content!

Apple Podcasts

Like our blog? Write for us ! >>

Have a question ask our admissions experts below and we'll answer your questions, get started now.

Talk to one of our admissions experts

Our site uses cookies. By using our website, you agree with our cookie policy .

FREE Training Webinar:

How to make your grad school application stand out, (and avoid the top 5 mistakes that get most rejected).

Time Sensitive. Limited Spots Available:

We guarantee you'll get into grad school or you don't pay.

Swipe up to see a great offer!

writing thesis master's degree

  • Communications
  • Computer Science
  • Criminal Justice
  • Environmental Management
  • Forensic Psychology
  • Healthcare Admin
  • Human Resources
  • Project Management
  • Social work
  • Special Education
  • Sports Management
  • Supply Chain Management
  • Adult Education
  • Business Intelligence
  • Early Childhood Education
  • Educational Technology
  • Homeland Security
  • Information Systems Security
  • Information Technology
  • International Business
  • Management Information Systems
  • Nonprofit Management
  • School Counseling
  • Academic Publishing Guide
  • Building a Graduate School Resume or CV

Choosing Between a Thesis or Non-thesis Master's Degree

  • Expert Guide to Studying Abroad
  • FAQ: Online Master's Degrees
  • Grad School Guide Book
  • Graduate School for Students with Disabilities
  • Green Graduate Degrees
  • How to Be a Successful Grad Student
  • How to Choose the Right Graduate Program
  • How to Get a Master's Degree in an Unrelated Field
  • How to Transfer College Credits in Grad School
  • How to Write a Winning Personal Statement
  • Inside Graduate Admissions
  • Ivy League Grad Schools
  • Master's Degrees for Veterans
  • Master's Degree for Women
  • Mental Health in Grad School
  • Progressive LGBTQ Graduate Degrees
  • Should You Apply for a Graduate School Assistantship?
  • Surviving Grad School with a Family
  • Taking a Gap Year Before Grad School
  • Women in STEM Graduate Resources
  • Writing a Successful Statement of Purpose
  • Alternative Ways to Pay for School
  • The Best Part-Time Jobs During Grad School
  • Company Funded Graduate School
  • FAFSA For Grad Students
  • Financial Aid Resources
  • Graduate Student Loans
  • Paying for Your Master's Degree
  • Paying Off Student Loans
  • Paying for Your PhD
  • Fellowship Opportunities
  • LGBTQ Scholarships
  • MBA Scholarships
  • Scholarship Resources
  • Scholarships for Veterans
  • Scholarships for Women
  • Crushing the GRE Guidebook
  • GMAT Guidebook
  • Guide to the LSAT
  • MCAT Prep for Medical School
  • Study Guide: Exam Resources
  • TOEFL Prep for Non-Native English Speakers
  •       Resources       Choosing Between a Thesis or Non-thesis Master's Degree

As of 2015, approximately 25.4 million Americans held advanced degrees , with more citizens joining these ranks each year. As studies continue to show the career advancement and salary benefits of completing a master's degree, more and more students elect to pursue advanced educations. When considering their options, many question whether to enroll in a master's requiring a thesis or not. The following guide examines some of the reasons degree seekers may want to write a thesis while also highlighting why they might not. Students on the fence about this important decision can find expert advice, actionable tips, and relevant guidance to help them make an informed choice in the guide that follows.

Understanding the Master's Thesis

What is the difference between a thesis & non-thesis master's program, the decision not to do a thesis.

As students research various master's programs in their chosen discipline, it's common to find that many degrees require a thesis – especially if they want to enter a research-heavy field. While this word gets thrown around a lot in academia, some learners may want more information regarding what it entails in order to make an informed decision.

What is a Master's Thesis?

The master's thesis is an original piece of scholarship allowing the student to dig into a topic and produce an expanded document that demonstrates how their knowledge has grown throughout the degree program. These documents require significant independent research of primary and secondary sources and, depending on the subject, may require interviews and/or surveys to support the overarching argument.

Individual schools and departments dictate the length of these documents, but they typically range between 60 and 100 pages – or approximately 20,000 to 40,000 words. While tackling a document of such heft may seem overwhelming at first, learners need not fret. Each master's candidate receives a faculty advisor early in their tenure to provide support, feedback, and guidance throughout the process. Because the final thesis is expected to be of a publishable quality, learners seeking the highest marks typically send their supervisor excerpts of the document as they write to ensure they are on the right track.

