The way you approach your question will have a profound effect upon the way you construct your dissertation, so this section discusses the types of research you might undertake for your dissertation. The use of literature and case studies is considered and the merits of primary research are debated and advice is given on the use of existing research data. You may not be fond of statistics, but the potential relevance of a quantitative approach should be considered and similarly, the idea of qualitative analysis and conducting your own research may yield valuable data. The possibilities of using quantitative and qualitative data are also discussed.
Watch video on approaching methodologies (.wmv)
What approach should I take - qualitative or quantitative?
This video clip contains comments from the following academics:
- Dr Iain Garner - Psychology
- Alan McGauley - Social Policy
- Shawna McCoy - Criminology
- Kevin Bonnett - Sociology
What approach should I take - qualitative or quantitative?
Your approach, research design, and research question are all connected. 'Approach' means something more than the type of data you use – it refers to your overall orientation to research and the type of claims you will make for your study. Dissertations can be based on either quantitative or qualitative data, or on a combination of both. How you choose this may depend on your preferences and abilities, and the suitability of particular approaches to your topic. You need to be able to justify why you have chosen to use such data. Quantitative data is particularly useful when you wish to discover how common particular forms of behaviour such as illegal drug use are for a particular age group. Qualitative data is particularly useful when you wish to find out why people engage in such behaviour.
Think about the Research Methods modules you have taken so far. Think about the different kinds of studies you have read for other modules. There is plenty of scope to use the approaches and methods that you are most comfortable with. You need to justify your approach and methods and to cite appropriate literature to help you do this.
What if I want to find out about social trends, or the measurable effects of particular policies?
You will probably want to use large datasets and undertake quantitative data analysis, and you will be adopting a realist approach to the topic studied. Quantitative dissertations are likely to be nearer to the lower end of the range of approved lengths for the dissertation (e.g. if the length is to be 5,000-8,000 words, dissertations based on quantitative analysis are likely to be closer to 5,000 words in length). They will also include tables and figures giving your important findings. Remember that all tables must be carefully titled and labelled and that sources of your data must be acknowledged.
What if I want to record people's views on an issue, and give them a 'voice'?
You will probably want to use in-depth qualitative data, and you may wish to adopt a realist, a phenomenologist, or a constructionist approach to the topic. Qualitative dissertations will include descriptive material, usually extracts from interviews, conversations, documents or field notes, and are therefore likely to be nearer to the upper limit of your word range (e.g. 8,000 words). The types of method suitable for a dissertation could include content analysis, a small scale ethnographic study, small scale in-depth qualitative interviewing.
Whether you choose qualitative or quantitative analysis will depend on several things:
- Your preferred philosophical approach (realist, phenomenologist or constructionist).
- Your skills and abilities with methods of data collection (if needed) and analysis.
- The topic or issue you are interested in.
- How you frame your research question.
Can I combine qualitative and quantitative methods?
There are many ways in which qualitative and quantitative data and analysis can be combined. Here are two examples.
- You may be interested in doing an analysis that is primarily quantitative, looking at social trends, or policy implications. However you also want to introduce a 'human touch' by conducting one or several interviews asking what these trends mean to people or how particular individuals experience events. After doing your quantitative analysis, you should include a chapter or section on the qualitative data you have collected. In your discussion of findings you can use the qualitative data to help you understand the patterns in the quantitative analysis.
- You may be interested in doing an evaluative case study of a process or policy. You will have a particular focus – a 'case' that you are looking at. You will triangulate methods – i.e. collect data in several different ways, and some of these data may be quantitative. You will analyse each type of data and describe this, and then write a discussion that shows how each piece of analysis contributes to the overall picture of what is going on.
Your supervisor or research methods tutor may be able to give you detailed examples of these or other ways to combine methods.
Can my dissertation be entirely literature-based?
Yes. If you decide to do a primarily theoretical dissertation, it is almost certain that your dissertation will be entirely literature-based. This is likely to be the methodology of theoretical analysis: selection and discussion of theoretical material and descriptive material, in context, and detailed comparison of theories in terms of their applicability. You might ask how useful certain concepts or theories are for understanding particular patterns of behaviour. How useful is the concept of institutional racism? Is objectivity in the media possible? How useful is subcultural theory for understanding virtual communities? Here, the focus of attention is not so much to discover something about the social world, for example virtual communities, as to reach a judgement about the value of key concepts or theories in understanding that world. How the study is approached and how contrasting approaches are drawn upon needs to be stated very clearly.
