For other uses, see Thesis (disambiguation).
"Dissertation" redirects here. For the novel, see The Dissertation.
A thesis or dissertation is a document submitted in support of candidature for an academic degree or professional qualification presenting the author's research and findings. In some contexts, the word "thesis" or a cognate is used for part of a bachelor's or master's course, while "dissertation" is normally applied to a doctorate, while in other contexts, the reverse is true. The term graduate thesis is sometimes used to refer to both master's theses and doctoral dissertations.
The required complexity or quality of research of a thesis or dissertation can vary by country, university, or program, and the required minimum study period may thus vary significantly in duration.
The word "dissertation" can at times be used to describe a treatise without relation to obtaining an academic degree. The term "thesis" is also used to refer to the general claim of an essay or similar work.
The term "thesis" comes from the Greek θέσις, meaning "something put forth", and refers to an intellectual proposition. "Dissertation" comes from the Latindissertātiō, meaning "path".
Structure and presentation style
A thesis (or dissertation) may be arranged as a thesis by publication or a monograph, with or without appended papers, respectively, though many graduate programs allow candidates to submit a curated collection of published papers. An ordinary monograph has a title page, an abstract, a table of contents, comprising the various chapters (e.g., introduction, literature review, methodology, results, discussion), and a bibliography or (more usually) a references section. They differ in their structure in accordance with the many different areas of study (arts, humanities, social sciences, technology, sciences, etc.) and the differences between them. In a thesis by publication, the chapters constitute an introductory and comprehensive review of the appended published and unpublished article documents.
Dissertations normally report on a research project or study, or an extended analysis of a topic. The structure of a thesis or dissertation explains the purpose, the previous research literature which impinges on the topic of the study, the methods used and the findings of the project. Most world universities use a multiple chapter format : a) an introduction, which introduces the research topic, the methodology, as well as its scope and significance; b) a literature review, reviewing relevant literature and showing how this has informed the research issue; c) a methodology chapter, explaining how the research has been designed and why the research methods/population/data collection and analysis being used have been chosen; d) a findings chapter, outlining the findings of the research itself; e) an analysis and discussion chapter, analysing the findings and discussing them in the context of the literature review (this chapter is often divided into two—analysis and discussion); f) a conclusion.
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. 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 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 numerals starting with 1 for the first printed page (the recto 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.
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 for the actual typographic details.
A thesis or dissertation committee is a committee that supervises a student's dissertation. In the US, these committees usually consist of a primary supervisor or advisor and two or more committee members, who supervise the progress of the dissertation and may also act as the examining committee, or jury, at the oral examination of the thesis (see below).
At most universities, the committee is chosen by the student in conjunction with his or her primary adviser, usually after completion of the comprehensive examinations or prospectus meeting, 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. Sometimes, 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
In the Latin American docta, the academic dissertation can be referred to as 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 thesis. Correspondingly to the academic degree, the last phase of an academic thesis is called in Spanish 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.
At English-speaking Canadian universities, writings presented in fulfillment of undergraduate coursework requirements are normally called papers, term papers or essays. A longer paper or essay presented for completion of a 4-year bachelor's degree is sometimes called a major paper. High-quality research papers presented as the empirical study of a "postgraduate" consecutive bachelor with Honours or Baccalaureatus Cum Honore degree are called thesis (Honours Seminar Thesis). Major papers presented as the final project for a master's degree are normally called thesis; and major papers presenting the student's research towards a doctoral degree are called theses or dissertations.
At Canadian universities under the French influenced system, 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. A synthetic monograph associated with doctoral work is referred to as a "thèse". See also compilation thesis. 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 paper or essay 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, program, college, or university. However, normally the required minimum study period is primarily depending on the complexity or quality of research requirements.
Theses Canada acquires and preserves a comprehensive collection of Canadian theses at Library and Archives Canada' (LAC) through partnership with Canadian universities who participate in the program.
