A master thesis is a long, original, investigation-based text composed by a master's degree candidate as the final project of his or her degree. At some institutions, master theses are known as master dissertations. Master theses and master reports should never be confused with Ph.D. dissertations, which are much longer and more in-depth documents composed by doctoral candidates as the final projects of their degrees.
A master thesis must be an original work of scholarship in the discipline of the student's degree. Most often, a master thesis is composed over the course of an academic year, with the majority of the research being completed in one semester and the majority of the writing being done in the next. Like Ph.D. dissertations, master theses must be composed in phases, all of which are overseen by the student's thesis committee and department.
The first phase of a master thesis is the report phase. A proposal, also known as a prospectus, is a document that details the student's research idea and plans for exploring that idea. Proposals are official academic documents that typically must follow exact formatting and content guidelines as dictated by a student's university. Typically, a proposal for a master thesis will be between 10 and 15 pages and will clearly articulate the student's exact research question and the precise way in which that research question will be explored. This nearly always necessitates a significant report of existing research relevant to the student's area of study. The report should be written under the close advisement of the student's thesis committee and should only be submitted for official approval after the committee has given extensive feedback regarding its contents.
Once the report is approved, the student must typically undergo continued intensive research in order to become aware of any and all material that may bring insight to his or her topic and research design. After the student has exhausted all known knowledge about his or her topic, he or she is ready to perform or execute the proposed study. This may be a scientific study, if the master thesis is in the sciences, or it may be a theoretical study, if the thesis is in the humanities or some of the social sciences.
When the research study has been complete, the student must interpret and analyze his or her results. A summary of these results and what they mean for the student's topic will be presented in the final thesis document.
After analysis, the student is ready to assemble the entire thesis draft. Master theses will typically range from 30-60 pages. Their exact formatting and layout will be determined by the conventions of the student's discipline and the requirements of the student's university. Therefore, learners should always obtain a copy of their university's thesis preparation policies.
The written thesis should go through a series of drafts, all of which should be read by the thesis committee for feedback and guidance. In addition to content assistance, the student should enlist the assistance of their university's writing center to help with grammar, formatting, and style issues.
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