When picking a thesis topic, no magical formula exists. Students should consider their interests and read extensively on that topic to get a better sense of existing scholarship. They should also speak to other academics working in that sphere to familiarize themselves with ongoing projects. Only after they feel reasonably well-read should they begin looking for uncovered angles or interesting ways of using emerging methodologies to bring new light to the topic.

When considering formatting, degree seekers should check with their specific schools and departments, as they may have unique requirements. To get a general understanding of what to expect, learners can review Simon Fraser University's guidelines on thesis formatting. After completing the thesis, some programs require an oral defense before a committee while others read the document and provide a grade. Check with your prospective schools to get a better sense of procedure.

Format & Components of a Master's Thesis

While this guide attempts to provide helpful and actionable information about the process of deciding whether to follow a thesis or non-thesis track in a master's program, readers should remember that specific components and requirements of a thesis vary according to discipline, university, and department. That being said, some commonalities exist across all these – especially when it comes to what students must include in their final drafts.

As the first section a reader encounters after moving through the table of contents and other anterior text, the introductory allows the writer to firmly establish what they want to accomplish. Sometimes also called the "research question" section, the introductory must clearly state the goals of the paper and the overarching hypothesis guiding the argument. This should be written in a professional yet accessible tone that allows individuals without specializations in the field to understand the text.

This section allows learners to demonstrate their deep knowledge of the field by providing context to existing texts within their chosen discipline Learners review the main bodies of work, highlighting any issues they find within each. Constructive criticism often centers around shortcomings, blind spots, or outdated hypotheses.

Students use this section to explain how they went about their work. While scientists may point to a specific method used to reach conclusions, historians may reference the use of an emerging framework for understanding history to bring new light to a topic. The point of this section is to demonstrate the thought processes that led to your findings.

This section allows for learners to show what they learned during the research process in a non-biased way. Students should simply state what information they gathered by utilizing a specific framework or methodology and arrange those findings, without interpretation, in an easy-to-read fashion.

After providing readers with all the necessary information, the discussion section exists for candidates to interpret the raw data and demonstrate how their research led to a new understanding or contributed a unique perspective to the field. This section should directly connect to the introduction by reinforcing the hypothesis and showing how you answered the questions posed.

Even though the previous sections give prospective degree seekers a better sense of what to expect if they decide to write a thesis during their master's program, they don't necessarily help learners decide whether to pursue a thesis or non-thesis track. The following section highlights some of the reasons students frequently choose to complete a thesis or bypass the process altogether by providing a pros and cons list.

Why a Thesis Program

  • Especially when entering a research-heavy discipline, completing a thesis shows prospective schools and employers that you possess the skills needed for researching and writing long-form reports.
  • Students hoping to pursue a Ph.D. stand in better stead with admissions panels if they wrote a thesis during a master's program.
  • Individuals hoping to enter a field that values syntax and grammar often better their writing skills by completing a thesis.
  • Students who write a thesis can submit the final product to various academic journals, increasing their chances of getting published.
  • Theses expand students' understanding of what they're capable of, deepen their ability to carry out an argument, and develop their skills in making connections between ideas.

Why a Non-thesis Program

  • Because they don't require a significant written product, non-thesis master's tend to take less time to complete.
  • Often mirrors a bachelor's program in terms of structure, allowing learners to complete classes and take exams without a great deal of research or writing.
  • Students who excel in project-based assignments can continue building skills in this arena rather than focusing on skills they don't plan to use (e.g. research)
  • Provides learners the opportunity to work more closely and more frequently with faculty on real-world projects since they don't spend hundreds of hours researching/writing.
  • Allows learners to take more classes and gain hands-on skills to fill the time they would have spent researching and writing a thesis.

How to Choose a Master's Program: FAQs

Within some academic disciplines and professional fields, research and writing plays a key role in work done on a daily basis. Because of this, master's programs in these fields require learners to complete theses to compete against peers and be seen as competent in their work. Other disciplines, conversely, rely on other tools to accomplish work and progress ideas – making theses less important.

Yes. Master's programs focused more on application than research typically don't require a thesis – although they may still give students the option. Examples of common non-thesis master's programs include nursing, business, and education.