At most university faculties in Croatia, a degree is obtained by defending a thesis after having passed all the classes specified in the degree programme. In the Bologna system, the bachelor's thesis, called završni rad (literally "final work" or "concluding work") is defended after 3 years of study and is about 30 pages long. Most students with bachelor's degrees continue onto master's programmes which end with a master's thesis called diplomski rad (literally "diploma work" or "graduate work"). The term dissertation is used for a doctoral degree paper (doktorska disertacija).
In the Czech Republic, higher education is completed by passing all classes remaining to the educational compendium for given degree and defending a thesis. For bachelors programme the thesis is called bakalářská práce (bachelors thesis), for master's degrees and also doctor of medicine or dentistry degrees it is the diplomová práce (master's thesis), and for Philosophiae doctor (PhD.) degree it is dissertation dizertační práce. Thesis for so called Higher-Professional School (Vyšší odborná škola, VOŠ) is called absolventská práce.
The following types of thesis are used in Finland (names in Finnish/Swedish):
- Kandidaatintutkielma/kandidatavhandling is the dissertation associated with lower-level academic degrees (bachelor's degree), and at universities of applied science.
- Pro gradu(-tutkielma)/(avhandling )pro gradu, colloquially referred to simply as 'gradu', is the dissertation for master's degrees, which make up the majority of degrees conferred in Finland, and this is therefore the most common type of thesis submitted in the country. The equivalent for engineering and architecture students is diplomityö/diplomarbete.
- The highest-level theses are called lisensiaatintutkielma/licentiatavhandling and (tohtorin)väitöskirja/doktorsavhandling, for licentiate and doctoral degrees, respectively.
In France, the academic dissertation or thesis is called a thèse and it is reserved for the final work of doctoral candidates. The minimum page length is generally (and not formally) 100 pages (or about 400,000 characters), but is usually several times longer (except for technical theses and for "exact sciences" such as physics and maths).
To complete a master's degree in research, a student is required to write a mémoire, the French equivalent of a master's thesis in other higher education systems.
The word dissertation in French is reserved for shorter (1,000–2,000 words), more generic academic treatises.
The defense is called a soutenance.
In Germany, an academic thesis is called Abschlussarbeit or, more specifically, the basic name of the degree complemented by -arbeit (e.g., Diplomarbeit, Masterarbeit, Doktorarbeit). For bachelor's and master's degrees, the name can alternatively be complemented by -thesis instead (e.g., Bachelorthesis).
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, a diploma thesis and a master's thesis usually 60–100. The required submission for a doctorate is called a Dissertation or Doktorarbeit. The submission for a Habilitation, which is an academic qualification, not an academic degree, is called Habilitationsschrift, not Habilitationsarbeit. PhD by publication is becoming increasingly common in many fields of study.
A doctoral degree is often earned with multiple levels of a Latin honors remark for the thesis ranging from summa cum laude (best) to rite (duly). A thesis can also be rejected with a Latin remark (non-rite, non-sufficit or worst as sub omni canone). Bachelor's and master's theses receive numerical grades from 1.0 (best) to 5.0 (failed).
In India the thesis defense is called a viva voce (Latin for "by live voice") examination (viva in short). Involved in the viva are two examiners and the candidate. One examiner is an academic from the candidate's own university department (but not one of the candidate's supervisors) and the other is an external examiner from a different university.
In India, PG Qualifications such as MSc Physics accompanies submission of dissertation in Part I and submission of a Project (a working model of an innovation) in Part II. Engineering qualifications such as Diploma, BTech or B.E., MTech or M.Des. also involves submission of dissertation. In all the cases, the dissertation can be extended for summer internship at certain research and development organizations or also as PhD synopsis.
In Indonesia, the term thesis is used specifically to refer to master's theses. The undergraduate thesis is called skripsi, while the doctoral dissertation is called disertasi. In general, those three terms are usually called as tugas akhir (final assignment), which is mandatory for the completion of a degree. Undergraduate students usually begin to write their final assignment in their third, fourth or fifth enrollment year, depends on the requirements of their respective disciplines and universities. In some universities, students are required to write a proposal skripsi, proposal thesis or thesis proposal before they could write their final assignment. If the thesis proposal is considered to fulfill the qualification by the academic examiners, students then may proceed to write their final assignment.
