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Should you Choose the 'Thesis' or 'NonThesis' Option for Grad School

  • By Jason Bacot
  • Published 01/26/2011
  • Writing

For some students, the decision to go to graduate school may rest heavily on what they think about having to do a thesis. A thesis presents your master’s level research in what is usually a book-length work. In some disciplines, however, a master’s thesis may be much shorter. Some master’s students in mathematics will do a proof as their thesis, and while this will certainly be longer than the proofs you did in high school geometry, they’re more likely to be in the tens of pages in length rather than hundreds of pages. Some master’s programs give the student the option of a thesis or a non-thesis course of study. Which should you choose? There are advantages to each option, but in general, taking the thesis option carries a bit more weight and looks better on a resume. Here are some of the arguments for both the thesis and non-thesis options. Most professors say that if you plan to go on to do a PhD, you should take the thesis option. This shows the doctoral admissions officers that you are capable of original, in-depth research, and the document itself can go a long way toward getting you accepted into a PhD program if it is well-executed.

On the other hand, many business leaders reason that a thesis option is an advantage for those who plan to go into the workforce right after earning their master’s degree, because the completion of a thesis shows that the candidate is capable of working independently, gathering and analyzing information, and communicating it clearly. This is a big advant

age in engineering and some of the sciences. There are advantages to choosing the non-thesis option for some students. In many cases, the non-thesis option takes less time, because there is a prescribed amount of coursework. Graduate school is expensive, and if you need to complete your degree so you can get back into the workforce, the non-thesis option may let you do that quicker. The non-thesis option is considered more appropriate for the master’s candidate who wants to further his or her education without the level of specialization that’s required for producing a thesis. This may be an advantage in some fields of study. And finally, the non-thesis option may allow some students to spend more time getting hands-on experience, which can carry a lot of weight when it comes to landing certain jobs in the workforce. Whether you do a thesis or not will in some cases depend upon the faculty. Some professors will only head a master’s committee of a student doing a thesis, because they feel like the discipline required results in a better master’s level education. And there are some PhD programs that require incoming students to have completed either a master’s thesis or a senior level undergraduate thesis.

If you’re at all inclined to do a thesis, it’s almost always a good idea to do so. Your thesis will stand on its own as a representation of your ability to complete a major project, putting your thesis title on your resume will definitely benefit you, and you will have the sense of personal satisfaction of having completed and documented a significant research project.


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