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How Long is a Masters Thesis? [Your writing guide]

Writing a Masters thesis can be quite the undertaking. It presents the research findings of your graduate-level masters study. It can be difficult to work out exactly how much you need to write to pass your masters degree because you can generate so much research throughout your course.

The average masters thesis is typically between 50 and 100 pages long. The length of the thesis will vary depending on the discipline and the university requirements but will typically be around 25,000 to 50,000 words in length.

the average length of a masters thesis - 50 - 100 pages long

My Masters thesis in theoretical computational chemistry was 60 pages long. It was quite short for a master’s thesis in chemistry because of the theoretical computational twist. Some organic chemistry Master theses were much longer – in terms of pages – because they relied on a lot of diagrams and schematics to explain their work.

Irrespective of its length, a master’s thesis must demonstrate an individual’s ability to conduct independent research and to effectively express their findings in writing.

It must pass peer-review and is often accompanied with a short oral presentation about the work to an academic committee put together by their advisor.

It must also show that the student has acquired sufficient knowledge about their chosen subject to contribute to existing scholarship in their field. Once you have graduated with your masters you can then consider whether or not a PhD is a good option for your career goals.

How Many Pages Should a Master Thesis Have?

Typically, a master thesis is expected to be anywhere between 100-200 pages long depending on the research field and topic.

In general, most master theses should have at least 30-40 pages of research content (including a literature review) with an additional 10-20 pages for other aspects of academic reports such as acknowledgements, appendices, abstracts, references and schematics or diagrams.

Furthermore, certain schools may require that your master thesis meet additional criteria such as formatting guidelines or word counts in order to be considered complete.

Your supervisor should not let your master’s thesis go to examination if it does not meet the minimum requirements for your specific field. Your academic supervisor will be your biggest asset while writing your master’s thesis.

If you want to know more about how long a Masters’s thesis and PhD dissertation is you can check out my other articles:

  • How long is a Thesis or dissertation? [the data]
  • Is writing a masters thesis hard? Tips on how to write a thesis
  • How to write a masters thesis in 2 months [Easy steps to start writing]

How is a Masters thesis assessed and examined?

A Masters dissertation is assessed by academics in your department or university and it may also include an external examination by experts in the specific field you are studying.

The thesis will typically require a student to conduct extensive research to answer a research question and come up with an original argument or thesis on the topic.

Once the thesis has been written, the student must submit it to their faculty or university for assessment and examination.

The university will then grade the dissertation based on its content, structure, and accuracy. Most universities require that the dissertation be at least 60 pages in length and be written according to academic standards of writing and style guides.

These academic writing style guides can be very confusing and are often not something people have encountered before. However, reaching out to, and using the services of, a trusted editor will help make the process much easier.

The faculty at the university will then assess the submitted dissertation and provide feedback to help guide the student in making any necessary corrections or revisions before finally submitting it for examination.

Sometimes the examiners will require the thesis to undergo small amendments.

This is quite normal and you will be expected to address each of the criticisms before being admitted to your degree.

Also, many institutions require a public presentation on your Masters research for admission to the degree. This can be relatively nerve racking for young career academics. Nonetheless, presenting your work to a general audience is always good experience and will help prepare you for a PhD if you decide to pursue further research studies.

Effective tips on how to write a thesis successfully

Writing a master’s thesis is not an easy task and many students struggle to complete it with a smile on their faces.

Making sure that you work on your thesis little by little and that you do not get bogged down in the details too quickly is an important step to finishing your thesis without it causing too much mental anguish.

However, writing a thesis is often a very challenging thing no matter what you do. You can check out more about this in my YouTube video below right talk about the unglamorous truths about writing a thesis, whether it Masters, PhD or for peer review.

Small chunks

Work on your thesis in small chunks. Do not think of it as one big thesis but rather as small chapters and subsections within that chapter.

I actually had multiple documents with different chapters and did not combine my thesis until the end. This allowed me to compartmentalise my work and ensure that I was focused on one aspect of the thesis at a time without jumping between many other sections – which would have been a huge distraction.

Get feedback as often as possible

I’ve always been incredibly lucky with my research supervisors. I’ve been able to get feedback about my writing quickly and effectively.

Speak to your research supervisor about what would be an appropriate amount of work for them to mark at any given time.

Some supervisors like small amounts of work – such as a chapter or a subsection, whilst others prefer to have full chapters submitted at a time.

Try to work out the smallest amount of work they be happy to look over as then you can get feedback much quicker.

Also, you can reach out to other supervisors and academics that may be able to give you feedback on your writing. You do not just have two work with your primary supervisor when looking for feedback.

Do what you must to get through

Even though many helpful PhD and thesis writing blogs and videos talk about making yourself as productive as possible, the truth is sometimes you have to do whatever you can to get through.

For example, I used to eat a lot of chocolate and drink a lot of energy drinks to try to focus myself while writing up my thesis.

I only did this for a short period of time and it certainly wasn’t sustainable. But, when you have got a tight deadline sometimes you just have to do whatever you can to get through your writer’s block.

Protect your flow

Protect your flow as much as possible. Getting into a flow state can be achieved regularly if you change your environment to make sure that you are able to focus effectively.

For example, I like to completely turn off my mobile phone and email or other computer notifications so that I can focus for at least one hour on writing my thesis.

You may also find white noise helpful if you are in a particularly noisy environment such as a shared office.

If you find yourself becoming distracted – remove that distraction as best you can. Protecting your flow and working for one-hour blocks will really help you finish on time.

Wrapping up

This article has been through everything you need to know about the length of a Masters thesis and how to write your thesis effectively.

The length of a Masters thesis is very much dependent on the field of study and the University’s requirements for your course. Nonetheless, they are typically between 50 and 200 pages long and are examined by experts in the field and other academics before you are admitted into the degree.

There may also be a short presentation that is given to the public or academics in your department.

how long should a master's thesis paper be

Dr Andrew Stapleton has a Masters and PhD in Chemistry from the UK and Australia. He has many years of research experience and has worked as a Postdoctoral Fellow and Associate at a number of Universities. Although having secured funding for his own research, he left academia to help others with his YouTube channel all about the inner workings of academia and how to make it work for you.

Thank you for visiting Academia Insider.

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how long should a master's thesis paper be

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how long should a master's thesis paper be

Master’s Thesis Length: How Long Should A Master’s Thesis Be?

Writing a thesis is one of the requirements for obtaining a master’s degree. If you are currently running a postgraduate program, you may be wondering what the actual length of a master’s thesis is.

A thesis is a comprehensive exploration of a topic or area of ​​interest. The idea is to chart your learning journey and conclude by discussing what you have learned and what others might learn from it, including opportunities for further research.

It can be as long as it takes to discuss your topic in detail. This is anything around 50 to 300 pages, including a bibliography. However, different institutions have standards for content, format, and length expectations.

This article discusses the length and structure of a master’s thesis in detail.

What is a master’s thesis?

A master’s thesis is a research project written by students in a master’s degree program to demonstrate their interest and expertise in a specific topic within their field of study. It is the final requirement for a master’s degree.

The thesis is a culmination of existing research and data that master’s students marshal and combine to make up a hypothesis that challenges an existing argument in the field or develops new arguments for academic debate.

Students are usually assigned an advisor who provides guidance and supervises their work. Once the thesis is complete, students must defend their work to a panel of two or more departmental faculty members.

How long is a master’s thesis?

Ultimately, the aim is to demonstrate your mastery in the field by demonstrating the academic expertise and research skills you have developed throughout the master’s program.

Master thesis structure

1. title page, 2. acknowledgment.

This is the part where you appreciate those who contributed to the preparation of your thesis. If you probably received a fellowship or obtained data from an institution, then you should recognize and thank them here.

You should also thank your advisor, friends, and family who supported you during the course of your work.

3. Abstract

The aim of an abstract is to give the thesis committee a brief but concise insight into what your research work entails.

4. Table of contents

Additionally, you need to provide a list of figures and tables with the page number to find them in the thesis.

5. Introduction

6. literature review.

The literature review is the part of your thesis where you establish your arguments using various pre-existing scholarly publications and demonstrating your knowledge about your topic.

It is aimed to give a scientific overview of how your work contributes to existing knowledge on the subject matter. In other words, it shows readers the literature gap you hope to fill. For instance, your thesis may be based on new sets of data, methods, or applications.

7. Research methods

This chapter details the data used in your research and the method of gathering or collecting them. This could be qualitative data such as open-ended surveys, case studies, and more.

8. Data analysis and findings

Data analysis and finding involve experimenting with the gathered data and presenting your result in a graphical, tabular, or chart form. The result could also be a written description of the research and findings.

9. Discussion

This is the largest part of a thesis containing a series of chapters. The chapters should flow logically and build your arguments from one chapter to the next.

10. Conclusion

It should also include explaining whether your research questions are confirmed or rejected based on your research and comparing your findings with existing publications.

Not only that, the conclusion should state parts of your topic that you couldn’t touch. This helps buttress what your research has achieved and parts others can explore for future studies.

11. List of reference

12. statement of independent work, 13. appendix (or appendices).

The appendix is usually optional in a thesis. It is material that complements your argument. This could be a questionnaire or a case study.

If the content is too large to go into the body of your paper or could distract readers, then your research could use an appendix.

How to write a master’s thesis

A master’s thesis is longer than an undergraduate thesis, so, it would help if you start working on time to avoid rushing or late submission.

How fast can you write a master’s thesis?

Generally, students have two semesters to write their master’s thesis (usually the last two semesters of their degree program).

Can you finish your thesis in 3 weeks?

Can a master’s thesis be written in 20 pages.

20 pages may be too little to capture your arguments comprehensively in a master’s thesis. A typical master’s thesis has a length of about 50 pages and above.

Your work must also demonstrate great quality, so you want to give it your best shot. Perhaps you have a short time to complete your thesis, don’t fret. Simply think about how many words you need to write every day to meet up and develop plans to achieve your goal.

In all of this, you want to avoid plagiarism in your work, as this can have serious consequences. Read this article to know if paraphrasing is plagiarism.

I hope this article helped. Thanks for reading.

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While Sandel argues that pursuing perfection through genetic engineering would decrease our sense of humility, he claims that the sense of solidarity we would lose is also important.

This thesis summarizes several points in Sandel’s argument, but it does not make a claim about how we should understand his argument. A reader who read Sandel’s argument would not also need to read an essay based on this descriptive thesis.  

Broad thesis (arguable, but difficult to support with evidence) 

Michael Sandel’s arguments about genetic engineering do not take into consideration all the relevant issues.

This is an arguable claim because it would be possible to argue against it by saying that Michael Sandel’s arguments do take all of the relevant issues into consideration. But the claim is too broad. Because the thesis does not specify which “issues” it is focused on—or why it matters if they are considered—readers won’t know what the rest of the essay will argue, and the writer won’t know what to focus on. If there is a particular issue that Sandel does not address, then a more specific version of the thesis would include that issue—hand an explanation of why it is important.  

Arguable thesis with analytical claim 

While Sandel argues persuasively that our instinct to “remake” (54) ourselves into something ever more perfect is a problem, his belief that we can always draw a line between what is medically necessary and what makes us simply “better than well” (51) is less convincing.

This is an arguable analytical claim. To argue for this claim, the essay writer will need to show how evidence from the article itself points to this interpretation. It’s also a reasonable scope for a thesis because it can be supported with evidence available in the text and is neither too broad nor too narrow.  

Arguable thesis with normative claim 

Given Sandel’s argument against genetic enhancement, we should not allow parents to decide on using Human Growth Hormone for their children.

This thesis tells us what we should do about a particular issue discussed in Sandel’s article, but it does not tell us how we should understand Sandel’s argument.  

Questions to ask about your thesis 

  • Is the thesis truly arguable? Does it speak to a genuine dilemma in the source, or would most readers automatically agree with it?  
  • Is the thesis too obvious? Again, would most or all readers agree with it without needing to see your argument?  
  • Is the thesis complex enough to require a whole essay's worth of argument?  
  • Is the thesis supportable with evidence from the text rather than with generalizations or outside research?  
  • Would anyone want to read a paper in which this thesis was developed? That is, can you explain what this paper is adding to our understanding of a problem, question, or topic?
  • picture_as_pdf Thesis

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How to Write a Master's Thesis: A Guide to Planning Your Thesis, Pursuing It, and Avoiding Pitfalls

#scribendiinc

Part 1: Initial Considerations

Who needs to write a master’s thesis.

Thesis writing is one of the more daunting challenges of higher education. That being said, not all master's students have to write a thesis. For example, fields that place a stronger emphasis on applied knowledge, such as nursing, business, and education, tend to have projects and exams to test students on the skills and abilities associated with those fields. Conversely, in disciplines that require in-depth research or highly polished creative abilities, students are usually expected to prove their understanding and independence with a thesis.

What's Your Goal?

Do you want to write a thesis? The process is a long one, often spanning years. It's best to know exactly what you want before you begin. Many people are motivated by career goals. For example, hiring managers may see a master's degree as proof that the candidate is an expert within their field and can lead, motivate, and demonstrate initiative for themselves and others. Others dream of earning their doctorate, and they see a master's degree as a stepping stone toward their Ph.D .

how long should a master's thesis paper be

No matter what your desired goal is, you should have one before you start your thesis. With your goal in mind, your work will have a purpose, which will allow you to measure your progress more easily.

Major Types of Theses

Once you've carefully researched or even enrolled in a master's program—a feat that involves its own planning and resources —you should know if you are expected to produce a quantitative (which occurs in many math and science programs), qualitative (which occurs in many humanities programs), or creative (which occurs in many creative writing, music, or fine arts programs) thesis.

Time and Energy Considerations

Advanced degrees are notoriously time and energy consuming. If you have a job, thesis writing will become your second job. If you have a family, they will need to know that your thesis will take a great deal of your attention, energy, and focus.

how long should a master's thesis paper be

Your studies should not consume you, but they also should not take a back seat to everything else. You will be expected to attend classes, conduct research, source relevant literature, and schedule meetings with various people as you pursue your master's, so it's important to let those you care about know what's going on.

As a general note, most master's programs expect students to finish within a two-year period but are willing to grant extra time if requested, especially if that time is needed to deal with unexpected life events (more on those later).

Part 2: Form an Initial Thesis Question, and Find a Supervisor

When to begin forming your initial thesis question.

Some fields, such as history, may require you to have already formed your thesis question and to have used it to create a statement of intent (outlining the nature of your research) prior to applying to a master’s program. Others may require this information only after you've been accepted. Most of the time, you will be expected to come up with your topic yourself. However, in some disciplines, your supervisor may assign a general research topic to you.

Overall, requirements vary immensely from program to program, so it's best to confirm the exact requirements of your specific program.

What to Say to Your Supervisor

You will have a supervisor during your master's studies. Have you identified who that person will be? If yes, have you introduced yourself via email or phone and obtained information on the processes and procedures that are in place for your master's program? Once you've established contact, request an in-person meeting with him or her, and take a page of questions along with you. Your questions might include:

  • Is there a research subject you can recommend in my field?
  • I would like to pursue [target research subject] for my thesis. Can you help me narrow my focus?
  • Can you give me an example of a properly formatted thesis proposal for my program?

Don't Be Afraid to Ask for Help (to a Degree)

Procedures and expectations vary from program to program, and your supervisor is there to help remove doubt and provide encouragement so you can follow the right path when you embark on writing your thesis. Since your supervisor has almost certainly worked with other graduate students (and was one at some point), take advantage of their experience, and ask questions to put your mind at ease about how to write a master’s thesis.

That being said, do not rely too heavily on your supervisor. As a graduate student, you are also expected to be able to work independently. Proving your independent initiative and capacity is part of what will earn you your master's degree.

Part 3: Revise Your Thesis

Read everything you can get your hands on.

Whether you have a question or need to create one, your next step is simple and applies to all kinds of theses: read.

how long should a master's thesis paper be

Seek Out Knowledge or Research Gaps

Read everything you can that relates to the question or the field you are studying. The only way you will be able to determine where you can go is to see where everyone else has been. After you have read some published material, you will start to spot gaps in current research or notice things that could be developed further with an alternative approach. Things that are known but not understood or understood but not explained clearly or consistently are great potential thesis subjects. Addressing something already known from a new perspective or with a different style could also be a potentially valuable project. Whichever way you choose to do it, keep in mind that your project should make a valuable contribution to your field.

how long should a master's thesis paper be

Talk with Experts in Your Field (and Don't Be Afraid to Revise Your Thesis)

To help narrow down your thesis topic, talk to your supervisor. Your supervisor will have an idea of what is current in your field and what can be left alone because others are already working on it. Additionally, the school you are attending will have programs and faculty with particular areas of interest within your chosen field.

On a similar note, don't be surprised if your thesis question changes as you study. Other students and researchers are out there, and as they publish, what you are working on can change. You might also discover that your question is too vague, not substantial enough, or even no longer relevant. Do not lose heart! Take what you know and adjust the question to address these concerns as they arise. The freedom to adapt is part of the power you hold as a graduate student.

Part 4: Select a Proposal Committee

What proposal committees are and why they're useful.

When you have a solid question or set of questions, draft a proposal.

how long should a master's thesis paper be

You'll need an original stance and a clear justification for asking, and answering, your thesis question. To ensure this, a committee will review your thesis proposal. Thankfully, that committee will consist of people assigned by your supervisor or department head or handpicked by you. These people will be experts who understand your field of study and will do everything in their power to ensure that you are pursuing something worthwhile. And yes, it is okay to put your supervisor on your committee. Some programs even require that your supervisor be on your committee.

Just remember that the committee will expect you to schedule meetings with them, present your proposal, respond to any questions they might have for you, and ultimately present your findings and thesis when all the work is done. Choose those who are willing to support you, give constructive feedback, and help address issues with your proposal. And don't forget to give your proposal a good, thorough edit and proofread before you present it.

How to Prepare for Committee Meetings

Be ready for committee meetings with synopses of your material for committee members, answers for expected questions, and a calm attitude. To prepare for those meetings, sit in on proposal and thesis defenses so you can watch how other graduate students handle them and see what your committee might ask of you. You can even hold rehearsals with friends and fellow students acting as your committee to help you build confidence for your presentation.

how long should a master's thesis paper be

Part 5: Write Your Thesis

What to do once your proposal is approved.

After you have written your thesis proposal and received feedback from your committee, the fun part starts: doing the work. This is where you will take your proposal and carry it out. If you drafted a qualitative or quantitative proposal, your experimentation or will begin here. If you wrote a creative proposal, you will now start working on your material. Your proposal should be strong enough to give you direction when you perform your experiments, conduct interviews, or craft your work. Take note that you will have to check in with your supervisor from time to time to give progress updates.

how long should a master's thesis paper be

Thesis Writing: It's Important to Pace Yourself and Take Breaks

Do not expect the work to go quickly. You will need to pace yourself and make sure you record your progress meticulously. You can always discard information you don't need, but you cannot go back and grab a crucial fact that you can't quite remember. When in doubt, write it down. When drawing from a source, always create a citation for the information to save your future self time and stress. In the same sense, you may also find journaling to be a helpful process.

Additionally, take breaks and allow yourself to step away from your thesis, even if you're having fun (and especially if you're not). Ideally, your proposal should have milestones in it— points where you can stop and assess what you've already completed and what's left to do. When you reach a milestone, celebrate. Take a day off and relax. Better yet, give yourself a week's vacation! The rest will help you regain your focus and ensure that you function at your best.

How to Become More Comfortable with Presenting Your Work

Once you start reaching your milestones, you should be able to start sharing what you have. Just about everyone in a graduate program has experience giving a presentation at the front of the class, attending a seminar, or watching an interview. If you haven't (or even if you have), look for conferences and clubs that will give you the opportunity to learn about presenting your work and become comfortable with the idea of public speaking. The more you practice talking about what you are studying, the more comfortable you'll be with the information, which will make your committee defenses and other official meetings easier.

Published authors can be called upon to present at conferences, and if your thesis is strong, you may receive an email or a phone call asking if you would share your findings onstage.

Presenting at conferences is also a great way to boost your CV and network within your field. Make presenting part of your education, and it will become something you look forward to instead of fear.

What to Do If Your Relationship with Your Supervisor Sours

A small aside: If it isn't already obvious, you will be communicating extensively with others as you pursue your thesis. That also means that others will need to communicate with you, and if you've been noticing things getting quiet, you will need to be the one to speak up. Your supervisor should speak to you at least once a term and preferably once a week in the more active parts of your research and writing. If you give written work to your supervisor, you should have feedback within three weeks.

If your supervisor does not provide feedback, frequently misses appointments, or is consistently discouraging of your work, contact your graduate program advisor and ask for a new supervisor. The relationship with your supervisor is crucial to your success, especially if she or he is on your committee, and while your supervisor does not have to be friendly, there should at least be professional respect between you.

What to Do If a Crisis Strikes

If something happens in your life that disrupts everything (e.g., emotional strain, the birth of a child, or the death of a family member), ask for help. You are a human being, and personal lives can and do change without warning. Do not wait until you are falling apart before asking for help, either. Learn what resources exist for crises before you have one, so you can head off trauma before it hits. That being said, if you get blindsided, don't refuse help. Seek it out, and take the time you need to recover. Your degree is supposed to help you become a stronger and smarter person, not break you.

Part 6: Polish and Defend Your Master's Thesis

How to write a master’s thesis: the final stages.

After your work is done and everything is written down, you will have to give your thesis a good, thorough polishing. This is where you will have to organize the information, draft it into a paper format with an abstract, and abbreviate things to help meet your word-count limit. This is also where your final editing and proofreading passes will occur, after which you will face your final hurdle: presenting your thesis defense to your committee. If they approve your thesis, then congratulations! You are now a master of your chosen field.

Conclusion and Parting Thoughts

Remember that you do not (and should not) have to learn how to write a master’s thesis on your own. Thesis writing is collaborative, as is practically any kind of research.

how long should a master's thesis paper be

While you will be expected to develop your thesis using your own initiative, pursue it with your own ambition, and complete it with your own abilities, you will also be expected to use all available resources to do so. The purpose of a master's thesis is to help you develop your own independent abilities, ensuring that you can drive your own career forward without constantly looking to others to provide direction. Leaders get master's degrees. That's why many business professionals in leadership roles have graduate degree initials after their last names. If you already have the skills necessary to motivate yourself, lead others, and drive change, you may only need your master's as an acknowledgement of your abilities. If you do not, but you apply yourself carefully and thoroughly to the pursuit of your thesis, you should come away from your studies with those skills in place.

A final thought regarding collaboration: all theses have a section for acknowledgements. Be sure to say thank you to those who helped you become a master. One day, someone might be doing the same for you.

Image source: Falkenpost/Pixabay.com 

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How to write a masters dissertation or thesis: top tips.

How to write a masters dissertation

It is completely normal to find the idea of writing a masters thesis or dissertation slightly daunting, even for students who have written one before at undergraduate level. Though, don’t feel put off by the idea. You’ll have plenty of time to complete it, and plenty of support from your supervisor and peers.

One of the main challenges that students face is putting their ideas and findings into words. Writing is a skill in itself, but with the right advice, you’ll find it much easier to get into the flow of writing your masters thesis or dissertation.

We’ve put together a step-by-step guide on how to write a dissertation or thesis for your masters degree, with top tips to consider at each stage in the process.

1. Understand your dissertation or thesis topic

There are slight differences between theses and dissertations , although both require a high standard of writing skill and knowledge in your topic. They are also formatted very similarly.

At first, writing a masters thesis can feel like running a 100m race – the course feels very quick and like there is not as much time for thinking! However, you’ll usually have a summer semester dedicated to completing your dissertation – giving plenty of time and space to write a strong academic piece.

By comparison, writing a PhD thesis can feel like running a marathon, working on the same topic for 3-4 years can be laborious. But in many ways, the approach to both of these tasks is quite similar.

Before writing your masters dissertation, get to know your research topic inside out. Not only will understanding your topic help you conduct better research, it will also help you write better dissertation content.

Also consider the main purpose of your dissertation. You are writing to put forward a theory or unique research angle – so make your purpose clear in your writing.

Top writing tip: when researching your topic, look out for specific terms and writing patterns used by other academics. It is likely that there will be a lot of jargon and important themes across research papers in your chosen dissertation topic. 

How to write a thesis

2. Structure your dissertation or thesis

Writing a thesis is a unique experience and there is no general consensus on what the best way to structure it is. 

As a postgraduate student , you’ll probably decide what kind of structure suits your research project best after consultation with your supervisor. You’ll also have a chance to look at previous masters students’ theses in your university library.

To some extent, all postgraduate dissertations are unique. Though they almost always consist of chapters. The number of chapters you cover will vary depending on the research. 

A masters dissertation or thesis organised into chapters would typically look like this: 

Section

Description

Title page

The opening page includes all relevant information about the project.

Abstract

A brief project summary including background, methodology and findings.

Contents

A list of chapters and figures from your project.

Chapter 1 – Background

A description of the rationale behind your project.

Chapter 2 – Literature Review

A summary and evaluation of the literature supporting your project.

Chapter 3 – Methodology

A description of the specific methodology used in your project.

Chapter 4-6 – Data analysis and Findings

An overview of the key findings and data from your research.

Chapter 7 - Discussion and Evaluation

A description of what the data means and what you can draw from the findings.

Chapter 8 - Conclusion

Main summary of your overall project and key findings.

Bibliography

A list of the references cited in your dissertation or thesis.

Appendices

Additional materials used in your research.

Write down your structure and use these as headings that you’ll write for later on.

Top writing tip : ease each chapter together with a paragraph that links the end of a chapter to the start of a new chapter. For example, you could say something along the lines of “in the next section, these findings are evaluated in more detail”. This makes it easier for the reader to understand each chapter and helps your writing flow better.

3. Write up your literature review

One of the best places to start when writing your masters dissertation is with the literature review. This involves researching and evaluating existing academic literature in order to identify any gaps for your own research.

Many students prefer to write the literature review chapter first, as this is where several of the underpinning theories and concepts exist. This section helps set the stage for the rest of your dissertation, and will help inform the writing of your other dissertation chapters.

What to include in your literature review

The literature review chapter is more than just a summary of existing research, it is an evaluation of how this research has informed your own unique research.

Demonstrate how the different pieces of research fit together. Are there overlapping theories? Are there disagreements between researchers?

Highlight the gap in the research. This is key, as a dissertation is mostly about developing your own unique research. Is there an unexplored avenue of research? Has existing research failed to disprove a particular theory?

Back up your methodology. Demonstrate why your methodology is appropriate by discussing where it has been used successfully in other research.

4. Write up your research

Write up your thesis research

For instance, a more theoretical-based research topic might encompass more writing from a philosophical perspective. Qualitative data might require a lot more evaluation and discussion than quantitative research. 

Methodology chapter

The methodology chapter is all about how you carried out your research and which specific techniques you used to gather data. You should write about broader methodological approaches (e.g. qualitative, quantitative and mixed methods), and then go into more detail about your chosen data collection strategy. 

Data collection strategies include things like interviews, questionnaires, surveys, content analyses, discourse analyses and many more.

Data analysis and findings chapters

The data analysis or findings chapter should cover what you actually discovered during your research project. It should be detailed, specific and objective (don’t worry, you’ll have time for evaluation later on in your dissertation)

Write up your findings in a way that is easy to understand. For example, if you have a lot of numerical data, this could be easier to digest in tables.

This will make it easier for you to dive into some deeper analysis in later chapters. Remember, the reader will refer back to your data analysis section to cross-reference your later evaluations against your actual findings – so presenting your data in a simple manner is beneficial.

Think about how you can segment your data into categories. For instance, it can be useful to segment interview transcripts by interviewee. 

Top writing tip : write up notes on how you might phrase a certain part of the research. This will help bring the best out of your writing. There is nothing worse than when you think of the perfect way to phrase something and then you completely forget it.

5. Discuss and evaluate

Once you’ve presented your findings, it’s time to evaluate and discuss them.

It might feel difficult to differentiate between your findings and discussion sections, because you are essentially talking about the same data. The easiest way to remember the difference is that your findings simply present the data, whereas your discussion tells the story of this data.

Your evaluation breaks the story down, explaining the key findings, what went well and what didn’t go so well.

In your discussion chapter, you’ll have chance to expand on the results from your findings section. For example, explain what certain numbers mean and draw relationships between different pieces of data.

Top writing tip: don’t be afraid to point out the shortcomings of your research. You will receive higher marks for writing objectively. For example, if you didn’t receive as many interview responses as expected, evaluate how this has impacted your research and findings. Don’t let your ego get in the way!

6. Write your introduction

Your introduction sets the scene for the rest of your masters dissertation. You might be wondering why writing an introduction isn't at the start of our step-by-step list, and that’s because many students write this chapter last.

Here’s what your introduction chapter should cover:

Problem statement

Research question

Significance of your research

This tells the reader what you’ll be researching as well as its importance. You’ll have a good idea of what to include here from your original dissertation proposal , though it’s fairly common for research to change once it gets started.

Writing or at least revisiting this section last can be really helpful, since you’ll have a more well-rounded view of what your research actually covers once it has been completed and written up.

How to write a masters dissertation

Masters dissertation writing tips

When to start writing your thesis or dissertation.

When you should start writing your masters thesis or dissertation depends on the scope of the research project and the duration of your course. In some cases, your research project may be relatively short and you may not be able to write much of your thesis before completing the project. 

But regardless of the nature of your research project and of the scope of your course, you should start writing your thesis or at least some of its sections as early as possible, and there are a number of good reasons for this:

Academic writing is about practice, not talent. The first steps of writing your dissertation will help you get into the swing of your project. Write early to help you prepare in good time.

Write things as you do them. This is a good way to keep your dissertation full of fresh ideas and ensure that you don’t forget valuable information.