Even though non-thesis students won't be writing a 100-page paper, that doesn't mean they avoid completing a significant project. In place of a thesis, most applied master's programs require students to take part in at least one internship or complete a culminating project. These projects typically ask learners to take what they learned throughout coursework and create an expansive final project – examples include case studies, creative works, or portfolios.

While students who followed a non-thesis path routinely receive acceptance to Ph.D. programs, those with theses often find the process easier. Even if a learner pursues a Ph.D. in a discipline that isn't research-heavy, admissions panels still want to get a sense of your academic interests and ability to engage in independent, nuanced thought. Students with theses can provide solid proof of these skills, while those without may struggle to demonstrate preparedness as thoroughly.

The answer to this question depends on many factors, but typically it is okay not to do a thesis if you plan to enter a field that doesn't depend heavily on research or writing, or if you don't plan to complete a Ph.D.

Students wanting to work in academic, research, or writing should always opt for the thesis track. They should also follow this path if they have any doctoral degree aspirations.

Ultimately, the decision of whether or not to complete a thesis rests with the individual student. Figuring out how to proceed on this front requires lots of careful consideration, and learners should ensure they consider various aspects before coming to a final decision. The following section helps students consider how they should and should not come to a conclusion.

Dos and Don'ts of Choosing a Thesis or Non-thesis Program

  • Consider the longevity of your decision: will you feel the same in 5-10 years or are you making a decision based on current desires?
  • Talk to others who with experience in this area. Ask them questions about their decision-making process and if they regret their choice.
  • Research potential thesis topics before starting a program. Going in with a game plan can help you feel more confident and settled about the process than if you're scrambling for a topic while in school.
  • Reach out to prospective schools to speak with faculty and/or current students following both tracks. This will provide knowledge specific to the school while also expanding your network if you choose to attend there.
  • Research Ph.D. entrance requirements to ascertain if the majority expect learners to possess a thesis when applying. This will give you a sense of whether you may experience issues later on if you do not complete one.
  • Decide not to complete a thesis simply because you have never taken on such a task and feel overwhelmed or fearful that you will fail.
  • Complete a thesis simply because you think it will look good on your resume. Theses require intense devotion over an extended amount of time; learners who complete them without conviction often find the process miserable.
  • Forget to research alternatives to writing a thesis. Just because you don't complete a research paper doesn't mean a non-thesis track lacks rigor or challenging coursework.
  • Forget to read examples of theses by previous students. If you feel overwhelmed by the task, reading work other people have done can often make the task at hand feel less scary.
  • Let yourself off easy by taking the non-thesis path. If you find you have extra time in the program, talk to your advisor about taking more classes, develop meaningful projects for yourself, or see about presenting at an academic conference.

From the Expert

Sudiksha Joshi

Sudiksha Joshi, Ph.D. is a learning advocate. Her mission is to empower our youth to think bigger, bolder thoughts and forge a career path that will change the world. She taps into her natural curiosity and ability to identify strengths to help students and those in transition find their path from feeling lost in the traditional ways of achieving success to charting their own path. Her work has been featured in Forbes, Huffington Post, Thrive Global, Medium and LinkedIn.

Why might a student decide to follow a thesis track? Why might they follow a non-thesis track?

A student might decide to take a thesis track if she/he wants to pursue a Ph.D. Also, if the students want to focus on careers where research and writing have a strong focus, the students opt for the thesis option. Research assistantships at the graduate level are also more often available to students who opt for the thesis option.

A student who might feel that writing is not one of their strengths might choose to go the non-thesis track. Likewise, a student who has other work commitments may find a non-thesis option more convenient.

Do you have any tips for deciding on a program?

I chose a thesis option because being able to conduct independent research was a big reason to go to graduate school. Also, showing the ability that I could do research was what afforded me research assistantships which meant that my tuition was paid for and I got a stipend that paid for expenses while I was in graduate school. This also allowed me the opportunity to work closely with the faculty mentor that provided me with the support and the accountability I wanted.

I would not recommend taking a non-thesis option if all the degree requires is for you to take courses. You have little to show in terms of your learning other than your grades unless you are already working on something on the side that does that for you and all you need is a certificate.