In Italy there are normally three types of thesis. In order of complexity: one for the Laurea (equivalent to the UK Bachelor's Degree), another one for the Laurea Magistrale (equivalent to the UK Master's Degree) and then a thesis to complete the Dottorato di Ricerca (PhD). Thesis requirements vary greatly between degrees and disciplines, ranging from as low as 3–4 ECTS credits to more than 30. Thesis work is mandatory for the completion of a degree.
Malaysian universities often follow the British model for dissertations and degrees. However, a few universities follow the United States model for theses and dissertations. Some public universities have both British and US style PhD programmes. Branch campuses of British, Australian and Middle East universities in Malaysia use the respective models of the home campuses.
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.
In the Philippines, an academic thesis is named by the degree, such as bachelor/undergraduate thesis or masteral thesis. However, in Philippine English, the term doctorate is typically replaced with doctoral (as in the case of "doctoral dissertation"), though in official documentation the former is still used. The terms thesis and dissertation are commonly used interchangeably in everyday language yet it generally understood that a thesis refers to bachelor/undergraduate and master academic work while a dissertation is named for doctorate work.
The Philippine system is influenced by American collegiate system, in that it requires a research project to be submitted before being allowed to write a thesis. This is mostly given as a prerequisite writing course to the actual thesis and is accomplished in the term period before; supervision is provided by one professor assigned to a class. This is later to be presented in front of an academic panel, often the entire faculty of an academic department, with their recommendations contributing to the acceptance, revision, or rejection of the initial topic. In addition, the presentation of the research project will help the candidate choose their primary thesis adviser.
An undergraduate thesis is completed in the final year of the degree alongside existing seminar (lecture) or laboratory courses, and is often divided into two presentations: proposal and thesis presentations (though this varies across universities), whereas a master thesis or doctorate dissertation is accomplished in the last term alone and is defended once. In most universities, a thesis is required for the bestowment of a degree to a candidate alongside a number of units earned throughout their academic period of stay, though for practice and skills-based degrees a practicum and a written report can be achieved instead. The examination board often consists of 3 to 5 examiners, often professors in a university (with a Masters or PhD degree) depending on the university's examination rules. Required word length, complexity, and contribution to scholarship varies widely across universities in the country.
In Poland, a bachelor's degree usually requires a praca licencjacka (bachelor's thesis) or the similar level degree in engineering requires a praca inżynierska (engineer's thesis/bachelor's thesis), the master's degree requires a praca magisterska (master's thesis). The academic dissertation for a PhD is called a dysertacja or praca doktorska. The submission for the Habilitation is called praca habilitacyjna" or dysertacja habilitacyjna". Thus the term dysertacja is reserved for PhD and Habilitation degrees. All the theses need to be "defended" by the author during a special examination for the given degree. Examinations for PhD and Habilitation degrees are public.
Portugal and Brazil
In Portugal and Brazil, a dissertation (dissertação) is required for completion of a master or PhD 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) is presented for defense in a public exam. The exam typically extends over 3 hours. The examination board typically involves 5 to 6 scholars (including the advisor) or other experts with a PhD degree (generally at least half of them must be external to the university where the candidate defends the thesis, but may depend on the University). Each university / faculty defines the length of these documents, but typical numbers of pages are around 60–80 for MSc and 150–250 for PhD.
Russia, Kazakhstan, Belarus, Ukraine
In Russia, Kazakhstan, Belarus, and Ukraine 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 and to then defend the work publicly. Length of this manuscript usually is given in page count and depends upon educational institution, its departments, faculties, and fields of study
At universities in Slovenia, an academic thesis called diploma thesis is a prerequisite for completing undergraduate studies. The thesis used to be 40–60 pages long, but has been reduced to 20–30 pages in new Bologna process programmes. To complete Master's studies, a candidate must write magistrsko delo (Master's thesis) that is longer and more detailed than the undergraduate thesis. The required submission for the doctorate is called doktorska disertacija (doctoral dissertation). In pre Bologna programmes students were able to skip the preparation and presentation of a Master's thesis and continue straightforward towards doctorate.