The first draft is never perfect. Give yourself time to edit and improve your dissertation. It’s likely that you’ll need to make at least one or two more drafts before your final submission.

Writing early on will help you stay motivated when writing all subsequent drafts.

Thinking and writing are very connected. As you write, new ideas and concepts will come to mind. So writing early on is a great way to generate new ideas.

How to improve your writing skills

The best way of improving your dissertation or thesis writing skills is to:

 Finish the first draft of your masters thesis as early as possible and send it to your supervisor for revision. Your supervisor will correct your draft and point out any writing errors. This process will be repeated a few times which will help you recognise and correct writing mistakes yourself as time progresses.

If you are not a native English speaker, it may be useful to ask your English friends to read a part of your thesis and warn you about any recurring writing mistakes. Read our section on English language support for more advice. 

Most universities have writing centres that offer writing courses and other kinds of support for postgraduate students. Attending these courses may help you improve your writing and meet other postgraduate students with whom you will be able to discuss what constitutes a well-written thesis.

Read academic articles and search for writing resources on the internet. This will help you adopt an academic writing style, which will eventually become effortless with practice.

Keep track of your bibliography 

Keep track of your bibliography

The easiest way to keep the track of all the articles you have read for your research is to create a database where you can summarise each article/chapter into a few most important bullet points to help you remember their content. 

Another useful tool for doing this effectively is to learn how to use specific reference management software (RMS) such as EndNote. RMS is relatively simple to use and saves a lot of time when it comes to organising your bibliography. This may come in very handy, especially if your reference section is suspiciously missing two hours before you need to submit your dissertation! 

Avoid accidental plagiarism

Plagiarism may cost you your postgraduate degree and it is important that you consciously avoid it when writing your thesis or dissertation. 

Occasionally, postgraduate students commit plagiarism unintentionally. This can happen when sections are copy and pasted from journal articles they are citing instead of simply rephrasing them. Whenever you are presenting information from another academic source, make sure you reference the source and avoid writing the statement exactly as it is written in the original paper.

What kind of format should your thesis have?

How to write a masters dissertation

Read your university’s guidelines before you actually start writing your thesis so you don’t have to waste time changing the format further down the line. However in general, most universities will require you to use 1.5-2 line spacing, font size 12 for text, and to print your thesis on A4 paper. These formatting guidelines may not necessarily result in the most aesthetically appealing thesis, however beauty is not always practical, and a nice looking thesis can be a more tiring reading experience for your postgrad examiner .

When should I submit my thesis?

The length of time it takes to complete your MSc or MA thesis will vary from student to student. This is because people work at different speeds, projects vary in difficulty, and some projects encounter more problems than others. 

Obviously, you should submit your MSc thesis or MA thesis when it is finished! Every university will say in its regulations that it is the student who must decide when it is ready to submit. 

However, your supervisor will advise you whether your work is ready and you should take their advice on this. If your supervisor says that your work is not ready, then it is probably unwise to submit it. Usually your supervisor will read your final thesis or dissertation draft and will let you know what’s required before submitting your final draft.

Set yourself a target for completion. This will help you stay on track and avoid falling behind. You may also only have funding for the year, so it is important to ensure you submit your dissertation before the deadline – and also ensure you don’t miss out on your graduation ceremony ! 

To set your target date, work backwards from the final completion and submission date, and aim to have your final draft completed at least three months before that final date.

Don’t leave your submission until the last minute – submit your work in good time before the final deadline. Consider what else you’ll have going on around that time. Are you moving back home? Do you have a holiday? Do you have other plans?

If you need to have finished by the end of June to be able to go to a graduation ceremony in July, then you should leave a suitable amount of time for this. You can build this into your dissertation project planning at the start of your research.

It is important to remember that handing in your thesis or dissertation is not the end of your masters program . There will be a period of time of one to three months between the time you submit and your final day. Some courses may even require a viva to discuss your research project, though this is more common at PhD level . 

If you have passed, you will need to make arrangements for the thesis to be properly bound and resubmitted, which will take a week or two. You may also have minor corrections to make to the work, which could take up to a month or so. This means that you need to allow a period of at least three months between submitting your thesis and the time when your program will be completely finished. Of course, it is also possible you may be asked after the viva to do more work on your thesis and resubmit it before the examiners will agree to award the degree – so there may be an even longer time period before you have finished.

How do I submit the MA or MSc dissertation?

Most universities will have a clear procedure for submitting a masters dissertation. Some universities require your ‘intention to submit’. This notifies them that you are ready to submit and allows the university to appoint an external examiner.

This normally has to be completed at least three months before the date on which you think you will be ready to submit.

When your MA or MSc dissertation is ready, you will have to print several copies and have them bound. The number of copies varies between universities, but the university usually requires three – one for each of the examiners and one for your supervisor.

However, you will need one more copy – for yourself! These copies must be softbound, not hardbound. The theses you see on the library shelves will be bound in an impressive hardback cover, but you can only get your work bound like this once you have passed. 

You should submit your dissertation or thesis for examination in soft paper or card covers, and your university will give you detailed guidance on how it should be bound. They will also recommend places where you can get the work done.

The next stage is to hand in your work, in the way and to the place that is indicated in your university’s regulations. All you can do then is sit and wait for the examination – but submitting your thesis is often a time of great relief and celebration!

Some universities only require a digital submission, where you upload your dissertation as a file through their online submission system.

Related articles

What Is The Difference Between A Dissertation & A Thesis

How To Get The Most Out Of Your Writing At Postgraduate Level

Dos & Don'ts Of Academic Writing

Dispelling Dissertation Drama

Writing A Dissertation Proposal

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  • Researching and Writing a Masters Dissertation

Written by Mark Bennett

All Masters programmes include some form of extended individual project. Research-focussed programmes, such as an MRes , may include multiple independent research components. Taught courses usually culminate with a substantial research task, referred to as the Masters dissertation or thesis.

This article talks about how long a Masters dissertation is and the structure it follows.Before you get started on your dissertation, you'll usually need to write a proposal. Read our full guide to Masters dissertation proposals for more information on what this should include!

Masters dissertation - key facts
Length 15,000 - 20,000 words
Structure

Abstract (300 words)

Introduction (1,000 words)

Literature review (1,000 words)

Research methodology (1,500 words)

Results

Discussion (12,000 words)

Conclusion (1,500 words)

References/Bibliography

Appendices

Supervision Yes, you’ll be paired with an academic from your own university
Assessment External examiner along with additional members of faculty. There is not usually a viva at Masters level.

What’s the difference between a Masters dissertation and an undergraduate dissertation?

The Masters thesis is a bridge between undergraduate study and higher level postgraduate degrees such as the PhD .

A postgraduate dissertation may not look that different to its undergraduate equivalent. You’ll likely have to produce a longer piece of work but the foundations remain the same.

After all, one of the purposes of an undergraduate dissertation or final year project is to prepare you for more in-depth research work as a postgraduate. That said, there are some important differences between the two levels.

So, how long is a Masters dissertation? A Masters dissertation will be longer than the undergraduate equivalent – usually it’ll be somewhere between 15,000 and 20,000 words, but this can vary widely between courses, institutions and countries.

To answer your overall research question comprehensively, you’ll be expected to identify and examine specific areas of your topic. This can be like producing a series of shorter pieces of work, similar to those required by individual modules. However, there’s the additional requirement that they collectively support a broader set of conclusions.

This more involved Masters dissertation structure will:

  • Give you the scope to investigate your subject in greater detail than is possible at undergraduate level
  • Challenge you to be effective at organising your work so that its individual components function as stages in a coherent and persuasive overall argument
  • Allow you to develop and hone a suitable research methodology (for example, choosing between qualitative and quantitative methods)

If the individual topics within your overall project require you to access separate sources or datasets, this may also have an impact on your research process.

As a postgraduate, you’ll be expected to establish and assert your own critical voice as a member of the academic community associated with your field .

During your Masters thesis you’ll need to show that you are not just capable of analysing and critiquing original data or primary source material. You should also demonstrate awareness of the existing body of scholarship relating to your topic .

So, if you’ll excuse the pun, a ‘Masters’ degree really is about achieving ‘mastery’ of your particular specialism and the dissertation is where you’ll demonstrate this: showing off the scholarly expertise and research skills that you’ve developed across your programme.

What’s the difference between a dissertation and a thesis?

A dissertation is a long piece of (usually) written work on the same topic. A thesis is a little more specific: it usually means something that presents an original argument based on the interpretation of data, statistics or content.

So, a thesis is almost always presented as a dissertation, but not all dissertations present a thesis.

Masters dissertation structure

As you can probably imagine, no two dissertations follow the exact same structure, especially given the differences found between Masters programmes from university to university and country to country .

That said, there are several key components that make up the structure of a typical Masters dissertation

How long is a Masters dissertation?

Most dissertations will typically be between 15,000 and 20,000 words long, although this can vary significantly depending on the nature of the programme.

You should also check with your university exactly which sections of the dissertation count towards the final word count (the abstract, bibliography and appendices won’t usually be included in the total).

Usually around 300 words long, the abstract is meant to be a concise summary of your dissertation. It should briefly cover the question(s) you aim to answer, your primary argument and your conclusion.

Introduction

The purpose of the introduction is to provide context for the rest of the dissertation, setting out your aims and the scope of what you want to achieve with your research. The introduction should give a clear overview of the dissertation’s chapters and will usually be around 1,000 words long.

Literature review

This part of the dissertation should examine the scholarship that has already been published in your field, presenting various arguments and counter-arguments while situating your own research within this wider body of work.

You should analyse and evaluate other publications and explain how your dissertation will contribute to the existing literature in your subject area. The literature review sometimes forms part of the introduction or follows immediately on from it. Most literature reviews are up to 1,000 words long.

Research methodology

Not all dissertations will require a section covering research methodology (Arts and Humanities dissertations won’t normally undertake the kind of research that involves a set methodology). However, if you are using a particular method to collect information for your dissertation, you should make sure to explain the rationale behind your choice of methodology. The word count for this part of the dissertation is usually around the 1,500 mark.

Those in the Arts and Humanities will usually outline their theoretical perspectives and approaches as part of the introduction, rather than requiring a detailed explanation of the methodology for their data collection and analysis.

Results / findings

If your research involves some form of survey or experiment, this is where you’ll present the results of your work. Depending on the nature of the study, this might be in the form of graphs, tables or charts – or even just a written description of what the research entailed and what the findings were.

This section forms the bulk of your dissertation and should be carefully structured using a series of related chapters (and sub-chapters). There should be a logical progression from one chapter to the next, with each part building on the arguments of its predecessor.

It can be helpful to think of your Masters dissertation as a series of closely interlinked essays, rather than one overwhelming paper. The size of this section will depend on the overall word count for your dissertation. However, to give you a rough idea for a 15,000-word dissertation, the discussion part will generally be about 12,000 words long.

Here you should draw together the threads of the previous discussion chapters and make your final concluding statements, drawing on evidence and arguments that you’ve already explored over the course of the dissertation. Explain the significance of your findings and point towards directions that future research could follow. This section of the Masters thesis will be around 1,500 words long.

References / bibliography

While planning and writing your dissertation, you should keep an extensive, organised record of any papers, sources or books you’ve quoted (or referred to). This will be a lot easier than leaving all of it until the end and struggling to work out where a particular quotation is from!

Appendices won’t be necessary in many dissertations, but you may need to include supplementary material to support your argument. This could be interview transcripts or questionnaires. If including such content within the body of the dissertation won’t be feasible – i.e. there wouldn’t be enough space or it would break the flow of your writing – you should consult with your supervisor and consider attaching it in an appendix.

It’s worth bearing in mind that these sections won’t always be discretely labelled in every dissertation. For example, everything up to ‘discussion’ might be covered in introductory chapter (rather than as distinct sections). If you’re unsure about the structure of your Masters dissertation, your supervisor will be able to help you map it out.

How does supervision work for a Masters dissertation?

As a Masters student at the dissertation stage you’ll usually be matched with an academic within your institution who will be tasked with guiding your work. This might be someone who has already taught you, or it may be another scholar whose research interests and expertise align well with what you want to do. You may be able to request a particular supervisor, but taught postgraduates are more likely to be assigned them by their department.

Specific arrangements with your supervisor will vary depending on your institution and subject area. They will usually meet with you at the beginning of the dissertation period to discuss your project and agree a suitable schedule for its undertaking. This timetable will probably set dates for:

  • Subsequent discussions and progress checks
  • The submission of draft chapters or sections
  • Feedback appointments

Though your supervisor is there to help and advise you, it is important to remember that your dissertation is a personal research project with associated expectations of you as an independent scholar.

As a rule of thumb, you can expect your supervisor to read each part of your dissertation once at the draft stage and to offer feedback. Most will not have time to look at lots of subsequent revisions, but may respond favourably to polite requests for exceptions (provided their own workload permits it).

Inundating your supervisor with emails or multiple iterations of draft material is best avoided; they will have their own research to manage (as well as other supervision assignments) and will be able to offer better quality feedback if you stick to an agreed schedule.

How is a Masters dissertation assessed and examined?

On most courses your dissertation will be assessed by an external examiner (as well as additional members of faculty within your university who haven’t been responsible for supervising you), but these will read and critique the work you submit without personally questioning and testing you on it.

Though this examination process is not as challenging as the oral defence or ‘ viva voce ’ required for a PhD thesis, the grading of your Masters dissertation is still a fundamental component of your degree.

On some programmes the result awarded to a student’s dissertation may determine the upper grade-band that can be awarded to their degree.

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How to Write a Master's Thesis

Last Updated: June 1, 2023 Fact Checked

This article was co-authored by Christopher Taylor, PhD . Christopher Taylor is an Adjunct Assistant Professor of English at Austin Community College in Texas. He received his PhD in English Literature and Medieval Studies from the University of Texas at Austin in 2014. This article has been fact-checked, ensuring the accuracy of any cited facts and confirming the authority of its sources. This article has been viewed 612,214 times.

Students learning how to write a Master's Thesis will first learn that a central thesis question must be presented and subsequently answered. A Master's Thesis will be the most prominent piece of your graduate work up to this point, and a pertinent thesis question that forms the spine of this work elevates it from the prosaic to the significant.

Choosing a Topic

Step 1 Think about the objectives of writing a thesis.

  • To get a degree - topic should be difficult enough, but manageable too.
  • To enjoy the work - topic that you are truly interested in, something that you will not grow bored of after a short period of time.
  • To get a job afterward - if you know what specifically you want to do after your studies and/or for which company, it might be useful to choose a topic, that will help with this goal.
  • To be useful - thesis might actually be useful to help to make the world a little better place.
  • Try thinking about your favorite subject of study - it may be a particular author, theory, time period, etc. Imagine how you might further the study of that subject.
  • You might consider skimming through papers you wrote for your graduate courses and see if there is any apparent topic that you tend to gravitate towards.
  • Consult with faculty members, favorite professors. They might have some good suggestions to write about. Generally, you'll be required to meet with your thesis advisor at least once before you start working.
  • Consider consulting with industry partners. Your favorite company might have some work to do which might be done as a master's thesis. This might also help you get a job within the company afterward and maybe even some money for the thesis.
  • If you want to help the world to be a better place, you might want to consult with your local non-profits and charities or check the Internet for possible thesis topics to write about.
  • 3 Choose the right topic. From the possible topics generated in the previous step, find the one which best fits the objectives from the first step, especially the objectives most important to you. Make sure that you have a clear, specific, and organized plan on how to write a master's thesis which you will be able to then defend.

Step 4 Choose your thesis question.

  • Make sure that your question and the answers provided will provide original content to the body of research in existence. A judicious question will also keep research focused, organized, and interesting.
  • Once you've formulated your topic and direction of inquiry, try formulating 5-10 different questions around your intended research. This forces you to think flexibly about your topic and visualize how small changes in wording can change the trajectory of your research.

Step 5 Conduct your research.

  • Usually, your committee chair will be in place before you formally start your thesis. They can help guide you and provide input into your project, so the earlier you can get their commitment, the better.
  • Nothing is more frustrating than your thesis progress being held up by a professor who has too many obligations to make time to meet with you.

Selecting Your Texts

Step 1 Complete a literature review.

  • For example, a novel written by Ernest Hemingway or a scientific journal article in which new results are documented for the first time would both be considered primary sources.

Step 3 Choose your secondary sources.

  • For example, a book written about Ernest Hemingway's novel or a scientific journal article examining the findings of someone else's experiment would both be considered secondary sources.

Step 4 Manage your citations.

  • Use the in-text citation format appropriate to your discipline. [3] X Research source The most common formats are MLA, APA, and Chicago.
  • Create a coordinating works cited or reference entry for each source you cite in the text of your document or in a footnote.
  • Consider using a citation management software such as EndNote, Mendeley, or Zotero. These will enable you to insert and move citations within your word processor program and will automatically populate a works cited or reference page for you.

Planning an Outline

Step 1 Know the requirements for your field/department.

  • Qualitative. This type of thesis involves completing a project that is exploratory, analytical, or creative in some way. Usually, students in the humanities will complete this kind of thesis.
  • Quantitative. This type of thesis involves conducting experiments, measuring data, and recording results. Students in the sciences usually complete this kind of thesis.

Step 2 Nail down your thesis idea.

  • Signature page (with the completed signatures of your advising committee - usually attained at the defense, or after the project is deemed complete )
  • Abstract - this is a short (one paragraph or so) description/summary of the work completed in your thesis
  • Table of Contents (with page numbers)
  • Introduction
  • Body of paper
  • Works Cited or Bibliography
  • Any necessary appendices or endnotes

Moving through the Writing Process

Step 1 Make a schedule.

  • If you do not already have a review of literature written, it’s time to do your research! The review of literature is essentially a summary of all of the existing scholarship about your topic with plenty of direct quotations from the primary and secondary sources that you’re referencing.

Step 8 Contextualize your work.

Finalizing Your Thesis

Step 1 Compare your draft with your university's requirements.

  • Many departments or programs provide a document template for theses and dissertations. If you have one of these, it may be easiest to use such a template from the beginning of your work (rather than copying and pasting your writing into it).

Step 2 Re-read the entire thesis for correctness.

  • Alternatively, ask a trusted colleague or friend to read over your thesis to help you catch any minor grammar/spelling/punctuation errors and typos.

Step 3 Follow all printing guidelines according to your department's policies.

  • Some institutions require you to submit your thesis for a formatting check prior to uploading the document to ProQuest. Be sure to check with your department’s Director of Graduate Studies for specific instructions.
  • Be aware of thesis submission deadlines, which are often well in advance of your graduation date. Late submission of your thesis may force you to push back your graduation date, which may affect your employment or continuing graduate studies.

Masters Thesis Outline

how long should a master's thesis paper be

Expert Q&A

Christopher Taylor, PhD

  • Remember why you are writing a Master's thesis and who will want to read and use the material. You write a Master's thesis for members of your community, so keep in mind that they will have extensive knowledge and experience before reading your work. Don't bore them with unnecessary material. Thanks Helpful 2 Not Helpful 0
  • Choosing the perfect question before starting research will prevent frustration and save time. Rigorous effort on finding the perfect question is probably the most important task when learning how to write a Master's thesis. Thanks Helpful 2 Not Helpful 0
  • Consult other people who have completed a Master's thesis and obtained a Master's degree. It can be a long, grueling process, and having the support and advice of someone who has already done it can be very valuable. Thanks Helpful 1 Not Helpful 0

how long should a master's thesis paper be

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Restate a Thesis

  • ↑ https://umb.libguides.com/PrimarySources/secondary
  • ↑ https://www.scribbr.com/citing-sources/in-text-citation-styles/
  • ↑ https://www.unk.edu/academics/gradstudies/admissions/grad-files/Grad%20Files/ThesisGdlnsFinal08.pdf
  • ↑ https://u.osu.edu/hackingthethesis/managing-stuff/your-content/outline/
  • ↑ http://www.imm.dtu.dk/~janba/MastersThesisAdvice.pdf

About This Article

Christopher Taylor, PhD

To write a master's thesis, make it a goal to write 500 words every day, which will help you meet your deadline without having to rush at the last minute. It's also helpful if you work in 25-minute increments and take a 5-minute break in between, which will make your work sessions less overwhelming. Also, figure out a writing time that works best for you, whether it's in the morning or at night, and stick with it so you're more productive. For more help writing your master's thesis, like how to make an outline, keep reading! Did this summary help you? Yes No

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Frequently asked questions

How long does it take to write a dissertation.

At the bachelor’s and master’s levels, the dissertation is usually the main focus of your final year. You might work on it (alongside other classes) for the entirety of the final year, or for the last six months. This includes formulating an idea, doing the research, and writing up.

A PhD thesis takes a longer time, as the thesis is the main focus of the degree. A PhD thesis might be being formulated and worked on for the whole four years of the degree program. The writing process alone can take around 18 months.

Frequently asked questions: Knowledge Base

Methodology refers to the overarching strategy and rationale of your research. Developing your methodology involves studying the research methods used in your field and the theories or principles that underpin them, in order to choose the approach that best matches your objectives.

Methods are the specific tools and procedures you use to collect and analyse data (e.g. interviews, experiments , surveys , statistical tests ).

In a dissertation or scientific paper, the methodology chapter or methods section comes after the introduction and before the results , discussion and conclusion .

Depending on the length and type of document, you might also include a literature review or theoretical framework before the methodology.

Quantitative research deals with numbers and statistics, while qualitative research deals with words and meanings.

Quantitative methods allow you to test a hypothesis by systematically collecting and analysing data, while qualitative methods allow you to explore ideas and experiences in depth.

Reliability and validity are both about how well a method measures something:

  • Reliability refers to the  consistency of a measure (whether the results can be reproduced under the same conditions).
  • Validity   refers to the  accuracy of a measure (whether the results really do represent what they are supposed to measure).

If you are doing experimental research , you also have to consider the internal and external validity of your experiment.

A sample is a subset of individuals from a larger population. Sampling means selecting the group that you will actually collect data from in your research.

For example, if you are researching the opinions of students in your university, you could survey a sample of 100 students.

Statistical sampling allows you to test a hypothesis about the characteristics of a population. There are various sampling methods you can use to ensure that your sample is representative of the population as a whole.

There are several reasons to conduct a literature review at the beginning of a research project:

  • To familiarise yourself with the current state of knowledge on your topic
  • To ensure that you’re not just repeating what others have already done
  • To identify gaps in knowledge and unresolved problems that your research can address
  • To develop your theoretical framework and methodology
  • To provide an overview of the key findings and debates on the topic

Writing the literature review shows your reader how your work relates to existing research and what new insights it will contribute.

A literature review is a survey of scholarly sources (such as books, journal articles, and theses) related to a specific topic or research question .

It is often written as part of a dissertation , thesis, research paper , or proposal .

The literature review usually comes near the beginning of your  dissertation . After the introduction , it grounds your research in a scholarly field and leads directly to your theoretical framework or methodology .

Harvard referencing uses an author–date system. Sources are cited by the author’s last name and the publication year in brackets. Each Harvard in-text citation corresponds to an entry in the alphabetised reference list at the end of the paper.

Vancouver referencing uses a numerical system. Sources are cited by a number in parentheses or superscript. Each number corresponds to a full reference at the end of the paper.

Harvard style Vancouver style
In-text citation Each referencing style has different rules (Pears and Shields, 2019). Each referencing style has different rules (1).
Reference list Pears, R. and Shields, G. (2019). . 11th edn. London: MacMillan. 1. Pears R, Shields G. Cite them right: The essential referencing guide. 11th ed. London: MacMillan; 2019.

A Harvard in-text citation should appear in brackets every time you quote, paraphrase, or refer to information from a source.

The citation can appear immediately after the quotation or paraphrase, or at the end of the sentence. If you’re quoting, place the citation outside of the quotation marks but before any other punctuation like a comma or full stop.

In Harvard referencing, up to three author names are included in an in-text citation or reference list entry. When there are four or more authors, include only the first, followed by ‘ et al. ’

In-text citation Reference list
1 author (Smith, 2014) Smith, T. (2014) …
2 authors (Smith and Jones, 2014) Smith, T. and Jones, F. (2014) …
3 authors (Smith, Jones and Davies, 2014) Smith, T., Jones, F. and Davies, S. (2014) …
4+ authors (Smith , 2014) Smith, T. (2014) …

A bibliography should always contain every source you cited in your text. Sometimes a bibliography also contains other sources that you used in your research, but did not cite in the text.

MHRA doesn’t specify a rule about this, so check with your supervisor to find out exactly what should be included in your bibliography.

Footnote numbers should appear in superscript (e.g. 11 ). You can use the ‘Insert footnote’ button in Word to do this automatically; it’s in the ‘References’ tab at the top.

Footnotes always appear after the quote or paraphrase they relate to. MHRA generally recommends placing footnote numbers at the end of the sentence, immediately after any closing punctuation, like this. 12

In situations where this might be awkward or misleading, such as a long sentence containing multiple quotations, footnotes can also be placed at the end of a clause mid-sentence, like this; 13 note that they still come after any punctuation.

When a source has two or three authors, name all of them in your MHRA references . When there are four or more, use only the first name, followed by ‘and others’:

Number of authors Footnote example Bibliography example
1 author David Smith Smith, David
2 authors David Smith and Hugh Jones Smith, David, and Hugh Jones
3 authors David Smith, Hugh Jones and Emily Wright Smith, David, Hugh Jones and Emily Wright
4+ authors David Smith and others Smith, David, and others

Note that in the bibliography, only the author listed first has their name inverted. The names of additional authors and those of translators or editors are written normally.

A citation should appear wherever you use information or ideas from a source, whether by quoting or paraphrasing its content.

In Vancouver style , you have some flexibility about where the citation number appears in the sentence – usually directly after mentioning the author’s name is best, but simply placing it at the end of the sentence is an acceptable alternative, as long as it’s clear what it relates to.

In Vancouver style , when you refer to a source with multiple authors in your text, you should only name the first author followed by ‘et al.’. This applies even when there are only two authors.

In your reference list, include up to six authors. For sources with seven or more authors, list the first six followed by ‘et al.’.

The words ‘ dissertation ’ and ‘thesis’ both refer to a large written research project undertaken to complete a degree, but they are used differently depending on the country:

  • In the UK, you write a dissertation at the end of a bachelor’s or master’s degree, and you write a thesis to complete a PhD.
  • In the US, it’s the other way around: you may write a thesis at the end of a bachelor’s or master’s degree, and you write a dissertation to complete a PhD.

The main difference is in terms of scale – a dissertation is usually much longer than the other essays you complete during your degree.

Another key difference is that you are given much more independence when working on a dissertation. You choose your own dissertation topic , and you have to conduct the research and write the dissertation yourself (with some assistance from your supervisor).

Dissertation word counts vary widely across different fields, institutions, and levels of education:

  • An undergraduate dissertation is typically 8,000–15,000 words
  • A master’s dissertation is typically 12,000–50,000 words
  • A PhD thesis is typically book-length: 70,000–100,000 words

However, none of these are strict guidelines – your word count may be lower or higher than the numbers stated here. Always check the guidelines provided by your university to determine how long your own dissertation should be.

References should be included in your text whenever you use words, ideas, or information from a source. A source can be anything from a book or journal article to a website or YouTube video.

If you don’t acknowledge your sources, you can get in trouble for plagiarism .

Your university should tell you which referencing style to follow. If you’re unsure, check with a supervisor. Commonly used styles include:

  • Harvard referencing , the most commonly used style in UK universities.
  • MHRA , used in humanities subjects.
  • APA , used in the social sciences.
  • Vancouver , used in biomedicine.
  • OSCOLA , used in law.

Your university may have its own referencing style guide.

If you are allowed to choose which style to follow, we recommend Harvard referencing, as it is a straightforward and widely used style.

To avoid plagiarism , always include a reference when you use words, ideas or information from a source. This shows that you are not trying to pass the work of others off as your own.

You must also properly quote or paraphrase the source. If you’re not sure whether you’ve done this correctly, you can use the Scribbr Plagiarism Checker to find and correct any mistakes.

In Harvard style , when you quote directly from a source that includes page numbers, your in-text citation must include a page number. For example: (Smith, 2014, p. 33).

You can also include page numbers to point the reader towards a passage that you paraphrased . If you refer to the general ideas or findings of the source as a whole, you don’t need to include a page number.

When you want to use a quote but can’t access the original source, you can cite it indirectly. In the in-text citation , first mention the source you want to refer to, and then the source in which you found it. For example:

It’s advisable to avoid indirect citations wherever possible, because they suggest you don’t have full knowledge of the sources you’re citing. Only use an indirect citation if you can’t reasonably gain access to the original source.

In Harvard style referencing , to distinguish between two sources by the same author that were published in the same year, you add a different letter after the year for each source:

  • (Smith, 2019a)
  • (Smith, 2019b)

Add ‘a’ to the first one you cite, ‘b’ to the second, and so on. Do the same in your bibliography or reference list .

To create a hanging indent for your bibliography or reference list :

  • Highlight all the entries
  • Click on the arrow in the bottom-right corner of the ‘Paragraph’ tab in the top menu.
  • In the pop-up window, under ‘Special’ in the ‘Indentation’ section, use the drop-down menu to select ‘Hanging’.
  • Then close the window with ‘OK’.

Though the terms are sometimes used interchangeably, there is a difference in meaning:

  • A reference list only includes sources cited in the text – every entry corresponds to an in-text citation .
  • A bibliography also includes other sources which were consulted during the research but not cited.

It’s important to assess the reliability of information found online. Look for sources from established publications and institutions with expertise (e.g. peer-reviewed journals and government agencies).

The CRAAP test (currency, relevance, authority, accuracy, purpose) can aid you in assessing sources, as can our list of credible sources . You should generally avoid citing websites like Wikipedia that can be edited by anyone – instead, look for the original source of the information in the “References” section.

