Choosing Between Thesis Research and a Master's Project

Two choices:

Choosing between Thesis Research and a Master’s Project

Commonalities between a thesis and project

  • Includes a review of current and relevant scholarly literature
  • Integrates information from across several graduate classes 
  • Are well written and presented, representing a high level of academic achievement
  • Are designed and conducted while working closely with your academic advisor
  • Are the culminating experience representing 2-3 semesters of work

Questions to consider:

1. What are your plans for the future?

If you plan to pursue a doctorate, a thesis will be very helpful to you and may be required for acceptance into doctoral programs. 

If you have no plans to earn a doctorate and plan to work in applied fields, a project may be more useful to you.

2. What is the question/problem you wish to explore? 

Questions grounded in the research or based on a theoretical approach, require the collection, analysis, and interpretation of data and are better suited for a thesis. 

Projects typically address problems of a more practical nature (e.g., a marketing plan for a sport organization, a mental skills program for a specific sport/competitive level). Projects may include data collection but in a smaller scope than a thesis (e.g., a pilot study with few participants) or part of a project being conducted by a research team.

3. Who is the audience toward whom your scholarly product is directed?  

Theses are generally directed toward an academic audience and are written in a formal style, using the lexicon of research. 

Projects must also be well written. The style is flexible, as it may be directed toward alternate scholarly audiences. For example, the style may reflect the intention of your work if it is more applicable to a practical setting.

Choosing a topic:

  • Talk with your advisor
  • Begin with a general reading in your area of interest/specialization
  • Narrow your reading/research towards a specific topic
  • Possibly complete HMSL 6840 Directed Readings in HMSL or HMSL 6860 Independent Study to explore the literature directly with your advisor