Opt for a non-thesis option if you can still work closely with a professor or on a project and if you'd rather be involved in multiple projects rather than focus on a single project. If you already have a good (informed) reason for choosing one over the other, go for it.

What's the most important thing to consider when choosing a program?

The most important thing to consider when choosing a program is getting excited about the projects that at least one of the faculty members are involved in. Do some research and see why you are excited about a particular work that at least one of the faculty members have been involved in.

Who should students talk to when considering options?

Students should talk to other students and also reach out directly to the graduate coordinator and even individual faculty members. This means that students should have done prior homework and have some good questions ready. Asking good questions will get you at least halfway through to make the right decision.

writing thesis master's degree

  • October 15, 2023
  • Academic Advice

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

UOTP Marketing

UOTP Marketing

thesis-vs-non-thesis-masters-programs-which-is-right-for-you

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Why Choose a Thesis Master’s Program?

why-choose-a-thesis-masters-program

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

Research Experience

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

Academic Growth 

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

Why Choose a Non-Thesis Master’s Program?

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

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

Suitability for Professionals

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Personal and Career Goals

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

Time and Financial Considerations

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

Interested in pursuing a degree?

Fill out the form and get all admission information you need regarding your chosen program.

This will only take a moment.

Message Received!

Thank you for reaching out to us. we will review your message and get right back to you within 24 hours. if there is an urgent matter and you need to speak to someone immediately you can call at the following phone number:.

By clicking the Send me more information button above, I represent that I am 18+ years of age, that I have read and agreed to the Terms & Conditions and Privacy Policy , and agree to receive email marketing and phone calls from UOTP. I understand that my consent is not required to apply for online degree enrollment. To speak with a representative without providing consent, please call +1 (202) 274-2300

  • We value your privacy.

Field of Study and Program Requirements

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

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

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

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

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

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs):

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Why should I choose a thesis Master’s program?

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

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

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

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

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

Share it with your friends!

Explore more.

stocks

Accounting vs. Finance Degree: Which Major to Choose?

accountant

12 Important Bookkeeping Skills You Need for a Successful Career

Recent resources.

writing thesis master's degree

COO vs CEO: Differences and Responsibilities

writing thesis master's degree

5 Steps in How to Get Started in Cyber Security

writing thesis master's degree

What Are Business Ethics and Their Importance

Wondering what to do after high school here are 17 ideas.

INTERESTED IN LEARNING MORE?

Chat with an Admissions Officer Now!

writing thesis master's degree

  • Associates Degree
  • Bachelors Degrees
  • Masters Degrees
  • Doctoral Degrees
  • Faculty & Staff
  • Accreditation
  • Student Experience

QUICK LINKS

  • Admission Requirements
  • Military Students
  • Financial Aid

Request More Information

The Graduate School

  • Home ›
  • News ›

Downes, Lechartre, and Mathews claim top honors in 2024 Shaheen Three Minute Thesis (3MT®) finals

Published: March 12, 2024

Author: Mary Hendriksen

2024 competitors in the Shaheen 3MT finals: (L to R) Hoon Lee, Bow Wei Cynthia Chen, Henry Downes, O. Amandhi Mathews, Kurt Kohler, Liliya Chernysheva, Nicholas Herrud, Gowthami Mahendran, and Joséphine Lechartre.

“Your Research Matters...Share it!” proclaimed the banners on the stage of the Graduate School’s 2024 Shaheen Three Minute Thesis (3MT ® ) Finals Competition , held Wednesday evening, February 28, in Jordan Auditorium at the Mendoza College of Business.

Since 2016, Notre Dame has taken part in a competition that graduate schools around the world and their students have embraced since its founding at the University of Queensland in 2008. The event was co-sponsored by the Graduate School and the Meruelo Family Center for Career Development with support from the Colleges of Arts and Letters, Engineering, and Science; the Shaheen Family; Graduate Career Services; Graduate Student Government; Graduate Student Life; Hesburgh Libraries; Notre Dame Research; University Relations; and the University Writing Center.

“Your research does matter,” said Mary Ann McDowell , professor of biological sciences and associate dean for professional development, as she extended a welcome to the contestants and the audience. “How to convey the essence of that research is one of the most important skills a researcher must develop,” she continued, whether it arises when sharing knowledge of a particular research problem to a colleague or to someone outside of the field.