You can generally omit page numbers in your in-text citations of online sources which don’t have them. But when you quote or paraphrase a specific passage from a particularly long online source, it’s useful to find an alternate location marker.

For text-based sources, you can use paragraph numbers (e.g. ‘para. 4’) or headings (e.g. ‘under “Methodology”’). With video or audio sources, use a timestamp (e.g. ‘10:15’).

In the acknowledgements of your thesis or dissertation, you should first thank those who helped you academically or professionally, such as your supervisor, funders, and other academics.

Then you can include personal thanks to friends, family members, or anyone else who supported you during the process.

Yes, it’s important to thank your supervisor(s) in the acknowledgements section of your thesis or dissertation .

Even if you feel your supervisor did not contribute greatly to the final product, you still should acknowledge them, if only for a very brief thank you. If you do not include your supervisor, it may be seen as a snub.

The acknowledgements are generally included at the very beginning of your thesis or dissertation, directly after the title page and before the abstract .

In a thesis or dissertation, the acknowledgements should usually be no longer than one page. There is no minimum length.

You may acknowledge God in your thesis or dissertation acknowledgements , but be sure to follow academic convention by also thanking the relevant members of academia, as well as family, colleagues, and friends who helped you.

All level 1 and 2 headings should be included in your table of contents . That means the titles of your chapters and the main sections within them.

The contents should also include all appendices and the lists of tables and figures, if applicable, as well as your reference list .

Do not include the acknowledgements or abstract   in the table of contents.

To automatically insert a table of contents in Microsoft Word, follow these steps:

  • Apply heading styles throughout the document.
  • In the references section in the ribbon, locate the Table of Contents group.
  • Click the arrow next to the Table of Contents icon and select Custom Table of Contents.
  • Select which levels of headings you would like to include in the table of contents.

Make sure to update your table of contents if you move text or change headings. To update, simply right click and select Update Field.

The table of contents in a thesis or dissertation always goes between your abstract and your introduction.

An abbreviation is a shortened version of an existing word, such as Dr for Doctor. In contrast, an acronym uses the first letter of each word to create a wholly new word, such as UNESCO (an acronym for the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization).

Your dissertation sometimes contains a list of abbreviations .

As a rule of thumb, write the explanation in full the first time you use an acronym or abbreviation. You can then proceed with the shortened version. However, if the abbreviation is very common (like UK or PC), then you can just use the abbreviated version straight away.

Be sure to add each abbreviation in your list of abbreviations !

If you only used a few abbreviations in your thesis or dissertation, you don’t necessarily need to include a list of abbreviations .

If your abbreviations are numerous, or if you think they won’t be known to your audience, it’s never a bad idea to add one. They can also improve readability, minimising confusion about abbreviations unfamiliar to your reader.

A list of abbreviations is a list of all the abbreviations you used in your thesis or dissertation. It should appear at the beginning of your document, immediately after your table of contents . It should always be in alphabetical order.

Fishbone diagrams have a few different names that are used interchangeably, including herringbone diagram, cause-and-effect diagram, and Ishikawa diagram.

These are all ways to refer to the same thing– a problem-solving approach that uses a fish-shaped diagram to model possible root causes of problems and troubleshoot solutions.

Fishbone diagrams (also called herringbone diagrams, cause-and-effect diagrams, and Ishikawa diagrams) are most popular in fields of quality management. They are also commonly used in nursing and healthcare, or as a brainstorming technique for students.

Some synonyms and near synonyms of among include:

  • In the company of
  • In the middle of
  • Surrounded by

Some synonyms and near synonyms of between  include:

  • In the space separating
  • In the time separating

In spite of   is a preposition used to mean ‘ regardless of ‘, ‘notwithstanding’, or ‘even though’.

It’s always used in a subordinate clause to contrast with the information given in the main clause of a sentence (e.g., ‘Amy continued to watch TV, in spite of the time’).

Despite   is a preposition used to mean ‘ regardless of ‘, ‘notwithstanding’, or ‘even though’.

It’s used in a subordinate clause to contrast with information given in the main clause of a sentence (e.g., ‘Despite the stress, Joe loves his job’).

‘Log in’ is a phrasal verb meaning ‘connect to an electronic device, system, or app’. The preposition ‘to’ is often used directly after the verb; ‘in’ and ‘to’ should be written as two separate words (e.g., ‘ log in to the app to update privacy settings’).

‘Log into’ is sometimes used instead of ‘log in to’, but this is generally considered incorrect (as is ‘login to’).

Some synonyms and near synonyms of ensure include:

  • Make certain

Some synonyms and near synonyms of assure  include:

Rest assured is an expression meaning ‘you can be certain’ (e.g., ‘Rest assured, I will find your cat’). ‘Assured’ is the adjectival form of the verb assure , meaning ‘convince’ or ‘persuade’.

Some synonyms and near synonyms for council include:

There are numerous synonyms and near synonyms for the two meanings of counsel :

Direct Direction
Guide Guidance
Instruct Instruction

AI writing tools can be used to perform a variety of tasks.

Generative AI writing tools (like ChatGPT ) generate text based on human inputs and can be used for interactive learning, to provide feedback, or to generate research questions or outlines.

These tools can also be used to paraphrase or summarise text or to identify grammar and punctuation mistakes. Y ou can also use Scribbr’s free paraphrasing tool , summarising tool , and grammar checker , which are designed specifically for these purposes.

Using AI writing tools (like ChatGPT ) to write your essay is usually considered plagiarism and may result in penalisation, unless it is allowed by your university. Text generated by AI tools is based on existing texts and therefore cannot provide unique insights. Furthermore, these outputs sometimes contain factual inaccuracies or grammar mistakes.

However, AI writing tools can be used effectively as a source of feedback and inspiration for your writing (e.g., to generate research questions ). Other AI tools, like grammar checkers, can help identify and eliminate grammar and punctuation mistakes to enhance your writing.

The Scribbr Knowledge Base is a collection of free resources to help you succeed in academic research, writing, and citation. Every week, we publish helpful step-by-step guides, clear examples, simple templates, engaging videos, and more.

The Knowledge Base is for students at all levels. Whether you’re writing your first essay, working on your bachelor’s or master’s dissertation, or getting to grips with your PhD research, we’ve got you covered.

As well as the Knowledge Base, Scribbr provides many other tools and services to support you in academic writing and citation:

  • Create your citations and manage your reference list with our free Reference Generators in APA and MLA style.
  • Scan your paper for in-text citation errors and inconsistencies with our innovative APA Citation Checker .
  • Avoid accidental plagiarism with our reliable Plagiarism Checker .
  • Polish your writing and get feedback on structure and clarity with our Proofreading & Editing services .

Yes! We’re happy for educators to use our content, and we’ve even adapted some of our articles into ready-made lecture slides .

You are free to display, distribute, and adapt Scribbr materials in your classes or upload them in private learning environments like Blackboard. We only ask that you credit Scribbr for any content you use.

We’re always striving to improve the Knowledge Base. If you have an idea for a topic we should cover, or you notice a mistake in any of our articles, let us know by emailing [email protected] .

The consequences of plagiarism vary depending on the type of plagiarism and the context in which it occurs. For example, submitting a whole paper by someone else will have the most severe consequences, while accidental citation errors are considered less serious.

If you’re a student, then you might fail the course, be suspended or expelled, or be obligated to attend a workshop on plagiarism. It depends on whether it’s your first offence or you’ve done it before.

As an academic or professional, plagiarising seriously damages your reputation. You might also lose your research funding or your job, and you could even face legal consequences for copyright infringement.

Paraphrasing without crediting the original author is a form of plagiarism , because you’re presenting someone else’s ideas as if they were your own.

However, paraphrasing is not plagiarism if you correctly reference the source . This means including an in-text referencing and a full reference , formatted according to your required citation style (e.g., Harvard , Vancouver ).

As well as referencing your source, make sure that any paraphrased text is completely rewritten in your own words.

Accidental plagiarism is one of the most common examples of plagiarism . Perhaps you forgot to cite a source, or paraphrased something a bit too closely. Maybe you can’t remember where you got an idea from, and aren’t totally sure if it’s original or not.

These all count as plagiarism, even though you didn’t do it on purpose. When in doubt, make sure you’re citing your sources . Also consider running your work through a plagiarism checker tool prior to submission, which work by using advanced database software to scan for matches between your text and existing texts.

Scribbr’s Plagiarism Checker takes less than 10 minutes and can help you turn in your paper with confidence.

The accuracy depends on the plagiarism checker you use. Per our in-depth research , Scribbr is the most accurate plagiarism checker. Many free plagiarism checkers fail to detect all plagiarism or falsely flag text as plagiarism.

Plagiarism checkers work by using advanced database software to scan for matches between your text and existing texts. Their accuracy is determined by two factors: the algorithm (which recognises the plagiarism) and the size of the database (with which your document is compared).

To avoid plagiarism when summarising an article or other source, follow these two rules:

  • Write the summary entirely in your own words by   paraphrasing the author’s ideas.
  • Reference the source with an in-text citation and a full reference so your reader can easily find the original text.

Plagiarism can be detected by your professor or readers if the tone, formatting, or style of your text is different in different parts of your paper, or if they’re familiar with the plagiarised source.

Many universities also use   plagiarism detection software like Turnitin’s, which compares your text to a large database of other sources, flagging any similarities that come up.

It can be easier than you think to commit plagiarism by accident. Consider using a   plagiarism checker prior to submitting your essay to ensure you haven’t missed any citations.

Some examples of plagiarism include:

  • Copying and pasting a Wikipedia article into the body of an assignment
  • Quoting a source without including a citation
  • Not paraphrasing a source properly (e.g. maintaining wording too close to the original)
  • Forgetting to cite the source of an idea

The most surefire way to   avoid plagiarism is to always cite your sources . When in doubt, cite!

Global plagiarism means taking an entire work written by someone else and passing it off as your own. This can include getting someone else to write an essay or assignment for you, or submitting a text you found online as your own work.

Global plagiarism is one of the most serious types of plagiarism because it involves deliberately and directly lying about the authorship of a work. It can have severe consequences for students and professionals alike.

Verbatim plagiarism means copying text from a source and pasting it directly into your own document without giving proper credit.

If the structure and the majority of the words are the same as in the original source, then you are committing verbatim plagiarism. This is the case even if you delete a few words or replace them with synonyms.

If you want to use an author’s exact words, you need to quote the original source by putting the copied text in quotation marks and including an   in-text citation .

Patchwork plagiarism , also called mosaic plagiarism, means copying phrases, passages, or ideas from various existing sources and combining them to create a new text. This includes slightly rephrasing some of the content, while keeping many of the same words and the same structure as the original.

While this type of plagiarism is more insidious than simply copying and pasting directly from a source, plagiarism checkers like Turnitin’s can still easily detect it.

To avoid plagiarism in any form, remember to reference your sources .

Yes, reusing your own work without citation is considered self-plagiarism . This can range from resubmitting an entire assignment to reusing passages or data from something you’ve handed in previously.

Self-plagiarism often has the same consequences as other types of plagiarism . If you want to reuse content you wrote in the past, make sure to check your university’s policy or consult your professor.

If you are reusing content or data you used in a previous assignment, make sure to cite yourself. You can cite yourself the same way you would cite any other source: simply follow the directions for the citation style you are using.

Keep in mind that reusing prior content can be considered self-plagiarism , so make sure you ask your instructor or consult your university’s handbook prior to doing so.

Most institutions have an internal database of previously submitted student assignments. Turnitin can check for self-plagiarism by comparing your paper against this database. If you’ve reused parts of an assignment you already submitted, it will flag any similarities as potential plagiarism.

Online plagiarism checkers don’t have access to your institution’s database, so they can’t detect self-plagiarism of unpublished work. If you’re worried about accidentally self-plagiarising, you can use Scribbr’s Self-Plagiarism Checker to upload your unpublished documents and check them for similarities.

Plagiarism has serious consequences and can be illegal in certain scenarios.

While most of the time plagiarism in an undergraduate setting is not illegal, plagiarism or self-plagiarism in a professional academic setting can lead to legal action, including copyright infringement and fraud. Many scholarly journals do not allow you to submit the same work to more than one journal, and if you do not credit a coauthor, you could be legally defrauding them.

Even if you aren’t breaking the law, plagiarism can seriously impact your academic career. While the exact consequences of plagiarism vary by institution and severity, common consequences include a lower grade, automatically failing a course, academic suspension or probation, and even expulsion.

Self-plagiarism means recycling work that you’ve previously published or submitted as an assignment. It’s considered academic dishonesty to present something as brand new when you’ve already gotten credit and perhaps feedback for it in the past.

If you want to refer to ideas or data from previous work, be sure to cite yourself.

Academic integrity means being honest, ethical, and thorough in your academic work. To maintain academic integrity, you should avoid misleading your readers about any part of your research and refrain from offences like plagiarism and contract cheating, which are examples of academic misconduct.

Academic dishonesty refers to deceitful or misleading behavior in an academic setting. Academic dishonesty can occur intentionally or unintentionally, and it varies in severity.

It can encompass paying for a pre-written essay, cheating on an exam, or committing plagiarism . It can also include helping others cheat, copying a friend’s homework answers, or even pretending to be sick to miss an exam.

Academic dishonesty doesn’t just occur in a classroom setting, but also in research and other academic-adjacent fields.

Consequences of academic dishonesty depend on the severity of the offence and your institution’s policy. They can range from a warning for a first offence to a failing grade in a course to expulsion from your university.

For those in certain fields, such as nursing, engineering, or lab sciences, not learning fundamentals properly can directly impact the health and safety of others. For those working in academia or research, academic dishonesty impacts your professional reputation, leading others to doubt your future work.

Academic dishonesty can be intentional or unintentional, ranging from something as simple as claiming to have read something you didn’t to copying your neighbour’s answers on an exam.

You can commit academic dishonesty with the best of intentions, such as helping a friend cheat on a paper. Severe academic dishonesty can include buying a pre-written essay or the answers to a multiple-choice test, or falsifying a medical emergency to avoid taking a final exam.

Plagiarism means presenting someone else’s work as your own without giving proper credit to the original author. In academic writing, plagiarism involves using words, ideas, or information from a source without including a citation .

Plagiarism can have serious consequences , even when it’s done accidentally. To avoid plagiarism, it’s important to keep track of your sources and cite them correctly.

Common knowledge does not need to be cited. However, you should be extra careful when deciding what counts as common knowledge.

Common knowledge encompasses information that the average educated reader would accept as true without needing the extra validation of a source or citation.

Common knowledge should be widely known, undisputed, and easily verified. When in doubt, always cite your sources.

Most online plagiarism checkers only have access to public databases, whose software doesn’t allow you to compare two documents for plagiarism.

However, in addition to our Plagiarism Checker , Scribbr also offers an Self-Plagiarism Checker . This is an add-on tool that lets you compare your paper with unpublished or private documents. This way you can rest assured that you haven’t unintentionally plagiarised or self-plagiarised .

Compare two sources for plagiarism

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The research methods you use depend on the type of data you need to answer your research question .

  • If you want to measure something or test a hypothesis , use quantitative methods . If you want to explore ideas, thoughts, and meanings, use qualitative methods .
  • If you want to analyse a large amount of readily available data, use secondary data. If you want data specific to your purposes with control over how they are generated, collect primary data.
  • If you want to establish cause-and-effect relationships between variables , use experimental methods. If you want to understand the characteristics of a research subject, use descriptive methods.

Methodology refers to the overarching strategy and rationale of your research project . It involves studying the methods used in your field and the theories or principles behind them, in order to develop an approach that matches your objectives.

Methods are the specific tools and procedures you use to collect and analyse data (e.g. experiments, surveys , and statistical tests ).

In shorter scientific papers, where the aim is to report the findings of a specific study, you might simply describe what you did in a methods section .

In a longer or more complex research project, such as a thesis or dissertation , you will probably include a methodology section , where you explain your approach to answering the research questions and cite relevant sources to support your choice of methods.

In mixed methods research , you use both qualitative and quantitative data collection and analysis methods to answer your research question .

Data collection is the systematic process by which observations or measurements are gathered in research. It is used in many different contexts by academics, governments, businesses, and other organisations.

There are various approaches to qualitative data analysis , but they all share five steps in common:

  • Prepare and organise your data.
  • Review and explore your data.
  • Develop a data coding system.
  • Assign codes to the data.
  • Identify recurring themes.

The specifics of each step depend on the focus of the analysis. Some common approaches include textual analysis , thematic analysis , and discourse analysis .

There are five common approaches to qualitative research :

  • Grounded theory involves collecting data in order to develop new theories.
  • Ethnography involves immersing yourself in a group or organisation to understand its culture.
  • Narrative research involves interpreting stories to understand how people make sense of their experiences and perceptions.
  • Phenomenological research involves investigating phenomena through people’s lived experiences.
  • Action research links theory and practice in several cycles to drive innovative changes.

Hypothesis testing is a formal procedure for investigating our ideas about the world using statistics. It is used by scientists to test specific predictions, called hypotheses , by calculating how likely it is that a pattern or relationship between variables could have arisen by chance.

Operationalisation means turning abstract conceptual ideas into measurable observations.

For example, the concept of social anxiety isn’t directly observable, but it can be operationally defined in terms of self-rating scores, behavioural avoidance of crowded places, or physical anxiety symptoms in social situations.

Before collecting data , it’s important to consider how you will operationalise the variables that you want to measure.

Triangulation in research means using multiple datasets, methods, theories and/or investigators to address a research question. It’s a research strategy that can help you enhance the validity and credibility of your findings.

Triangulation is mainly used in qualitative research , but it’s also commonly applied in quantitative research . Mixed methods research always uses triangulation.

These are four of the most common mixed methods designs :

  • Convergent parallel: Quantitative and qualitative data are collected at the same time and analysed separately. After both analyses are complete, compare your results to draw overall conclusions. 
  • Embedded: Quantitative and qualitative data are collected at the same time, but within a larger quantitative or qualitative design. One type of data is secondary to the other.
  • Explanatory sequential: Quantitative data is collected and analysed first, followed by qualitative data. You can use this design if you think your qualitative data will explain and contextualise your quantitative findings.
  • Exploratory sequential: Qualitative data is collected and analysed first, followed by quantitative data. You can use this design if you think the quantitative data will confirm or validate your qualitative findings.

An observational study could be a good fit for your research if your research question is based on things you observe. If you have ethical, logistical, or practical concerns that make an experimental design challenging, consider an observational study. Remember that in an observational study, it is critical that there be no interference or manipulation of the research subjects. Since it’s not an experiment, there are no control or treatment groups either.

The key difference between observational studies and experiments is that, done correctly, an observational study will never influence the responses or behaviours of participants. Experimental designs will have a treatment condition applied to at least a portion of participants.

Exploratory research explores the main aspects of a new or barely researched question.

Explanatory research explains the causes and effects of an already widely researched question.

Experimental designs are a set of procedures that you plan in order to examine the relationship between variables that interest you.

To design a successful experiment, first identify:

  • A testable hypothesis
  • One or more independent variables that you will manipulate
  • One or more dependent variables that you will measure

When designing the experiment, first decide:

  • How your variable(s) will be manipulated
  • How you will control for any potential confounding or lurking variables
  • How many subjects you will include
  • How you will assign treatments to your subjects

There are four main types of triangulation :

  • Data triangulation : Using data from different times, spaces, and people
  • Investigator triangulation : Involving multiple researchers in collecting or analysing data
  • Theory triangulation : Using varying theoretical perspectives in your research
  • Methodological triangulation : Using different methodologies to approach the same topic

Triangulation can help:

  • Reduce bias that comes from using a single method, theory, or investigator
  • Enhance validity by approaching the same topic with different tools
  • Establish credibility by giving you a complete picture of the research problem

But triangulation can also pose problems:

  • It’s time-consuming and labour-intensive, often involving an interdisciplinary team.
  • Your results may be inconsistent or even contradictory.

A confounding variable , also called a confounder or confounding factor, is a third variable in a study examining a potential cause-and-effect relationship.

A confounding variable is related to both the supposed cause and the supposed effect of the study. It can be difficult to separate the true effect of the independent variable from the effect of the confounding variable.

In your research design , it’s important to identify potential confounding variables and plan how you will reduce their impact.

In a between-subjects design , every participant experiences only one condition, and researchers assess group differences between participants in various conditions.

In a within-subjects design , each participant experiences all conditions, and researchers test the same participants repeatedly for differences between conditions.

The word ‘between’ means that you’re comparing different conditions between groups, while the word ‘within’ means you’re comparing different conditions within the same group.

A quasi-experiment is a type of research design that attempts to establish a cause-and-effect relationship. The main difference between this and a true experiment is that the groups are not randomly assigned.

In experimental research, random assignment is a way of placing participants from your sample into different groups using randomisation. With this method, every member of the sample has a known or equal chance of being placed in a control group or an experimental group.

Quasi-experimental design is most useful in situations where it would be unethical or impractical to run a true experiment .

Quasi-experiments have lower internal validity than true experiments, but they often have higher external validity  as they can use real-world interventions instead of artificial laboratory settings.

Within-subjects designs have many potential threats to internal validity , but they are also very statistically powerful .

Advantages:

  • Only requires small samples
  • Statistically powerful
  • Removes the effects of individual differences on the outcomes

Disadvantages:

  • Internal validity threats reduce the likelihood of establishing a direct relationship between variables
  • Time-related effects, such as growth, can influence the outcomes
  • Carryover effects mean that the specific order of different treatments affect the outcomes

Yes. Between-subjects and within-subjects designs can be combined in a single study when you have two or more independent variables (a factorial design). In a mixed factorial design, one variable is altered between subjects and another is altered within subjects.

In a factorial design, multiple independent variables are tested.

If you test two variables, each level of one independent variable is combined with each level of the other independent variable to create different conditions.

While a between-subjects design has fewer threats to internal validity , it also requires more participants for high statistical power than a within-subjects design .

  • Prevents carryover effects of learning and fatigue.
  • Shorter study duration.
  • Needs larger samples for high power.
  • Uses more resources to recruit participants, administer sessions, cover costs, etc.
  • Individual differences may be an alternative explanation for results.

Samples are used to make inferences about populations . Samples are easier to collect data from because they are practical, cost-effective, convenient, and manageable.

Probability sampling means that every member of the target population has a known chance of being included in the sample.

Probability sampling methods include simple random sampling , systematic sampling , stratified sampling , and cluster sampling .

In non-probability sampling , the sample is selected based on non-random criteria, and not every member of the population has a chance of being included.

Common non-probability sampling methods include convenience sampling , voluntary response sampling, purposive sampling , snowball sampling , and quota sampling .

In multistage sampling , or multistage cluster sampling, you draw a sample from a population using smaller and smaller groups at each stage.

This method is often used to collect data from a large, geographically spread group of people in national surveys, for example. You take advantage of hierarchical groupings (e.g., from county to city to neighbourhood) to create a sample that’s less expensive and time-consuming to collect data from.

Sampling bias occurs when some members of a population are systematically more likely to be selected in a sample than others.

Simple random sampling is a type of probability sampling in which the researcher randomly selects a subset of participants from a population . Each member of the population has an equal chance of being selected. Data are then collected from as large a percentage as possible of this random subset.

The American Community Survey  is an example of simple random sampling . In order to collect detailed data on the population of the US, the Census Bureau officials randomly select 3.5 million households per year and use a variety of methods to convince them to fill out the survey.

If properly implemented, simple random sampling is usually the best sampling method for ensuring both internal and external validity . However, it can sometimes be impractical and expensive to implement, depending on the size of the population to be studied,

If you have a list of every member of the population and the ability to reach whichever members are selected, you can use simple random sampling.

Cluster sampling is more time- and cost-efficient than other probability sampling methods , particularly when it comes to large samples spread across a wide geographical area.

However, it provides less statistical certainty than other methods, such as simple random sampling , because it is difficult to ensure that your clusters properly represent the population as a whole.

There are three types of cluster sampling : single-stage, double-stage and multi-stage clustering. In all three types, you first divide the population into clusters, then randomly select clusters for use in your sample.

  • In single-stage sampling , you collect data from every unit within the selected clusters.
  • In double-stage sampling , you select a random sample of units from within the clusters.
  • In multi-stage sampling , you repeat the procedure of randomly sampling elements from within the clusters until you have reached a manageable sample.

Cluster sampling is a probability sampling method in which you divide a population into clusters, such as districts or schools, and then randomly select some of these clusters as your sample.

The clusters should ideally each be mini-representations of the population as a whole.

In multistage sampling , you can use probability or non-probability sampling methods.

For a probability sample, you have to probability sampling at every stage. You can mix it up by using simple random sampling , systematic sampling , or stratified sampling to select units at different stages, depending on what is applicable and relevant to your study.

Multistage sampling can simplify data collection when you have large, geographically spread samples, and you can obtain a probability sample without a complete sampling frame.

But multistage sampling may not lead to a representative sample, and larger samples are needed for multistage samples to achieve the statistical properties of simple random samples .

In stratified sampling , researchers divide subjects into subgroups called strata based on characteristics that they share (e.g., race, gender, educational attainment).

Once divided, each subgroup is randomly sampled using another probability sampling method .

You should use stratified sampling when your sample can be divided into mutually exclusive and exhaustive subgroups that you believe will take on different mean values for the variable that you’re studying.

Using stratified sampling will allow you to obtain more precise (with lower variance ) statistical estimates of whatever you are trying to measure.

For example, say you want to investigate how income differs based on educational attainment, but you know that this relationship can vary based on race. Using stratified sampling, you can ensure you obtain a large enough sample from each racial group, allowing you to draw more precise conclusions.

Yes, you can create a stratified sample using multiple characteristics, but you must ensure that every participant in your study belongs to one and only one subgroup. In this case, you multiply the numbers of subgroups for each characteristic to get the total number of groups.

For example, if you were stratifying by location with three subgroups (urban, rural, or suburban) and marital status with five subgroups (single, divorced, widowed, married, or partnered), you would have 3 × 5 = 15 subgroups.

There are three key steps in systematic sampling :

  • Define and list your population , ensuring that it is not ordered in a cyclical or periodic order.
  • Decide on your sample size and calculate your interval, k , by dividing your population by your target sample size.
  • Choose every k th member of the population as your sample.

Systematic sampling is a probability sampling method where researchers select members of the population at a regular interval – for example, by selecting every 15th person on a list of the population. If the population is in a random order, this can imitate the benefits of simple random sampling .

Populations are used when a research question requires data from every member of the population. This is usually only feasible when the population is small and easily accessible.

A statistic refers to measures about the sample , while a parameter refers to measures about the population .

A sampling error is the difference between a population parameter and a sample statistic .

There are eight threats to internal validity : history, maturation, instrumentation, testing, selection bias , regression to the mean, social interaction, and attrition .

Internal validity is the extent to which you can be confident that a cause-and-effect relationship established in a study cannot be explained by other factors.

Attrition bias is a threat to internal validity . In experiments, differential rates of attrition between treatment and control groups can skew results.

This bias can affect the relationship between your independent and dependent variables . It can make variables appear to be correlated when they are not, or vice versa.

The external validity of a study is the extent to which you can generalise your findings to different groups of people, situations, and measures.

The two types of external validity are population validity (whether you can generalise to other groups of people) and ecological validity (whether you can generalise to other situations and settings).

There are seven threats to external validity : selection bias , history, experimenter effect, Hawthorne effect , testing effect, aptitude-treatment, and situation effect.

Attrition bias can skew your sample so that your final sample differs significantly from your original sample. Your sample is biased because some groups from your population are underrepresented.

With a biased final sample, you may not be able to generalise your findings to the original population that you sampled from, so your external validity is compromised.

Construct validity is about how well a test measures the concept it was designed to evaluate. It’s one of four types of measurement validity , which includes construct validity, face validity , and criterion validity.

There are two subtypes of construct validity.

  • Convergent validity : The extent to which your measure corresponds to measures of related constructs
  • Discriminant validity: The extent to which your measure is unrelated or negatively related to measures of distinct constructs

When designing or evaluating a measure, construct validity helps you ensure you’re actually measuring the construct you’re interested in. If you don’t have construct validity, you may inadvertently measure unrelated or distinct constructs and lose precision in your research.

Construct validity is often considered the overarching type of measurement validity ,  because it covers all of the other types. You need to have face validity , content validity, and criterion validity to achieve construct validity.

Statistical analyses are often applied to test validity with data from your measures. You test convergent validity and discriminant validity with correlations to see if results from your test are positively or negatively related to those of other established tests.

You can also use regression analyses to assess whether your measure is actually predictive of outcomes that you expect it to predict theoretically. A regression analysis that supports your expectations strengthens your claim of construct validity .

Face validity is about whether a test appears to measure what it’s supposed to measure. This type of validity is concerned with whether a measure seems relevant and appropriate for what it’s assessing only on the surface.

Face validity is important because it’s a simple first step to measuring the overall validity of a test or technique. It’s a relatively intuitive, quick, and easy way to start checking whether a new measure seems useful at first glance.

Good face validity means that anyone who reviews your measure says that it seems to be measuring what it’s supposed to. With poor face validity, someone reviewing your measure may be left confused about what you’re measuring and why you’re using this method.

It’s often best to ask a variety of people to review your measurements. You can ask experts, such as other researchers, or laypeople, such as potential participants, to judge the face validity of tests.

While experts have a deep understanding of research methods , the people you’re studying can provide you with valuable insights you may have missed otherwise.

There are many different types of inductive reasoning that people use formally or informally.

Here are a few common types:

  • Inductive generalisation : You use observations about a sample to come to a conclusion about the population it came from.
  • Statistical generalisation: You use specific numbers about samples to make statements about populations.
  • Causal reasoning: You make cause-and-effect links between different things.
  • Sign reasoning: You make a conclusion about a correlational relationship between different things.
  • Analogical reasoning: You make a conclusion about something based on its similarities to something else.

