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A dissertation or thesis[1] is a document submitted in support of candidature for a degree or professional qualification presenting the author's research and findings.[2] In some countries/universities, the word thesis or a cognate is used as part of a bachelor's or master's course, while dissertation is normally applied to a doctorate.

The term "dissertation" can also mean, more in general, a treatise on some subject, without relation to obtaining an academic degree. The term "thesis" can also mean the central claim of an essay or similar work.

Contents

Etymology

The word "thesis comes from the Greek θέσις, meaning "position", and refers to an intellectual proposition. "Dissertation" comes from the Latin dissertātiō, meaning "discourse."

Presentation style and structure

A typical thesis has a title page, an abstract, a table of contents, a body, comprising the various chapters, and a bibliography or (more usually) a references section.

Dissertations vary in their structure in accord with the many different areas of study (arts, humanities, social sciences, technology, etc.) and the great differences between them. Dissertations normally report on a research project of some kind, and the structure nearly always reflects this by a) introducing the research topic, with an explanation of why the subject was chosen for study, b) reviewing relevant literature and showing how this has informed the research issue, c) explaining how the research has been designed and why the research methods being used have been chosen, d) outlining the findings, e) analysing the findings and discussing them in the context of the literature review, and f) concluding.

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Style guides

Degree-awarding institutions often define their own house style that candidates have to follow when preparing a thesis document. In addition to institution-specific house styles, there exist a number of field-specific, national, and international standards and recommendations for the presentation of theses, for instance ISO 7144[2]. Other applicable international standards include ISO 2145 on section numbers, ISO 690 on bibliographic references, and ISO 31 on quantities or units.

Some older house styles specify that front matter (title page, abstract, table of content, etc.) uses a separate page-number sequence from the main text, using Roman numerals. The relevant international standard[2] and many newer style guides recognize that this book design practice can cause confusion where electronic document viewers number all pages of a document continuously from the first page, independent of any printed page numbers. They therefore avoid the traditional separate number sequence for front matter and require a single sequence of Arabic numbers starting with 1 for the first printed page (the verso of the title page).

Presentation requirements, including pagination, layout, type and color of paper, use of acid-free paper (where a copy of the dissertation will become a permanent part of the library collection), paper size, order of components, and citation style, will be checked page by page by the accepting officer before the thesis is accepted and a receipt is issued. Theses which are incomplete or incorrectly formatted may not be accepted.

However, strict standards are not always required. Most Italian universities, for example, have only general requirements on the character size and the page formatting, and leave much freedom on the actual typographic details.[citation needed]

Thesis committee

A thesis or dissertation committee is a committee that supervises a student's dissertation. This committee, consisting of a primary supervisor or advisor and two or more committee members, supervises the progress of the dissertation and may also act as the examining committee, or jury, at the oral examination of the thesis (see below).

The committee is chosen by the student in conjunction with his or her primary adviser, usually after completion of the comprehensive examinations, and may consist of members of the comps committee. The committee members are doctors in their field (whether a PhD or other designation) and have the task of reading the dissertation, making suggestions for changes and improvements, and sitting in on the defense. Usually, at least one member of the committee must be a professor in a department that is different from that of the student.

Regional and degree-specific practices and terminologies

Argentina

In the Latin American docta, the academic dissertation can be referred to different stages inside the academic program that the student is seeking to achieve into a recognized Argentine University, in all the cases the students must develop original contribution in the chosen fields by means of several paper work and essays that comprehend the body of the tesis.[3] Correspondingly to the academic degree, the last phase of an academic thesis is called in Castilian a defensa de grado, defensa magistral or defensa doctoral in cases in which the university candidate is finalizing his or her licentiate, master's, or PhD program. According to a committee resolution, the dissertation can be approved or rejected by an academic committee consisting of the thesis director, the thesis coordinator, and at least one evaluator from another recognized university in which the student is pursuing his or her academic program. All the dissertation referees must already have achieved at least the academic degree that the candidate is trying to reach.[4]

Canada

At English-speaking Canadian universities, writings presented in fulfillment of undergraduate coursework requirements are normally called papers, term papers or essays. A long paper presented for completion of an honours degree is sometimes called a major paper, undergraduate thesis or honours thesis. Major papers presented as the final project for a master's degree are normally called theses; and major papers presenting the student's research towards a doctoral degree are called theses or dissertations.

