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?
A master’s thesis has no mandatory length. It can be anywhere from 50 to 300 pages depending on factors such as departmental requirements, university guidelines, topic, and research methodology.
However, what is most important is that your thesis contains all the necessary information about the topic clearly and concisely. Your argument must also be well structured with relevant references, figures, and tables to support your claim.
In fact, the quality of your work should be prioritized above the length of your work.
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
Given the differences in the degree requirements between universities, Master’s theses do not follow the same structure. However, a typical master’s thesis follows these format:
- Title page
- Table of contents
- Chapter 1: Introduction
- Chapter 2: Literature review
- Chapter 3: Data collection
- Chapter 4: Analysis
- Chapter 5: Conclusion
- Reference list
- Statement of independent work
- Appendix (optional)
1. Title page
This is basically a page to tell your name, university, essay topic, and supervisor’s name.
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.
The abstract is a crucial part of your thesis. It is a one-page summary covering the questions you intend to answer, the data used, the methodology employed, and your findings.
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
It is a list of all the chapters and subsections contained in your work alongside the page number where each chapter begins.
Additionally, you need to provide a list of figures and tables with the page number to find them in the thesis.
The introduction is the first chapter of a thesis. It provides context for the rest of the paper, telling readers what the scope of your work is and what you aim to achieve.
It doesn’t have to be technical rather it should communicate why your topic is relevant. The introduction should also highlight other chapters of your work and touch down on at least one research question.
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.
However, not all theses require a section covering research methods. Arts and humanities students for instance do not undertake research that involves fixed methodologies.
Instead, they outline their theoretical perspectives and methods in their introductions without explaining their data collection and analysis methods in detail.
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.
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.
A thesis conclusion is where you tie up your arguments and evidence and summarize your discussions stating key points.
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
This is simply a list of all the sources you cited in your work.
12. Statement of Independent work
It is a declaration to confirm that your thesis was done independently by you. The declaration takes the format:
“I hereby confirm that this paper was written independently by me and did not use any sources other than citations and that all passages and ideas taken from other sources are cited accordingly”.
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
There is a lot that goes into writing a master’s thesis. Aside from the fact that this is a large project that cannot be rushed, there are some requirements that you must adhere to.
That said, the first thing you should consider is approaching your advisor for guidance on your work. Second, look at past publications to see their structure and study their content.
Additionally, when choosing a topic, it’s best to find a subject that interests you, then create an outline to direct your flow, and make sure to keep a list of references used in your work.
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?
Let’s say you write at least 1000 words daily in three weeks that would be around 20,000 words. But it will be really difficult to achieve. Plus, it would be hard to do quality work 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.
A master’s thesis can be any length depending on how long it takes to thoroughly discuss your topic. Basically, you should follow the guideline given by your institution and advisor.
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.