Yesterday I attended a thesis proposal meeting. Congratulations to Abel Lopez, Jr. for successfully presenting his proposal and moving on to the data collection stage of his research!
The Reading M.Ed. program added a thesis option a couple of years ago and we now have three students somewhere in the thesis process. Our goal is to get more students completing a thesis and to build a research community within our graduate program. So…what is a thesis and why do we care about it?
A thesis is an independent research project that a master’s degree student plans and completes under the guidance of their professors. Thesis hours replace two courses in the degree plan. A thesis usually takes a year and a half to two years to complete and will end up being anywhere from 90-150 pages long.
Because we don’t yet have a history and expectation of thesis work within our master’s degree program, students sometimes find the idea of a thesis rather frightening. It sounds like a lot of work. Ok, it is a lot of work. But for many students it’s worth it! Why?
The most important reason is that doing a thesis allows a student to explore a burning question in ways that they just can’t during regular coursework. For example, if you are wildly interested in how daily shared reading experiences can help your English Language Learners become better readers, you will probably get a few reading assignments and class experiences on the topic during your program. A thesis, on the other hand, allows you to really go in depth on the subject through designing and completing your own research project.
A thesis also allows you freedom as a student. While you are working under the guidance of a committee of professors, ultimately you alone are responsible for the success of your thesis project. Many people relish the chance to take over their own learning.
Another important reason is that an excellent thesis will add to the research knowledge that the local educational community has access to. There’s a huge gap in what we know about the local educational community—your work on a thesis can help fill that gap.
Finally, doing a thesis is excellent research practice if you intend to enter a doctoral program. It gives you experience in every aspect of research. All doctoral programs will be glad to see a completed thesis on your application—and some doctoral programs will be hesitant to accept you without it.
So, yes, a thesis is a big project but there are excellent reasons for doing one. And remember, in the Reading M.Ed. program you have professors who will support you through each step of the process.