In Slovakia, higher education is completed by defending a thesis, which is called bachelors thesis "bakalárska práca" for bachelors programme, master's thesis or "diplomová práca" for master's degrees and also doctor of medicine or dentistry degrees and dissertation "dizertačná práca" for Philosophiae doctor (PhD.) degree.
In Sweden, there are different types of theses. Practices and definitions vary between fields but commonly include the C thesis/Bachelor thesis, which corresponds to 15 HP or 10 weeks of independent studies, D thesis/'/Magister/one year master's thesis, which corresponds to 15 HP or 10 weeks of independent studies and E Thesis/two-year master's thesis, which corresponds to 30 HP or 20 weeks of independent studies. After that there are two types of post graduate degrees, Licentiate dissertation and PhD dissertation. A licentiate degree is approximately "half a PhD" in terms of size and scope of the thesis. Swedish PhD studies should in theory last for four years, including course work and thesis work, but as many PhD students also teach, the PhD often takes longer to complete.
Outside the academic community, the terms thesis and dissertation are interchangeable. At universities in the United Kingdom, the term thesis is usually associated with PhD/EngD (doctoral) and research master's degrees, while 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.).
Thesis word lengths may differ by faculty/department and are set by individual universities.
A wide range of supervisory arrangements can be found in the British academy, from single supervisors (more usual for undergraduate and Masters level work) to supervisory teams of up to three supervisors. In teams, there will often be a Director of Studies, usually someone with broader experience (perhaps having passed some threshold of successful supervisions). The Director may be involved with regular supervision along with the other supervisors, or may have more of an oversight role, with the other supervisors taking on the more day-to-day responsibilities of supervision.
In some U.S. doctoral programs, the "dissertation" can take up 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 theses;" they are generally done in the senior year near graduation after having completed other courses, the independent study period, and the internship 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 and require months of work, they require supervision by at least one professor adviser, they must be focused on a certain area of knowledge, and they must use an appreciable amount of scholarly citations. They may or may not be defended before a committee, but usually are not; there is generally no preceding examination before the writing of the paper, except for at very few colleges. Because of the nature of the graduate thesis or dissertation having to be more narrow and more novel, the result of original research, these usually have a smaller proportion of the work that is cited from other sources, though the fact that they are lengthier may mean they still have total citations.
Specific undergraduate courses, especially writing-intensive courses or courses taken by upperclassmen, may also require one or more extensive written assignments referred to variously as theses, essays, or papers. 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. The extended essay component of the International Baccalaureate Diploma Programme, offered in a growing number of American high schools, is another example of this trend.
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.[dubious– discuss]
The required complexity or quality of research of a thesis may vary significantly among universities or programs.
One of the requirements for certain advanced degrees is often an oral examination (a.k.a. viva voce examination or just viva). This examination normally occurs after the dissertation is finished but before it is submitted to the university, and may comprise a presentation (often public) by the student and questions posed by an examining committee or jury. In North America, an initial oral examination in the field of specialization may take place just before the student settles down to work on the dissertation. An additional oral exam may take place after the dissertation is completed and is known as a thesis or dissertation "defense," which at some universities may be a mere formality and at others may result in the student being required to make significant revisions. In the UK and certain other English-speaking countries, an oral examination is called a viva voce.
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.
- The thesis must be revised.
- Revisions (for example, correction of numerous grammatical or spelling errors; clarification of concepts or methodology; an addition of sections) are required. One or more members of the jury 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 version.
- 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.
- 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).
At universities on the British pattern it is not uncommon for theses at the viva stage to be subject to major revisions in which a substantial rewrite is required, sometimes followed by a new viva. Very rarely, the thesis may be awarded the lesser degree of M.Phil (Master of Philosophy) instead, preventing the candidate from resubmitting the thesis.
In Australia, doctoral theses are usually examined by three examiners although some, like the Australian Catholic University and the University of New South Wales, have shifted to using only two 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 other(s) 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.
