Standard Requirements and Assessment of Masters Dissertations
Word Length – Most Masters Dissertations are 15,000 – 50,000 words in length, although as stated above this can vary significantly depending on the subject area. Do remember that the word count typically does not include front matter, foot notes, bibliography or appendices!
Duration of Study – Most UK Masters programmes are one year in length, with the Dissertation submitted at the end of that year. This can vary for longer degree programmes, or in cases where students are allowed an extra ‘writing up’ year.
Submission Deadlines – Submission deadlines will vary among universities so it’s best to check with your specific institution for details. Masters Dissertations are assessed by examiners and the results must be certified by University Exam Boards, which are held twice yearly (normally in July and September). This means that the deadline for submitting dissertations is usually late June or late August, to allow time for marking prior to the Exam Boards. If necessary, students can request an extension to these deadlines if they can demonstrate genuine extenuating circumstances that will delay their submission. Always check with your university for specific regulations regarding submission and extensions.
Grades – The marking system for Masters dissertations is usually on the same numeric scale that is used for other UK assessments. Students must generally achieve a minimum mark of 40 to pass, but most will aspire to higher marks than this. Marks of 60-69 earn a classification of 2.1, or B; Marks over 70 earn a First classification, or A.
Writing a good dissertation requires honest dedication from students and an ability to motivate themselves over a long period of time. You can start off on a successful path by understanding the typical Masters Dissertation requirements, and developing your plan of study accordingly!
David Brigden and Graham Lamont, 2010. Planning Dissertations. Available: http://www.heacademy.ac.uk/resources/detail/subjects/medev/Planning_dissertations. Last accessed 08 Apr 2013.
Kjell Erik Rudestam, 2007. Surviving Your Dissertation: A Comprehensive Guide to Content and Process. 3rd Edition. SAGE Publications, Inc.
University of Worcester, 2010. Masters Dissertation Handbook. Available: http://www.worcester.ac.uk/registryservices/documents/Masters_Dissertation_Handbook_2010_2011.pdf. Last Accessed 02 May, 2013.
So you are beginning your graduate program, reading over all the material and trying to prepare yourself as best as possible for the next two to three years. You’re already looking forward to graduation and figuring out exactly what will be required in order to receive your degree on time. What you've probably discovered is that whether you are pursuing a masters degree or a doctoral degree, the main goal in graduate school is to complete original research or projects, depending on your degree program.
The words “thesis” and “dissertation” are often used interchangeably, leading to some confusion in academia about what each individual word actually means. The main similarity between the dissertation and the thesis is the structure. Both have an introduction, literary review, main body, conclusion, bibliography and appendix. But that is the extent in which they are similar.
Differences Between a Masters Thesis and Doctoral Dissertation
Generally in the US, a thesis is the final project for the masters degree and a dissertation leads to a doctoral degree. Those pursuing a masters degree must perform research on a specific subject that demonstrates their knowledge acquired through their program. Seeking a PhD is different in that your dissertation must contribute something completely new and undiscovered to your field. In other words, you have to contribute original knowledge to the subject. So the main difference between a thesis and a dissertation is the depth of knowledge you must attain in order to write the paper.
A masters degree thesis is more closely related to a research paper that you would have completed during college. You are expected only to use the research of others and provide your own analysis on your discoveries. It demonstrates your level of critical and analytical thinking and defines the subject that you are most interested in pursuing within your field. With a dissertation, you are expected to use the research of others only to guide you in your own research to come up with a completely new hypothesis.
Another way in which the thesis and dissertation differ are in length. A masters degree thesis is typically over 100 pages. However, the dissertation is usually at least double and sometimes triple the length of a thesis. To determine the length of your thesis or dissertation, remember you should always first consult your grad school.
Tips For Writing a Thesis or Dissertation
The first step in writing your thesis or dissertation (or any other academic paper) is setting a deadline. You don’t want your deadline to be the due date of the paper because you need to leave enough time to get it proofread and to make any additional changes. You should keep a journal of your ideas to help with the writing process. The next step is to create a detailed outline of your paper.
When beginning to write your thesis or dissertation, keep in mind that you are writing an academic paper. Not many people besides your professors and academic advisors will read your thesis, so make sure to keep your writing style formal.
Consult a scholarly text to see how your thesis or dissertation should be structured. Once you have written and edited your thesis or dissertation, you should find an editor. Some editors will only check spelling and grammar issues, while others will check for overall continuity and flow. Determine what you need before searching for an editor.
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