At some Canadian universities where French is a primary language of study,[5] students may have a choice between presenting a "mémoire"' which is a shorter synthetic work (roughly 75 pages) and a thèse which is one hundred pages or more[citation needed]. A synthetic monograph associated with doctoral work is referred to as a "thèse". Either work can be awarded a "mention d'honneur" (excellence) as a result of the decision by the examination committee, although these are rare.

A typical undergraduate thesis might be forty pages. Master's theses are approximately one hundred pages. PhD theses are usually over two hundred pages. This may vary greatly by discipline, however.

France

In France, the academic dissertation or thesis is called a thèse while the word dissertation is reserved for shorter (1,000-2,000 words), more generic academic treatises. To complete a master's degree in research, a student is required to write a mémoire.

Germany

In Germany, an academic thesis is called an Abschlussarbeit (for non-doctorate and non-Habilitation degrees) or the basic name of the degree complemented by -arbeit (e.g., Diplomarbeit, Masterarbeit, Doktorarbeit, but Habilitationsschrift not Habilitationsarbeit). Length is often given in page count and depends upon departments, faculties, and fields of study. A bachelor's thesis is often 40-60 pages long, other theses are usually even longer. The required submission for the doctorate is called a Dissertation or Doktorarbeit. The submission for the Habilitation is called Habilitationsschrift. Cumulative theses are becoming increasingly common in many fields of study.

India

In India, the thesis defense is called a viva voce, (Latin for "by live voice") examination (viva for short). Involved in the viva are two examiners and the candidate. One examiner is an academic from the candidate's own university department (not any of the candidate's supervisors) and the other is an external examiner from a different university.[citation needed]

Pakistan

In Pakistan, at undergraduate level the thesis is usually called final year project, as it is completed in the senior year of the degree, the name project usually implies that the work carried out is less extensive than a thesis and bears lesser credit hours too. The undergraduate level project is presented through an elaborate written report and a presentation to the advisor, a board of faculty members and students. At graduate level however, i.e. in MS, some universities allow students to accomplish a project of 6 credits or a thesis of 9 credits, at least one publication is normally considered enough for the awarding of the degree with project and is considered mandatory for the awarding of a degree with thesis. A written report and a public thesis defense is mandatory, in the presence of a board of senior researchers, consisting of members from an outside organization or a university. A PhD candidate is supposed to accomplish extensive research work to fulfill the dissertation requirements with international publications being a mandatory requirement. The defense of the research work is done publicly.

Portugal

In Portugal, a dissertation is required for completion of a master's degree. The defense is done in a public presentation in which teachers, students, and the general public can participate. For the PhD a thesis (tese) or dissertation (dissertação or more precisely dissertação de doutoramento) is presented for defense in a public exam. The exam typically extends over 3 h. The examination board typically involves 5 to 6 Professors or other experts with a PhD degree (at least half of them must be external to the university where the candidate defends the thesis). Each university / faculty defines the length of these documents, but typical numbers of pages are around 60-80 for MSc and 200-250 for PhD.

UK

At universities in the United Kingdom, the term thesis is usually associated with PhD/EngD (doctoral) and research master's degrees, whilst dissertation is the more common term for a substantial project submitted as part of a taught master's degree or an undergraduate degree (e.g. BA, BSc, BMus, BEd, BEng etc).

Individual departments and faculties set thesis word lengths. Theses in the humanities and social sciences are typically 80,000-100,000 words, with theses in the sciences being roughly half that length. The length of an undergraduate or master's dissertation varies considerably, but is almost always between 8,000 and 25,000 words.

Russia and Ukraine

In Russia and Ukraine [6], an academic dissertation or thesis is called what can be literally translated as a "master's degree work" (thesis), whereas the word dissertation is reserved for doctoral theses (Candidate of Sciences). To complete a master's degree, a student is required to write a thesis of about 110-130 pages and to then defend the work publicly[7] .

