Thesis-phobia: Why Fear Shouldn't Stop You from Getting Your Master's Degree

By Woodrow Aames

Does the prospect of writing and defending a thesis keep you from enrolling in a master's degree program? You may have an unrealistic dread of failure, think that you're not creative, or that you'll be criticized. But don't let your fear get in the way of your potential accomplishments. You may have what it takes to pursue an online graduate degree program or a campus-based master's degree.

Writing a master's thesis may not be as scary as you think. Also, you may not need to write a thesis to gain a campus-based or online graduate degree. Many accredited colleges and universities offer thesis and non-thesis options for certain major fields of study.

Choosing Your Master's Degree Program by the Thesis

Have you thought about what you want to do with your degree and career? You should be able to answer that question as part of the process of choosing a graduate degree program. If you plan to continue your education or pursue an academic career, you may want to write a thesis.

A thesis can be a reflection of your years of research in your chosen field--a culmination of scholarship in a select corner of your professional aspirations. It often demonstrates your ability to organize scholarly materials to discover, inform, and complete a persuasive argument about the field. And a thesis usually demonstrates your ability to conduct formal research. In some career fields, these abilities may be indispensable.

Depending on your career of choice, some employers may demand that you have completed a thesis. If you're advancing your education after earning your master's degree, your thesis can be a foundation and springboard for your academic research and writing.

However, if you're pursuing a professional campus-based or online graduate degree with the intention of completing your education and advancing in the workplace, you may not need to write a thesis after all. With a little research, you can find on-campus or online graduate degree programs that offer a path without requiring a thesis. Often, these graduate programs can be completed in less time than the graduate programs that require a thesis.

The Master of Arts (MA) and Master of Science(MS) are two basic types of master's degree programs. You may find fewer options to graduate without completing a thesis in an MA program. Many colleges and universities offering campus-based or online master's degree programs in computer science and engineering have thesis and non-thesis paths to the degree, leaving the choice up to the student. However, a thesis may be just the research project that helps you land a technical job or create a white paper that impresses a recruiter.

Also, some master's degree programs in counseling> are offered with non-thesis options. However, if you plan to advance in the field, publish, or continue your education after receiving your master's degree, a thesis may help hone your skills for a career of academic or clinical investigation.

Why the Master's Degree Thesis Is Doable

Even if your master's degree program requires you to write a thesis, keep in mind that earning a graduate degree can lead to success and higher earnings. Your graduate school may offer writing tutors, online formatting and research guides, and examples of successful master's theses from former students.

Another reassuring thought is that you should have ample time to write your thesis and polish it up. You may be writing your thesis as you go along through your time in school, saving your papers, class notes, and research projects as you gather steam. Even students in the sciences should plan for writing research findings and reports--all grist for the thesis mill.

A thesis doesn't have to set the world aflame with delicious noodles of prose; it may just need to be clear, consistent, and organized. Perfectionism can be your enemy. If you start your thesis early and are methodical and consistent, the pages should pile up in your printer tray.

You can beat the grad school thesis jitters by:

  • Establishing a deadline and posting it in plain sight
  • Breaking the work down into workable segments
  • Dedicating a block of time each week for research
  • Creating a journal and writing your findings, thoughts, and ideas in it

A thesis contains an introduction, a review of research or literature already done on the topic, your statement of theme, convincing evidence for your point of view, and a solid conclusion. Your master's degree program can provide the tools for you to complete this work, so you should choose a graduate program that interests you and may lead to a promising future career.

About the Author
Woodrow Aames has written articles and profiles for Yahoo, Microsoft Network, Microsoft Encarta, and other websites and print magazines around the world. He holds an MFA degree and has taught English abroad.

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