A graduate thesis is an important part of the overall requirements for a graduate degree. In most majors, graduate students must complete a thesis and have it approved by their thesis committee. The graduate thesis is regarded as a formal paper which serves a specific purpose; the student must identify an original question, theory or problem and subsequently solve or answer it. Graduate students conduct a substantial amount of research that builds on and backs up their result or conclusion.

The Writing Process

The writing process for a thesis includes five key steps. The first step is determining the objective of the research. This step provides a clear declaration of the question the thesis aims to answer. The second step is obtaining information and data that will be used to answer the research question. The third step is organizing all of the data and sources. The fourth step involves an analysis of the findings. In this step, the student shows why the findings are valuable and what contribution they will make to the field of study. The concluding step is the presentation of the completed thesis.


A graduate thesis commonly calls for a format which includes the title page, abstract, table of contents, the body and a comprehensive bibliography. Beyond that, the specific length, methods and style requirements of a graduate thesis vary by field. For example, a graduate biology major will have to write a scientific thesis that includes sections on resources and methods, findings, discussion, tables and graphs, and appendices. In contrast, an English major’s graduate thesis may be a creative work, a study of a particular literary style, or a comprehensive review of a single author’s work.

The Prospectus

The overall process surrounding a graduate thesis tends to be extensive. To begin with, a student is required to submit a prospectus and assemble a thesis committee. The prospectus consists of his proposal (what he intends to write) and the reason it’s appropriate for his particular field of study. The function of the prospectus is to clarify the student’s probable methodology. It lists the central details, statistics and data that will be used and presents the project’s underlying principle. Simply put, the prospectus serves as a blueprint for the student’s thesis.

Thesis Committee

Once the prospectus is approved, a thesis committee must be formed. Each program has its own requirements regarding the committee and who should be on it. A thesis committee usually comprises the student’s adviser and others who are affiliated with the student’s major area of study. The task of the committee (especially the thesis adviser) is to oversee the student’s work. They review, edit and propose changes to written work, and they ultimately support the student during her thesis defense.

Thesis Defense

After a student writes the thesis, committee members must approve it and sign it off. The group must conclude that the thesis offered an original contribution to knowledge. Part of the approval process is the thesis defense, sometimes referred to as an oral defense examination. During a thesis defense, the committee acts as a board of judges. They pose questions to the student about the research findings and results. The student must be able to support the work and conclusions.

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