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Thesis or no thesis

  1. Aug 31, 2008 #1
    I'm already in my second semester of CE graduate school. My school offers two routes for graduate students: a thesis route (1-2 less course work than normal) and a non-thesis option (1-2 more courses than normal). I need to map out my plan of study to my adviser by end of Sept. and I'm not certain if I should continue the thesis option. I have an idea on what to work my thesis on, but I'm having doubts about doing one. And I'm not planning to continue my studies for a PhD.

    I think the only reason I agreed to do a thesis is that I was offered a RA position that pays 100% tuition with a $400 weekly stipend. In turn for doing research with a medium size company and this grant, I'm suppose to write up a thesis with my professor.

    Is a thesis useful for a MS student in CE, even though I don't plan on going for a PhD?
  2. jcsd
  3. Aug 31, 2008 #2


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    There's advantages and disadvantages with either choice I think.

    A thesis is certainly a lot of work, but I've always felt that graduate work includes developing independent research skills beyond those you would be exposed to in regular course work. These translate well into job skills that will make you more marketable when it comes to finding a job. I think by pursuing the course-based option you would be limiting yourself.

    On the other had, some people pursue graduate study just to learn more about the field than they were exposed to as undergraduates, but have no interest in actively engaging in research or don't flourish when they do. Or, there are people taking the master's degree because they're still trying to figure out their direction in life, or need to for reasons of professional advancement. I think in these cases, course-based programs provide a decent option.
  4. Aug 31, 2008 #3
    Couldn't you just enter a Ph.D program and then do your thesis?
  5. Aug 31, 2008 #4
    He doesn't want to do a Ph.D. he says.
  6. Aug 31, 2008 #5


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    a thesis is the essence of a phd. it separates those who know something about the work others have done, from those who have themselves made a commitment to do the best they themselves can do in research.
  7. Sep 1, 2008 #6
    But I'm not pursuing a Ph.D.

    So, will I be wasting my time and effort if I take the Masters thesis route instead of just taking more coursework + getting an internship?
  8. Sep 2, 2008 #7
    I would take the thesis route because of the valuable research experience it will give along with the benefits of the RA position you described. What are your future goals, that is what kind of career are you looking for? If its more R&D based then I would go with the thesis, if its your typical "get stuff done" engineering job then I would just take the course work.
  9. Sep 2, 2008 #8
    What type of research opportunities can I get into with just a Masters in CE? I would like to go into R&D. The RA position I have is just "researching" in developing better web applications and software.
  10. Nov 5, 2008 #9
    Sorry to revive this old thread but here's an update:

    The "RA" position I have really turns out to be a cheap outsourced work to graduate college students for a contracted software development company. No "research" has be actually done since I got this position in the summer.

    After a couple of months of just doing programming, I'm beginning to feel this is more an internship that was falsely advertised to me. I was thinking about dropping the thesis route, but I'll lose the internship or "RA" position, all together. I'll have one semester of programming and project work under my belt and planning to hit up a summer internship.

    My goal is actually towards the industry, maybe a software/web programmer. Would it be wise to drop the thesis/RA position and then take the extra courses + a summer internship? Would it look bad if it seem that I was jumping around alot in work/intership experience? (I wouldn't say alot, just often since this will be the first jump from internship to another).
  11. Nov 5, 2008 #10
    Here's what I think should be the big question: What are your "thesis" requirements (as per the department and college/university graduate school guides)? For my MS-level thesis work in engineering, I needed to have a fairly substantial write-up (40+ pages) and an presented "defense" (oral powerpoint show + defense of my ideas when the committee had questions). That requires a good amount of individual innovation or at least something solid and coherent as a project (not just piecemeal "outsourced work").

    If you need something thesis-worthy, and this project isn't going to be meeting it, I'd say you'd have to talk to an adviser and get out. But also important to consider: By dropping this project do you burn bridges with an adviser or some important members of the department? Will your current supervisor understand your reasons?

    Then: Will you be qualified and have the recommendations for getting the "desired" summer internship? Note, they'll probably contact your current supervisor and any faculty you might list... so you want to be sure again that people are willing to accept your reasons for leaving the project (and that those reasons are clear, un-insulting good ones)... and that you might still have that crappy RA if that shiny summer internship doesn't magically appear in these difficult economic times.
  12. Nov 5, 2008 #11
    Well, the department requirements are at least 6 credits of thesis work and a defense. Most of the masters thesis I've seen are about 80+ pages. As for the topic, well, since the lab is under my advisor's supervision, the thesis has to be something of interest to him and myself.

    The project is going to be finished by the end of November. I hate abandoning a project and team members, whether it's in the industry or outside of the professional setting. My plan was just to stay for until the end of Fall (End of december). What I am afraid of is the potential of burning bridges for leaving this RA position because of my personality of hating to leave people in the dust like that. It just feels like "I only used you for the tuition money, the experience, and weekly stipend, GOODBYE". Even though I'm planning to stay until the end of this semester.

    The internship I'm getting was based on internal connections of the industry itself (the PC gaming industry). I've got the code samples and internal recommendations for it already. Only a phone screening will be done sometime in December or January.
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