Inductive reasoning is a bottom-up approach, while deductive reasoning is top-down.

Inductive reasoning takes you from the specific to the general, while in deductive reasoning, you make inferences by going from general premises to specific conclusions.

In inductive research , you start by making observations or gathering data. Then, you take a broad scan of your data and search for patterns. Finally, you make general conclusions that you might incorporate into theories.

Inductive reasoning is a method of drawing conclusions by going from the specific to the general. It’s usually contrasted with deductive reasoning, where you proceed from general information to specific conclusions.

Inductive reasoning is also called inductive logic or bottom-up reasoning.

Deductive reasoning is a logical approach where you progress from general ideas to specific conclusions. It’s often contrasted with inductive reasoning , where you start with specific observations and form general conclusions.

Deductive reasoning is also called deductive logic.

Deductive reasoning is commonly used in scientific research, and it’s especially associated with quantitative research .

In research, you might have come across something called the hypothetico-deductive method . It’s the scientific method of testing hypotheses to check whether your predictions are substantiated by real-world data.

A dependent variable is what changes as a result of the independent variable manipulation in experiments . It’s what you’re interested in measuring, and it ‘depends’ on your independent variable.

In statistics, dependent variables are also called:

  • Response variables (they respond to a change in another variable)
  • Outcome variables (they represent the outcome you want to measure)
  • Left-hand-side variables (they appear on the left-hand side of a regression equation)

An independent variable is the variable you manipulate, control, or vary in an experimental study to explore its effects. It’s called ‘independent’ because it’s not influenced by any other variables in the study.

Independent variables are also called:

  • Explanatory variables (they explain an event or outcome)
  • Predictor variables (they can be used to predict the value of a dependent variable)
  • Right-hand-side variables (they appear on the right-hand side of a regression equation)

A correlation is usually tested for two variables at a time, but you can test correlations between three or more variables.

On graphs, the explanatory variable is conventionally placed on the x -axis, while the response variable is placed on the y -axis.

  • If you have quantitative variables , use a scatterplot or a line graph.
  • If your response variable is categorical, use a scatterplot or a line graph.
  • If your explanatory variable is categorical, use a bar graph.

The term ‘ explanatory variable ‘ is sometimes preferred over ‘ independent variable ‘ because, in real-world contexts, independent variables are often influenced by other variables. This means they aren’t totally independent.

Multiple independent variables may also be correlated with each other, so ‘explanatory variables’ is a more appropriate term.

The difference between explanatory and response variables is simple:

  • An explanatory variable is the expected cause, and it explains the results.
  • A response variable is the expected effect, and it responds to other variables.

There are 4 main types of extraneous variables :

  • Demand characteristics : Environmental cues that encourage participants to conform to researchers’ expectations
  • Experimenter effects : Unintentional actions by researchers that influence study outcomes
  • Situational variables : Eenvironmental variables that alter participants’ behaviours
  • Participant variables : Any characteristic or aspect of a participant’s background that could affect study results

An extraneous variable is any variable that you’re not investigating that can potentially affect the dependent variable of your research study.

A confounding variable is a type of extraneous variable that not only affects the dependent variable, but is also related to the independent variable.

‘Controlling for a variable’ means measuring extraneous variables and accounting for them statistically to remove their effects on other variables.

Researchers often model control variable data along with independent and dependent variable data in regression analyses and ANCOVAs . That way, you can isolate the control variable’s effects from the relationship between the variables of interest.

Control variables help you establish a correlational or causal relationship between variables by enhancing internal validity .

If you don’t control relevant extraneous variables , they may influence the outcomes of your study, and you may not be able to demonstrate that your results are really an effect of your independent variable .

A control variable is any variable that’s held constant in a research study. It’s not a variable of interest in the study, but it’s controlled because it could influence the outcomes.

In statistics, ordinal and nominal variables are both considered categorical variables .

Even though ordinal data can sometimes be numerical, not all mathematical operations can be performed on them.

In scientific research, concepts are the abstract ideas or phenomena that are being studied (e.g., educational achievement). Variables are properties or characteristics of the concept (e.g., performance at school), while indicators are ways of measuring or quantifying variables (e.g., yearly grade reports).

The process of turning abstract concepts into measurable variables and indicators is called operationalisation .

There are several methods you can use to decrease the impact of confounding variables on your research: restriction, matching, statistical control, and randomisation.

In restriction , you restrict your sample by only including certain subjects that have the same values of potential confounding variables.

In matching , you match each of the subjects in your treatment group with a counterpart in the comparison group. The matched subjects have the same values on any potential confounding variables, and only differ in the independent variable .

In statistical control , you include potential confounders as variables in your regression .

In randomisation , you randomly assign the treatment (or independent variable) in your study to a sufficiently large number of subjects, which allows you to control for all potential confounding variables.

A confounding variable is closely related to both the independent and dependent variables in a study. An independent variable represents the supposed cause , while the dependent variable is the supposed effect . A confounding variable is a third variable that influences both the independent and dependent variables.

Failing to account for confounding variables can cause you to wrongly estimate the relationship between your independent and dependent variables.

To ensure the internal validity of your research, you must consider the impact of confounding variables. If you fail to account for them, you might over- or underestimate the causal relationship between your independent and dependent variables , or even find a causal relationship where none exists.

Yes, but including more than one of either type requires multiple research questions .

For example, if you are interested in the effect of a diet on health, you can use multiple measures of health: blood sugar, blood pressure, weight, pulse, and many more. Each of these is its own dependent variable with its own research question.

You could also choose to look at the effect of exercise levels as well as diet, or even the additional effect of the two combined. Each of these is a separate independent variable .

To ensure the internal validity of an experiment , you should only change one independent variable at a time.

No. The value of a dependent variable depends on an independent variable, so a variable cannot be both independent and dependent at the same time. It must be either the cause or the effect, not both.

You want to find out how blood sugar levels are affected by drinking diet cola and regular cola, so you conduct an experiment .

  • The type of cola – diet or regular – is the independent variable .
  • The level of blood sugar that you measure is the dependent variable – it changes depending on the type of cola.

Determining cause and effect is one of the most important parts of scientific research. It’s essential to know which is the cause – the independent variable – and which is the effect – the dependent variable.

Quantitative variables are any variables where the data represent amounts (e.g. height, weight, or age).

Categorical variables are any variables where the data represent groups. This includes rankings (e.g. finishing places in a race), classifications (e.g. brands of cereal), and binary outcomes (e.g. coin flips).

You need to know what type of variables you are working with to choose the right statistical test for your data and interpret your results .

Discrete and continuous variables are two types of quantitative variables :

  • Discrete variables represent counts (e.g., the number of objects in a collection).
  • Continuous variables represent measurable amounts (e.g., water volume or weight).

You can think of independent and dependent variables in terms of cause and effect: an independent variable is the variable you think is the cause , while a dependent variable is the effect .

In an experiment, you manipulate the independent variable and measure the outcome in the dependent variable. For example, in an experiment about the effect of nutrients on crop growth:

  • The  independent variable  is the amount of nutrients added to the crop field.
  • The  dependent variable is the biomass of the crops at harvest time.

Defining your variables, and deciding how you will manipulate and measure them, is an important part of experimental design .

Including mediators and moderators in your research helps you go beyond studying a simple relationship between two variables for a fuller picture of the real world. They are important to consider when studying complex correlational or causal relationships.

Mediators are part of the causal pathway of an effect, and they tell you how or why an effect takes place. Moderators usually help you judge the external validity of your study by identifying the limitations of when the relationship between variables holds.

If something is a mediating variable :

  • It’s caused by the independent variable
  • It influences the dependent variable
  • When it’s taken into account, the statistical correlation between the independent and dependent variables is higher than when it isn’t considered

A confounder is a third variable that affects variables of interest and makes them seem related when they are not. In contrast, a mediator is the mechanism of a relationship between two variables: it explains the process by which they are related.

A mediator variable explains the process through which two variables are related, while a moderator variable affects the strength and direction of that relationship.

When conducting research, collecting original data has significant advantages:

  • You can tailor data collection to your specific research aims (e.g., understanding the needs of your consumers or user testing your website).
  • You can control and standardise the process for high reliability and validity (e.g., choosing appropriate measurements and sampling methods ).

However, there are also some drawbacks: data collection can be time-consuming, labour-intensive, and expensive. In some cases, it’s more efficient to use secondary data that has already been collected by someone else, but the data might be less reliable.

A structured interview is a data collection method that relies on asking questions in a set order to collect data on a topic. They are often quantitative in nature. Structured interviews are best used when:

  • You already have a very clear understanding of your topic. Perhaps significant research has already been conducted, or you have done some prior research yourself, but you already possess a baseline for designing strong structured questions.
  • You are constrained in terms of time or resources and need to analyse your data quickly and efficiently
  • Your research question depends on strong parity between participants, with environmental conditions held constant

More flexible interview options include semi-structured interviews , unstructured interviews , and focus groups .

The interviewer effect is a type of bias that emerges when a characteristic of an interviewer (race, age, gender identity, etc.) influences the responses given by the interviewee.

There is a risk of an interviewer effect in all types of interviews , but it can be mitigated by writing really high-quality interview questions.

A semi-structured interview is a blend of structured and unstructured types of interviews. Semi-structured interviews are best used when:

  • You have prior interview experience. Spontaneous questions are deceptively challenging, and it’s easy to accidentally ask a leading question or make a participant uncomfortable.
  • Your research question is exploratory in nature. Participant answers can guide future research questions and help you develop a more robust knowledge base for future research.

An unstructured interview is the most flexible type of interview, but it is not always the best fit for your research topic.

Unstructured interviews are best used when:

  • You are an experienced interviewer and have a very strong background in your research topic, since it is challenging to ask spontaneous, colloquial questions
  • Your research question is exploratory in nature. While you may have developed hypotheses, you are open to discovering new or shifting viewpoints through the interview process.
  • You are seeking descriptive data, and are ready to ask questions that will deepen and contextualise your initial thoughts and hypotheses
  • Your research depends on forming connections with your participants and making them feel comfortable revealing deeper emotions, lived experiences, or thoughts

The four most common types of interviews are:

  • Structured interviews : The questions are predetermined in both topic and order.
  • Semi-structured interviews : A few questions are predetermined, but other questions aren’t planned.
  • Unstructured interviews : None of the questions are predetermined.
  • Focus group interviews : The questions are presented to a group instead of one individual.

A focus group is a research method that brings together a small group of people to answer questions in a moderated setting. The group is chosen due to predefined demographic traits, and the questions are designed to shed light on a topic of interest. It is one of four types of interviews .

Social desirability bias is the tendency for interview participants to give responses that will be viewed favourably by the interviewer or other participants. It occurs in all types of interviews and surveys , but is most common in semi-structured interviews , unstructured interviews , and focus groups .

Social desirability bias can be mitigated by ensuring participants feel at ease and comfortable sharing their views. Make sure to pay attention to your own body language and any physical or verbal cues, such as nodding or widening your eyes.

This type of bias in research can also occur in observations if the participants know they’re being observed. They might alter their behaviour accordingly.

As a rule of thumb, questions related to thoughts, beliefs, and feelings work well in focus groups . Take your time formulating strong questions, paying special attention to phrasing. Be careful to avoid leading questions , which can bias your responses.

Overall, your focus group questions should be:

  • Open-ended and flexible
  • Impossible to answer with ‘yes’ or ‘no’ (questions that start with ‘why’ or ‘how’ are often best)
  • Unambiguous, getting straight to the point while still stimulating discussion
  • Unbiased and neutral

The third variable and directionality problems are two main reasons why correlation isn’t causation .

The third variable problem means that a confounding variable affects both variables to make them seem causally related when they are not.

The directionality problem is when two variables correlate and might actually have a causal relationship, but it’s impossible to conclude which variable causes changes in the other.

Controlled experiments establish causality, whereas correlational studies only show associations between variables.

  • In an experimental design , you manipulate an independent variable and measure its effect on a dependent variable. Other variables are controlled so they can’t impact the results.
  • In a correlational design , you measure variables without manipulating any of them. You can test whether your variables change together, but you can’t be sure that one variable caused a change in another.

In general, correlational research is high in external validity while experimental research is high in internal validity .

A correlation coefficient is a single number that describes the strength and direction of the relationship between your variables.

Different types of correlation coefficients might be appropriate for your data based on their levels of measurement and distributions . The Pearson product-moment correlation coefficient (Pearson’s r ) is commonly used to assess a linear relationship between two quantitative variables.

A correlational research design investigates relationships between two variables (or more) without the researcher controlling or manipulating any of them. It’s a non-experimental type of quantitative research .

A correlation reflects the strength and/or direction of the association between two or more variables.

  • A positive correlation means that both variables change in the same direction.
  • A negative correlation means that the variables change in opposite directions.
  • A zero correlation means there’s no relationship between the variables.

Longitudinal studies can last anywhere from weeks to decades, although they tend to be at least a year long.

The 1970 British Cohort Study , which has collected data on the lives of 17,000 Brits since their births in 1970, is one well-known example of a longitudinal study .

Longitudinal studies are better to establish the correct sequence of events, identify changes over time, and provide insight into cause-and-effect relationships, but they also tend to be more expensive and time-consuming than other types of studies.

Longitudinal studies and cross-sectional studies are two different types of research design . In a cross-sectional study you collect data from a population at a specific point in time; in a longitudinal study you repeatedly collect data from the same sample over an extended period of time.

Longitudinal study Cross-sectional study
observations Observations at a in time
Observes the multiple times Observes (a ‘cross-section’) in the population
Follows in participants over time Provides of society at a given point

Cross-sectional studies cannot establish a cause-and-effect relationship or analyse behaviour over a period of time. To investigate cause and effect, you need to do a longitudinal study or an experimental study .

Cross-sectional studies are less expensive and time-consuming than many other types of study. They can provide useful insights into a population’s characteristics and identify correlations for further research.

Sometimes only cross-sectional data are available for analysis; other times your research question may only require a cross-sectional study to answer it.

A hypothesis states your predictions about what your research will find. It is a tentative answer to your research question that has not yet been tested. For some research projects, you might have to write several hypotheses that address different aspects of your research question.

A hypothesis is not just a guess. It should be based on existing theories and knowledge. It also has to be testable, which means you can support or refute it through scientific research methods (such as experiments, observations, and statistical analysis of data).

A research hypothesis is your proposed answer to your research question. The research hypothesis usually includes an explanation (‘ x affects y because …’).

A statistical hypothesis, on the other hand, is a mathematical statement about a population parameter. Statistical hypotheses always come in pairs: the null and alternative hypotheses. In a well-designed study , the statistical hypotheses correspond logically to the research hypothesis.

Individual Likert-type questions are generally considered ordinal data , because the items have clear rank order, but don’t have an even distribution.

Overall Likert scale scores are sometimes treated as interval data. These scores are considered to have directionality and even spacing between them.

The type of data determines what statistical tests you should use to analyse your data.

A Likert scale is a rating scale that quantitatively assesses opinions, attitudes, or behaviours. It is made up of four or more questions that measure a single attitude or trait when response scores are combined.

To use a Likert scale in a survey , you present participants with Likert-type questions or statements, and a continuum of items, usually with five or seven possible responses, to capture their degree of agreement.

A questionnaire is a data collection tool or instrument, while a survey is an overarching research method that involves collecting and analysing data from people using questionnaires.

A true experiment (aka a controlled experiment) always includes at least one control group that doesn’t receive the experimental treatment.

However, some experiments use a within-subjects design to test treatments without a control group. In these designs, you usually compare one group’s outcomes before and after a treatment (instead of comparing outcomes between different groups).

For strong internal validity , it’s usually best to include a control group if possible. Without a control group, it’s harder to be certain that the outcome was caused by the experimental treatment and not by other variables.

An experimental group, also known as a treatment group, receives the treatment whose effect researchers wish to study, whereas a control group does not. They should be identical in all other ways.

In a controlled experiment , all extraneous variables are held constant so that they can’t influence the results. Controlled experiments require:

  • A control group that receives a standard treatment, a fake treatment, or no treatment
  • Random assignment of participants to ensure the groups are equivalent

Depending on your study topic, there are various other methods of controlling variables .

Questionnaires can be self-administered or researcher-administered.

Self-administered questionnaires can be delivered online or in paper-and-pen formats, in person or by post. All questions are standardised so that all respondents receive the same questions with identical wording.

Researcher-administered questionnaires are interviews that take place by phone, in person, or online between researchers and respondents. You can gain deeper insights by clarifying questions for respondents or asking follow-up questions.

You can organise the questions logically, with a clear progression from simple to complex, or randomly between respondents. A logical flow helps respondents process the questionnaire easier and quicker, but it may lead to bias. Randomisation can minimise the bias from order effects.

Closed-ended, or restricted-choice, questions offer respondents a fixed set of choices to select from. These questions are easier to answer quickly.

Open-ended or long-form questions allow respondents to answer in their own words. Because there are no restrictions on their choices, respondents can answer in ways that researchers may not have otherwise considered.

Naturalistic observation is a qualitative research method where you record the behaviours of your research subjects in real-world settings. You avoid interfering or influencing anything in a naturalistic observation.

You can think of naturalistic observation as ‘people watching’ with a purpose.

Naturalistic observation is a valuable tool because of its flexibility, external validity , and suitability for topics that can’t be studied in a lab setting.

The downsides of naturalistic observation include its lack of scientific control , ethical considerations , and potential for bias from observers and subjects.

You can use several tactics to minimise observer bias .

  • Use masking (blinding) to hide the purpose of your study from all observers.
  • Triangulate your data with different data collection methods or sources.
  • Use multiple observers and ensure inter-rater reliability.
  • Train your observers to make sure data is consistently recorded between them.
  • Standardise your observation procedures to make sure they are structured and clear.

The observer-expectancy effect occurs when researchers influence the results of their own study through interactions with participants.

Researchers’ own beliefs and expectations about the study results may unintentionally influence participants through demand characteristics .

Observer bias occurs when a researcher’s expectations, opinions, or prejudices influence what they perceive or record in a study. It usually affects studies when observers are aware of the research aims or hypotheses. This type of research bias is also called detection bias or ascertainment bias .

Data cleaning is necessary for valid and appropriate analyses. Dirty data contain inconsistencies or errors , but cleaning your data helps you minimise or resolve these.

Without data cleaning, you could end up with a Type I or II error in your conclusion. These types of erroneous conclusions can be practically significant with important consequences, because they lead to misplaced investments or missed opportunities.

Data cleaning involves spotting and resolving potential data inconsistencies or errors to improve your data quality. An error is any value (e.g., recorded weight) that doesn’t reflect the true value (e.g., actual weight) of something that’s being measured.

In this process, you review, analyse, detect, modify, or remove ‘dirty’ data to make your dataset ‘clean’. Data cleaning is also called data cleansing or data scrubbing.

Data cleaning takes place between data collection and data analyses. But you can use some methods even before collecting data.

For clean data, you should start by designing measures that collect valid data. Data validation at the time of data entry or collection helps you minimize the amount of data cleaning you’ll need to do.

After data collection, you can use data standardisation and data transformation to clean your data. You’ll also deal with any missing values, outliers, and duplicate values.

Clean data are valid, accurate, complete, consistent, unique, and uniform. Dirty data include inconsistencies and errors.

Dirty data can come from any part of the research process, including poor research design , inappropriate measurement materials, or flawed data entry.

Random assignment is used in experiments with a between-groups or independent measures design. In this research design, there’s usually a control group and one or more experimental groups. Random assignment helps ensure that the groups are comparable.

In general, you should always use random assignment in this type of experimental design when it is ethically possible and makes sense for your study topic.

Random selection, or random sampling , is a way of selecting members of a population for your study’s sample.

In contrast, random assignment is a way of sorting the sample into control and experimental groups.

Random sampling enhances the external validity or generalisability of your results, while random assignment improves the internal validity of your study.

To implement random assignment , assign a unique number to every member of your study’s sample .

Then, you can use a random number generator or a lottery method to randomly assign each number to a control or experimental group. You can also do so manually, by flipping a coin or rolling a die to randomly assign participants to groups.

Exploratory research is often used when the issue you’re studying is new or when the data collection process is challenging for some reason.

You can use exploratory research if you have a general idea or a specific question that you want to study but there is no preexisting knowledge or paradigm with which to study it.

Exploratory research is a methodology approach that explores research questions that have not previously been studied in depth. It is often used when the issue you’re studying is new, or the data collection process is challenging in some way.

Explanatory research is used to investigate how or why a phenomenon occurs. Therefore, this type of research is often one of the first stages in the research process , serving as a jumping-off point for future research.

Explanatory research is a research method used to investigate how or why something occurs when only a small amount of information is available pertaining to that topic. It can help you increase your understanding of a given topic.

Blinding means hiding who is assigned to the treatment group and who is assigned to the control group in an experiment .

Blinding is important to reduce bias (e.g., observer bias , demand characteristics ) and ensure a study’s internal validity .

If participants know whether they are in a control or treatment group , they may adjust their behaviour in ways that affect the outcome that researchers are trying to measure. If the people administering the treatment are aware of group assignment, they may treat participants differently and thus directly or indirectly influence the final results.

  • In a single-blind study , only the participants are blinded.
  • In a double-blind study , both participants and experimenters are blinded.
  • In a triple-blind study , the assignment is hidden not only from participants and experimenters, but also from the researchers analysing the data.

Many academic fields use peer review , largely to determine whether a manuscript is suitable for publication. Peer review enhances the credibility of the published manuscript.

However, peer review is also common in non-academic settings. The United Nations, the European Union, and many individual nations use peer review to evaluate grant applications. It is also widely used in medical and health-related fields as a teaching or quality-of-care measure.

Peer assessment is often used in the classroom as a pedagogical tool. Both receiving feedback and providing it are thought to enhance the learning process, helping students think critically and collaboratively.

Peer review can stop obviously problematic, falsified, or otherwise untrustworthy research from being published. It also represents an excellent opportunity to get feedback from renowned experts in your field.

It acts as a first defence, helping you ensure your argument is clear and that there are no gaps, vague terms, or unanswered questions for readers who weren’t involved in the research process.

Peer-reviewed articles are considered a highly credible source due to this stringent process they go through before publication.

In general, the peer review process follows the following steps:

  • First, the author submits the manuscript to the editor.
  • Reject the manuscript and send it back to author, or
  • Send it onward to the selected peer reviewer(s)
  • Next, the peer review process occurs. The reviewer provides feedback, addressing any major or minor issues with the manuscript, and gives their advice regarding what edits should be made.
  • Lastly, the edited manuscript is sent back to the author. They input the edits, and resubmit it to the editor for publication.

Peer review is a process of evaluating submissions to an academic journal. Utilising rigorous criteria, a panel of reviewers in the same subject area decide whether to accept each submission for publication.

For this reason, academic journals are often considered among the most credible sources you can use in a research project – provided that the journal itself is trustworthy and well regarded.

Anonymity means you don’t know who the participants are, while confidentiality means you know who they are but remove identifying information from your research report. Both are important ethical considerations .

You can only guarantee anonymity by not collecting any personally identifying information – for example, names, phone numbers, email addresses, IP addresses, physical characteristics, photos, or videos.

You can keep data confidential by using aggregate information in your research report, so that you only refer to groups of participants rather than individuals.

Research misconduct means making up or falsifying data, manipulating data analyses, or misrepresenting results in research reports. It’s a form of academic fraud.

These actions are committed intentionally and can have serious consequences; research misconduct is not a simple mistake or a point of disagreement but a serious ethical failure.

Research ethics matter for scientific integrity, human rights and dignity, and collaboration between science and society. These principles make sure that participation in studies is voluntary, informed, and safe.

Ethical considerations in research are a set of principles that guide your research designs and practices. These principles include voluntary participation, informed consent, anonymity, confidentiality, potential for harm, and results communication.

Scientists and researchers must always adhere to a certain code of conduct when collecting data from others .

These considerations protect the rights of research participants, enhance research validity , and maintain scientific integrity.

A systematic review is secondary research because it uses existing research. You don’t collect new data yourself.

The two main types of social desirability bias are:

  • Self-deceptive enhancement (self-deception): The tendency to see oneself in a favorable light without realizing it.
  • Impression managemen t (other-deception): The tendency to inflate one’s abilities or achievement in order to make a good impression on other people.

Demand characteristics are aspects of experiments that may give away the research objective to participants. Social desirability bias occurs when participants automatically try to respond in ways that make them seem likeable in a study, even if it means misrepresenting how they truly feel.

Participants may use demand characteristics to infer social norms or experimenter expectancies and act in socially desirable ways, so you should try to control for demand characteristics wherever possible.

Response bias refers to conditions or factors that take place during the process of responding to surveys, affecting the responses. One type of response bias is social desirability bias .

When your population is large in size, geographically dispersed, or difficult to contact, it’s necessary to use a sampling method .

This allows you to gather information from a smaller part of the population, i.e. the sample, and make accurate statements by using statistical analysis. A few sampling methods include simple random sampling , convenience sampling , and snowball sampling .

Stratified and cluster sampling may look similar, but bear in mind that groups created in cluster sampling are heterogeneous , so the individual characteristics in the cluster vary. In contrast, groups created in stratified sampling are homogeneous , as units share characteristics.

Relatedly, in cluster sampling you randomly select entire groups and include all units of each group in your sample. However, in stratified sampling, you select some units of all groups and include them in your sample. In this way, both methods can ensure that your sample is representative of the target population .

A sampling frame is a list of every member in the entire population . It is important that the sampling frame is as complete as possible, so that your sample accurately reflects your population.

Convenience sampling and quota sampling are both non-probability sampling methods. They both use non-random criteria like availability, geographical proximity, or expert knowledge to recruit study participants.

However, in convenience sampling, you continue to sample units or cases until you reach the required sample size.

In quota sampling, you first need to divide your population of interest into subgroups (strata) and estimate their proportions (quota) in the population. Then you can start your data collection , using convenience sampling to recruit participants, until the proportions in each subgroup coincide with the estimated proportions in the population.

Random sampling or probability sampling is based on random selection. This means that each unit has an equal chance (i.e., equal probability) of being included in the sample.

On the other hand, convenience sampling involves stopping people at random, which means that not everyone has an equal chance of being selected depending on the place, time, or day you are collecting your data.

Stratified sampling and quota sampling both involve dividing the population into subgroups and selecting units from each subgroup. The purpose in both cases is to select a representative sample and/or to allow comparisons between subgroups.

The main difference is that in stratified sampling, you draw a random sample from each subgroup ( probability sampling ). In quota sampling you select a predetermined number or proportion of units, in a non-random manner ( non-probability sampling ).

Snowball sampling is best used in the following cases:

  • If there is no sampling frame available (e.g., people with a rare disease)
  • If the population of interest is hard to access or locate (e.g., people experiencing homelessness)
  • If the research focuses on a sensitive topic (e.g., extra-marital affairs)

Snowball sampling relies on the use of referrals. Here, the researcher recruits one or more initial participants, who then recruit the next ones. 

Participants share similar characteristics and/or know each other. Because of this, not every member of the population has an equal chance of being included in the sample, giving rise to sampling bias .

Snowball sampling is a non-probability sampling method , where there is not an equal chance for every member of the population to be included in the sample .

This means that you cannot use inferential statistics and make generalisations – often the goal of quantitative research . As such, a snowball sample is not representative of the target population, and is usually a better fit for qualitative research .

Snowball sampling is a non-probability sampling method . Unlike probability sampling (which involves some form of random selection ), the initial individuals selected to be studied are the ones who recruit new participants.

Because not every member of the target population has an equal chance of being recruited into the sample, selection in snowball sampling is non-random.

Reproducibility and replicability are related terms.

  • Reproducing research entails reanalysing the existing data in the same manner.
  • Replicating (or repeating ) the research entails reconducting the entire analysis, including the collection of new data . 
  • A successful reproduction shows that the data analyses were conducted in a fair and honest manner.
  • A successful replication shows that the reliability of the results is high.

The reproducibility and replicability of a study can be ensured by writing a transparent, detailed method section and using clear, unambiguous language.

Convergent validity and discriminant validity are both subtypes of construct validity . Together, they help you evaluate whether a test measures the concept it was designed to measure.

  • Convergent validity indicates whether a test that is designed to measure a particular construct correlates with other tests that assess the same or similar construct.
  • Discriminant validity indicates whether two tests that should not be highly related to each other are indeed not related

You need to assess both in order to demonstrate construct validity. Neither one alone is sufficient for establishing construct validity.

Construct validity has convergent and discriminant subtypes. They assist determine if a test measures the intended notion.

Content validity shows you how accurately a test or other measurement method taps  into the various aspects of the specific construct you are researching.

In other words, it helps you answer the question: “does the test measure all aspects of the construct I want to measure?” If it does, then the test has high content validity.

The higher the content validity, the more accurate the measurement of the construct.

If the test fails to include parts of the construct, or irrelevant parts are included, the validity of the instrument is threatened, which brings your results into question.

Construct validity refers to how well a test measures the concept (or construct) it was designed to measure. Assessing construct validity is especially important when you’re researching concepts that can’t be quantified and/or are intangible, like introversion. To ensure construct validity your test should be based on known indicators of introversion ( operationalisation ).

On the other hand, content validity assesses how well the test represents all aspects of the construct. If some aspects are missing or irrelevant parts are included, the test has low content validity.

Face validity and content validity are similar in that they both evaluate how suitable the content of a test is. The difference is that face validity is subjective, and assesses content at surface level.

When a test has strong face validity, anyone would agree that the test’s questions appear to measure what they are intended to measure.

