John Stackhouse reports:
"Here is what writing a master’s thesis won’t get you: a gasp of admiration from a PhD admissions committee. It doesn’t matter how long a thesis you write or how brilliant you think it is. It frankly won’t even be seen by (busy) admissions committees, who certainly don’t want applicants mailing a hundred-plus pages of text as part of their applications...[M]any programs, including those at elite schools, don’t expect theses from their own master’s students or even have a thesis track for their master’s degrees...So why go to the considerable trouble of a master’s thesis? Here’s why. There is nothing short of tackling a doctoral dissertation or writing an actual book to acquaint you with what it means to conduct frontline academic research and to write a complex academic report on it. If you want a 'discernment exercise' to know whether an academic career is for you, try a master’s thesis. If it goes well, then you’re a good candidate for everything the PhD and the professoriate can throw at you. If it doesn’t, now you know: Get out and get going on something else for which you are more suited and in which you’ll be much happier!...There is a kind of 'quantum break' between papers and the master’s thesis that sorts out who is suited for an academic career and who isn’t. It’s like the break between single-celled and multi-celled organisms. Once you’ve crossed that gap successfully, a dissertation or a book is just a bigger version of something you have already done. And until you have crossed that gap, you don’t really know how you’ll do in the Big Time...[Y]ou’ll never, ever be able to pay an expert to take pains over your text once you’ve graduated. So if you can, take advantage of the opportunity the master’s thesis gives you...Finally, once you’ve completed a master’s thesis successfully, it’s just not that big a deal to write the doctoral dissertation...I strongly urge students who have PhDs and academic careers in view to write a master’s thesis...If you wait until your thesis is done before you apply, your examiners can then sing your praises on the basis of that finished thesis. But I wouldn’t delay applying with that possibility in view unless you really need your thesis to wow these examiners when your previous coursework hasn’t."
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