“This is your moment!” she counseled. “Make it succinct—and make it fascinating!”

Nine graduate-student finalists rose to the challenge and came to the stage as storytellers—storytellers who had three minutes, and not a second more, to frame their research, its findings, and why both matter to the five judges and an audience that included faculty, administrators, and more than one hundred of their peers.

The judges announced two winners, and the audience chose a third:

Henry Downes, Economics

Advisers: Kasey Buckles, Ph.D. and William Evans, Ph.D. 1st Place Winner: $2000

Henry Downes, Ph.D. student in economics, was named 1st Place winner in the 2024 Shaheen 3MT competition.

One of the 20th century’s great puzzles is the question: What caused the U.S. Baby Boom?

Fifth-year graduate student Henry Downes’ research explores a previously unexamined cause of fertility increases during that time—including the years before the U.S. entered World War II.

Using novel historical data, Downes discovered an important relationship between fertility increases during the Baby Boom and growth in union membership. Birth rates increased by about twice as much in counties with strong union growth relative to comparable counties with weak union growth, even accounting for many factors that might otherwise influence fertility. When there is stability in employment and confidence in earnings, workers who had steady, good-paying jobs married at younger ages, began having children sooner, and ultimately had larger families.

More fundamentally, his research highlights the central role played by labor market institutions in shaping family decisions and demographic outcomes. It suggests that America’s demographic challenges are unlikely to be solved without addressing economic precariousness in the labor market.

Joséphine Lechartre, Peace Studies and Political Science

Adviser: Guillermo Trejo, Ph.D. 2nd Place Winner: $1500

Joséphine Lechartre, Ph.D. student in peace studies and political science, was named 2nd Place winner in the 2024 Shaheen 3MT competition.

How do the survival decisions that civilians make amidst genocide influence the emergence of new political cultures that drive political participation after the end of violence?

Using Guatemalan refugees who fled genocide and spent 14 years in refugee camps in Mexico as a case study, the research of sixth-year graduate student Joséphine Lecharte showed that refugees who became active participants in the administration of their camps developed strong democratic political cultures; whereas those who had only limited input in camp affairs did not, and experienced social dislocation.

Her findings have important consequences. Members of the first group of refugees are today highly active in democratic politics. Members of the second group have remained marginalized, with lagging economic development and levels of social dislocation that have led to a rise in criminality.

O. Amandhi Mathews, Biological Sciences

Adviser: Cody J. Smith, Ph.D. People’s Choice Award Winner: $1000

O. Amandhi Mathews, Ph.D. student in biological sciences, was named People's Choice winner in the 2024 Shaheen 3MT competition.

The embryonic construction of the human nervous system requires neurons to navigate to a precise target at which they form connections to other neurons and make functional circuits. Neurons use a guidance system, a "neuronal GPS" third-year graduate student O. Amandhi Mathews calls it, to form these circuits. These primary circuits allow organisms to sense and respond to their environment and are thus critical for survival.

This process must happen accurately. Neurodevelopmental disorders such as autism spectrum disorders result from incorrect wiring within the nervous system. Our ability to treat such disorders depends on an in-depth understanding of the genetic blueprints that inform the neuronal GPS that helps neurons navigate accurately. Using zebrafish neurodevelopment as a model system, Mathews’ research investigates the role of the gene svip in neuronal navigation. Her goal with this study is to advance scientists’ understanding of the genetic and molecular pathways involved in neurodevelopment.

Other finalists in the competition were:

Bo Wei Cynthia Chen (Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering); Liliya Chernysheva (Civil and Environmental Engineering and Earth Science); Nicholas Herrud (History); Kurt Kohler (Biological Sciences); Hoon Lee (Aerospace and Mechanical Engineering); and Gowthami Mahendran (Chemistry and Biochemistry).

Vice President for Public Affairs and Communications  Pedro Ribeiro was emcee of the evening.

Judges were:

  • Michael Hildreth, Ph.D. Dean of the Graduate School; Associate Provost and Vice President for Graduate Studies; and Professor, Department of Physics and Astronomy
  • Monica Arul Jayachandran, Ph.D. Assistant Professor, Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, Virginia Tech University and winner of the 2019 Shaheen 3MT competition
  • Essaka Joshua, Ph.D . Professor, Department of English and former Associate Dean in the College of Arts and Letters
  • Margaret Meserve, Ph.D. Glynn Family Honors Collegiate Professor of History and Vice President and Associate Provost for Academic Space and Support
  • Jeff Rea President and CEO, South Bend Regional Chamber of Commerce

Downes will move on to the next round—the Midwestern Association of Graduate Schools (MAGS) competition in Clayton, Missouri on April 5, 2024.