For example, looking at a 4th grade math test consisting of problems in which students have to add and multiply, most people would agree that it has strong face validity (i.e., it looks like a math test).

On the other hand, content validity evaluates how well a test represents all the aspects of a topic. Assessing content validity is more systematic and relies on expert evaluation. of each question, analysing whether each one covers the aspects that the test was designed to cover.

A 4th grade math test would have high content validity if it covered all the skills taught in that grade. Experts(in this case, math teachers), would have to evaluate the content validity by comparing the test to the learning objectives.

  • Discriminant validity indicates whether two tests that should not be highly related to each other are indeed not related. This type of validity is also called divergent validity .

Criterion validity and construct validity are both types of measurement validity . In other words, they both show you how accurately a method measures something.

While construct validity is the degree to which a test or other measurement method measures what it claims to measure, criterion validity is the degree to which a test can predictively (in the future) or concurrently (in the present) measure something.

Construct validity is often considered the overarching type of measurement validity . You need to have face validity , content validity , and criterion validity in order to achieve construct validity.

Attrition refers to participants leaving a study. It always happens to some extent – for example, in randomised control trials for medical research.

Differential attrition occurs when attrition or dropout rates differ systematically between the intervention and the control group . As a result, the characteristics of the participants who drop out differ from the characteristics of those who stay in the study. Because of this, study results may be biased .

Criterion validity evaluates how well a test measures the outcome it was designed to measure. An outcome can be, for example, the onset of a disease.

Criterion validity consists of two subtypes depending on the time at which the two measures (the criterion and your test) are obtained:

  • Concurrent validity is a validation strategy where the the scores of a test and the criterion are obtained at the same time
  • Predictive validity is a validation strategy where the criterion variables are measured after the scores of the test

Validity tells you how accurately a method measures what it was designed to measure. There are 4 main types of validity :

  • Construct validity : Does the test measure the construct it was designed to measure?
  • Face validity : Does the test appear to be suitable for its objectives ?
  • Content validity : Does the test cover all relevant parts of the construct it aims to measure.
  • Criterion validity : Do the results accurately measure the concrete outcome they are designed to measure?

Convergent validity shows how much a measure of one construct aligns with other measures of the same or related constructs .

On the other hand, concurrent validity is about how a measure matches up to some known criterion or gold standard, which can be another measure.

Although both types of validity are established by calculating the association or correlation between a test score and another variable , they represent distinct validation methods.

The purpose of theory-testing mode is to find evidence in order to disprove, refine, or support a theory. As such, generalisability is not the aim of theory-testing mode.

Due to this, the priority of researchers in theory-testing mode is to eliminate alternative causes for relationships between variables . In other words, they prioritise internal validity over external validity , including ecological validity .

Inclusion and exclusion criteria are typically presented and discussed in the methodology section of your thesis or dissertation .

Inclusion and exclusion criteria are predominantly used in non-probability sampling . In purposive sampling and snowball sampling , restrictions apply as to who can be included in the sample .

Scope of research is determined at the beginning of your research process , prior to the data collection stage. Sometimes called “scope of study,” your scope delineates what will and will not be covered in your project. It helps you focus your work and your time, ensuring that you’ll be able to achieve your goals and outcomes.

Defining a scope can be very useful in any research project, from a research proposal to a thesis or dissertation . A scope is needed for all types of research: quantitative , qualitative , and mixed methods .

To define your scope of research, consider the following:

  • Budget constraints or any specifics of grant funding
  • Your proposed timeline and duration
  • Specifics about your population of study, your proposed sample size , and the research methodology you’ll pursue
  • Any inclusion and exclusion criteria
  • Any anticipated control , extraneous , or confounding variables that could bias your research if not accounted for properly.

To make quantitative observations , you need to use instruments that are capable of measuring the quantity you want to observe. For example, you might use a ruler to measure the length of an object or a thermometer to measure its temperature.

Quantitative observations involve measuring or counting something and expressing the result in numerical form, while qualitative observations involve describing something in non-numerical terms, such as its appearance, texture, or color.

The Scribbr Reference Generator is developed using the open-source Citation Style Language (CSL) project and Frank Bennett’s citeproc-js . It’s the same technology used by dozens of other popular citation tools, including Mendeley and Zotero.

You can find all the citation styles and locales used in the Scribbr Reference Generator in our publicly accessible repository on Github .

To paraphrase effectively, don’t just take the original sentence and swap out some of the words for synonyms. Instead, try:

  • Reformulating the sentence (e.g., change active to passive , or start from a different point)
  • Combining information from multiple sentences into one
  • Leaving out information from the original that isn’t relevant to your point
  • Using synonyms where they don’t distort the meaning

The main point is to ensure you don’t just copy the structure of the original text, but instead reformulate the idea in your own words.

Plagiarism means using someone else’s words or ideas and passing them off as your own. Paraphrasing means putting someone else’s ideas into your own words.

So when does paraphrasing count as plagiarism?

  • Paraphrasing is plagiarism if you don’t properly credit the original author.
  • Paraphrasing is plagiarism if your text is too close to the original wording (even if you cite the source). If you directly copy a sentence or phrase, you should quote it instead.
  • Paraphrasing  is not plagiarism if you put the author’s ideas completely into your own words and properly reference the source .

To present information from other sources in academic writing , it’s best to paraphrase in most cases. This shows that you’ve understood the ideas you’re discussing and incorporates them into your text smoothly.

It’s appropriate to quote when:

  • Changing the phrasing would distort the meaning of the original text
  • You want to discuss the author’s language choices (e.g., in literary analysis )
  • You’re presenting a precise definition
  • You’re looking in depth at a specific claim

A quote is an exact copy of someone else’s words, usually enclosed in quotation marks and credited to the original author or speaker.

Every time you quote a source , you must include a correctly formatted in-text citation . This looks slightly different depending on the citation style .

For example, a direct quote in APA is cited like this: ‘This is a quote’ (Streefkerk, 2020, p. 5).

Every in-text citation should also correspond to a full reference at the end of your paper.

In scientific subjects, the information itself is more important than how it was expressed, so quoting should generally be kept to a minimum. In the arts and humanities, however, well-chosen quotes are often essential to a good paper.

In social sciences, it varies. If your research is mainly quantitative , you won’t include many quotes, but if it’s more qualitative , you may need to quote from the data you collected .

As a general guideline, quotes should take up no more than 5–10% of your paper. If in doubt, check with your instructor or supervisor how much quoting is appropriate in your field.

If you’re quoting from a text that paraphrases or summarises other sources and cites them in parentheses , APA  recommends retaining the citations as part of the quote:

  • Smith states that ‘the literature on this topic (Jones, 2015; Sill, 2019; Paulson, 2020) shows no clear consensus’ (Smith, 2019, p. 4).

Footnote or endnote numbers that appear within quoted text should be omitted.

If you want to cite an indirect source (one you’ve only seen quoted in another source), either locate the original source or use the phrase ‘as cited in’ in your citation.

A block quote is a long quote formatted as a separate ‘block’ of text. Instead of using quotation marks , you place the quote on a new line, and indent the entire quote to mark it apart from your own words.

APA uses block quotes for quotes that are 40 words or longer.

A credible source should pass the CRAAP test  and follow these guidelines:

  • The information should be up to date and current.
  • The author and publication should be a trusted authority on the subject you are researching.
  • The sources the author cited should be easy to find, clear, and unbiased.
  • For a web source, the URL and layout should signify that it is trustworthy.

Common examples of primary sources include interview transcripts , photographs, novels, paintings, films, historical documents, and official statistics.

Anything you directly analyze or use as first-hand evidence can be a primary source, including qualitative or quantitative data that you collected yourself.

Common examples of secondary sources include academic books, journal articles , reviews, essays , and textbooks.

Anything that summarizes, evaluates or interprets primary sources can be a secondary source. If a source gives you an overview of background information or presents another researcher’s ideas on your topic, it is probably a secondary source.

To determine if a source is primary or secondary, ask yourself:

  • Was the source created by someone directly involved in the events you’re studying (primary), or by another researcher (secondary)?
  • Does the source provide original information (primary), or does it summarize information from other sources (secondary)?
  • Are you directly analyzing the source itself (primary), or only using it for background information (secondary)?

Some types of sources are nearly always primary: works of art and literature, raw statistical data, official documents and records, and personal communications (e.g. letters, interviews ). If you use one of these in your research, it is probably a primary source.

Primary sources are often considered the most credible in terms of providing evidence for your argument, as they give you direct evidence of what you are researching. However, it’s up to you to ensure the information they provide is reliable and accurate.

Always make sure to properly cite your sources to avoid plagiarism .

A fictional movie is usually a primary source. A documentary can be either primary or secondary depending on the context.

If you are directly analysing some aspect of the movie itself – for example, the cinematography, narrative techniques, or social context – the movie is a primary source.

If you use the movie for background information or analysis about your topic – for example, to learn about a historical event or a scientific discovery – the movie is a secondary source.

Whether it’s primary or secondary, always properly cite the movie in the citation style you are using. Learn how to create an MLA movie citation or an APA movie citation .

Articles in newspapers and magazines can be primary or secondary depending on the focus of your research.

In historical studies, old articles are used as primary sources that give direct evidence about the time period. In social and communication studies, articles are used as primary sources to analyse language and social relations (for example, by conducting content analysis or discourse analysis ).

If you are not analysing the article itself, but only using it for background information or facts about your topic, then the article is a secondary source.

In academic writing , there are three main situations where quoting is the best choice:

  • To analyse the author’s language (e.g., in a literary analysis essay )
  • To give evidence from primary sources
  • To accurately present a precise definition or argument

Don’t overuse quotes; your own voice should be dominant. If you just want to provide information from a source, it’s usually better to paraphrase or summarise .

Your list of tables and figures should go directly after your table of contents in your thesis or dissertation.

Lists of figures and tables are often not required, and they aren’t particularly common. They specifically aren’t required for APA Style, though you should be careful to follow their other guidelines for figures and tables .

If you have many figures and tables in your thesis or dissertation, include one may help you stay organised. Your educational institution may require them, so be sure to check their guidelines.

Copyright information can usually be found wherever the table or figure was published. For example, for a diagram in a journal article , look on the journal’s website or the database where you found the article. Images found on sites like Flickr are listed with clear copyright information.

If you find that permission is required to reproduce the material, be sure to contact the author or publisher and ask for it.

A list of figures and tables compiles all of the figures and tables that you used in your thesis or dissertation and displays them with the page number where they can be found.

APA doesn’t require you to include a list of tables or a list of figures . However, it is advisable to do so if your text is long enough to feature a table of contents and it includes a lot of tables and/or figures .

A list of tables and list of figures appear (in that order) after your table of contents, and are presented in a similar way.

A glossary is a collection of words pertaining to a specific topic. In your thesis or dissertation, it’s a list of all terms you used that may not immediately be obvious to your reader. Your glossary only needs to include terms that your reader may not be familiar with, and is intended to enhance their understanding of your work.

Definitional terms often fall into the category of common knowledge , meaning that they don’t necessarily have to be cited. This guidance can apply to your thesis or dissertation glossary as well.

However, if you’d prefer to cite your sources , you can follow guidance for citing dictionary entries in MLA or APA style for your glossary.

A glossary is a collection of words pertaining to a specific topic. In your thesis or dissertation, it’s a list of all terms you used that may not immediately be obvious to your reader. In contrast, an index is a list of the contents of your work organised by page number.

Glossaries are not mandatory, but if you use a lot of technical or field-specific terms, it may improve readability to add one to your thesis or dissertation. Your educational institution may also require them, so be sure to check their specific guidelines.

A glossary is a collection of words pertaining to a specific topic. In your thesis or dissertation, it’s a list of all terms you used that may not immediately be obvious to your reader. In contrast, dictionaries are more general collections of words.

The title page of your thesis or dissertation should include your name, department, institution, degree program, and submission date.

The title page of your thesis or dissertation goes first, before all other content or lists that you may choose to include.

Usually, no title page is needed in an MLA paper . A header is generally included at the top of the first page instead. The exceptions are when:

  • Your instructor requires one, or
  • Your paper is a group project

In those cases, you should use a title page instead of a header, listing the same information but on a separate page.

When you mention different chapters within your text, it’s considered best to use Roman numerals for most citation styles. However, the most important thing here is to remain consistent whenever using numbers in your dissertation .

A thesis or dissertation outline is one of the most critical first steps in your writing process. It helps you to lay out and organise your ideas and can provide you with a roadmap for deciding what kind of research you’d like to undertake.

Generally, an outline contains information on the different sections included in your thesis or dissertation, such as:

  • Your anticipated title
  • Your abstract
  • Your chapters (sometimes subdivided into further topics like literature review, research methods, avenues for future research, etc.)

While a theoretical framework describes the theoretical underpinnings of your work based on existing research, a conceptual framework allows you to draw your own conclusions, mapping out the variables you may use in your study and the interplay between them.

A literature review and a theoretical framework are not the same thing and cannot be used interchangeably. While a theoretical framework describes the theoretical underpinnings of your work, a literature review critically evaluates existing research relating to your topic. You’ll likely need both in your dissertation .

A theoretical framework can sometimes be integrated into a  literature review chapter , but it can also be included as its own chapter or section in your dissertation . As a rule of thumb, if your research involves dealing with a lot of complex theories, it’s a good idea to include a separate theoretical framework chapter.

An abstract is a concise summary of an academic text (such as a journal article or dissertation ). It serves two main purposes:

  • To help potential readers determine the relevance of your paper for their own research.
  • To communicate your key findings to those who don’t have time to read the whole paper.

Abstracts are often indexed along with keywords on academic databases, so they make your work more easily findable. Since the abstract is the first thing any reader sees, it’s important that it clearly and accurately summarises the contents of your paper.

The abstract is the very last thing you write. You should only write it after your research is complete, so that you can accurately summarize the entirety of your thesis or paper.

Avoid citing sources in your abstract . There are two reasons for this:

  • The abstract should focus on your original research, not on the work of others.
  • The abstract should be self-contained and fully understandable without reference to other sources.

There are some circumstances where you might need to mention other sources in an abstract: for example, if your research responds directly to another study or focuses on the work of a single theorist. In general, though, don’t include citations unless absolutely necessary.

The abstract appears on its own page, after the title page and acknowledgements but before the table of contents .

Results are usually written in the past tense , because they are describing the outcome of completed actions.

The results chapter or section simply and objectively reports what you found, without speculating on why you found these results. The discussion interprets the meaning of the results, puts them in context, and explains why they matter.

In qualitative research , results and discussion are sometimes combined. But in quantitative research , it’s considered important to separate the objective results from your interpretation of them.

Formulating a main research question can be a difficult task. Overall, your question should contribute to solving the problem that you have defined in your problem statement .

However, it should also fulfill criteria in three main areas:

  • Researchability
  • Feasibility and specificity
  • Relevance and originality

The best way to remember the difference between a research plan and a research proposal is that they have fundamentally different audiences. A research plan helps you, the researcher, organize your thoughts. On the other hand, a dissertation proposal or research proposal aims to convince others (e.g., a supervisor, a funding body, or a dissertation committee) that your research topic is relevant and worthy of being conducted.

A noun is a word that represents a person, thing, concept, or place (e.g., ‘John’, ‘house’, ‘affinity’, ‘river’). Most sentences contain at least one noun or pronoun .

Nouns are often, but not always, preceded by an article (‘the’, ‘a’, or ‘an’) and/or another determiner such as an adjective.

There are many ways to categorize nouns into various types, and the same noun can fall into multiple categories or even change types depending on context.

Some of the main types of nouns are:

  • Common nouns and proper nouns
  • Countable and uncountable nouns
  • Concrete and abstract nouns
  • Collective nouns
  • Possessive nouns
  • Attributive nouns
  • Appositive nouns
  • Generic nouns

Pronouns are words like ‘I’, ‘she’, and ‘they’ that are used in a similar way to nouns . They stand in for a noun that has already been mentioned or refer to yourself and other people.

Pronouns can function just like nouns as the head of a noun phrase and as the subject or object of a verb. However, pronouns change their forms (e.g., from ‘I’ to ‘me’) depending on the grammatical context they’re used in, whereas nouns usually don’t.

Common nouns are words for types of things, people, and places, such as ‘dog’, ‘professor’, and ‘city’. They are not capitalised and are typically used in combination with articles and other determiners.

Proper nouns are words for specific things, people, and places, such as ‘Max’, ‘Dr Prakash’, and ‘London’. They are always capitalised and usually aren’t combined with articles and other determiners.

A proper adjective is an adjective that was derived from a proper noun and is therefore capitalised .

Proper adjectives include words for nationalities, languages, and ethnicities (e.g., ‘Japanese’, ‘Inuit’, ‘French’) and words derived from people’s names (e.g., ‘Bayesian’, ‘Orwellian’).

The names of seasons (e.g., ‘spring’) are treated as common nouns in English and therefore not capitalised . People often assume they are proper nouns, but this is an error.

The names of days and months, however, are capitalised since they’re treated as proper nouns in English (e.g., ‘Wednesday’, ‘January’).

No, as a general rule, academic concepts, disciplines, theories, models, etc. are treated as common nouns , not proper nouns , and therefore not capitalised . For example, ‘five-factor model of personality’ or ‘analytic philosophy’.

However, proper nouns that appear within the name of an academic concept (such as the name of the inventor) are capitalised as usual. For example, ‘Darwin’s theory of evolution’ or ‘ Student’s t table ‘.

Collective nouns are most commonly treated as singular (e.g., ‘the herd is grazing’), but usage differs between US and UK English :

  • In US English, it’s standard to treat all collective nouns as singular, even when they are plural in appearance (e.g., ‘The Rolling Stones is …’). Using the plural form is usually seen as incorrect.
  • In UK English, collective nouns can be treated as singular or plural depending on context. It’s quite common to use the plural form, especially when the noun looks plural (e.g., ‘The Rolling Stones are …’).

The plural of “crisis” is “crises”. It’s a loanword from Latin and retains its original Latin plural noun form (similar to “analyses” and “bases”). It’s wrong to write “crisises”.

For example, you might write “Several crises destabilized the regime.”

Normally, the plural of “fish” is the same as the singular: “fish”. It’s one of a group of irregular plural nouns in English that are identical to the corresponding singular nouns (e.g., “moose”, “sheep”). For example, you might write “The fish scatter as the shark approaches.”

If you’re referring to several species of fish, though, the regular plural “fishes” is often used instead. For example, “The aquarium contains many different fishes , including trout and carp.”

The correct plural of “octopus” is “octopuses”.

People often write “octopi” instead because they assume that the plural noun is formed in the same way as Latin loanwords such as “fungus/fungi”. But “octopus” actually comes from Greek, where its original plural is “octopodes”. In English, it instead has the regular plural form “octopuses”.

For example, you might write “There are four octopuses in the aquarium.”

The plural of “moose” is the same as the singular: “moose”. It’s one of a group of plural nouns in English that are identical to the corresponding singular nouns. So it’s wrong to write “mooses”.

For example, you might write “There are several moose in the forest.”

Bias in research affects the validity and reliability of your findings, leading to false conclusions and a misinterpretation of the truth. This can have serious implications in areas like medical research where, for example, a new form of treatment may be evaluated.

Observer bias occurs when the researcher’s assumptions, views, or preconceptions influence what they see and record in a study, while actor–observer bias refers to situations where respondents attribute internal factors (e.g., bad character) to justify other’s behaviour and external factors (difficult circumstances) to justify the same behaviour in themselves.

Response bias is a general term used to describe a number of different conditions or factors that cue respondents to provide inaccurate or false answers during surveys or interviews . These factors range from the interviewer’s perceived social position or appearance to the the phrasing of questions in surveys.

Nonresponse bias occurs when the people who complete a survey are different from those who did not, in ways that are relevant to the research topic. Nonresponse can happen either because people are not willing or not able to participate.

In research, demand characteristics are cues that might indicate the aim of a study to participants. These cues can lead to participants changing their behaviors or responses based on what they think the research is about.

Demand characteristics are common problems in psychology experiments and other social science studies because they can bias your research findings.

Demand characteristics are a type of extraneous variable that can affect the outcomes of the study. They can invalidate studies by providing an alternative explanation for the results.

These cues may nudge participants to consciously or unconsciously change their responses, and they pose a threat to both internal and external validity . You can’t be sure that your independent variable manipulation worked, or that your findings can be applied to other people or settings.

You can control demand characteristics by taking a few precautions in your research design and materials.

Use these measures:

  • Deception: Hide the purpose of the study from participants
  • Between-groups design : Give each participant only one independent variable treatment
  • Double-blind design : Conceal the assignment of groups from participants and yourself
  • Implicit measures: Use indirect or hidden measurements for your variables

Some attrition is normal and to be expected in research. However, the type of attrition is important because systematic research bias can distort your findings. Attrition bias can lead to inaccurate results because it affects internal and/or external validity .

To avoid attrition bias , applying some of these measures can help you reduce participant dropout (attrition) by making it easy and appealing for participants to stay.

  • Provide compensation (e.g., cash or gift cards) for attending every session
  • Minimise the number of follow-ups as much as possible
  • Make all follow-ups brief, flexible, and convenient for participants
  • Send participants routine reminders to schedule follow-ups
  • Recruit more participants than you need for your sample (oversample)
  • Maintain detailed contact information so you can get in touch with participants even if they move

If you have a small amount of attrition bias , you can use a few statistical methods to try to make up for this research bias .

Multiple imputation involves using simulations to replace the missing data with likely values. Alternatively, you can use sample weighting to make up for the uneven balance of participants in your sample.

Placebos are used in medical research for new medication or therapies, called clinical trials. In these trials some people are given a placebo, while others are given the new medication being tested.

The purpose is to determine how effective the new medication is: if it benefits people beyond a predefined threshold as compared to the placebo, it’s considered effective.

Although there is no definite answer to what causes the placebo effect , researchers propose a number of explanations such as the power of suggestion, doctor-patient interaction, classical conditioning, etc.

Belief bias and confirmation bias are both types of cognitive bias that impact our judgment and decision-making.

Confirmation bias relates to how we perceive and judge evidence. We tend to seek out and prefer information that supports our preexisting beliefs, ignoring any information that contradicts those beliefs.

Belief bias describes the tendency to judge an argument based on how plausible the conclusion seems to us, rather than how much evidence is provided to support it during the course of the argument.

Positivity bias is phenomenon that occurs when a person judges individual members of a group positively, even when they have negative impressions or judgments of the group as a whole. Positivity bias is closely related to optimism bias , or the e xpectation that things will work out well, even if rationality suggests that problems are inevitable in life.

Perception bias is a problem because it prevents us from seeing situations or people objectively. Rather, our expectations, beliefs, or emotions interfere with how we interpret reality. This, in turn, can cause us to misjudge ourselves or others. For example, our prejudices can interfere with whether we perceive people’s faces as friendly or unfriendly.

There are many ways to categorize adjectives into various types. An adjective can fall into one or more of these categories depending on how it is used.

Some of the main types of adjectives are:

  • Attributive adjectives
  • Predicative adjectives
  • Comparative adjectives
  • Superlative adjectives
  • Coordinate adjectives
  • Appositive adjectives
  • Compound adjectives
  • Participial adjectives
  • Proper adjectives
  • Denominal adjectives
  • Nominal adjectives

Cardinal numbers (e.g., one, two, three) can be placed before a noun to indicate quantity (e.g., one apple). While these are sometimes referred to as ‘numeral adjectives ‘, they are more accurately categorised as determiners or quantifiers.

Proper adjectives are adjectives formed from a proper noun (i.e., the name of a specific person, place, or thing) that are used to indicate origin. Like proper nouns, proper adjectives are always capitalised (e.g., Newtonian, Marxian, African).

The cost of proofreading depends on the type and length of text, the turnaround time, and the level of services required. Most proofreading companies charge per word or page, while freelancers sometimes charge an hourly rate.

For proofreading alone, which involves only basic corrections of typos and formatting mistakes, you might pay as little as £0.01 per word, but in many cases, your text will also require some level of editing , which costs slightly more.

It’s often possible to purchase combined proofreading and editing services and calculate the price in advance based on your requirements.

Then and than are two commonly confused words . In the context of ‘better than’, you use ‘than’ with an ‘a’.

  • Julie is better than Jesse.
  • I’d rather spend my time with you than with him.
  • I understand Eoghan’s point of view better than Claudia’s.

Use to and used to are commonly confused words . In the case of ‘used to do’, the latter (with ‘d’) is correct, since you’re describing an action or state in the past.

  • I used to do laundry once a week.
  • They used to do each other’s hair.
  • We used to do the dishes every day .

There are numerous synonyms and near synonyms for the various meanings of “ favour ”:

Advocate Adoration
Approve of Appreciation
Endorse Praise
Support Respect

There are numerous synonyms and near synonyms for the two meanings of “ favoured ”:

Advocated Adored
Approved of Appreciated
Endorsed Praised
Supported Preferred

No one (two words) is an indefinite pronoun meaning ‘nobody’. People sometimes mistakenly write ‘noone’, but this is incorrect and should be avoided. ‘No-one’, with a hyphen, is also acceptable in UK English .

Nobody and no one are both indefinite pronouns meaning ‘no person’. They can be used interchangeably (e.g., ‘nobody is home’ means the same as ‘no one is home’).

Some synonyms and near synonyms of  every time include:

  • Without exception

‘Everytime’ is sometimes used to mean ‘each time’ or ‘whenever’. However, this is incorrect and should be avoided. The correct phrase is every time   (two words).

Yes, the conjunction because is a compound word , but one with a long history. It originates in Middle English from the preposition “bi” (“by”) and the noun “cause”. Over time, the open compound “bi cause” became the closed compound “because”, which we use today.

Though it’s spelled this way now, the verb “be” is not one of the words that makes up “because”.

Yes, today is a compound word , but a very old one. It wasn’t originally formed from the preposition “to” and the noun “day”; rather, it originates from their Old English equivalents, “tō” and “dæġe”.

In the past, it was sometimes written as a hyphenated compound: “to-day”. But the hyphen is no longer included; it’s always “today” now (“to day” is also wrong).

IEEE citation format is defined by the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers and used in their publications.

It’s also a widely used citation style for students in technical fields like electrical and electronic engineering, computer science, telecommunications, and computer engineering.

An IEEE in-text citation consists of a number in brackets at the relevant point in the text, which points the reader to the right entry in the numbered reference list at the end of the paper. For example, ‘Smith [1] states that …’

A location marker such as a page number is also included within the brackets when needed: ‘Smith [1, p. 13] argues …’

The IEEE reference page consists of a list of references numbered in the order they were cited in the text. The title ‘References’ appears in bold at the top, either left-aligned or centered.

The numbers appear in square brackets on the left-hand side of the page. The reference entries are indented consistently to separate them from the numbers. Entries are single-spaced, with a normal paragraph break between them.

If you cite the same source more than once in your writing, use the same number for all of the IEEE in-text citations for that source, and only include it on the IEEE reference page once. The source is numbered based on the first time you cite it.

For example, the fourth source you cite in your paper is numbered [4]. If you cite it again later, you still cite it as [4]. You can cite different parts of the source each time by adding page numbers [4, p. 15].

A verb is a word that indicates a physical action (e.g., ‘drive’), a mental action (e.g., ‘think’) or a state of being (e.g., ‘exist’). Every sentence contains a verb.

Verbs are almost always used along with a noun or pronoun to describe what the noun or pronoun is doing.

There are many ways to categorize verbs into various types. A verb can fall into one or more of these categories depending on how it is used.

Some of the main types of verbs are:

  • Regular verbs
  • Irregular verbs
  • Transitive verbs
  • Intransitive verbs
  • Dynamic verbs
  • Stative verbs
  • Linking verbs
  • Auxiliary verbs
  • Modal verbs
  • Phrasal verbs

Regular verbs are verbs whose simple past and past participle are formed by adding the suffix ‘-ed’ (e.g., ‘walked’).

Irregular verbs are verbs that form their simple past and past participles in some way other than by adding the suffix ‘-ed’ (e.g., ‘sat’).

The indefinite articles a and an are used to refer to a general or unspecified version of a noun (e.g., a house). Which indefinite article you use depends on the pronunciation of the word that follows it.

  • A is used for words that begin with a consonant sound (e.g., a bear).
  • An is used for words that begin with a vowel sound (e.g., an eagle).

Indefinite articles can only be used with singular countable nouns . Like definite articles, they are a type of determiner .

Editing and proofreading are different steps in the process of revising a text.

Editing comes first, and can involve major changes to content, structure and language. The first stages of editing are often done by authors themselves, while a professional editor makes the final improvements to grammar and style (for example, by improving sentence structure and word choice ).

Proofreading is the final stage of checking a text before it is published or shared. It focuses on correcting minor errors and inconsistencies (for example, in punctuation and capitalization ). Proofreaders often also check for formatting issues, especially in print publishing.

Whether you’re publishing a blog, submitting a research paper , or even just writing an important email, there are a few techniques you can use to make sure it’s error-free:

  • Take a break : Set your work aside for at least a few hours so that you can look at it with fresh eyes.
  • Proofread a printout : Staring at a screen for too long can cause fatigue – sit down with a pen and paper to check the final version.
  • Use digital shortcuts : Take note of any recurring mistakes (for example, misspelling a particular word, switching between US and UK English , or inconsistently capitalizing a term), and use Find and Replace to fix it throughout the document.

If you want to be confident that an important text is error-free, it might be worth choosing a professional proofreading service instead.

There are many different routes to becoming a professional proofreader or editor. The necessary qualifications depend on the field – to be an academic or scientific proofreader, for example, you will need at least a university degree in a relevant subject.

For most proofreading jobs, experience and demonstrated skills are more important than specific qualifications. Often your skills will be tested as part of the application process.