United States

In some United States doctoral programs, the term "dissertation" can refer to the major part of the student's total time spent (along with two or three years of classes), and may take years of full-time work to complete. At most universities, dissertation is the term for the required submission for the doctorate, and thesis refers only to the master's degree requirement. Thesis is also used to describe a cumulative project for a bachelor's degree, and is more common at selective colleges and universities, or for those seeking admittance to graduate school or to obtain an honors academic designation. These are called "senior projects" or "senior thesis;" they are generally done in the senior year near graduation after having completed other courses, the independent study period, and the internship and/or student teaching period (the completion of most of the requirements before the writing of the paper ensures adequate knowledge and aptitude for the challenge). Unlike a dissertation or master's thesis, they are not as long, they do not require a novel contribution to knowledge, or even a very narrow focus on a set subtopic. Like them, they can be lengthy, require supervision by faculty, must be focused on a certain area of knowledge, and must use many scholarly citations. They may or may not be defended before a committee; there is generally no preceding examination before the writing of the paper save for at a few colleges. Specific undergraduate courses, especially writing-intensive courses and/or courses taken by upperclassmen, may also require one or more extensive written assignments referred to variously as theses, essays, or papers. Generally speaking, a dissertation is judged as to whether or not it makes an original and unique contribution to scholarship. Lesser projects (a master's thesis, for example) are judged by whether or not they demonstrate mastery of available scholarship in the presentation of an idea. Increasingly, high schools are requiring students to complete a senior project or senior thesis on a chosen topic during the final year as a prerequisite for graduation.[8][9]

Thesis examinations

One of the requirements for certain advanced degrees is often an oral examination. This examination normally occurs after the dissertation is finished but before it is submitted to the university, and may comprise a presentation by the student and questions posed by an examining committee or jury. In North America, this examination is known as a thesis or dissertation defense, while in the UK and other English-speaking countries it is called a viva voce.

Examination results

The result of the examination may be given immediately following deliberation by the examiners (in which case the candidate may immediately be considered to have received his or her degree), or at a later date, in which case the examiners may prepare a defense report that is forwarded to a Board or Committee of Postgraduate Studies, which then officially recommends the candidate for the degree.

Potential decisions (or "verdicts") include:

  • Accepted / pass with no corrections.
The thesis is accepted as presented. A grade may be awarded, though in many countries PhDs are not graded at all, and in others only one of the theoretically possible grades (the highest) is ever used in practice.[citation needed]
  • The thesis must be revised.
Revisions (for example, correction of numerous grammatical or spelling errors; clarification of concepts or methodology; addition of sections) are required. One or more members of the jury and/or the thesis supervisor will make the decision on the acceptability of revisions and provide written confirmation that they have been satisfactorily completed. If, as is often the case, the needed revisions are relatively modest the examiners may all sign the thesis with the verbal understanding that the candidate will review the revised thesis with his or her supervisor before submitting the completed dissertation.
  • Extensive revision required.
The thesis must be revised extensively and undergo the evaluation and defense process again from the beginning with the same examiners. Problems may include theoretical or methodological issues. A candidate who is not recommended for the degree after the second defense must normally withdraw from the program.
  • Unacceptable
The thesis is unacceptable and the candidate must withdraw from the program.
This verdict is given only when the thesis requires major revisions and when the examination makes it clear that the candidate is incapable of making such revisions.

At most North American institutions the latter two verdicts are extremely rare, for two reasons. First, to obtain the status of doctoral candidates, graduate students typically write a qualifying examination or comprehensive examination, which often includes an oral defense. Students who pass the qualifying examination are deemed capable of completing scholarly work independently and are allowed to proceed with working on a dissertation. Second, since the thesis supervisor (and the other members of the advisory committee) will normally have reviewed the thesis extensively before recommending the student proceed to the defense, such an outcome would be regarded as a major failure not only on the part of the candidate but also by the candidate's supervisor (who should have recognized the substandard quality of the dissertation long before the defense was allowed to take place). It is also fairly rare for a thesis to be accepted without any revisions; the most common outcome of a defense is for the examiners to specify minor revisions (which the candidate typically completes in a few days or weeks).

On the other hand, at universities on the British pattern it is not uncommon for theses to be failed at the viva stage, in which case either a major re-write is required, followed by a new viva, or the thesis may be awarded the lesser degree of M.Phil (Master of Philosophy) instead, preventing the candidate from resubmitting the thesis.

Australia

In Australia, doctoral theses are usually examined by three examiners; without a live defense except in extremely rare exceptions. In the case of a Master's Degree by research the thesis is usually examined by only two examiners. Typically one of these examiners will be from within the candidate's own department; the others will usually be from other universities and often from overseas. Following submission of the thesis, copies are sent by mail to examiners and then reports sent back to the institution.

Germany

In Germany, a thesis is often examined with an oral defense (Verteidigung), also called Disputation. This applies to many diploma degrees and to almost all master's and doctoral degrees, but usually not to bachelor's degrees.

Portugal

In Portugal, a thesis is examined with an oral defense which includes an initial presentation by the candidate followed by an extensive questioning/answering period. Typical duration for the total exam is 1.30h for the MSc and 3 h for the PhD.

