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Postgraduate Thesis

To get a master’s degree, it is sufficient to make a new synthesis or application of knowledge already available, and report the results in a thesis. The purpose of a thesis is the documentation of a student’s scholarly activity in a formal structure that lends a relatively uniform appearance to work completed at University. The thesis structure is intended to facilitate the understanding of students’ scholarly work by people unfamiliar with the specific work presented, but who are familiar with professional writing in general. Also the thesis structure is intended to aid students in the preparation of manuscripts from their scholarly work.

Thesis Types

Theses generally can be categorized as two types: qualitative (which includes creative) and quantitative. While some graduate work may not clearly fit in one category, most will. Because the structure and formatting for each are different, this document is organized in to two sections describing each. Although some information is the same for all theses, it is important to determine which type of thesis you are writing early in your graduate program.

Qualitative or Creative Thesis: This type of thesis is the result of work done by students in a descriptive, exploratory, analytical, or creative way. Departments that encompass the arts and humanities may have graduate students doing this type of thesis.

Quantitative Thesis: This type of thesis typically contains data, pieces of information made or measured by scientific devices (such as spectrophotometers, polymerase chain reaction cyclers, microscopes, stopwatches) and recorded numerically on some type of scale. Examples of this type of thesis may include:

  • testing materials under different temperatures and determining their conductivity
  • measuring the effect of a new Alzheimer’s drug on nerve conduction speed in mice
  • comparing strength training regimes for track athletes to find the best method
  • correlating variables obtained from survey data

Common elements of a qualitative/quantitative Thesis (Proposal)

  • Title Page – including the preliminary title of the study, the student’s name, and the institution. (Both)
  • Introduction – brief overview explaining the background and importance of the study. (Both)
  • Statement of Problem – specifically what the researcher wants to know. (Both)
  • Purpose of the Study – explanation of the problem and what the researcher hopes to achieve by conducting the study. (Both)
  • Theoretical framework, research questions, or objectives – used to guide the direction of the research. (Both)
  • Definition of Terms – clarification of any terminology in the study that may not be commonly known; provides a similar interpretation for all readers of the study. (Both)
  • Review of the Literature – sufficient review of the relevant research to demonstrate an understanding of the subject and major components. (Both)
  • Research Design – describes the methods that will be used to collect data or organize creative products. (Both)
  • Sampling – describe the aspects of the cases on which data collection and analysis will focus (where relevant). (Both)
  • Variables – describe aspects of the cases on which data collection and analysis will focus (where relevant)
  • Methods of Data Collection – explain how each variable will be measured (where relevant) (Both)
  • Data Analysis Procedures – describe the use of interpretational, structural, or reflective methods (where relevant). (Both)
  • Timeline – provide a timeline listing the order for all the major steps of the study and indicate the approximate amount of time needed for each step. (Both)

Master’s projects should be the result of work that is independently conducted, and that represents original research and critical analysis. The work should reveal the following from the student concerning the field of study:

  • Awareness and understanding of important current work in the field
  • Ability to plan a research activity
  • Knowledge and motivation to carry out the planned research activity
  • Ability to analyze the results of the research
  • Ability to draw reasonable conclusions from the research
  • Ability to complete a written description of the work in the form of a well-written, properly organized thesis
  • Ability to complete a thesis with potential for presentation at and/or participation in professional meetings and/or publication in scholarly journals
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