Thesis and Dissertation
Two of the most significant texts in the academic world are the thesis and reference project. Thesis and dissertation projects are typically undertaken by master's and doctoral level students as the culminating projects of their degrees. When composed by a master's student, a thesis may also be known as a master's thesis. Some undergraduates also write theses, and then they are known as senior theses. Most commonly, however, when in reference to a long document composed by a student, the term thesis is referring to a master's thesis. Likewise, though some universities will refer to master's level culminating projects as dissertations, the term dissertation is most commonly used when referencing a culminating project completed by a doctoral pupil.
Thesis and dissertation projects are very different from the other type of writing assignments a student must complete in graduate school. Like most other writing assignments, theses and dissertations require research, planning, creativity, and innovation. However, unlike those projects, a thesis and dissertation must investigate or explore an original research question or idea. This means that the student must think of something wholly new on which to write. Generating such a topic and then exploring or testing the topic is a huge time and energy investment. Therefore, theses and dissertations are set apart from other writing assignments and are considered to be exceptionally challenging.
The primary difference between theses and dissertations is in length and level of complexity. Because a thesis is typically composed by a master's student and a master's degree is of less distinction than a Ph.D., theses are typically shorter that dissertations and are in general less in-depth or complex. This does not mean that a thesis is easy to do. Quite the contrary. Both theses and dissertations require a similar process—a process that typically takes a year or more to complete.
First, a student must establish a topic. This can take months, as determining a topic that has not already been fully explored requires the student to do extensive research into the general subject area of that topic. Typically, students go through the topic selection process with the assistance of their article or dissertation advisors or committees so that they have feedback and guidance along the way.
Once a topic has been selected, the student must determine how he or she will test or explore that topic. This typically requires the development of a research methodology. Once the methodology has been developed, the student must submit a formal document to his or her department and committee that details the project topic and methodology. This document is commonly known as a proposal or prospectus.
Then the report has been approved, the student may begin the execution of the study. This will likely take several months. During this time, the student does research, performs the study, and gathers and analyzes the study results.
When the study has been completed, the student is ready to write the thesis or reference project. This can be an arduous process, as well, as theses and dissertations are both very long documents that must adhere to very specific formatting and documentation requirements.
When the document has been written, the student must submit it to his or her department and committee and then do a formal defense in which members of the committee and department challenge the writer on his or her methodology and/or results. When this is complete, the student typically must do another phase of revision before the document will be accepted. After this, the student is usually finished with the project and is able to take his or her degree.
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