A library-based or theoretical study is not necessarily 'easier' than an empirical study, indeed, it may well be harder. Remember that theoretical studies, like data-based studies, need to have their research design spelled out from the start.
But even if your dissertation is more empirically focused, it could still be entirely literature-based. You might choose to conduct a review of a field of work. What does the research literature in this field tell us about x? While all dissertations will include a literature review, it is possible to produce a dissertation that is entirely based on a review of the literature. If you do this, it is important to review the literature from an explicit angle and identify some themes to make the review distinctive. You might, for example, explore empirical debates in your chosen field across different countries or time periods.
What is case study research?
Whilst it is possible for dissertations to be entirely literature-based, the most common form of dissertation takes the form of a case study. Here the focus of attention is on a particular community, organisation or set of documents. The attraction of this kind of dissertation is that it stems from empirical curiosity but is at the same time practical. You may be interested in a wider question but a case study enables you to focus on a specific example. A major challenge in case study dissertations is connecting your own primary research or re-analysis with the broader theoretical themes and empirical concerns of the existing literature.
What's an empirical study?
Most dissertations demand either primary or secondary research. In other words, you usually have to analyse data that you have either collected yourself or data that is already available. The reason for this is that the questions dissertations usually address take the following form: Is x happening? Is x changing? Why is x happening? Why is x changing? These questions demand primary or secondary analysis of data.
Case Study 9 Think hard before you decide to undertake empirical research: a student's view
What is secondary analysis?
Secondary analysis is when you analyse data which was collected by another researcher. It allows the researcher to explore areas of interest without having to go through the process of collecting data themselves in the field. The problem with using fieldwork methods in an undergraduate dissertation, however, is that they are costly in terms of time (which is relatively scarce in your final year!) and possibly your own financial resources too. You may choose, therefore, to undertake secondary research, analysing existing data.
Where do I find existing research data?
There are a range of documents that already contain research data that you can analyse. You may, for example, be interested in exploring whether gender stereotypes in the media are changing. This might entail content analysis of newspapers, magazines, video or other media over different time periods. Here you would not be collecting your own data but instead would be analysing existing documents.
Download Case Study 6 Media research
If you are interested, for example, in doing historical research, you may need to visit archives. Government reports and autobiographies may also be used as data.
Other documents include official statistics, datasets (statistical data), and banks of interview transcripts which are all freely available to the academic community. Increasingly, documents, databases and archives are readily accessible online. Research Methods tutors on your course will be able to advise on the availability and accessibility of such data sets.
There are some advantages of doing secondary analysis, particularly if you are doing a quantitative study. You will be able to work with much larger datasets than you could have collected yourself. This has the following advantages:
- They allow you to discuss trends and social changes.
- The data are often collected through a random sample, which allows you to generalise to the population under consideration.
- They may also allow you to make comparisons over time, as some datasets are products of longitudinal studies. Examples of large datasets include the British Crime Survey, and the Youth Cohort Study. Smaller, more targeted datasets may also be available.
- Secondary analysis has disadvantages also: the data were collected for a purpose different from yours.
- You have to find out something about that purpose, as well as the methods of collection, in order to justify your use of a secondary dataset.
Collecting you own data - primary research
Quantitative data may also result from non-participant observations or other measurements (e.g. in an experimental design). Also, sometimes data that are collected through qualitative processes (participant observation, interviews) are coded and quantified. Your research methods tutor can give you further information on these types of data, but here are some common quantitative data collection methods and their definitions:
A series of questions that the respondent answers on their own. Self-completion questionnaires are good for collecting data on relatively simple topics, and for gaining a general overview of an issue. Questionnaires need to have clear questions, an easy to follow design, and not be too long.
Similar to a self-completion questionnaire, except that the questions that are asked by an interviewer to the interviewee. The same questions are read out in the same way to all respondents. There will typically be a fixed choice of answers for the respondents.