North America

In North America, the thesis defense or oral defense is the final examination for doctoral candidates, and sometimes for master's candidates.

The examining committee normally consists of the thesis committee, usually a given number of professors mainly from the student's university plus his or her primary supervisor, an external examiner (someone not otherwise connected to the university), and a chair person. Each committee member will have been given a completed copy of the dissertation prior to the defense, and will come prepared to ask questions about the thesis itself and the subject matter. In many schools, master's thesis defenses are restricted to the examinee and the examiners, but doctoral defenses are open to the public.

The typical format will see the candidate giving a short (20-40 minute) presentation of his or her research, followed by one to two hours of questions.

At some US institutions a longer public lecture (known as a "thesis talk" or "thesis seminar") by the candidate will accompany the defense itself, in which case only the candidate, the examiners, and other members of the faculty may attend the actual defense.

UK, Ireland and Hong Kong

In the UK, Ireland and Hong Kong the thesis defense is called a viva voce, (Latin for "by live voice") examination (viva for short). Involved in the viva are two examiners and the candidate. One examiner is an academic from the candidate's own university department (not any of the candidate's supervisors) and the other is an external examiner from a different university.[citation needed]

In the United Kingdom, there are only two or at most three examiners, and the examination is in many universities strictly in private — however, in the University of Oxford, at least, in theory any member of the University may attend a DPhil viva (the University's regulations require that details of the examination and its time and place be published formally in advance) provided he or she attends in full academic dress[10]. Also, in the UK, the candidate's primary supervisor is not permitted to ask questions during the viva, and their presence is not necessary.

Submission of the thesis

A submission of the thesis is the last formal requirement for most students after the defense. By the final deadline, the student must submit a complete copy of the thesis to the appropriate body within the accepting institution, along with the appropriate forms, bearing the signatures of the primary supervisor, the examiners, and, in some cases, the head of the student's department. Other required forms may include library authorizations (giving the university library permission to make the thesis available as part of its collection) and copyright permissions (in the event that the student has incorporated copyrighted materials in the thesis). Many large scientific publishing houses (e.g. Taylor & Francis, Elsevier) use copyright agreements which allow the authors to incorporate their published articles into dissertations without separate authorization.

Failure to submit the thesis by the deadline may result in graduation (and granting of the degree) being delayed. At most US institutions, there will also be various fees (for binding, microfilming, copyright registration, and the like) which must be paid before the degree will be granted.

Once all the paperwork is in order, copies of the thesis may be made available in one or more university libraries. Specialist abstracting services exist to publicize the content of these beyond the institutions in which they are produced.

See also

References

  1. ^ Originally, the words "dissertation" and "thesis" (plural, "theses") were not interchangeable. When, at ancient universities, the lector had completed his lecture, there would traditionally follow a disputation, during which students could take up certain points and argue them. The position that one took during a disputation was the thesis, while the dissertation was the line of reasoning with which one buttressed it.
  2. ^ a b c International Standard ISO 7144: Documentation — Presentation of theses and similar documents, International Organization for Standardization, Geneva, 1986.
  3. ^ http://www.gfme.org/global_guide/pdf/13-18%20Argentina.pdf
  4. ^ Comisión Nacional de Evaluación y Acreditación Universitaria (Spanish)
  5. ^ Carleton University - Canada's Capital University
  6. ^ - S.Dzuba, I.Podoprihina International economy (Euro-Atlantic integration of the system of preparation of master's degrees): Textbook. 2006.
  7. ^ uk:Дипломна робота магістра
  8. ^ http://governors.spps.org/sites/4fea35ef-7ee8-4558-a899-5935fb9ffa55/uploads/Joe_Nathan_April_30th_JHS_senior_project_article.doc
  9. ^ http://www.principalspartnership.com/seniorproject.pdf
  10. ^ Oxford University Examination Regulations, 2007

External links


Study guide

Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From Wikiversity

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Contents

The aim of this page is provide advice and support for thesis-writing.

Guides

Universities and disciplines usually have their own specific guidelines about the process and requirements for a thesis. Example guides include:

Purpose

The purpose of a thesis is generally to make an original contribution to academic knowledge and often also to award the author of the thesis with an official 'degree' (or part of a 'degree') where the thesis is undertaking as a learning exercise.

Thesis sections

Some typical sections of a social science thesis are described below.

Pre-pages

  • Title
  • Table of contents
  • Table of tables
  • Table of figures
  • Abstract

Introduction

Method

Results

Discussion

References

Appendices

See also

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