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Thesis or no?

  • Thread starter pt176900
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27
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I'm applying for an ms in physics, and I would like some input on choosing which option.

The no thesis option requires 45 credits of work, including 7 required classes.

The thesis option requires a written thesis, oral defense and 20 hours of graduate level work.

With the intention of going on to a phd, which option would be best?
 

Dr Transport

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I have taken both routes, an MA in Phyiscs after writing a thesis and an MS in Physics after coursework on route to a PhD.

Both have their plusses and minuses. I found that writing a thesis was a good idea, it helped me to formulate a problem from beginning to end whereas doing the course route allowed me to focus on getting a bunch of work out of the way to a terminal degree.

The question is: are you planning on leaving after a masters to go someplace else for a PhD??? If you are, most likely you'll have to retake most of the coursework, so take the thesis route and you'll have something concrete to show for it. If not, you'll end up taking the 40-odd hours of coursework anyway and spending 6 months researching and writing will be a break you might not want to take.
 
27
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interesting point....

but won't I have to take a qualifying examination, regardless of where i end up going for a phd? to that end, wouldn't it be beneficial to take the requisite classes. It may be boring to take the material twice, but that could only help in the long run, right?

to that end, would it not be a good idea to opt for the thesis option and take the requisite coursework in the first year, and spend the 2nd working on the thesis?
 

selfAdjoint

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My advice, from sad experience, is to get the best masters you can, and not stint the masters in favor of the dreamed of PhD. The PhD may not work out, and if that should happen, it's nice to have a good Masters to cite on your resume.
 

Moonbear

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My opinion is that you learn a lot more by doing a thesis project and writing the thesis than if you just take a coursework option. Even if you don't go on for a PhD, the experience of doing a research project and writing up the thesis will provide you with experimental, thinking, and communication skills you just won't get from standard coursework. And if you do go on for a PhD, the experience of writing a masters' thesis will give you a nice advantage in knowing how to develop a PhD project and in writing skills you'll need to complete a dissertation. If you find there are classes you would like to supplement your background with and don't have time while working on a thesis, you can always take them independently of a degree program if you don't go on for a PhD.

However, it's also worth considering what would be your back-up plan. Let's say two or three years down the road you realize you really don't want to go on toward a PhD; what else might you do? Would that change whether the non-thesis or thesis option would be better suited for you?
 

Dr Transport

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pt176900 said:
interesting point....

but won't I have to take a qualifying examination, regardless of where i end up going for a phd? to that end, wouldn't it be beneficial to take the requisite classes. It may be boring to take the material twice, but that could only help in the long run, right?

to that end, would it not be a good idea to opt for the thesis option and take the requisite coursework in the first year, and spend the 2nd working on the thesis?
This is also true, at most schools, the qualifying exam covers coursework thru mechanics, e&m, thermo and quantum. At the 2 schols I attended, we had to do no more than already mentioned, friends of mine have had to work problems in other additional areas, it all depends on the school. Remember, at most places you have to pass the qualifier within the first two years, yes you can take 40+ hours of courses, but you'll not have time to study for your exams. I found that studying for my qualifier helpd to tie areas together because courses tend to have tunnel vision.
 

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