Watching people and recording systematically their behaviour. Prior to the observation, an observation schedule will be produced which details what exactly the researcher should look for and how those observations should be recorded.
If you are conducting a qualitative analysis you are likely to wish to use at least some original material. This may be collected through in-depth interviews, participant observation recordings and fieldnotes, non-participant observation, or some combination of these. Below are some data collection methods that you might want to use for your dissertation:
A way of asking questions which allows the interviewee to have more control of the interview. The interview could be semi-structured, which uses an interview schedule to keep some control of the interview, but also allows for some flexibility in terms of the interviewee’s responses. The interview could be unstructured, here the aim is to explore the interviewee’s feelings about the issue being explored and the style of questioning is very informal. Or the interview could be a life history where the interviewer tries to find out about the whole life, or a portion of the person’s life.
A form of interviewing where there are several participants; there is an emphasis in the questioning on a tightly defined topic; the accent is on interaction within the group and the joint construction of meaning. The moderator tries to provide a relatively free rein to the discussion.
This involves studying people in naturally occurring settings. The researcher participates directly in the setting and collects data in a systematic manner. The researcher will observe behaviour, listen to conversations, and ask questions.
Spend some time looking at general books about research - they will give you an overview of the data collection methods available and help you to make the best choice for your project. Bryman (2004) would be a useful starting point.
For any piece of research you conduct, be it empirically based (quantitative or qualitative) or library based, its methods must be justified. You need to show in the final dissertation how you have given consideration to different methods, and why you have chosen and eliminated these.
STUDENT VOICE: Findings from our research
In our study, supervisors saw part of their role as someone who draws out students’ reasons for choosing a particular research approach. Often in early supervision meetings they ask students to justify their reasons for choosing a library-based or an empirical study. (Todd, Smith and Bannister 2006, p167).
Your supervisor will want you to offer convincing reasons as to why you’ve chosen the approach you have - so be ready!
If you’re having difficulty making that choice, don’t be afraid to ask your supervisor for their advice. This was particularly useful for one of our respondents:
It's been a valuable experience for me it's so different from other stuff. With other essays you can rush them if you have to ... but this is so much work, you can't rush it. It demands more. (Todd, Bannister and Clegg, 2004, p340)
….My reasons for data collection is literature based as my research question involved sensitive subjects which would have been unsuitable for primary data collection. (Level 6 students at Sheffield Hallam University)
I chose primary data because it would enable me to build skills that would be useful for postgraduate study. (Level 6 students at Sheffield Hallam University)
It will involve primary data, secondary data, quantitative and qualitative research methods, lit reviews, theory and policy studies and an exploration of alternatives. My dissertation is to be based around the experience of 'poverty', as poverty is the experience. Theories and policies are not. However, to do justice to the subject, theories and policies will be included so Iam able to demonstrate where failures in the system may exist. (Level 6 students at Sheffield Hallam University)
Note: Research must be conducted in a sensible and ethical manner; data must be analysed and presented in a rational manner. It is important that students do not expose themselves or others to dangers or risks when conducting research. Students need the approval of their dissertation supervisor before embarking on any type of fieldwork (see the section on Research Ethics for more information).
Will my research be inductive or deductive?
In general, deductive research is theory-testing and inductive research is theory-generating. Often people link deductive research with quantitative experiments or surveys, and inductive research with qualitative interviews or ethnographic work. These links are not hard and fast – for instance, experimental research, designed to test a particular theory through developing a hypothesis and creating an experimental design, may use quantitative or qualitative data or a combination. If your research starts with a theory and is driven by hypotheses that you are testing (e.g. that social class background and social deprivation or privilege are likely to affect educational attainment), it is, broadly speaking, deductive. However much research combines deductive and inductive elements.
What's all this about research design?
Research design is vital to conducting a good piece of work. At the start of your research you need to set down clearly:
- Your research focus and research question.
- How you propose to examine the topic:
- methods of data collection
- methods of data analysis
- The types and sources of information you need.
- How you will access these sources of information (be they people, existing datasets, biographical accounts, media articles or websites, official records).
- The proposed outcome of this research (in your case, a dissertation) and the form it will take.