2024 Shaheen 3MT ® Finalist Presentation Videos

To view videos of each competitor's presentation, click on the link below.

  • Bo Wei Cynthia Chen , Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering: Cost of Natural Gas: Wasted Energy in Production
  • Nicholas Herrud , History: Ukrainian Identity through Borders and Memory in the Inter War Period
  • Henry Downes , Economics: Did Organized Labor Induce Labor? The Surprising Role of Unions in the American Baby Boom
  • O. Amandhi Mathews , Biological Sciences: The Neuronal GPS
  • Hoon Lee , Aerospace and Mechanical Engineering: Electron Transport: What We Can Learn from Missing Data
  • Liliya Chernysheva , Civil and Environmental Engineering and Earth Sciences: The First Step to Cleaning Up Our Environment Is Analytics
  • Gowthami Mahendran , Chemistry and Biochemistry: Giving Smooth Brain Babies a Shot at Life
  • Joséphine Lechartre , Peace Studies and Political Science: Collaborative Decision-Making: Learning Democratic Participation in Refugee Camps
  • Kurt Kohler , Biological Sciences: Building a Homestead in the Catheterized Bladder: A Bacteria’s Survival Guide

Bo Wei Cynthia Chen, Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering

IMAGES

  1. Learn How to Write a Thesis Introduction

    writing thesis master's degree

  2. Master degree thesis abstract writing

    writing thesis master's degree

  3. Sample thesis proposal for masters degree

    writing thesis master's degree

  4. Write a Master Thesis with Proper Planning and Professional Mindset

    writing thesis master's degree

  5. Format for MSc Thesis

    writing thesis master's degree

  6. How to write a Master Thesis?

    writing thesis master's degree

VIDEO

  1. 💯How I did write A+ Thesis 📚

  2. The Thesis

  3. How to make Dissertation? Complete Details about Dissertation / Thesis for Bachelors/ Masters Degree

  4. Thesis Writing Clinic S6

  5. Get the Best Thesis Writing Services| Best Assignment writing services

  6. Effective ways of writing Thesis / Research Article

COMMENTS

  1. What Is a Thesis?

    A thesis is a type of research paper based on your original research. It is usually submitted as the final step of a master's program or a capstone to a bachelor's degree. Writing a thesis can be a daunting experience. Other than a dissertation, it is one of the longest pieces of writing students typically complete.

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

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

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

    The purpose of a master's thesis is to help you develop your own independent abilities, ensuring that you can drive your own career forward without constantly looking to others to provide direction. Leaders get master's degrees. That's why many business professionals in leadership roles have graduate degree initials after their last names.

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

    First, you need to find a topic (or "thesis question"), often with the help and/or approval of your faculty-led thesis committee. Next comes the process of research, which is often the most time-intensive. Then, you must take the time to analyze your research. Lastly, you outline and write the actual thesis. Thanks!

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

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

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

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

  7. How to Write a Dissertation or Masters Thesis

    Writing a masters dissertation or thesis is a sizable task. It takes a considerable amount of research, studying and writing. Usually, students need to write around 10,000 to 15,000 words. It is completely normal to find the idea of writing a masters thesis or dissertation slightly daunting, even for students who have written one before at ...

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

    There are two ways that you can approach the editing of your master's thesis. Both have value and it depends on how you view the process of writing. These are: Individually edit sections as they are returned from the supervisor. Edit at the very end, so that the editing can be consistent across sections.

  9. Thesis

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

  10. How to Write a Master's Thesis

    "This is the best textbook about writing an M.A. thesis available in the market." -Hsin-I Liu, University of the Incarnate Word The Third Edition of How to Write a Master's Thesis is a comprehensive manual on how to plan and write a five-chapter master's thesis, and a great resource for graduate students looking for concrete, applied guidance on how to successfully complete their ...