Similar to a master's degree by research thesis, a thesis for the research component of a master's degree by coursework is also usually examined by two examiners, one from the candidate's department and one from another university. For an Honours year, which is a fourth year in addition to the usual three-year bachelor's degree, the thesis is also examined by two examiners, though both are usually from the candidate's own department. Honours and Master's theses sometimes require an oral defense before they are accepted.
In Germany, a thesis is usually examined with an oral examination. This applies to almost all Diplom, Magister, master's and doctoral degrees as well as to most bachelor's degrees. However, a process that allows for revisions of the thesis is usually only implemented for doctoral degrees.
There are several different kinds of oral examinations used in practice. The Disputation, also called Verteidigung ("defense"), is usually public (at least to members of the university) and is focused on the topic of the thesis. In contrast, the Rigorosum is not held in public and also encompasses fields in addition to the topic of the thesis. The Rigorosum is only common for doctoral degrees. Another term for an oral examination is Kolloquium, which generally refers to a usually public scientific discussion and is often used synonymously with Verteidigung.
In each case, what exactly is expected differs between universities and between faculties. Some universities also demand a combination of several of these forms.
Like the British model, the PHD or MPhil student is required to submit their theses or dissertation for examination by two or three examiners. The first examiner is from the university concerned, the second examiner is from another local university and the third examiner is from a suitable foreign university (usually from Commonwealth countries). The choice of examiners must be approved by the university senate. In some public universities, a PhD or MPhil candidate may also have to show a number publications in peer reviewed academic journals as part of the requirement. An oral viva is conducted after the examiners have submitted their reports to the university. The oral viva session is attended by the Oral Viva chairman, a rapporteur with a PhD qualification, the first examiner, the second examiner and sometimes the third examiner.
Branch campuses of British, Australian and Middle East universities in Malaysia use the respective models of the home campuses to examine their PhD or MPhil candidates.
In the Philippines, a thesis is followed by an oral defense. In most universities, this applies to all bachelor, master, and doctorate degrees. However, the oral defense is held in once per semester (usually in the middle or by the end) with a presentation of revisions (so-called "plenary presentation") at the end of each semester. The oral defense is typically not held in public for bachelor and master oral defenses, however a colloquium is held for doctorate degrees.
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 hour 30 minutes for the MSc and 3 hours for the PhD.
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 U.S. 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.
Russia and Ukraine
A student in Ukraine or Russia has to complete a thesis and then defend it in front of their department. Sometimes the defense meeting is made up of the learning institute's professionals and sometimes the students peers are allowed to view or join in. After the presentation and defense of the thesis, the final conclusion of the department should be that none of them have reservations on the content and quality of the thesis.
A conclusion on the thesis has to be approved by the rector of the educational institute. This conclusion (final grade so to speak) of the thesis can be defended/argued not only at the thesis council, but also in any other thesis council of Russia or Ukraine.
The Diploma de estudios avanzados (DEA) can last two years and candidates must complete coursework and demonstrate their ability to research the specific topics they have studied. After completing this part of the PhD, students begin a dissertation on a set topic. The dissertation must reach a minimum length depending on the subject and it is valued more highly if it contains field research. Once candidates have finished their written dissertations, they must present them before a committee. Following this presentation, the examiners will ask questions.
United Kingdom, Ireland and Hong Kong
In Hong Kong, Ireland and the United Kingdom, the thesis defense is called a viva voce (Latin for "by live voice") examination (viva for short). A typical viva lasts for approximately 3 hours, though there is no formal time limit. Involved in the viva are two examiners and the candidate. Usually, one examiner is an academic from the candidate's own university department (but not one of the candidate's supervisors) and the other is an external examiner from a different university. Increasingly, the examination may involve a third academic, the 'chair'; this person, from the candidate's institution, acts as an impartial observer with oversight of the examination process to ensure that the examination is fair. The 'chair' does not ask academic questions of the candidate.
In the United Kingdom, there are only two or at most three examiners, and in many universities the examination is held in private. The candidate's primary supervisor is not permitted to ask or answer questions during the viva, and their presence is not necessary. However, some universities permit members of the faculty or the university to attend. At the University of Oxford, for instance, 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.