To learn practical proofreading skills, you can choose to take a course with a professional organisation such as the Society for Editors and Proofreaders . Alternatively, you can apply to companies that offer specialised on-the-job training programmes, such as the Scribbr Academy .

Though they’re pronounced the same, there’s a big difference in meaning between its and it’s .

  • ‘The cat ate its food’.
  • ‘It’s almost Christmas’.

Its and it’s are often confused, but its (without apostrophe) is the possessive form of ‘it’ (e.g., its tail, its argument, its wing). You use ‘its’ instead of ‘his’ and ‘her’ for neuter, inanimate nouns.

Then and than are two commonly confused words with different meanings and grammatical roles.

  • Then (pronounced with a short ‘e’ sound) refers to time. It’s often an adverb , but it can also be used as a noun meaning ‘that time’ and as an adjective referring to a previous status.
  • Than (pronounced with a short ‘a’ sound) is used for comparisons. Grammatically, it usually functions as a conjunction , but sometimes it’s a preposition .
Examples: Then in a sentence Examples: Than in a sentence
Mix the dry ingredients first, and add the wet ingredients. Max is a better saxophonist you.
I was working as a teacher . I usually like coaching a team more I like playing soccer myself.

Use to and used to are commonly confused words . In the case of ‘used to be’, the latter (with ‘d’) is correct, since you’re describing an action or state in the past.

  • I used to be the new coworker.
  • There used to be 4 cookies left.
  • We used to walk to school every day .

A grammar checker is a tool designed to automatically check your text for spelling errors, grammatical issues, punctuation mistakes , and problems with sentence structure . You can check out our analysis of the best free grammar checkers to learn more.

A paraphrasing tool edits your text more actively, changing things whether they were grammatically incorrect or not. It can paraphrase your sentences to make them more concise and readable or for other purposes. You can check out our analysis of the best free paraphrasing tools to learn more.

Some tools available online combine both functions. Others, such as QuillBot , have separate grammar checker and paraphrasing tools. Be aware of what exactly the tool you’re using does to avoid introducing unwanted changes.

Good grammar is the key to expressing yourself clearly and fluently, especially in professional communication and academic writing . Word processors, browsers, and email programs typically have built-in grammar checkers, but they’re quite limited in the kinds of problems they can fix.

If you want to go beyond detecting basic spelling errors, there are many online grammar checkers with more advanced functionality. They can often detect issues with punctuation , word choice, and sentence structure that more basic tools would miss.

Not all of these tools are reliable, though. You can check out our research into the best free grammar checkers to explore the options.

Our research indicates that the best free grammar checker available online is the QuillBot grammar checker .

We tested 10 of the most popular checkers with the same sample text (containing 20 grammatical errors) and found that QuillBot easily outperformed the competition, scoring 18 out of 20, a drastic improvement over the second-place score of 13 out of 20.

It even appeared to outperform the premium versions of other grammar checkers, despite being entirely free.

A teacher’s aide is a person who assists in teaching classes but is not a qualified teacher. Aide is a noun meaning ‘assistant’, so it will always refer to a person.

‘Teacher’s aid’ is incorrect.

A visual aid is an instructional device (e.g., a photo, a chart) that appeals to vision to help you understand written or spoken information. Aid is often placed after an attributive noun or adjective (like ‘visual’) that describes the type of help provided.

‘Visual aide’ is incorrect.

A job aid is an instructional tool (e.g., a checklist, a cheat sheet) that helps you work efficiently. Aid is a noun meaning ‘assistance’. It’s often placed after an adjective or attributive noun (like ‘job’) that describes the specific type of help provided.

‘Job aide’ is incorrect.

There are numerous synonyms for the various meanings of truly :

Candidly Completely Accurately
Honestly Really Correctly
Openly Totally Exactly
Truthfully Precisely

Yours truly is a phrase used at the end of a formal letter or email. It can also be used (typically in a humorous way) as a pronoun to refer to oneself (e.g., ‘The dinner was cooked by yours truly ‘). The latter usage should be avoided in formal writing.

It’s formed by combining the second-person possessive pronoun ‘yours’ with the adverb ‘ truly ‘.

A pathetic fallacy can be a short phrase or a whole sentence and is often used in novels and poetry. Pathetic fallacies serve multiple purposes, such as:

  • Conveying the emotional state of the characters or the narrator
  • Creating an atmosphere or set the mood of a scene
  • Foreshadowing events to come
  • Giving texture and vividness to a piece of writing
  • Communicating emotion to the reader in a subtle way, by describing the external world.
  • Bringing inanimate objects to life so that they seem more relatable.

AMA citation format is a citation style designed by the American Medical Association. It’s frequently used in the field of medicine.

You may be told to use AMA style for your student papers. You will also have to follow this style if you’re submitting a paper to a journal published by the AMA.

An AMA in-text citation consists of the number of the relevant reference on your AMA reference page , written in superscript 1 at the point in the text where the source is used.

It may also include the page number or range of the relevant material in the source (e.g., the part you quoted 2(p46) ). Multiple sources can be cited at one point, presented as a range or list (with no spaces 3,5–9 ).

An AMA reference usually includes the author’s last name and initials, the title of the source, information about the publisher or the publication it’s contained in, and the publication date. The specific details included, and the formatting, depend on the source type.

References in AMA style are presented in numerical order (numbered by the order in which they were first cited in the text) on your reference page. A source that’s cited repeatedly in the text still only appears once on the reference page.

An AMA in-text citation just consists of the number of the relevant entry on your AMA reference page , written in superscript at the point in the text where the source is referred to.

You don’t need to mention the author of the source in your sentence, but you can do so if you want. It’s not an official part of the citation, but it can be useful as part of a signal phrase introducing the source.

On your AMA reference page , author names are written with the last name first, followed by the initial(s) of their first name and middle name if mentioned.

There’s a space between the last name and the initials, but no space or punctuation between the initials themselves. The names of multiple authors are separated by commas , and the whole list ends in a period, e.g., ‘Andreessen F, Smith PW, Gonzalez E’.

The names of up to six authors should be listed for each source on your AMA reference page , separated by commas . For a source with seven or more authors, you should list the first three followed by ‘ et al’ : ‘Isidore, Gilbert, Gunvor, et al’.

In the text, mentioning author names is optional (as they aren’t an official part of AMA in-text citations ). If you do mention them, though, you should use the first author’s name followed by ‘et al’ when there are three or more : ‘Isidore et al argue that …’

Note that according to AMA’s rather minimalistic punctuation guidelines, there’s no period after ‘et al’ unless it appears at the end of a sentence. This is different from most other styles, where there is normally a period.

Yes, you should normally include an access date in an AMA website citation (or when citing any source with a URL). This is because webpages can change their content over time, so it’s useful for the reader to know when you accessed the page.

When a publication or update date is provided on the page, you should include it in addition to the access date. The access date appears second in this case, e.g., ‘Published June 19, 2021. Accessed August 29, 2022.’

Don’t include an access date when citing a source with a DOI (such as in an AMA journal article citation ).

Some variables have fixed levels. For example, gender and ethnicity are always nominal level data because they cannot be ranked.

However, for other variables, you can choose the level of measurement . For example, income is a variable that can be recorded on an ordinal or a ratio scale:

  • At an ordinal level , you could create 5 income groupings and code the incomes that fall within them from 1–5.
  • At a ratio level , you would record exact numbers for income.

If you have a choice, the ratio level is always preferable because you can analyse data in more ways. The higher the level of measurement, the more precise your data is.

The level at which you measure a variable determines how you can analyse your data.

Depending on the level of measurement , you can perform different descriptive statistics to get an overall summary of your data and inferential statistics to see if your results support or refute your hypothesis .

Levels of measurement tell you how precisely variables are recorded. There are 4 levels of measurement, which can be ranked from low to high:

  • Nominal : the data can only be categorised.
  • Ordinal : the data can be categorised and ranked.
  • Interval : the data can be categorised and ranked, and evenly spaced.
  • Ratio : the data can be categorised, ranked, evenly spaced and has a natural zero.

Statistical analysis is the main method for analyzing quantitative research data . It uses probabilities and models to test predictions about a population from sample data.

The null hypothesis is often abbreviated as H 0 . When the null hypothesis is written using mathematical symbols, it always includes an equality symbol (usually =, but sometimes ≥ or ≤).

The alternative hypothesis is often abbreviated as H a or H 1 . When the alternative hypothesis is written using mathematical symbols, it always includes an inequality symbol (usually ≠, but sometimes < or >).

As the degrees of freedom increase, Student’s t distribution becomes less leptokurtic , meaning that the probability of extreme values decreases. The distribution becomes more and more similar to a standard normal distribution .

When there are only one or two degrees of freedom , the chi-square distribution is shaped like a backwards ‘J’. When there are three or more degrees of freedom, the distribution is shaped like a right-skewed hump. As the degrees of freedom increase, the hump becomes less right-skewed and the peak of the hump moves to the right. The distribution becomes more and more similar to a normal distribution .

‘Looking forward in hearing from you’ is an incorrect version of the phrase looking forward to hearing from you . The phrasal verb ‘looking forward to’ always needs the preposition ‘to’, not ‘in’.

  • I am looking forward in hearing from you.
  • I am looking forward to hearing from you.

Some synonyms and near synonyms for the expression looking forward to hearing from you include:

  • Eagerly awaiting your response
  • Hoping to hear from you soon
  • It would be great to hear back from you
  • Thanks in advance for your reply

People sometimes mistakenly write ‘looking forward to hear from you’, but this is incorrect. The correct phrase is looking forward to hearing from you .

The phrasal verb ‘look forward to’ is always followed by a direct object, the thing you’re looking forward to. As the direct object has to be a noun phrase , it should be the gerund ‘hearing’, not the verb ‘hear’.

  • I’m looking forward to hear from you soon.
  • I’m looking forward to hearing from you soon.

Traditionally, the sign-off Yours sincerely is used in an email message or letter when you are writing to someone you have interacted with before, not a complete stranger.

Yours faithfully is used instead when you are writing to someone you have had no previous correspondence with, especially if you greeted them as ‘ Dear Sir or Madam ’.

Just checking in   is a standard phrase used to start an email (or other message) that’s intended to ask someone for a response or follow-up action in a friendly, informal way. However, it’s a cliché opening that can come across as passive-aggressive, so we recommend avoiding it in favor of a more direct opening like “We previously discussed …”

In a more personal context, you might encounter “just checking in” as part of a longer phrase such as “I’m just checking in to see how you’re doing”. In this case, it’s not asking the other person to do anything but rather asking about their well-being (emotional or physical) in a friendly way.

“Earliest convenience” is part of the phrase at your earliest convenience , meaning “as soon as you can”. 

It’s typically used to end an email in a formal context by asking the recipient to do something when it’s convenient for them to do so.

ASAP is an abbreviation of the phrase “as soon as possible”. 

It’s typically used to indicate a sense of urgency in highly informal contexts (e.g., “Let me know ASAP if you need me to drive you to the airport”).

“ASAP” should be avoided in more formal correspondence. Instead, use an alternative like at your earliest convenience .

Some synonyms and near synonyms of the verb   compose   (meaning “to make up”) are:

People increasingly use “comprise” as a synonym of “compose.” However, this is normally still seen as a mistake, and we recommend avoiding it in your academic writing . “Comprise” traditionally means “to be made up of,” not “to make up.”

Some synonyms and near synonyms of the verb comprise are:

  • Be composed of
  • Be made up of

People increasingly use “comprise” interchangeably with “compose,” meaning that they consider words like “compose,” “constitute,” and “form” to be synonymous with “comprise.” However, this is still normally regarded as an error, and we advise against using these words interchangeably in academic writing .

A fallacy is a mistaken belief, particularly one based on unsound arguments or one that lacks the evidence to support it. Common types of fallacy that may compromise the quality of your research are:

  • Correlation/causation fallacy: Claiming that two events that occur together have a cause-and-effect relationship even though this can’t be proven
  • Ecological fallacy : Making inferences about the nature of individuals based on aggregate data for the group
  • The sunk cost fallacy : Following through on a project or decision because we have already invested time, effort, or money into it, even if the current costs outweigh the benefits
  • The base-rate fallacy : Ignoring base-rate or statistically significant information, such as sample size or the relative frequency of an event, in favor of  less relevant information e.g., pertaining to a single case, or a small number of cases
  • The planning fallacy : Underestimating the time needed to complete a future task, even when we know that similar tasks in the past have taken longer than planned

The planning fallacy refers to people’s tendency to underestimate the resources needed to complete a future task, despite knowing that previous tasks have also taken longer than planned.

For example, people generally tend to underestimate the cost and time needed for construction projects. The planning fallacy occurs due to people’s tendency to overestimate the chances that positive events, such as a shortened timeline, will happen to them. This phenomenon is called optimism bias or positivity bias.

Although both red herring fallacy and straw man fallacy are logical fallacies or reasoning errors, they denote different attempts to “win” an argument. More specifically:

  • A red herring fallacy refers to an attempt to change the subject and divert attention from the original issue. In other words, a seemingly solid but ultimately irrelevant argument is introduced into the discussion, either on purpose or by mistake.
  • A straw man argument involves the deliberate distortion of another person’s argument. By oversimplifying or exaggerating it, the other party creates an easy-to-refute argument and then attacks it.

The red herring fallacy is a problem because it is flawed reasoning. It is a distraction device that causes people to become sidetracked from the main issue and draw wrong conclusions.

Although a red herring may have some kernel of truth, it is used as a distraction to keep our eyes on a different matter. As a result, it can cause us to accept and spread misleading information.

The sunk cost fallacy and escalation of commitment (or commitment bias ) are two closely related terms. However, there is a slight difference between them:

  • Escalation of commitment (aka commitment bias ) is the tendency to be consistent with what we have already done or said we will do in the past, especially if we did so in public. In other words, it is an attempt to save face and appear consistent.
  • Sunk cost fallacy is the tendency to stick with a decision or a plan even when it’s failing. Because we have already invested valuable time, money, or energy, quitting feels like these resources were wasted.

In other words, escalating commitment is a manifestation of the sunk cost fallacy: an irrational escalation of commitment frequently occurs when people refuse to accept that the resources they’ve already invested cannot be recovered. Instead, they insist on more spending to justify the initial investment (and the incurred losses).

When you are faced with a straw man argument , the best way to respond is to draw attention to the fallacy and ask your discussion partner to show how your original statement and their distorted version are the same. Since these are different, your partner will either have to admit that their argument is invalid or try to justify it by using more flawed reasoning, which you can then attack.

The straw man argument is a problem because it occurs when we fail to take an opposing point of view seriously. Instead, we intentionally misrepresent our opponent’s ideas and avoid genuinely engaging with them. Due to this, resorting to straw man fallacy lowers the standard of constructive debate.

A straw man argument is a distorted (and weaker) version of another person’s argument that can easily be refuted (e.g., when a teacher proposes that the class spend more time on math exercises, a parent complains that the teacher doesn’t care about reading and writing).

This is a straw man argument because it misrepresents the teacher’s position, which didn’t mention anything about cutting down on reading and writing. The straw man argument is also known as the straw man fallacy .

A slippery slope argument is not always a fallacy.

  • When someone claims adopting a certain policy or taking a certain action will automatically lead to a series of other policies or actions also being taken, this is a slippery slope argument.
  • If they don’t show a causal connection between the advocated policy and the consequent policies, then they commit a slippery slope fallacy .

There are a number of ways you can deal with slippery slope arguments especially when you suspect these are fallacious:

  • Slippery slope arguments take advantage of the gray area between an initial action or decision and the possible next steps that might lead to the undesirable outcome. You can point out these missing steps and ask your partner to indicate what evidence exists to support the claimed relationship between two or more events.
  • Ask yourself if each link in the chain of events or action is valid. Every proposition has to be true for the overall argument to work, so even if one link is irrational or not supported by evidence, then the argument collapses.
  • Sometimes people commit a slippery slope fallacy unintentionally. In these instances, use an example that demonstrates the problem with slippery slope arguments in general (e.g., by using statements to reach a conclusion that is not necessarily relevant to the initial statement). By attacking the concept of slippery slope arguments you can show that they are often fallacious.

People sometimes confuse cognitive bias and logical fallacies because they both relate to flawed thinking. However, they are not the same:

  • Cognitive bias is the tendency to make decisions or take action in an illogical way because of our values, memory, socialization, and other personal attributes. In other words, it refers to a fixed pattern of thinking rooted in the way our brain works.
  • Logical fallacies relate to how we make claims and construct our arguments in the moment. They are statements that sound convincing at first but can be disproven through logical reasoning.

In other words, cognitive bias refers to an ongoing predisposition, while logical fallacy refers to mistakes of reasoning that occur in the moment.

An appeal to ignorance (ignorance here meaning lack of evidence) is a type of informal logical fallacy .

It asserts that something must be true because it hasn’t been proven false—or that something must be false because it has not yet been proven true.

For example, “unicorns exist because there is no evidence that they don’t.” The appeal to ignorance is also called the burden of proof fallacy .

An ad hominem (Latin for “to the person”) is a type of informal logical fallacy . Instead of arguing against a person’s position, an ad hominem argument attacks the person’s character or actions in an effort to discredit them.

This rhetorical strategy is fallacious because a person’s character, motive, education, or other personal trait is logically irrelevant to whether their argument is true or false.

Name-calling is common in ad hominem fallacy (e.g., “environmental activists are ineffective because they’re all lazy tree-huggers”).

Ad hominem is a persuasive technique where someone tries to undermine the opponent’s argument by personally attacking them.

In this way, one can redirect the discussion away from the main topic and to the opponent’s personality without engaging with their viewpoint. When the opponent’s personality is irrelevant to the discussion, we call it an ad hominem fallacy .

Ad hominem tu quoque (‘you too”) is an attempt to rebut a claim by attacking its proponent on the grounds that they uphold a double standard or that they don’t practice what they preach. For example, someone is telling you that you should drive slowly otherwise you’ll get a speeding ticket one of these days, and you reply “but you used to get them all the time!”

Argumentum ad hominem means “argument to the person” in Latin and it is commonly referred to as ad hominem argument or personal attack. Ad hominem arguments are used in debates to refute an argument by attacking the character of the person making it, instead of the logic or premise of the argument itself.

The opposite of the hasty generalization fallacy is called slothful induction fallacy or appeal to coincidence .

It is the tendency to deny a conclusion even though there is sufficient evidence that supports it. Slothful induction occurs due to our natural tendency to dismiss events or facts that do not align with our personal biases and expectations. For example, a researcher may try to explain away unexpected results by claiming it is just a coincidence.

To avoid a hasty generalization fallacy we need to ensure that the conclusions drawn are well-supported by the appropriate evidence. More specifically:

  • In statistics , if we want to draw inferences about an entire population, we need to make sure that the sample is random and representative of the population . We can achieve that by using a probability sampling method , like simple random sampling or stratified sampling .
  • In academic writing , use precise language and measured phases. Try to avoid making absolute claims, cite specific instances and examples without applying the findings to a larger group.
  • As readers, we need to ask ourselves “does the writer demonstrate sufficient knowledge of the situation or phenomenon that would allow them to make a generalization?”

The hasty generalization fallacy and the anecdotal evidence fallacy are similar in that they both result in conclusions drawn from insufficient evidence. However, there is a difference between the two:

  • The hasty generalization fallacy involves genuinely considering an example or case (i.e., the evidence comes first and then an incorrect conclusion is drawn from this).
  • The anecdotal evidence fallacy (also known as “cherry-picking” ) is knowing in advance what conclusion we want to support, and then selecting the story (or a few stories) that support it. By overemphasizing anecdotal evidence that fits well with the point we are trying to make, we overlook evidence that would undermine our argument.

Although many sources use circular reasoning fallacy and begging the question interchangeably, others point out that there is a subtle difference between the two:

  • Begging the question fallacy occurs when you assume that an argument is true in order to justify a conclusion. If something begs the question, what you are actually asking is, “Is the premise of that argument actually true?” For example, the statement “Snakes make great pets. That’s why we should get a snake” begs the question “are snakes really great pets?”
  • Circular reasoning fallacy on the other hand, occurs when the evidence used to support a claim is just a repetition of the claim itself.  For example, “People have free will because they can choose what to do.”

In other words, we could say begging the question is a form of circular reasoning.

Circular reasoning fallacy uses circular reasoning to support an argument. More specifically, the evidence used to support a claim is just a repetition of the claim itself. For example: “The President of the United States is a good leader (claim), because they are the leader of this country (supporting evidence)”.

An example of a non sequitur is the following statement:

“Giving up nuclear weapons weakened the United States’ military. Giving up nuclear weapons also weakened China. For this reason, it is wrong to try to outlaw firearms in the United States today.”

Clearly there is a step missing in this line of reasoning and the conclusion does not follow from the premise, resulting in a non sequitur fallacy .

The difference between the post hoc fallacy and the non sequitur fallacy is that post hoc fallacy infers a causal connection between two events where none exists, whereas the non sequitur fallacy infers a conclusion that lacks a logical connection to the premise.

In other words, a post hoc fallacy occurs when there is a lack of a cause-and-effect relationship, while a non sequitur fallacy occurs when there is a lack of logical connection.

An example of post hoc fallacy is the following line of reasoning:

“Yesterday I had ice cream, and today I have a terrible stomachache. I’m sure the ice cream caused this.”

Although it is possible that the ice cream had something to do with the stomachache, there is no proof to justify the conclusion other than the order of events. Therefore, this line of reasoning is fallacious.

Post hoc fallacy and hasty generalisation fallacy are similar in that they both involve jumping to conclusions. However, there is a difference between the two:

  • Post hoc fallacy is assuming a cause and effect relationship between two events, simply because one happened after the other.
  • Hasty generalisation fallacy is drawing a general conclusion from a small sample or little evidence.

In other words, post hoc fallacy involves a leap to a causal claim; hasty generalisation fallacy involves a leap to a general proposition.

The fallacy of composition is similar to and can be confused with the hasty generalization fallacy . However, there is a difference between the two:

  • The fallacy of composition involves drawing an inference about the characteristics of a whole or group based on the characteristics of its individual members.
  • The hasty generalization fallacy involves drawing an inference about a population or class of things on the basis of few atypical instances or a small sample of that population or thing.

In other words, the fallacy of composition is using an unwarranted assumption that we can infer something about a whole based on the characteristics of its parts, while the hasty generalization fallacy is using insufficient evidence to draw a conclusion.

The opposite of the fallacy of composition is the fallacy of division . In the fallacy of division, the assumption is that a characteristic which applies to a whole or a group must necessarily apply to the parts or individual members. For example, “Australians travel a lot. Gary is Australian, so he must travel a lot.”

Base rate fallacy can be avoided by following these steps:

  • Avoid making an important decision in haste. When we are under pressure, we are more likely to resort to cognitive shortcuts like the availability heuristic and the representativeness heuristic . Due to this, we are more likely to factor in only current and vivid information, and ignore the actual probability of something happening (i.e., base rate).
  • Take a long-term view on the decision or question at hand. Look for relevant statistical data, which can reveal long-term trends and give you the full picture.
  • Talk to experts like professionals. They are more aware of probabilities related to specific decisions.

Suppose there is a population consisting of 90% psychologists and 10% engineers. Given that you know someone enjoyed physics at school, you may conclude that they are an engineer rather than a psychologist, even though you know that this person comes from a population consisting of far more psychologists than engineers.

When we ignore the rate of occurrence of some trait in a population (the base-rate information) we commit base rate fallacy .

Cost-benefit fallacy is a common error that occurs when allocating sources in project management. It is the fallacy of assuming that cost-benefit estimates are more or less accurate, when in fact they are highly inaccurate and biased. This means that cost-benefit analyses can be useful, but only after the cost-benefit fallacy has been acknowledged and corrected for. Cost-benefit fallacy is a type of base rate fallacy .

In advertising, the fallacy of equivocation is often used to create a pun. For example, a billboard company might advertise their billboards using a line like: “Looking for a sign? This is it!” The word sign has a literal meaning as billboard and a figurative one as a sign from God, the universe, etc.

Equivocation is a fallacy because it is a form of argumentation that is both misleading and logically unsound. When the meaning of a word or phrase shifts in the course of an argument, it causes confusion and also implies that the conclusion (which may be true) does not follow from the premise.

The fallacy of equivocation is an informal logical fallacy, meaning that the error lies in the content of the argument instead of the structure.

Fallacies of relevance are a group of fallacies that occur in arguments when the premises are logically irrelevant to the conclusion. Although at first there seems to be a connection between the premise and the conclusion, in reality fallacies of relevance use unrelated forms of appeal.

For example, the genetic fallacy makes an appeal to the source or origin of the claim in an attempt to assert or refute something.

The ad hominem fallacy and the genetic fallacy are closely related in that they are both fallacies of relevance. In other words, they both involve arguments that use evidence or examples that are not logically related to the argument at hand. However, there is a difference between the two:

  • In the ad hominem fallacy , the goal is to discredit the argument by discrediting the person currently making the argument.
  • In the genetic fallacy , the goal is to discredit the argument by discrediting the history or origin (i.e., genesis) of an argument.

False dilemma fallacy is also known as false dichotomy, false binary, and “either-or” fallacy. It is the fallacy of presenting only two choices, outcomes, or sides to an argument as the only possibilities, when more are available.

The false dilemma fallacy works in two ways:

  • By presenting only two options as if these were the only ones available
  • By presenting two options as mutually exclusive (i.e., only one option can be selected or can be true at a time)

In both cases, by using the false dilemma fallacy, one conceals alternative choices and doesn’t allow others to consider the full range of options. This is usually achieved through an“either-or” construction and polarised, divisive language (“you are either a friend or an enemy”).

The best way to avoid a false dilemma fallacy is to pause and reflect on two points:

  • Are the options presented truly the only ones available ? It could be that another option has been deliberately omitted.
  • Are the options mentioned mutually exclusive ? Perhaps all of the available options can be selected (or be true) at the same time, which shows that they aren’t mutually exclusive. Proving this is called “escaping between the horns of the dilemma.”

Begging the question fallacy is an argument in which you assume what you are trying to prove. In other words, your position and the justification of that position are the same, only slightly rephrased.

For example: “All freshmen should attend college orientation, because all college students should go to such an orientation.”

The complex question fallacy and begging the question fallacy are similar in that they are both based on assumptions. However, there is a difference between them:

  • A complex question fallacy occurs when someone asks a question that presupposes the answer to another question that has not been established or accepted by the other person. For example, asking someone “Have you stopped cheating on tests?”, unless it has previously been established that the person is indeed cheating on tests, is a fallacy.
  • Begging the question fallacy occurs when we assume the very thing as a premise that we’re trying to prove in our conclusion. In other words, the conclusion is used to support the premises, and the premises prove the validity of the conclusion. For example: “God exists because the Bible says so, and the Bible is true because it is the word of God.”

In other words, begging the question is about drawing a conclusion based on an assumption, while a complex question involves asking a question that presupposes the answer to a prior question.

“ No true Scotsman ” arguments aren’t always fallacious. When there is a generally accepted definition of who or what constitutes a group, it’s reasonable to use statements in the form of “no true Scotsman”.

For example, the statement that “no true pacifist would volunteer for military service” is not fallacious, since a pacifist is, by definition, someone who opposes war or violence as a means of settling disputes.

No true Scotsman arguments are fallacious because instead of logically refuting the counterexample, they simply assert that it doesn’t count. In other words, the counterexample is rejected for psychological, but not logical, reasons.

The appeal to purity or no true Scotsman fallacy is an attempt to defend a generalisation about a group from a counterexample by shifting the definition of the group in the middle of the argument. In this way, one can exclude the counterexample as not being “true”, “genuine”, or “pure” enough to be considered as part of the group in question.

To identify an appeal to authority fallacy , you can ask yourself the following questions:

  • Is the authority cited really a qualified expert in this particular area under discussion? For example, someone who has formal education or years of experience can be an expert.
  • Do experts disagree on this particular subject? If that is the case, then for almost any claim supported by one expert there will be a counterclaim that is supported by another expert. If there is no consensus, an appeal to authority is fallacious.
  • Is the authority in question biased? If you suspect that an expert’s prejudice and bias could have influenced their views, then the expert is not reliable and an argument citing this expert will be fallacious.To identify an appeal to authority fallacy, you ask yourself whether the authority cited is a qualified expert in the particular area under discussion.

Appeal to authority is a fallacy when those who use it do not provide any justification to support their argument. Instead they cite someone famous who agrees with their viewpoint, but is not qualified to make reliable claims on the subject.

Appeal to authority fallacy is often convincing because of the effect authority figures have on us. When someone cites a famous person, a well-known scientist, a politician, etc. people tend to be distracted and often fail to critically examine whether the authority figure is indeed an expert in the area under discussion.

The ad populum fallacy is common in politics. One example is the following viewpoint: “The majority of our countrymen think we should have military operations overseas; therefore, it’s the right thing to do.”

This line of reasoning is fallacious, because popular acceptance of a belief or position does not amount to a justification of that belief. In other words, following the prevailing opinion without examining the underlying reasons is irrational.

The ad populum fallacy plays on our innate desire to fit in (known as “bandwagon effect”). If many people believe something, our common sense tells us that it must be true and we tend to accept it. However, in logic, the popularity of a proposition cannot serve as evidence of its truthfulness.

Ad populum (or appeal to popularity) fallacy and appeal to authority fallacy are similar in that they both conflate the validity of a belief with its popular acceptance among a specific group. However there is a key difference between the two:

  • An ad populum fallacy tries to persuade others by claiming that something is true or right because a lot of people think so.
  • An appeal to authority fallacy tries to persuade by claiming a group of experts believe something is true or right, therefore it must be so.

