View Full Version : Thesis/non-thesis

03-23-2001, 04:17 AM
Dear All:
The excellent posting on the merits of thesis vs. non-thesis was quite
revealing. I believe, though, that the merits of the non-thesis option
were not touted as they should have been and some students might be
mislead. Most of the responses were for engineering-related disciplines,
for which the thesis appears be the only viable option. However, for other
disciplines -- exercise science for example -- this may not be the case. It
also depends on what is done in place of a thesis. I think most agree that a
couple of courses cannot substitute for what is learned in doing a thesis and
makes for a poorer education. Yet, an internship or the like substituted for a
thesis can provide students with a great deal of practical knowledge, insights
to the corporate world (such as what skills are really valued by employers),
valuable job experience to put on a resume, contacts outside academia, and
often times, a job upon graduation. An internship may be done along with
a thesis, but in our experience a thesis commitment limits the internship
opportunities for students for obvious reasons.

There is no question that the most important things learned from doing a
thesis are resourcefulness, writing skills, perseverence, and organizational
skills. Some of these skills can be learned while on internship, others
may not. Conversely, many masterís theses provide very little domain-specific
practical knowledge that is readily transferred to the corporate world. For
example, my masterís thesis on single motor unit control provided topical
knowledge for one thing Ė pursuing a Ph.D. It did nothing to help me get a
job in exercise science after getting my M.S.

Another benefit of not doing a thesis is time. Suggested by some as being the
fast and easy Ė and thus unworthy Ė way to do a masterís; but we are all
too familiar with students lingering for years only to have an incompleted
theses and no masterís degree. Yes, the non-thesis route generally provides a
more sure, and thus often faster, way to finishing. For some students their
individual circumstances dictate that this is really the only way. Students
move, get pregnant (as is the case of one of my students who may now never
finish her thesis on time), get a job, or other life circumstances change that
makes the non-thesis option a better choice. Indeed, some of our students have
started out with the idea of doing a thesis and then choose a non-thesis option
because it became a better choice for them. If the student plans to pursue a
Ph.D., then of course, the thesis is the only route.

In sum, as long as the non-thesis option provides more than classroom learning
I think it can be a viable, maybe even a better, alternative to the thesis.

My $0.02.

Jeff Ives, Ph.D.
Associate Professor
Dept. Exercise & Sport Sciences Email: jives@ithaca.edu
Ithaca College Phone: 607-274-1751
Ithaca, NY 14850 USA Fax: 607-274-1943

To unsubscribe send SIGNOFF BIOMCH-L to LISTSERV@nic.surfnet.nl
For information and archives: http://isb.ri.ccf.org/biomch-l