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 that 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 U.S. 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. Many institutions now insist on submission of digitized as well as printed copies of theses; the digitized versions of successful theses are often made available online.
- ^Originally, the concepts "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. Olga Weijers: The medieval disputatio. In: Hora est! (On dissertations), p.23-27. Leiden University Library, 2005
- ^ abcInternational Standard ISO 7144: Documentation—Presentation of theses and similar documents, International Organization for Standardization, Geneva, 1986.
- ^Douwe Breimer, Jos Damen et al.: Hora est! (On dissertations). Leiden University Library, 2005
- ^"The Graduate Thesis".
- ^Thomas, Gary (2009) Your Research Project. Thousand Oaks: Sage.
- ^Rudestam & Newton (2007) Surviving your dissertation. Thousand Oaks: Sage.
- ^"Italian Studies MA Thesis Work Plan".
- ^Comisión Nacional de Evaluación y Acreditación Universitaria (in Spanish)Archived 25 August 2010 at the Wayback Machine.
- ^"Carleton University – Canada's Capital University". Carleton.ca. Retrieved 24 November 2010.
- ^"Our Universities – About Theses Canada – Theses Canada Portal". Collectionscanada.gc.ca. 24 October 2008. Retrieved 24 November 2010.
- ^"MSc Engg and PhD in IISc". Ece.iisc.ernet.in. Retrieved 24 November 2010.
- ^Admin. "How to Write Methodology for Dissertation". researchprospect.com. Research Prospect. Retrieved 16 March 2017.
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What is a Ph.D. Dissertation?
[I wrote this in 1993 as a letter to a student concerning a draft of his dissertation. in 2003 I edited it to remove some specific references to the student and present it as a small increment to the information available to my grad students. --spaf]
Let me start by reviewing some things that may seem obvious:
- Your dissertation is part of the requirements for a PhD. The research, theory, experimentation, et al. also contribute. One does not attempt to capture everything in one's dissertation.
- The dissertation is a technical work used to document and set forth proof of one's thesis. It is intended for a technical audience, and it must be clear and complete, but not necessarily exhaustively comprehensive. Also note -- experimental data, if used, is not the proof -- it is evidence. The proof is presented as analysis and critical presentation. As a general rule, every statement in your dissertation must be common knowledge, supported by citation to technical literature, or else original results proved by the candidate (you). Each of those statements must directly relate to the proof of the thesis or else they are not needed.
- The dissertation is not the thesis. One's thesis is a claim -- a hypothesis. The dissertation describes, in detail, how one proves the hypothesis (or, rarely, disproves the claim and shows other important results).
Let's revisit the idea of the thesis itself. It is a hypothesis, a conjecture, a theorem. The dissertation is a formal, stylized document used to argue your thesis. The thesis must be significant, original (no one has yet demonstrated it to be true), and it must extend the state of scientific knowledge.
The first thing you need to do is to come up with no more than three sentences that express your thesis. Your committee must agree that your statements form a valid thesis statement. You too must be happy with the statement -- it should be what you will tell anyone if they ask you what your thesis is (few people will want to hear an hour presentation as a response).
Once you have a statement of thesis, you can begin to develop the dissertation. The abstract, for instance, should be a one-page description of your thesis and how you present the proof of it. The abstract should summarize the results of the thesis and should stress the contributions to science made thereby.
Perhaps the best way to understand how an abstract should look would be to examine the abstracts of several dozen dissertations that have already been accepted. Our university library has a collection of them. This is a good approach to see how an entire dissertation is structured and presented. MIT press has published the ACM doctoral dissertation award series for over a decade, so you may find some of those to be good examples to read -- they should be in any large technical library.
The dissertation itself should be structured into 4 to 6 chapters. The following is one commonly-used structure:
- Introduction. Cover an introduction to the basic terminology, give citations to appropriate background work, briefly discuss related work that has already covered aspects of the problem.
- Abstract model. Discuss an abstract model of what you are trying to prove. This chapter should not discuss any specific implementation (see below)
- Validation of model/proof of theorems. This is a chapter showing a proof of the model. This could be a set of proofs, or a discussion of construction and validation of a model or simulation to be used in gathering supporting data.