To identify a false cause fallacy , you need to carefully analyse the argument:

  • When someone claims that one event directly causes another, ask if there is sufficient evidence to establish a cause-and-effect relationship. 
  • Ask if the claim is based merely on the chronological order or co-occurrence of the two events. 
  • Consider alternative possible explanations (are there other factors at play that could influence the outcome?).

By carefully analysing the reasoning, considering alternative explanations, and examining the evidence provided, you can identify a false cause fallacy and discern whether a causal claim is valid or flawed.

False cause fallacy examples include: 

  • Believing that wearing your lucky jersey will help your team win 
  • Thinking that everytime you wash your car, it rains
  • Claiming that playing video games causes violent behavior 

In each of these examples, we falsely assume that one event causes another without any proof.

The planning fallacy and procrastination are not the same thing. Although they both relate to time and task management, they describe different challenges:

  • The planning fallacy describes our inability to correctly estimate how long a future task will take, mainly due to optimism bias and a strong focus on the best-case scenario.
  • Procrastination refers to postponing a task, usually by focusing on less urgent or more enjoyable activities. This is due to psychological reasons, like fear of failure.

In other words, the planning fallacy refers to inaccurate predictions about the time we need to finish a task, while procrastination is a deliberate delay due to psychological factors.

A real-life example of the planning fallacy is the construction of the Sydney Opera House in Australia. When construction began in the late 1950s, it was initially estimated that it would be completed in four years at a cost of around $7 million.

Because the government wanted the construction to start before political opposition would stop it and while public opinion was still favorable, a number of design issues had not been carefully studied in advance. Due to this, several problems appeared immediately after the project commenced.

The construction process eventually stretched over 14 years, with the Opera House being completed in 1973 at a cost of over $100 million, significantly exceeding the initial estimates.

An example of appeal to pity fallacy is the following appeal by a student to their professor:

“Professor, please consider raising my grade. I had a terrible semester: my car broke down, my laptop got stolen, and my cat got sick.”

While these circumstances may be unfortunate, they are not directly related to the student’s academic performance.

While both the appeal to pity fallacy and   red herring fallacy can serve as a distraction from the original discussion topic, they are distinct fallacies. More specifically:

  • Appeal to pity fallacy attempts to evoke feelings of sympathy, pity, or guilt in an audience, so that they accept the speaker’s conclusion as truthful.
  • Red herring fallacy attempts to introduce an irrelevant piece of information that diverts the audience’s attention to a different topic.

Both fallacies can be used as a tool of deception. However, they operate differently and serve distinct purposes in arguments.

Argumentum ad misericordiam (Latin for “argument from pity or misery”) is another name for appeal to pity fallacy . It occurs when someone evokes sympathy or guilt in an attempt to gain support for their claim, without providing any logical reasons to support the claim itself. Appeal to pity is a deceptive tactic of argumentation, playing on people’s emotions to sway their opinion.

Yes, it’s quite common to start a sentence with a preposition, and there’s no reason not to do so.

For example, the sentence “ To many, she was a hero” is perfectly grammatical. It could also be rephrased as “She was a hero to  many”, but there’s no particular reason to do so. Both versions are fine.

Some people argue that you shouldn’t end a sentence with a preposition , but that “rule” can also be ignored, since it’s not supported by serious language authorities.

Yes, it’s fine to end a sentence with a preposition . The “rule” against doing so is overwhelmingly rejected by modern style guides and language authorities and is based on the rules of Latin grammar, not English.

Trying to avoid ending a sentence with a preposition often results in very unnatural phrasings. For example, turning “He knows what he’s talking about ” into “He knows about what he’s talking” or “He knows that about which he’s talking” is definitely not an improvement.

No, ChatGPT is not a credible source of factual information and can’t be cited for this purpose in academic writing . While it tries to provide accurate answers, it often gets things wrong because its responses are based on patterns, not facts and data.

Specifically, the CRAAP test for evaluating sources includes five criteria: currency , relevance , authority , accuracy , and purpose . ChatGPT fails to meet at least three of them:

  • Currency: The dataset that ChatGPT was trained on only extends to 2021, making it slightly outdated.
  • Authority: It’s just a language model and is not considered a trustworthy source of factual information.
  • Accuracy: It bases its responses on patterns rather than evidence and is unable to cite its sources .

So you shouldn’t cite ChatGPT as a trustworthy source for a factual claim. You might still cite ChatGPT for other reasons – for example, if you’re writing a paper about AI language models, ChatGPT responses are a relevant primary source .

ChatGPT is an AI language model that was trained on a large body of text from a variety of sources (e.g., Wikipedia, books, news articles, scientific journals). The dataset only went up to 2021, meaning that it lacks information on more recent events.

It’s also important to understand that ChatGPT doesn’t access a database of facts to answer your questions. Instead, its responses are based on patterns that it saw in the training data.

So ChatGPT is not always trustworthy . It can usually answer general knowledge questions accurately, but it can easily give misleading answers on more specialist topics.

Another consequence of this way of generating responses is that ChatGPT usually can’t cite its sources accurately. It doesn’t really know what source it’s basing any specific claim on. It’s best to check any information you get from it against a credible source .

No, it is not possible to cite your sources with ChatGPT . You can ask it to create citations, but it isn’t designed for this task and tends to make up sources that don’t exist or present information in the wrong format. ChatGPT also cannot add citations to direct quotes in your text.

Instead, use a tool designed for this purpose, like the Scribbr Citation Generator .

But you can use ChatGPT for assignments in other ways, to provide inspiration, feedback, and general writing advice.

GPT  stands for “generative pre-trained transformer”, which is a type of large language model: a neural network trained on a very large amount of text to produce convincing, human-like language outputs. The Chat part of the name just means “chat”: ChatGPT is a chatbot that you interact with by typing in text.

The technology behind ChatGPT is GPT-3.5 (in the free version) or GPT-4 (in the premium version). These are the names for the specific versions of the GPT model. GPT-4 is currently the most advanced model that OpenAI has created. It’s also the model used in Bing’s chatbot feature.

ChatGPT was created by OpenAI, an AI research company. It started as a nonprofit company in 2015 but became for-profit in 2019. Its CEO is Sam Altman, who also co-founded the company. OpenAI released ChatGPT as a free “research preview” in November 2022. Currently, it’s still available for free, although a more advanced premium version is available if you pay for it.

OpenAI is also known for developing DALL-E, an AI image generator that runs on similar technology to ChatGPT.

ChatGPT is owned by OpenAI, the company that developed and released it. OpenAI is a company dedicated to AI research. It started as a nonprofit company in 2015 but transitioned to for-profit in 2019. Its current CEO is Sam Altman, who also co-founded the company.

In terms of who owns the content generated by ChatGPT, OpenAI states that it will not claim copyright on this content , and the terms of use state that “you can use Content for any purpose, including commercial purposes such as sale or publication”. This means that you effectively own any content you generate with ChatGPT and can use it for your own purposes.

Be cautious about how you use ChatGPT content in an academic context. University policies on AI writing are still developing, so even if you “own” the content, you’re often not allowed to submit it as your own work according to your university or to publish it in a journal.

ChatGPT is a chatbot based on a large language model (LLM). These models are trained on huge datasets consisting of hundreds of billions of words of text, based on which the model learns to effectively predict natural responses to the prompts you enter.

ChatGPT was also refined through a process called reinforcement learning from human feedback (RLHF), which involves “rewarding” the model for providing useful answers and discouraging inappropriate answers – encouraging it to make fewer mistakes.

Essentially, ChatGPT’s answers are based on predicting the most likely responses to your inputs based on its training data, with a reward system on top of this to incentivise it to give you the most helpful answers possible. It’s a bit like an incredibly advanced version of predictive text. This is also one of ChatGPT’s limitations : because its answers are based on probabilities, they’re not always trustworthy .

OpenAI may store ChatGPT conversations for the purposes of future training. Additionally, these conversations may be monitored by human AI trainers.

Users can choose not to have their chat history saved. Unsaved chats are not used to train future models and are permanently deleted from ChatGPT’s system after 30 days.

The official ChatGPT app is currently only available on iOS devices. If you don’t have an iOS device, only use the official OpenAI website to access the tool. This helps to eliminate the potential risk of downloading fraudulent or malicious software.

ChatGPT conversations are generally used to train future models and to resolve issues/bugs. These chats may be monitored by human AI trainers.

However, users can opt out of having their conversations used for training. In these instances, chats are monitored only for potential abuse.

Yes, using ChatGPT as a conversation partner is a great way to practice a language in an interactive way.

Try using a prompt like this one:

“Please be my Spanish conversation partner. Only speak to me in Spanish. Keep your answers short (maximum 50 words). Ask me questions. Let’s start the conversation with the following topic: [conversation topic].”

Yes, there are a variety of ways to use ChatGPT for language learning , including treating it as a conversation partner, asking it for translations, and using it to generate a curriculum or practice exercises.

AI detectors aim to identify the presence of AI-generated text (e.g., from ChatGPT ) in a piece of writing, but they can’t do so with complete accuracy. In our comparison of the best AI detectors , we found that the 10 tools we tested had an average accuracy of 60%. The best free tool had 68% accuracy, the best premium tool 84%.

Because of how AI detectors work , they can never guarantee 100% accuracy, and there is always at least a small risk of false positives (human text being marked as AI-generated). Therefore, these tools should not be relied upon to provide absolute proof that a text is or isn’t AI-generated. Rather, they can provide a good indication in combination with other evidence.

Tools called AI detectors are designed to label text as AI-generated or human. AI detectors work by looking for specific characteristics in the text, such as a low level of randomness in word choice and sentence length. These characteristics are typical of AI writing, allowing the detector to make a good guess at when text is AI-generated.

But these tools can’t guarantee 100% accuracy. Check out our comparison of the best AI detectors to learn more.

You can also manually watch for clues that a text is AI-generated – for example, a very different style from the writer’s usual voice or a generic, overly polite tone.

Our research into the best summary generators (aka summarisers or summarising tools) found that the best summariser available in 2023 is the one offered by QuillBot.

While many summarisers just pick out some sentences from the text, QuillBot generates original summaries that are creative, clear, accurate, and concise. It can summarise texts of up to 1,200 words for free, or up to 6,000 with a premium subscription.

Try the QuillBot summarizer for free

Deep learning requires a large dataset (e.g., images or text) to learn from. The more diverse and representative the data, the better the model will learn to recognise objects or make predictions. Only when the training data is sufficiently varied can the model make accurate predictions or recognise objects from new data.

Deep learning models can be biased in their predictions if the training data consist of biased information. For example, if a deep learning model used for screening job applicants has been trained with a dataset consisting primarily of white male applicants, it will consistently favour this specific population over others.

A good ChatGPT prompt (i.e., one that will get you the kinds of responses you want):

  • Gives the tool a role to explain what type of answer you expect from it
  • Is precisely formulated and gives enough context
  • Is free from bias
  • Has been tested and improved by experimenting with the tool

ChatGPT prompts are the textual inputs (e.g., questions, instructions) that you enter into ChatGPT to get responses.

ChatGPT predicts an appropriate response to the prompt you entered. In general, a more specific and carefully worded prompt will get you better responses.

Yes, ChatGPT is currently available for free. You have to sign up for a free account to use the tool, and you should be aware that your data may be collected to train future versions of the model.

To sign up and use the tool for free, go to this page and click “Sign up”. You can do so with your email or with a Google account.

A premium version of the tool called ChatGPT Plus is available as a monthly subscription. It currently costs £16 and gets you access to features like GPT-4 (a more advanced version of the language model). But it’s optional: you can use the tool completely free if you’re not interested in the extra features.

You can access ChatGPT by signing up for a free account:

  • Follow this link to the ChatGPT website.
  • Click on “Sign up” and fill in the necessary details (or use your Google account). It’s free to sign up and use the tool.
  • Type a prompt into the chat box to get started!

A ChatGPT app is also available for iOS, and an Android app is planned for the future. The app works similarly to the website, and you log in with the same account for both.

According to OpenAI’s terms of use, users have the right to reproduce text generated by ChatGPT during conversations.

However, publishing ChatGPT outputs may have legal implications , such as copyright infringement.

Users should be aware of such issues and use ChatGPT outputs as a source of inspiration instead.

According to OpenAI’s terms of use, users have the right to use outputs from their own ChatGPT conversations for any purpose (including commercial publication).

However, users should be aware of the potential legal implications of publishing ChatGPT outputs. ChatGPT responses are not always unique: different users may receive the same response.

Furthermore, ChatGPT outputs may contain copyrighted material. Users may be liable if they reproduce such material.

ChatGPT can sometimes reproduce biases from its training data , since it draws on the text it has “seen” to create plausible responses to your prompts.

For example, users have shown that it sometimes makes sexist assumptions such as that a doctor mentioned in a prompt must be a man rather than a woman. Some have also pointed out political bias in terms of which political figures the tool is willing to write positively or negatively about and which requests it refuses.

The tool is unlikely to be consistently biased toward a particular perspective or against a particular group. Rather, its responses are based on its training data and on the way you phrase your ChatGPT prompts . It’s sensitive to phrasing, so asking it the same question in different ways will result in quite different answers.

Information extraction  refers to the process of starting from unstructured sources (e.g., text documents written in ordinary English) and automatically extracting structured information (i.e., data in a clearly defined format that’s easily understood by computers). It’s an important concept in natural language processing (NLP) .

For example, you might think of using news articles full of celebrity gossip to automatically create a database of the relationships between the celebrities mentioned (e.g., married, dating, divorced, feuding). You would end up with data in a structured format, something like MarriageBetween(celebrity 1 ,celebrity 2 ,date) .

The challenge involves developing systems that can “understand” the text well enough to extract this kind of data from it.

Knowledge representation and reasoning (KRR) is the study of how to represent information about the world in a form that can be used by a computer system to solve and reason about complex problems. It is an important field of artificial intelligence (AI) research.

An example of a KRR application is a semantic network, a way of grouping words or concepts by how closely related they are and formally defining the relationships between them so that a machine can “understand” language in something like the way people do.

A related concept is information extraction , concerned with how to get structured information from unstructured sources.

Yes, you can use ChatGPT to summarise text . This can help you understand complex information more easily, summarise the central argument of your own paper, or clarify your research question.

You can also use Scribbr’s free text summariser , which is designed specifically for this purpose.

Yes, you can use ChatGPT to paraphrase text to help you express your ideas more clearly, explore different ways of phrasing your arguments, and avoid repetition.

However, it’s not specifically designed for this purpose. We recommend using a specialised tool like Scribbr’s free paraphrasing tool , which will provide a smoother user experience.

Yes, you use ChatGPT to help write your college essay by having it generate feedback on certain aspects of your work (consistency of tone, clarity of structure, etc.).

However, ChatGPT is not able to adequately judge qualities like vulnerability and authenticity. For this reason, it’s important to also ask for feedback from people who have experience with college essays and who know you well. Alternatively, you can get advice using Scribbr’s essay editing service .

No, having ChatGPT write your college essay can negatively impact your application in numerous ways. ChatGPT outputs are unoriginal and lack personal insight.

Furthermore, Passing off AI-generated text as your own work is considered academically dishonest . AI detectors may be used to detect this offense, and it’s highly unlikely that any university will accept you if you are caught submitting an AI-generated admission essay.

However, you can use ChatGPT to help write your college essay during the preparation and revision stages (e.g., for brainstorming ideas and generating feedback).

ChatGPT and other AI writing tools can have unethical uses. These include:

  • Reproducing biases and false information
  • Using ChatGPT to cheat in academic contexts
  • Violating the privacy of others by inputting personal information

However, when used correctly, AI writing tools can be helpful resources for improving your academic writing and research skills. Some ways to use ChatGPT ethically include:

  • Following your institution’s guidelines
  • Critically evaluating outputs
  • Being transparent about how you used the tool

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We try our best to ensure that the same editor checks all the different sections of your document. When you upload a new file, our system recognizes you as a returning customer, and we immediately contact the editor who helped you before.

However, we cannot guarantee that the same editor will be available. Your chances are higher if

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Please note that the shorter your deadline is, the lower the chance that your previous editor is not available.

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Because we have many editors available, we can check your document 24 hours per day and 7 days per week, all year round.

If you choose a 72 hour deadline and upload your document on a Thursday evening, you’ll have your thesis back by Sunday evening!

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For a more comprehensive edit, you can add a Structure Check or Clarity Check to your order. With these building blocks, you can customize the kind of feedback you receive.

You might be familiar with a different set of editing terms. To help you understand what you can expect at Scribbr, we created this table:

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When you place an order, you can specify your field of study and we’ll match you with an editor who has familiarity with this area.

However, our editors are language specialists, not academic experts in your field. Your editor’s job is not to comment on the content of your dissertation, but to improve your language and help you express your ideas as clearly and fluently as possible.

This means that your editor will understand your text well enough to give feedback on its clarity, logic and structure, but not on the accuracy or originality of its content.

Good academic writing should be understandable to a non-expert reader, and we believe that academic editing is a discipline in itself. The research, ideas and arguments are all yours – we’re here to make sure they shine!

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Is it possible to write a masters thesis in 10 days? [closed]

Was it ever possible for anyone to finish writing a master thesis in 10 days? I've been struggling for a long time now to focus on my writing due to several personal problems and I'm running close to my deadline so I'm starting to freak out. I welcome any suggestions at this point.

  • time-management

ff524's user avatar

  • 1 Can you push your deadline to next semester? –  HEITZ Commented Nov 30, 2016 at 22:43
  • 4 I think that really depends on your field, how comprehensive the exact subject of your thesis is, how knowledgeable you are and how well skilled you are in academic writing. I wrote mine in a little over 25 hours in total, but this excludes reading literature and the time required for doing experiments. –  pbond Commented Nov 30, 2016 at 23:41
  • 1 What @pbond said with the additional question of what the requirements of the actual thesis are. –  Raydot Commented Dec 1, 2016 at 0:44
  • 1 I hope you are holed up somewhere working hard on your draft, instead of reading this comment. But if you are reading this comment, go get started! Promise yourself a little reward after a good day's work. After a few days, when you are really on a roll, THEN you may contact someone official to ask for an extension. –  aparente001 Commented Dec 1, 2016 at 2:18

4 Answers 4

If by "writing" you mean to do the research/experiments/studying and then write the thesis then no .

If by "writing" you mean transforming your well organized notes into one document, then yes , maybe if you have great discipline.

If by "writing" you mean to start to write-up from not-so well organized notes, then most probably not .

If you want to try to make it, stop hanging around on the internet and start working.

Dirk's user avatar

  • 2 This made me laugh, which was much needed. –  NZKshatriya Commented Dec 1, 2016 at 1:28
  • Concise yet precise. –  Ébe Isaac Commented Dec 1, 2016 at 4:05
  • Great last sentence. –  Pere Commented Dec 22, 2016 at 19:51

It can be done, but I would be dubious of the quality. That said, I can't recall a Master's thesis that set the world on fire, so I suppose quality is a poor metric.

Here are some suggestions:

  • Make sure you've got all the material you need to write because that's what you need to do -- write. Find a nest and keep all the distractions out.
  • Set minimum targets for your writing. Then, meet and exceed it. I suggest setting targets that allow you to finish writing in eight days, not 10. This gives you some padding in case life gets in the way. To be clear, there are 192 hours in eight days. Allowing for a 12-hour work day, then you need to write 15,000 words in 96 hours or about 156 words an hour. Set a target of 400 words an hour.
  • Make sure you have time to edit your work.

Good luck to you.

  • 3 Just to nitpick: Shannon's masters thesis was actually quite groundbreaking, more so than his PhD. Apart from that, I agree with your advice. Start now. –  Captain Emacs Commented Nov 30, 2016 at 23:41
  • I would love to read it. Do you have a link to the thesis or perhaps some papers that have been produced from it? –  user65587 Commented Dec 1, 2016 at 2:42
  • I think it should be googleable, I do not know whether I can link it here. It is essentially how to use Boolean algebra to simplify circuits. Retrospectively obvious, it wasn't at its time. –  Captain Emacs Commented Dec 1, 2016 at 11:43
  • @Captain Emacs: Although a bit old, there's the case of Luzin's Master's thesis: . . . he completed his thesis The integral and trigonometric series which he submitted in 1915. After his oral examination he was awarded a doctorate, despite having submitted his thesis for the Master's Degree. In fact, even for a Ph.D. thesis, Luzin's is one of the strongest ever written in mathematics --- probably in the top 10 to 20 of all-time for its influence on later developments. –  Dave L Renfro Commented Dec 1, 2016 at 14:48

Yes. You can write it in 10 days though the result won't be good. Make sure you write 1000 to 1500 words a day. So, rather than starting to freak out, you can start writing now

Saber Alex's user avatar

If it's an MFA thesis (average length: 2-3 pages) yes. If it's a science one where you're reporting on results and my impression is that the length isn't too terribly long, maybe. If it's a humanities one that's in the 100-150 page range, it's unlikely (I've written 10-15 pages in a day before, but I doubt I can keep that pace up for ten pages).

You should look into extending into next semester, even if it's just shooting off a quick email while continuing to work. If you have had a large number of personal problems that have negatively affected your ability to complete your school work (and are in the US, not sure how it would apply elsewhere), you should (a) speak with the counseling center on campus and (b) consider a withdrawal under extenuating circumstances (typically called a medical withdrawal, but at least at my school they are allowed for other reasons). If there's no penalty at all for extending into next semester, (b) might not even be necessary — it's super common for both master's and PhD students to miss their expected graduation date by a semester or two because of the thesis/dissertation.

But if you're running up against a hard time limit, the withdrawal would gain you an extra semester. If withdrawal isn't an option, at many schools you can also (c) petition the university to waive the time limit given your circumstances. I don't think I've ever really heard of those petitions being denied if the reason is even halfway reasonable.

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how long should a master's thesis paper be

/images/cornell/logo35pt_cornell_white.svg" alt="how long should a master's thesis paper be"> Cornell University --> Graduate School

Required sections, guidelines, and suggestions.

Beyond those noted on the Formatting Requirements page , the Graduate School has no additional formatting requirements. The following suggestions are based on best practices and historic requirements for dissertations and theses but are not requirements for submission of the thesis or dissertation. The Graduate School recommends that each dissertation or thesis conform to the standards of leading academic journals in your field.

For both master’s and doctoral students, the same basic rules apply; however, differences exist in some limited areas, particularly in producing the abstract and filing the dissertation or thesis.

  • Information in this guide that pertains specifically to doctoral candidates and dissertations is clearly marked with the term “ dissertation ” or “ doctoral candidates .”
  • Information pertaining specifically to master’s candidates and theses is clearly marked with the term “ thesis ” or “ master’s candidates .”
  • All other information pertains to both.

Examples of formatting suggestions for both the dissertation and thesis are available as downloadable templates .

Required? Yes.

Suggested numbering: Page included in overall document, but number not typed on page.

The following format for your title page is suggested, but not required.

  • The title should be written using all capital letters, centered within the left and right margins, and spaced about 1.5 inches from the top of the page. (For an example, please see the template .)
  • Carefully select words for the title of the dissertation or thesis to represent the subject content as accurately as possible. Words in the title are important access points to researchers who may use keyword searches to identify works in various subject areas.
  • Use word substitutes for formulas, symbols, superscripts, Greek letters, etc.
  • Below the title, at the vertical and horizontal center of the margins, place the following five lines (all centered):

Line 1: A Dissertation [or Thesis]

Line 2: Presented to the Faculty of the Graduate School

Line 3: of Cornell University

Line 4: in Partial Fulfillment of the Requirements for the Degree of

Line 5: Doctor of Philosophy [or other appropriate degree]

  • Center the following three lines within the margins:

Line 2: Primary or Preferred Name [as registered with the University Registrar’s Office and displayed in Student Center]

Line 3: month and year of degree conferral [May, August, December; no comma between month and year]

Copyright Page

Suggested numbering: Page included in overall document, but number not typed on page

The following format for your copyright page is suggested, but not required.

  • A notice of copyright should appear as the sole item on the page centered vertically and horizontally within the margins: © 20__ [Primary or Preferred Name [as registered with the University Registrar’s Office]. Please note that there is not usually a page heading on the copyright page.
  • The copyright symbol is a lowercase “c,” which must be circled. (On Macs, the symbol is typed by pressing the “option” and “g” keys simultaneously. If the font does not have the © symbol, type the “c” and circle it by hand. On PCs, in the insert menu, choose “symbol,” and select the © symbol.)
  • The date, which follows the copyright symbol, is the year of conferral of your degree.
  • Your name follows the date.

Required?  Yes.

Suggested numbering: Page(s) not counted, not numbered

Abstract formats for the doctoral dissertation and master’s thesis differ greatly. The Graduate School recommends that you conform to the standards of leading academic journals in your field.

Doctoral candidates:

  • TITLE OF DISSERTATION
  • Student’s Primary or Preferred Name, Ph.D. [as registered with the University Registrar’s Office]
  • Cornell University 20__ [year of conferral]
  • Following the heading lines, begin the text of the abstract on the same page.
  • The abstract states the problem, describes the methods and procedures used, and gives the main results or conclusions of the research.
  • The abstract usually does not exceed 350 words in length (about one-and-one-half correctly spaced pages—but not more than two pages).

Master’s candidate:

  • In a thesis, the page heading is simply the word “ABSTRACT” in all capital letters and centered within the margins at the top of the page. (The thesis abstract does not display the thesis title, author’s name, degree, university, or date of degree conferral.)
  • The abstract should state the problem, describe the methods and procedures used, and give the main results or conclusions.
  • The abstract usually does not exceed 600 words in length, which is approximately two-and-one-half to three pages of correctly spaced typing.
  • In M.F.A. theses, an abstract is not required.

Biographical Sketch

Suggested numbering: iii (may be more than one page)

  • Type number(s) on page(s).

The following content and format are suggested:

  • The biographical sketch is written in third-person voice and contains your educational background. Sometimes additional biographical facts are included.
  • As a page heading, use “BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCH” in all capital letters, centered on the page.
  • Number this page as iii.

Required? Optional.

Suggested numbering: iv (may be more than one page)

The dedication page is not required and can contain whatever text that you would like to include. Text on this page does not need to be in English.

Acknowledgements

Suggested numbering: v (may be more than one page)

The following content and format are suggested, not required.

  • The acknowledgements may be written in first-person voice. If your research has been funded by outside grants, you should check with the principal investigator of the grant regarding proper acknowledgement of the funding source. Most outside funding sources require some statement of acknowledgement of the support; some also require a disclaimer from responsibility for the results.
  • As a page heading, use “ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS” in all capital letters, centered on the page.

Table of Contents

Suggested numbering: vi (may be more than one page)

The following are suggestions.

  • As a page heading, use “TABLE OF CONTENTS” in all capital letters and centered on the page.
  • List the sections/chapters of the body of the dissertation or thesis. Also, list preliminary sections starting with the biographical sketch. (Title page, copyright page, and abstract are not listed.)
  • For theses and dissertations, the conventional format for page numbers is in a column to the right of each section/chapter title. The first page of each chapter/section is stated with a single number. Table of contents usually do not include a range of page numbers, such as 7-22.
  • The table of contents is often single-spaced.

Two-Volume Theses or Dissertations

If the dissertation or thesis consists of two volumes, it is recommended, but not required, that you list “Volume II” as a section in the table of contents.

List of Figures, Illustrations, and Tables

Suggested numbering: vii (may be more than one page)

  • If included, type number(s) on page(s).

As described in the formatting requirements above, figures and tables should be consecutively numbered. The Graduate School recommends that you conform to the styles set by the leading academic journals in your field. The items below are formatting suggestions based on best practices or historic precedents.

Table of contents format:

  • As a page heading, use “LIST OF FIGURES,” “LIST OF ILLUSTRATIONS,” or “LIST OF TABLES” in all capital letters, centered on the page.
  • There should be separate pages for “LIST OF FIGURES,” “LIST OF ILLUSTRATIONS,” or “LIST OF TABLES” even if there is only one example of each.
  • The list should contain enough of the titles or descriptions so readers can locate items using the list. (It may not be necessary to include entire figure/illustration/table captions.)
  • The list should contain the page number on which each figure, illustration, or table is found, as in a table of contents.
  • The list of figures/illustrations/tables may be single-spaced.

Page format:

  • Figures/illustrations/tables should be placed as close as possible to their first mention in the text. They may be placed on a page with no text above or below, or placed directly into the text. If a figure/illustration/table is placed directly into the text, text may appear above or below the figure/illustration/table; no text may wrap around the figure/illustration/table.
  • If a figure/illustration/table appears on a page without other text, it should be centered vertically within the page margins. Figures/illustrations/tables should not be placed at the end of the chapter or at the end of the dissertation or thesis.
  • Figure/illustration/table numbering should be either continuous throughout the dissertation or thesis, or by chapter (e.g. 1.1, 1.2; 2.1, 2.2, etc.). The word “Figure,” “Illustration,” or “Table” must be spelled out (not abbreviated), and the first letter must be capitalized.
  • A caption for a figure/illustration should be placed at the bottom of the figure/illustration. However, a caption for a table must be placed above the table.
  • If the figure/illustration/table, not including the caption, takes up the entire page, the figure/illustration/table caption should be placed alone on the preceding page and centered vertically and horizontally within the margins. (When the caption is on a separate page, the List of Figures or List of Illustrations or List of Tables can list the page number containing the caption.)
  • If the figure/illustration/table, not including the caption, takes up more than two pages, it should be preceded by a page consisting of the caption only. The first page of the figure/illustration/table must include the figure/illustration/table (no caption), and the second and subsequent pages must also include, at the top of the figure/illustration/table, words that indicate its continuance—for example, “Figure 5 (Continued)”—and on these pages the caption is omitted.
  • If figures/illustrations/tables are too large, they may be reduced slightly so as to render a satisfactory product or they must either be split into several pages or be redone. If a figure/illustration/table is reduced, all lettering must be clear, readable, and large enough to be legible. All lettering, including subscripts, must still be readable when reduced 25% beyond the final version. All page margin requirements must be maintained. Page numbers and headings must not be reduced.
  • While there are no specific rules for the typographic format of figure/illustration/table captions, a consistent format should be used throughout the dissertation or thesis.
  • The caption of a figure/illustration/table should be single-spaced, but then captions for all figures/illustrations/tables must be single-spaced.
  • Horizontal figures/illustrations/tables should be positioned correctly—i.e., the top of the figure/illustration/table will be at the left margin of the vertical page of the dissertation or thesis (remember: pages are bound on the left margin). Figure/illustration/table headings/captions are placed with the same orientation as the figure/illustration/table when they are on the same page as the figure/illustration/table. When they are on a separate page, headings and captions are always placed in vertical orientation, regardless of the orientation of the figure/illustration/table. Page numbers are always placed as if the figure/illustration/table was vertical on the page.

