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Thesis Paper Overview

A Thesis paper is often the final project done to achieve a Master’s degree.  Not all graduate programs require a thesis.  Theses are sometimes called dissertations, but a dissertation is more appropriately used to describe a final project leading to a doctorate.  A thesis will be a very in depth and comprehensive research project on a topic relevant to the graduate course.  Unlike a dissertation, a thesis does not require the writer to make his or her own contribution to the subject.  Rather, a thesis will be an analysis that may include discovery.  It should display a deep understanding of all of the course material leading up to the achievement of the degree.  A thesis will often be over 40-50 pages in length, and can sometimes reach 100 pages depending on the depth of analysis and the subject matter.

Writing a Thesis

Given its length, a thesis project will take a significant amount of time and effort to complete.  They can be done periodically over an entire program, or completed during a course specific to the writing of the thesis.  The style of a thesis will vary depending on the subject and even the institution.  Generally, a thesis will consist of a title, abstract, table of contents, body, and bibliography.  Many thesis will arrange the body of a thesis into chapters; dividing up research, analysis, and results of the study.  Since a thesis is an in depth analysis on a topic, thesis writers will draw their own conclusions and present findings on their research. Basically, a thesis is a research paper on a grand scale.

The amount of sources used will vary depending on the overall length of the thesis.  However, it would not be uncommon to see more than 30 primary and secondary sources used for a single thesis project. The bibliography itself can be 3-4 pages in length. It is very important to use only credible primary sources and scholarly secondary sources.  Peer reviewed journals, articles, and textbooks are some of the most valuable sources.  Using websites or blogs will often not be acceptable by an institution.


Always make sure the institution it is being written for approves the topic.  There may be a broad spectrum of topics to choose from, but the more relevant to the program the better.  The topic should be able to be expanded upon and allow the writer to fully display their complete knowledge of the course material.

Make several drafts and outlines.  A thesis is not something that should be written all at once.  It takes time and careful research to prepare and complete.  Try to write it in sections.  Do it as the course goes along.

It is always good to view other’s work to get a general idea of the expectations.  Since thesis style can vary between institutions, it is good to look at others’ theses to use as a reference.