  11. Dissertation & Thesis Outline

    Dissertation & Thesis Outline | Example & Free Templates. Published on June 7, 2022 by Tegan George.Revised on November 21, 2023. A thesis or dissertation outline is one of the most critical early steps in your writing process.It helps you to lay out and organize your ideas and can provide you with a roadmap for deciding the specifics of your dissertation topic and showcasing its relevance to ...

  12. MA in Writing

    MA in Writing Program Overview. The Johns Hopkins MA in Writing program reflects our university's international reputation for academic rigor and creative innovation. Rooted in craft and led by working writers, our high-quality program is both challenging and supportive: We're here to offer clear, straightforward, thoughtful feedback while ...

  13. How to Write a Dissertation or Thesis Proposal

    Writing a proposal or prospectus can be a challenge, but we've compiled some examples for you to get your started. Example #1: "Geographic Representations of the Planet Mars, 1867-1907" by Maria Lane. Example #2: "Individuals and the State in Late Bronze Age Greece: Messenian Perspectives on Mycenaean Society" by Dimitri Nakassis.

  14. Researching and Writing a Masters Dissertation

    It can be helpful to think of your Masters dissertation as a series of closely interlinked essays, rather than one overwhelming paper. The size of this section will depend on the overall word count for your dissertation. However, to give you a rough idea for a 15,000-word dissertation, the discussion part will generally be about 12,000 words long.

  15. PDF Guidelines for the Preparation of Your Master's Thesis

    Paper and Printing. The original thesis must be printed on watermarked paper of at least 25 percent cotton and at least 20 pound weight; duplicate copies may be printed on 16 pound paper. Page size must be eight and one-half inches by eleven inches. Except for the original, duplicate copies may be photocopied.

  16. PDF MASTER DEGREE THESIS: A COMPREHENSIVE WRITING GUIDE

    The steps to writing a thesis. The process of writing a thesis is generally characterized by the following. main steps: Choose a topic of your interest and a possible supervisor. Collect, gather, study, analyze and synthesize the relevant academic. literature regarding the topic, to delineate the state-of-the-art and.

  17. HOW TO WRITE YOUR MASTER THESIS: THE EASY HANDBOOK

    HOW TO WRITE YOUR Phd THESIS: THE EASY HANDBOOK. January 2023. Zouhour El Abiad. Hani El-Chaarani. Writing a PhD's thesis is a challenging mission in higher education. This work requires in ...

  18. PDF Guide to Writing a Thesis in English (M.A. and M.S. Degrees)

    C. Applying to Write a Thesis (Step #1) The application to write a thesis is not a formal thesis proposal. It is a statement of intent to pursue the Master's Thesis track and an initial description of the student's projected topic. That is, the applicant is requesting permission from the departmental Graduate Committee to proceed to ENG 590.

  19. Thesis Writing and Filing

    GradPro, the Graduate Writing Center, and the GSI Teaching & Resource Center can support you in your academic and professional development at all stages of your degree program and in preparing for your career. ... If you are filing a thesis to satisfy both master's degrees, do not submit two eForms. Please select one plan only on the eForm ...

  20. What Is A Master's Thesis?

    As stated above, a thesis is the final project required in the completion of many master's degrees. The thesis is a research paper, but it only involves using research from others and crafting your own analytical points. On the other hand, the dissertation is a more in-depth scholarly research paper completed mostly by doctoral students.

  21. How to Write a Master's Thesis Proposal

    A master's thesis proposal involves a copious amount of data collection, particular presentation ethics, and most importantly, it will become the roadmap to your full thesis. Remember, you must convince your committee that your idea is strong and unique, and that you have done enough legwork to begin with the first few drafts of your final thesis.

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

    Choosing Between a Thesis or Non-thesis Master's Degree. As of 2015, approximately 25.4 million Americans held advanced degrees, with more citizens joining these ranks each year. As studies continue to show the career advancement and salary benefits of completing a master's degree, more and more students elect to pursue advanced educations ...

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

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

  24. Downes, Lechartre, and Mathews claim top honors in 2024 Shaheen Three

    Graduate studies at the University of Notre Dame are driven by the core conviction that Your Research Matters. Our students pursue research in a variety of degree programs renowned for academic excellence. ... Downes, Lechartre, and Mathews claim top honors in 2024 Shaheen Three Minute Thesis (3MT®) finals; Downes, Lechartre, and Mathews claim ...