Photographs should be treated as illustrations. To be considered archival, photographs must be black-and-white. (If actual color photographs are necessary, they should be accompanied by black-and-white photographs of the same subject.) Color photos obtained digitally do not need to be accompanied by a black-and-white photograph. Make a high-resolution digital version of each photograph and insert it into your electronic document, following the guideline suggestions for positioning and margins.

Optional Elements

List of abbreviations.

As a page heading, use “LIST OF ABBREVIATIONS” in all capital letters, centered on the page.

List of Symbols

As a page heading, use “LIST OF SYMBOLS” in all capital letters, centered on the page.

Suggested numbering: xi (may be more than one page)

As a page heading, use “PREFACE” in all capital letters, centered on the page.

Body of the Dissertation or Thesis: Text

Suggested numbering: Begin page number at 1

  • Text (required)
  • Appendix/Appendices (optional)
  • Bibliography, References, or Works Cited (required)

Please note that smaller font size may be appropriate for footnotes or other material outside of the main text. The following suggestions are based on best practice or historic precedent, but are not required.

  • Chapter headings may be included that conform to the standard of your academic field.
  • Textual notes that provide supplementary information, opinions, explanations, or suggestions that are not part of the text must appear at the bottom of the page as footnotes. Lengthy footnotes may be continued on the next page. Placement of footnotes at the bottom of the page ensures they will appear as close as possible to the referenced passage.

Appendix (or Appendices)

An appendix (-ces) is not required for your thesis or dissertation. If you choose to include one, the following suggestions are based on best practice or historic precedent.

  • As a page heading, use “APPENDIX” in all capital letters, centered on the page.
  • Place in an appendix any material that is peripheral, but relevant, to the main text of the dissertation or thesis. Examples could include survey instruments, additional data, computer printouts, details of a procedure or analysis, a relevant paper that you wrote, etc.
  • The appendix may include text that does not meet the general font and spacing requirements of the other sections of the dissertation or thesis.

Bibliography (or References or Works Cited)

A bibliography, references, or works cited is required for your thesis or dissertation. Please conform to the standards of leading academic journals in your field.

  • As a page heading, use “BIBLIOGRAPHY” (or “REFERENCES” or “WORKS CITED”) in all capital letters, centered on the page. The bibliography should always begin on a new page.
  • Bibliographies may be single-spaced within each entry but should include 24 points of space between entries.

Suggested numbering: Continue page numbering from body

If you choose to include a glossary, best practices and historic precedent suggest using a page heading, use “GLOSSARY” in all capital letters, centered on the page.

Suggested numbering: Continue page numbering from glossary

If you choose to include one, best practices and historic precedent suggest using a page heading, use “INDEX” in all capital letters, centered on the page.

Font Samples

Sample macintosh fonts.

  • Palatino 12
  • Garamond 14
  • New Century School Book
  • Helvetica 12 or Helvetica 14
  • Times New Roman 12
  • Times 14 (Times 12 is not acceptable)
  • Symbol 12 is acceptable for symbols

Sample TeX and LaTeX Fonts

  • CMR 12 font
  • Any font that meets the above specifications

Sample PC Fonts

  • Helvetica 12

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How long was your Master's thesis?

I'm currently busy with my MA in English Studies, and I am running out of steam. I've got 30,000 words, and I feel like I've said everything I want to say...

Edit: Thanks for all the replies! I can say that I've learned that every University is radially different in what they expect... For those of you wondering, my thesis technically has to be 40,000 to 50,000 words. Has anyone here failed to meet their word requirement without it being a big deal?

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  • Dissertation

How to Write a Thesis or Dissertation Conclusion

Published on September 6, 2022 by Tegan George and Shona McCombes. Revised on November 20, 2023.

The conclusion is the very last part of your thesis or dissertation . It should be concise and engaging, leaving your reader with a clear understanding of your main findings, as well as the answer to your research question .

In it, you should:

  • Clearly state the answer to your main research question
  • Summarize and reflect on your research process
  • Make recommendations for future work on your thesis or dissertation topic
  • Show what new knowledge you have contributed to your field
  • Wrap up your thesis or dissertation

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Table of contents

Discussion vs. conclusion, how long should your conclusion be, step 1: answer your research question, step 2: summarize and reflect on your research, step 3: make future recommendations, step 4: emphasize your contributions to your field, step 5: wrap up your thesis or dissertation, full conclusion example, conclusion checklist, other interesting articles, frequently asked questions about conclusion sections.

While your conclusion contains similar elements to your discussion section , they are not the same thing.

Your conclusion should be shorter and more general than your discussion. Instead of repeating literature from your literature review , discussing specific research results , or interpreting your data in detail, concentrate on making broad statements that sum up the most important insights of your research.

As a rule of thumb, your conclusion should not introduce new data, interpretations, or arguments.

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how long should a master's thesis paper be

Depending on whether you are writing a thesis or dissertation, your length will vary. Generally, a conclusion should make up around 5–7% of your overall word count.

An empirical scientific study will often have a short conclusion, concisely stating the main findings and recommendations for future research. A humanities dissertation topic or systematic review , on the other hand, might require more space to conclude its analysis, tying all the previous sections together in an overall argument.

Your conclusion should begin with the main question that your thesis or dissertation aimed to address. This is your final chance to show that you’ve done what you set out to do, so make sure to formulate a clear, concise answer.

  • Don’t repeat a list of all the results that you already discussed
  • Do synthesize them into a final takeaway that the reader will remember.

An empirical thesis or dissertation conclusion may begin like this:

A case study –based thesis or dissertation conclusion may begin like this:

In the second example, the research aim is not directly restated, but rather added implicitly to the statement. To avoid repeating yourself, it is helpful to reformulate your aims and questions into an overall statement of what you did and how you did it.

Your conclusion is an opportunity to remind your reader why you took the approach you did, what you expected to find, and how well the results matched your expectations.

To avoid repetition , consider writing more reflectively here, rather than just writing a summary of each preceding section. Consider mentioning the effectiveness of your methodology , or perhaps any new questions or unexpected insights that arose in the process.

You can also mention any limitations of your research, but only if you haven’t already included these in the discussion. Don’t dwell on them at length, though—focus on the positives of your work.

  • While x limits the generalizability of the results, this approach provides new insight into y .
  • This research clearly illustrates x , but it also raises the question of y .

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You may already have made a few recommendations for future research in your discussion section, but the conclusion is a good place to elaborate and look ahead, considering the implications of your findings in both theoretical and practical terms.

  • Based on these conclusions, practitioners should consider …
  • To better understand the implications of these results, future studies could address …
  • Further research is needed to determine the causes of/effects of/relationship between …

When making recommendations for further research, be sure not to undermine your own work. Relatedly, while future studies might confirm, build on, or enrich your conclusions, they shouldn’t be required for your argument to feel complete. Your work should stand alone on its own merits.

Just as you should avoid too much self-criticism, you should also avoid exaggerating the applicability of your research. If you’re making recommendations for policy, business, or other practical implementations, it’s generally best to frame them as “shoulds” rather than “musts.” All in all, the purpose of academic research is to inform, explain, and explore—not to demand.

Make sure your reader is left with a strong impression of what your research has contributed to the state of your field.

Some strategies to achieve this include:

  • Returning to your problem statement to explain how your research helps solve the problem
  • Referring back to the literature review and showing how you have addressed a gap in knowledge
  • Discussing how your findings confirm or challenge an existing theory or assumption

Again, avoid simply repeating what you’ve already covered in the discussion in your conclusion. Instead, pick out the most important points and sum them up succinctly, situating your project in a broader context.

The end is near! Once you’ve finished writing your conclusion, it’s time to wrap up your thesis or dissertation with a few final steps:

  • It’s a good idea to write your abstract next, while the research is still fresh in your mind.
  • Next, make sure your reference list is complete and correctly formatted. To speed up the process, you can use our free APA citation generator .
  • Once you’ve added any appendices , you can create a table of contents and title page .
  • Finally, read through the whole document again to make sure your thesis is clearly written and free from language errors. You can proofread it yourself , ask a friend, or consider Scribbr’s proofreading and editing service .

Here is an example of how you can write your conclusion section. Notice how it includes everything mentioned above:

V. Conclusion

The current research aimed to identify acoustic speech characteristics which mark the beginning of an exacerbation in COPD patients.

The central questions for this research were as follows: 1. Which acoustic measures extracted from read speech differ between COPD speakers in stable condition and healthy speakers? 2. In what ways does the speech of COPD patients during an exacerbation differ from speech of COPD patients during stable periods?

All recordings were aligned using a script. Subsequently, they were manually annotated to indicate respiratory actions such as inhaling and exhaling. The recordings of 9 stable COPD patients reading aloud were then compared with the recordings of 5 healthy control subjects reading aloud. The results showed a significant effect of condition on the number of in- and exhalations per syllable, the number of non-linguistic in- and exhalations per syllable, and the ratio of voiced and silence intervals. The number of in- and exhalations per syllable and the number of non-linguistic in- and exhalations per syllable were higher for COPD patients than for healthy controls, which confirmed both hypotheses.

However, the higher ratio of voiced and silence intervals for COPD patients compared to healthy controls was not in line with the hypotheses. This unpredicted result might have been caused by the different reading materials or recording procedures for both groups, or by a difference in reading skills. Moreover, there was a trend regarding the effect of condition on the number of syllables per breath group. The number of syllables per breath group was higher for healthy controls than for COPD patients, which was in line with the hypothesis. There was no effect of condition on pitch, intensity, center of gravity, pitch variability, speaking rate, or articulation rate.

This research has shown that the speech of COPD patients in exacerbation differs from the speech of COPD patients in stable condition. This might have potential for the detection of exacerbations. However, sustained vowels rarely occur in spontaneous speech. Therefore, the last two outcome measures might have greater potential for the detection of beginning exacerbations, but further research on the different outcome measures and their potential for the detection of exacerbations is needed due to the limitations of the current study.

Checklist: Conclusion

I have clearly and concisely answered the main research question .

I have summarized my overall argument or key takeaways.

I have mentioned any important limitations of the research.

I have given relevant recommendations .

I have clearly explained what my research has contributed to my field.

I have  not introduced any new data or arguments.

You've written a great conclusion! Use the other checklists to further improve your dissertation.

If you want to know more about AI for academic writing, AI tools, or research bias, make sure to check out some of our other articles with explanations and examples or go directly to our tools!

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In a thesis or dissertation, the discussion is an in-depth exploration of the results, going into detail about the meaning of your findings and citing relevant sources to put them in context.

The conclusion is more shorter and more general: it concisely answers your main research question and makes recommendations based on your overall findings.

While it may be tempting to present new arguments or evidence in your thesis or disseration conclusion , especially if you have a particularly striking argument you’d like to finish your analysis with, you shouldn’t. Theses and dissertations follow a more formal structure than this.

All your findings and arguments should be presented in the body of the text (more specifically in the discussion section and results section .) The conclusion is meant to summarize and reflect on the evidence and arguments you have already presented, not introduce new ones.

For a stronger dissertation conclusion , avoid including:

  • Important evidence or analysis that wasn’t mentioned in the discussion section and results section
  • Generic concluding phrases (e.g. “In conclusion …”)
  • Weak statements that undermine your argument (e.g., “There are good points on both sides of this issue.”)

Your conclusion should leave the reader with a strong, decisive impression of your work.

The conclusion of your thesis or dissertation shouldn’t take up more than 5–7% of your overall word count.

The conclusion of your thesis or dissertation should include the following:

  • A restatement of your research question
  • A summary of your key arguments and/or results
  • A short discussion of the implications of your research

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Stanford Online

How long does it take to earn a master’s degree.

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A master’s degree can equip you with comprehensive knowledge in a subject, paving the way to enhanced job prospects and earning potential.

But pursuing a master’s degree can also be a substantial investment of time and resources, typically consuming 1-2 years of full-time or 3-5 years of part-time study. Is the investment worth the benefits, and which type of program is the best fit for you?

We will cover the five biggest factors that can influence the time it will take you to complete a graduate degree, so you can make an informed decision about which path best fits your situation.

1. Program Curriculum

Universities typically use credit hours to gauge the workload of a course, based on weekly class attendance and homework assignments. Master's programs often require 30 to 60 credit hours, but that number can vary. Every course awards between 1 and 5 credits each, with most courses being between 3 and 5 credits. Check your institution’s program for further information.

At Stanford, the number of units required to earn a master’s degree is usually 45, but may vary depending on the degree that you are pursuing .

Within any program’s curriculum, you should expect some courses to be more challenging and time-consuming than others. To help you determine the intensity of each course so that you can plan your studies, most graduate courses offered through Stanford Online have a suggested “Time to Complete” on each course page, based on prior student’s reporting. As a rule of thumb, the higher number of credits a course is worth, the higher the amount of effort and time required to complete it.

2. Final Project or Thesis Requirements 

Certain master's programs necessitate a final project, such as a thesis, internship, or capstone project. Research-focused fields, including mathematics or psychology, often require a master's thesis involving extensive independent research. For these, there may be minimum and maximum time for completion. Look to find the exact time frames in your institution's program information. 

3. Part-Time Versus Full-Time Enrollment 

Your choice between full-time and part-time enrollment impacts the duration of time spent to earn your degree. As a full-time student with a standard course load, you can finish faster, typically around nine credit hours per semester. However, balancing full-time study with work and family commitments can be challenging. Part-time enrollment allows for a more balanced lifestyle but extends your time to complete the program.

Stanford has master’s degree programs that allow you to change status from full-time to part-time while progressing through your degree, allowing you to adapt based on changes in other areas of your life.

The flexibility was one of the main reasons, an important factor for wanting to come and do this program. - Jeff Hanson

4. Online, In-Person, and Hybrid Graduate Programs

Thanks to technology, if you are looking to expand your skills you can choose between three different formats when selecting a program.

Online master's programs can offer you access to the same curriculum as on-campus courses, providing the freedom to study at top universities without relocating. Many students tell us that the option to enroll in courses online was the difference between them being able to pursue the degree and not. In addition, the flexibility of online programs also allows you to set your own pace, meaning students can potentially handle a heavier course load and complete their degree in less time. Many of Stanford’s online students love being able to stream lectures on their own schedule, and that having the option to watch and rewatch content greatly increases their understanding of the content .

The best part of the program was the convenience. I never would have been able to finish if it wasn't for the online option. - Nancy Cheng

In-person courses often allow you more opportunities for networking and you might have a preference to be physically present in the classroom for lectures. Living on or near your university’s campus allows you to more fully experience all that the school has to offer. Many institutions offer in-person education for both full-time or part-time programs. Depending on where your institution is located, and if you continue to work while pursuing your degree, you might need to factor in additional housing and commuting costs to your overall budget.

Hybrid or mixed programs allow you the option to attend courses on campus or online. This might be the best of both worlds and afford you the flexibility to adapt to your personal and professional schedule while pursuing your education.

Accelerated, Stackable, and Dual-Degree Programs

Different degree formats can also shorten or lengthen the time commitment to complete your degree. Here are three common types you should be aware of:

Accelerated

Accelerated master's programs, often referred to as co-term, five-year, or four-plus-one programs, allow you to pursue both a bachelor's and a master's degree in a shorter period than these degrees would typically require. Because these programs are completed in a shortened schedule, they are often more difficult to complete, and may also require additional eligibility criteria.

Stackable education programs allow you to obtain multiple credentials by “stacking” them to earn another type of credential, e.g.,earning a certificate from which the credits can contribute to a master’s degree. Stanford allows for up to 18 units to transfer from graduate certificates to applicable master’s degrees. This is a great option if you want to explore taking courses before committing to pursuing a full master’s degree.

A newer option within education is stacking micro certificates into graduate certificates. If you want to obtain more credentials throughout your education, look for institutions that offer stackable credential paths.

Dual-Degree

Dual-degree programs combine either two graduate programs or a graduate and a doctoral degree. They require more time than a single master's degree but less time than pursuing two degrees independently. Examples include combining a law degree with an MBA, or a master of public health with a doctor of pharmacy. Not every institution offers this style of program.

Is a Master’s Degree Worth the Time?

Every master's degree, whether it's a one-year commitment or a five-year journey, demands a significant investment of time and often expense. Before determining if such a pursuit is “worth it,” you should ask yourself four questions:

1. Does earning a master’s degree match my educational or career goals?

Determine if earning a graduate degree aligns with your future goals and plans. In certain fields, a master's degree is a prerequisite for entry-level positions. In other professions it's not mandatory, but having a master's can still substantially enhance your qualifications for career advancement and your earning potential. According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics (2022) , median weekly earnings for master's degree holders were $1,661, compared to $1,432 for those with a bachelor’s degree and $853 for those with only a high school diploma.

2. Can I afford a graduate education?

The cost of a master’s degree varies significantly from university to university and even program to program within a university, so it’s important to understand the full costs. Establish the budget you have available to pursue graduate school. While you are in the process of comparing graduate programs , compare the costs alongside other factors.

The average cost of a master’s degree at Stanford may vary based on the program you are pursuing.

If you’re a working professional contemplating a master's degree, you might find that your employer has sponsorship or reimbursement options available. Many companies recognize the value of highly skilled employees and provide tuition assistance, so be sure to seek out the resources your organization has available and meet with your manager or HR department to discuss further.

3. What will my experience in graduate school be like?

Your experience getting your master’s degree will depend on the course material as well as the overall character of the experience. To get a better sense, some institutions allow you to take individual courses before committing fully to a program. This provides a great opportunity to understand the curriculum, format, and workload.

Stanford offers students the opportunity to enroll in individual graduate courses without being officially admitted to a program. You can transfer up to 18 units to an applicable master’s degree (pending department approval). Many students start graduate school this way so they can get a better sense of the time and energy they need to invest and plan accordingly.In addition, Stanford offers some freely available graduate lectures that give you a great sense of the teaching team and content covered.

To get a sense of the second, seek out stories from students who have completed the program or that are currently enrolled. These can be helpful in determining if a program is the right fit for you. Ask your coworkers, friends, and family about their higher education experiences and connect with folks who can answer questions about institutions or programs you are considering.

4. Can I make the time for both work and school? 

Balancing the large time commitments of both work and school is no easy feat. It takes hard work, steadfast dedication, and intrinsic motivation. The possibility of reaching their personal goals is what pushes most or our students over the finish line.

While combining work and school is challenging, it can also be deeply rewarding. Many students find it benefits both because they can learn new concepts at school and then quickly apply them at work, building skills and refining their understanding simultaneously. If you are struggling to decide if managing both work and school is the best path for you, we recommend starting by applying and enrolling in an individual graduate course to gauge the rigor and help to plan how the rest of your studies could work.

When you are taking classes while you work, you apply the information immediately. You learn something in class and you relate it to what you're doing in the office. You're constantly drawing the connections. - Brett Ong

If you determine that you want to pursue a master’s degree but you feel that you cannot fit work in simultaneously, it might make the most sense to attend school full-time.

Alternatives to Graduate School

While pursuing a master's degree can enhance your career in many fields, the commitment of time, money and energy involved means it is certainly not the right path for everyone.. There are also alternative education options with a more manageable time commitment, including:

  • Individual courses might provide you with the specific skills needed for advancement. Whether it's data science, engineering, artificial intelligence, or another area, single courses can offer opportunities to learn from top experts. Time to complete can range from just a few hours to a few weeks or months. You can find individual courses in a very wide range of levels from free introductions to graduate level courses .
  • Certificates offer targeted training for specific careers. They can range from programs requiring no prior experience to building on existing skills for career advancement to industry-recognized certifications.
  • Professional certificates are often highly flexible and feature instruction for students to complete anywhere, at any time. These programs will often weave a comprehensive and engaging self-paced educational experience with live educational elements. Completion timelines for these certificates are typically measured in months rather than years.
  • Graduate certificates are a great option if you still see a master’s degree on your horizon but aren’t ready to pursue one now. They allow you to experience graduate courses alongside other graduate students, but are much more flexible and don’t require you to be continuously enrolled. They usually require only 3-4 courses and, therefore, can be completed faster and for a smaller investment than a master’s degree.
  • Short programs or events offer deep dives into specific subjects in a short timeframe, providing practical insights and experiential learning. Students are expected to dedicate lots of time to the course within a short period. These programs are not always offered on a regular basis, the way courses and certificates are, but become available based on demand or when there are rapid advancements in a particular field.

From this guide, you should have a better sense of how long it takes to earn a master’s degree and the variables that affect those timelines. Equipped with this knowledge, you can make thoughtful choices about your own education path. Please get in touch with our team if you have questions about a course or program offered through Stanford Online.

We wish you the best of luck in your future studies!

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IMAGES

  1. How Long is a Masters Thesis? [Your writing guide]

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  2. How Long Should a Master's Thesis Be? A Comprehensive Guide for

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  3. Master's Thesis Length: How Long Should A Master's Thesis Be?

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  4. What Is a Master's Thesis & How to Write It: Best Tips

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  6. How to Write a Master's Thesis (with Pictures)

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COMMENTS

  1. How Long is a Masters Thesis? [Your writing guide]

    The average masters thesis is typically between 50 and 100 pages long. The length of the thesis will vary depending on the discipline and the university requirements but will typically be around 25,000 to 50,000 words in length. My Masters thesis in theoretical computational chemistry was 60 pages long. It was quite short for a master's ...

  2. Master's Thesis Length: How Long Should A Master's Thesis Be?

    This is the largest part of a thesis containing a series of chapters. The chapters should flow logically and build your arguments from one chapter to the next. The length of the discussion is based on the total length of the thesis. So, for a thesis of about 20,000 words, the discussion section may be 15,000 words. 10.

  3. What Is a Thesis?

    Revised on April 16, 2024. A thesis is a type of research paper based on your original research. It is usually submitted as the final step of a master's program or a capstone to a bachelor's degree. Writing a thesis can be a daunting experience. Other than a dissertation, it is one of the longest pieces of writing students typically complete.

  4. Developing A Thesis

    A good thesis has two parts. It should tell what you plan to argue, and it should "telegraph" how you plan to argue—that is, what particular support for your claim is going where in your essay. Steps in Constructing a Thesis. First, analyze your primary sources. Look for tension, interest, ambiguity, controversy, and/or complication.

  5. The Ultimate Guide on How to Write a Master's Thesis

    A thesis could consist of an average of 70 to 100 pages, including a bibliography, citations, and various sections. It is written under the guidance of a faculty advisor and should be publishable as an article. Your master's thesis reflects the literature in your field, challenges, evidence, and arguments around your writing topics.

  6. Thesis

    Thesis. Your thesis is the central claim in your essay—your main insight or idea about your source or topic. Your thesis should appear early in an academic essay, followed by a logically constructed argument that supports this central claim. A strong thesis is arguable, which means a thoughtful reader could disagree with it and therefore ...

  7. How to Write a Master's Thesis: A Guide to Planning Your Thesis

    Part 6: Polish and Defend Your Master's Thesis How to Write a Master's Thesis: The Final Stages. After your work is done and everything is written down, you will have to give your thesis a good, thorough polishing. This is where you will have to organize the information, draft it into a paper format with an abstract, and abbreviate things to ...

  8. Guide to Writing Your Thesis/Dissertation : Graduate School

    The Graduate School does not monitor the thesis or dissertation for mechanics, content, or style. "Papers Option" Dissertation or Thesis. A "papers option" is available only to students in certain fields, which are listed on the Fields Permitting the Use of Papers Option page, or by approved petition. If you choose the papers option ...

  9. How long is a dissertation?

    An undergraduate dissertation is typically 8,000-15,000 words. A master's dissertation is typically 12,000-50,000 words. A PhD thesis is typically book-length: 70,000-100,000 words. However, none of these are strict guidelines - your word count may be lower or higher than the numbers stated here. Always check the guidelines provided ...

  10. How to Write a Dissertation or Masters Thesis

    Writing a masters dissertation or thesis is a sizable task. It takes a considerable amount of research, studying and writing. Usually, students need to write around 10,000 to 15,000 words. It is completely normal to find the idea of writing a masters thesis or dissertation slightly daunting, even for students who have written one before at ...

  11. Researching and Writing a Masters Dissertation

    It can be helpful to think of your Masters dissertation as a series of closely interlinked essays, rather than one overwhelming paper. The size of this section will depend on the overall word count for your dissertation. However, to give you a rough idea for a 15,000-word dissertation, the discussion part will generally be about 12,000 words long.

  12. PDF What is a Master's Thesis?

    How Long Should it Be? How Long Does it Take? A master's thesis is generally 40-80 pages, not including the bibliography. However, the length will vary according to the topic and the method of analysis, so the appropriate length will be determined by you and your committee. Students who write a master's thesis generally do so over two ...

  13. How to Write a Master's Thesis (with Pictures)

    1. Complete a literature review. Review the literature and research currently available that is relevant to your Master's thesis. This review of the literature must be exhaustive to ensure that your Master's thesis will be important and not be redundant. It is important that your thesis idea be original and relevant.

  14. How to Write a Thesis: A Guide for Master's Students

    Typically, these students must write a thesis statement that consists of at least one compelling sentence and at least 50 pages of content, then turn it in within 16 weeks. I have taught graduate students, primarily from the U.S. Intelligence Community, how to conduct research for over eight years.

  15. How to Write a Thesis or Dissertation Introduction

    Overview of the structure. To help guide your reader, end your introduction with an outline of the structure of the thesis or dissertation to follow. Share a brief summary of each chapter, clearly showing how each contributes to your central aims. However, be careful to keep this overview concise: 1-2 sentences should be enough.

  16. How long does it take to write a dissertation?

    This includes formulating an idea, doing the research, and writing up. A PhD thesis takes a longer time, as the thesis is the main focus of the degree. A PhD thesis might be being formulated and worked on for the whole four years of the degree program. The writing process alone can take around 18 months.

  17. Why does a masters thesis need to be 50+ pages? Especially if the same

    However, an MSc thesis is typically 50-100 pages long. A paper is (in a dense journal format) typically 8-12 pages long. Let's make a generous estimate for 20 pages in the thesis layout. So either your thesis is very thin, or the journal is very generous, both of which seems unlikely. I'm currently finishing my master thesis.

  18. Is it possible to write a masters thesis in 10 days?

    I suggest setting targets that allow you to finish writing in eight days, not 10. This gives you some padding in case life gets in the way. To be clear, there are 192 hours in eight days. Allowing for a 12-hour work day, then you need to write 15,000 words in 96 hours or about 156 words an hour. Set a target of 400 words an hour.

  19. Required Sections, Guidelines, and Suggestions : Graduate School

    Line 1: A Dissertation [or Thesis] Line 2: Presented to the Faculty of the Graduate School. Line 3: of Cornell University. Line 4: in Partial Fulfillment of the Requirements for the Degree of. Line 5: Doctor of Philosophy [or other appropriate degree] Center the following three lines within the margins: Line 1: by.

  20. How to Write a Thesis Statement

    Step 2: Write your initial answer. After some initial research, you can formulate a tentative answer to this question. At this stage it can be simple, and it should guide the research process and writing process. The internet has had more of a positive than a negative effect on education.

  21. PDF A PROPOSAL FOR A MASTER'S THESIS

    A Thesis Proposal is a document that sets forth what is to be studied as a thesis project, why and in what way. It contains a number of important sections. The purpose of the proposal is to communicate the plan for the work to the faculty of the Division of Emerging Media Studies via the First Reader (principal thesis advisor) and a Second Reader.

  22. How long was your Master's thesis? : r/AskAcademia

    36-37 pages, double-spaced, not including bibliography. In other words, somewhere in the 8000 word count. Most other people in my department said they came up to only 20-30 pages of actual main text (so, not including the 80 pages of appendices that many of them have). I didn't even do appendices.

  23. Welcome to the Purdue Online Writing Lab

    The Online Writing Lab (the Purdue OWL) at Purdue University houses writing resources and instructional material, and we provide these as a free service at Purdue.

  24. How to Write a Thesis or Dissertation Conclusion

    Step 1: Answer your research question. Step 2: Summarize and reflect on your research. Step 3: Make future recommendations. Step 4: Emphasize your contributions to your field. Step 5: Wrap up your thesis or dissertation. Full conclusion example. Conclusion checklist. Other interesting articles.

  25. How Long Does it Take to Earn a Master's Degree?

    2. Final Project or Thesis Requirements . Certain master's programs necessitate a final project, such as a thesis, internship, or capstone project. Research-focused fields, including mathematics or psychology, often require a master's thesis involving extensive independent research. For these, there may be minimum and maximum time for completion.

  26. How Long Does a Master's Degree Take?

    A master's is a graduate degree that typically takes 18 months to two years of full-time study to earn, but several factors can increase or decrease that timeline. With a master's degree, you can open doors to new job prospects and increased earning potential thanks to the specific subject knowledge you'll study and the higher-level coursework you'll take.