- A time-frame for all this.
You and your supervisor will discuss your design and decide whether the research is 'do-able'. Your university may require you to produce a report (e.g. an 'interim framework report' or a short 'research proposal') that specifies your research design. Other people may have to look at the design to ascertain whether there are ethical issues that affect your research.
- Quantitative or qualitative? A quantitative approach will mean you will need substantial datasets, as well as the inclusion of tables and statistics in your final submission. This information could come from a variety of sources - remember to acknowledge them! A qualitative approach will probably mean conducting interviews or focus groups or observing behaviour. Ask yourself if you are prepared to do this, and think about the best way of getting the answers you want from people. Will you stop people in the street? Will you conduct telephone interviews? Will you send out survey forms and hope that people return them? Will you be a participant or non participant observer?
- Deductive or inductive?Deductive research is theory-testing, which is often linked to datasets, surveys or quantitative analysis. Inductive research is theory-generating, and is often linked to qualitative interviews.
- Empirical or theoretical? An empirical study could involve close analysis of statistics or some form of qualitative research. However, a theoretical study brings its own challenges, and you may be called upon to compare theories in terms of their applicability.
- Once you have decided upon your approach, you can write out a research design, i.e. how you are going to approach the project.
- Now look a little at the research methods that you have studied. Apart from matching your research to your general sense of objective/subjective reality, it is important to ensure that you match your methodology to the problem you are pursuing.
- What kind of data do you need to answer your question/test your hypothesis? How would you best be able to collect that data?
- Again, consider time and feasibility of the exercise. The ability to manage your time will be directly related to your ability to control the boundaries of the study – especially if it is closely linked to your workplace.
- Now that you have got so far, try to write up your research proposal as far as you can. Make sure that you identify where your proposal needs further work and, at the same time, where you will have to put your maximum effort. It may be helpful to draw a critical path so that you are clear which actions you need to take and in what sequence. You will find it helpful to plot your research questions on the chart on the next page and ensure that your plans for collecting data really answer the question as well as avoiding ethical problems.
- At this stage you must be really ruthless with yourself. How viable is it? What are the threats to the study? Try some 'what if?' questions on yourself. It will be better to go back to the drawing board now, than once the project is underway.
- IMPORTANT: Whatever approach you settle on, you MUST be able to justify its appropriateness to your topic and question.
- Does the data required to answer your question already exist or will you have to generate your own data?
- Can you combine quantitative with qualitative methods? e.g. a survey which includes interviews or a case study that looks at a situation from numerous angles.
- What factors may limit the scope of your research? (time, resources, etc.)
- Which method(s) best suit the questions and time you have available to do this study?
- Do you know the differences between types of data, and types of analysis?
- Does your project have clear links between theory and practice?
BRYMAN, A. (2004). Social Research Method. 2nd ed., Oxford, Oxford University Press
CRESWELL, J. (2002). Research Design: Qualitative, Quantitative, and Mixed Methods Approaches. 2nd ed., London, Sage
SEALE, C.(2006).Researching society and culture. London, Sage
Here are some references for specific methods:
ARKSEY, H and KNIGHT, P. (1999).Interviewing for social scientists: an introductory resource. London, Sage
DALE, A.; ARBER, S.; AND PROCTOR, M.(1998).Doing Secondary Analysis. London, Allen and Unwin
HAMMERSLEY, M. and ATKINSON, P. (1995).Ethnography: Principles in Practice. London, Routledge
OPPENHEIM, A. N. (1992).Questionnaire Design, Interviewing and Attitude Measurement. London, Pinter
Identifying a research topic:
A template for structured observation:
A site devoted to survey design:
A chapter on structured interviewing:
A chapter on qualitative interviewing:
An introduction to ethnographic research:
Materials for focus group interviews:
1. © Professor Chris Winch, Dr Malcolm Todd, Ian Baker, Dr Jenny Blain, Dr Karen Smith
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.
- ^Pearce, Lynne (2005) How to Examine a Thesis, McGraw-Hill International, pp. 79–85
- ^"Oxford University Examination Regulations, 2007". Admin.ox.ac.uk. Retrieved 24 November 2010.
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