- Measurements/data. This would be a presentation of various data collected from real use, from simulations, or from other sources. The presentation would include analysis to show support for the underlying thesis.
- Additional results. In some work there may be secondary confirmation studies, or it might be the case that additional important results are collected along the way to the proof of the central thesis. These would be presented here.
- Conclusions and future work. This is where the results are all tied together and presented. Limitations, restrictions and special cases should be clearly stated here along with the results. Some clear extensions to future work may also be described.
Let's look at these in a little more detail
Chapter I, Introduction. Here, you should clearly state the thesis and its importance. This is also where you give definitions of terms and other concepts used elsewhere. There is no need to write 80 pages of background on your topic here. Instead, you can cover almost everything by saying: "The terminology used in this work matches the definitions given in [citation, citation] unless noted otherwise." Then, cite some appropriate works that give the definitions you need. The progress of science is that we learn and use the work of others (with appropriate credit). Assume you have a technically literate readership familiar with (or able to find) common references. Do not reference popular literature or WWW sites if you can help it (this is a matter of style more than anything else -- you want to reference articles in refereed conferences and journals, if possible, or in other theses).
Also in the introduction, you want to survey any related work that attempted something similar to your own, or that has a significant supporting role in your research. This should refer only to published references. You cite the work in the references, not the researchers themselves. E.g., "The experiments described in [citation] explored the foo and bar conditions, but did not discuss the further problem of baz, the central point of this work." You should not make references such as this: "Curly, Moe and Larry all believed the same in their research [CML53]" because you do not know what they actually believed or thought -- you only know what the paper states. Every factual statement you make must have a specific citation tied to it in this chapter, or else it must be common knowledge (don't rely on this too much).
Chapter II. Abstract Model. Your results are to be of lasting value. Thus, the model you develop and write about (and indeed, that you defend) should be one that has lasting value. Thus, you should discuss a model that is not based on Windows, Linux, Ethernet, PCMIA, or any other specific technology. It should be generic in nature, and should capture all the details necessary to overlay the model on likely environments. You should discuss the problems, parameters, requirements, necessary and sufficient conditions, and other factors here. Consider that 20 years ago (ca 1980) the common platform was a Vax computer running VMS or a PDP-11 running Unix version 6, yet well-crafted theses of the time are still valuable today. Will your dissertation be valuable 20 years from now (ca 2020), or have you referred to technologies that will be of only historical interest?
This model is tough to construct, but is really the heart of the scientific part of your work. This is the lasting part of the contribution, and this is what someone might cite 50 years from now when we are all using MS Linux XXXXP on computers embedded in our wrists with subspace network links!
Chapters III & IV, Proof. There are basically three proof techniques that I have seen used in a computing dissertation, depending on the thesis topic. The first is analytic, where one takes the model or formulae and shows, using formal manipulations, that the model is sound and complete. A second proof method is stochastic, using some form of statistical methods and measurements to show that something is true in the anticipated cases.
Using the third method, you need to show that your thesis is true by building something according to your model and showing that it behaves as you claim it will. This involves clearly showing how your implementation model matches the conditions of your abstract model, describing all the variables and why you set them as you do, accounting for confounding factors, and showing the results. You must be careful to not expend too much effort describing how standard protocols and hardware work (use citations to the literature, instead). You must clearly express the mapping of model to experiment, and the definition of parameters used and measured.
Chapter V. Additional results. This may be folded into Chapter III in some theses, or it may be multiple chapters in a thesis with many parts (as in a theory-based thesis). This may be where you discuss the effects of technology change on your results. This is also a place where you may wish to point out significant results that you obtained while seeking to prove your central thesis, but which are not themselves supportive of the thesis. Often, such additional results are published in a separate paper.
Chapter VI. Conclusions and Future work. This is where you discuss what you found from your work, incidental ideas and results that were not central to your thesis but of value nonetheless, (if you did not have them in Chapter V) and other results. This chapter should summarize all the important results of the dissertation --- note that this is the only chapter many people will ever read, so it should convey all the important results.
