Illustration of a sprout. The master's thesis describes the goals of your research, the methodologies used to complete it, the results, and a synthesis and discussion of those results. The thesis format should follow the guidelines presented in the Graduate School publication The UAB Format Manual for Theses and Dissertations. The scope of your thesis should be sufficient to provide a significant contribution to the scientific community and be published in a refereed scientific journal. Your mentor and graduate supervising committee, with approval of the Graduate Program Director, will determine the scope of the research.

Writing the Thesis

Upon or near completion of the research project you should expeditiously analyze the results and present them in both a text and tabular/graphical format. You should then discuss the results in terms of their contribution to the body of knowledge of science and their relation to comparative or historical studies. In most cases you can adapt, with necessary changes, the background information and methodologies listed in your original research proposal.

You should discuss your progress frequently with your mentor. Be prepared: several drafts are usually required to fully develop your thesis topic.

Scientific-style writing embodies elements not generally taught in most English classes. The language must be plain, clear, and succinct; colloquial phrases should be avoided. Remember that scientists all over the world will potentially read your published manuscript and, for many of them, English will be a second language.

Give Yourself Enough Time

One of the most common mistakes made by students is underestimating the amount of time and effort required to write a good thesis. Careful synthesis requires significant time. On average a thesis will generally be written over a period of months. All students should have reasonable writing skills. However, by reading and emulating other science papers in your field and by working with your mentor, you can derive the skills necessary to write a science-based thesis. Your mentor will assist greatly in this learning process.

Thesis Defense

Once you and your mentor have drafted an acceptable thesis, it should then be forwarded to the supervising committee for further evaluation. The committee should be allowed ten days to two weeks to complete their evaluation. It will then determine if the thesis is defendable. A defendable thesis may not be perfect in terms of format, text, or data analysis, but should have sufficiently completed and accurate elements such that you can be allowed to present your thesis to the public. A public defense can then be scheduled.

In the public defense your will present your thesis in a logical format that allows science faculty and other students to understand the basic goals, results, and conclusions of your research. The public is invited to the seminar and is allowed to ask questions following the completion of your presentation (power point presentations are the current standard).

The supervising committee will be in attendance at the public presentation. Immediately following the public defense is the private defense. At this time members of the committee will ask you questions about your research and make final suggestions for the thesis. This entire process allows you to receive substantial input from the scientific community concerning the content, validity, and value of your scientific contribution.

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