This is also where you should outline some possible future work that can be done in the area. What are some open problems? What are some new problems? What are some significant variations open to future inquiry?
Appendices. Appendices usually are present to hold mundane details that are not published elsewhere, but which are critical to the development of your dissertation. This includes tables of measurement results, configuration details of experimental testbeds, limited source code listings of critical routines or algorithms, etc. It is not appropriate to include lists of readings by topic, lists of commercial systems, or other material that does not directly support the proof of your thesis.
Here are some more general hints to keep in mind as you write/edit:
- Adverbs should generally not be used -- instead, use something precise. For example, do not say that something "happens quickly." How fast is quickly? Is it relative to CPU speeds? Network speeds? Does it depend on connectivity, configuration, programming language, OS release, etc? What is the standard deviation?
- As per the above, use of the words "fast", "slow", "perfect", "soon", "ideal", "lots of" and related should all be avoided. So should "clearly", "obviously", "simple", "like", "few", "most", "large", et al.
- What you are writing is scientific fact. Judgments of aesthetics, ethics, personal preference, and the like should be in the conclusions chapter if they should be anywhere at all. With that in mind, avoid use of words such as "good", "bad", "best", and any similar discussion. Also avoid stating "In fact," "Actually," "In reality," and any similar construct -- everything you are writing must be factual, so there is no need to state such things. If you feel compelled to use one of these constructs, then carefully evaluate what you are saying to be certain you are not injecting relative terms, opinions, value judgements, or other items that are inappropriate for a dissertation.
- Computers and networks do not have knees, so poor performance cannot bring them to something they do not have. They also don't have hands, so "On the one hand..." is not good usage. Programs don't perform conscious thought (nor do their underlying computers), so your system does not "think" that it has seen a particular type of traffic. Generalizing from this, do not anthropomorphize your IT components!
- Avoid mention of time and environment. "Today's computers" are antiques far sooner than you think. Your thesis should still be true many years from now. If a particular time or interval is important, then be explicit about it, as in "Between 1905 and 1920" rather than "Over the last 15 years." (See the difference, given some distance in time?)
- Be sure that something you claim as a proof would be recognized as such by any scientist or mathematician.
- You and your dissertation are supposed to be the ultimate (current) authority on the topic you are covering. Thus, there should be no instance of "to the best of our knowledge" or "as far as we can tell." Either you know for certain, or you don't -- and if you don't know, you shouldn't state it!
- Focus on the results and not the methodology. Methodology should be clearly described, but not the central topic of your discussion in chapters III & IV
- Keep concepts and instances separate. An algorithm is not the same as a program that implements it. A protocol is not the same as the realization of it, a reference model is not the same as a working example, and so on.
As a rule of thumb, a CS dissertation should probably be longer than 100 pages, but less than 160. Anything outside of that range should be carefully examined with the above points in mind.
Keep in mind that you -- the Ph.D. candidate -- are expected to become the world's foremost expert on your topic area. That topic area should not be unduly broad, but must be big enough to be meaningful. Your advisor and committee members are not supposed to know more about the topic than you do -- not individually, at least. Your dissertation is supposed to explain your findings and, along with the defense, demonstrate your mastery of the area in which you are now the leading expert. That does not mean writing everything you know -- it means writing enough about the most important points that others can agree with your conclusions.
Last of all, don't fall into the trap that ties up many a candidate, and causes some of them to flame out before completion: your thesis does not need to be revolutionary. It simply needs to be an incremental advancement in the field. Few Ph.D. dissertations have ever had a marked impact on the field. Instead, it is the set of publications and products of the author that may change the field.
If your dissertation is like most, it will only be read by your committee and some other Ph.D. candidates seeking to build on your work. As such, it does not need to be a masterwork of literature, nor does it need to solve a long-standing problem in computing. It merely needs to be correct, to be significant in the judgement of your committee, and it needs to be complete. We will all applaud when you change the world after graduation. And at that you will find that many well-known scientists in CS have made their careers in areas different from their dissertation topic. The dissertation is proof that you can find and present original results; your career and life after graduation will demonstrate the other concerns you might have about making an impact.
So get to work!