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Theses and Major Research Projects

Thesis Versus Project

One distinction between a thesis and a project is that a project is equivalent to three one-term graduate courses in terms of time and level of difficulty, while a thesis is the equivalent of five such courses.

Normally, the project will be 40-60 pages in length (following the guidelines for preparing manuscripts) while a thesis will be 80-100 pages. These are guidelines only and variations will occur due to subject matter and content.

In each case, the work will be original, meaning it is written in the student’s own words. In general, it is not expected that publishable results will be generated in either work. In each case, a clear understanding of the problem, background work and the arguments, theories, proofs and any application methods must be evident.

The biggest difference between a project and a thesis is evidence of synthesis in the thesis. Synthesis is the development of connections between different parts, leading to a clearer understanding of the whole. In a project, organization and exposition are key. A thesis includes the student’s own contribution to understanding and analysis of a significant problem.

Evidence of synthesis may include:

  • A unifying theory for individual results;
  • New (and simpler) proofs of known theorems;
  • Applications of results to new problems;
  • Extension of known results to a wider class of objects. This may also be demonstrated by taking applications from one discipline, recognizing the underlying principles are the same in a second, different discipline, and then using the methodology in that second discipline.

Timelines

Timelines given below are for fall admission. If you enter the program in January, timelines will be shifted accordingly.

The following is a suggested timeline to ensure completion of the thesis. Individual timelines can be negotiated with advisors, in consultation with the graduate officer.

The assumption is that an advisor has been selected by the end of September. Throughout the year (September to August), the student and the advisor should meet at least once every two weeks, or by mutual consent. In addition, the following milestones should be met on or before the following dates:

Nov. 1 – Thesis Advisory Committee and student meet.

Dec. 15 – Research proposal submitted to the thesis advisory committee.

End of first full week of Winter Term – Research proposal is defended to the committee.

May 1 – Progress report is submitted to the thesis advisory committee.

Aug. 1 – Thesis is essentially complete and ready for defence.

Aug. 15 – Thesis is defended.

Aug. 31 – Corrections as needed are completed; thesis and other materials are submitted to Graduate and Postdoctoral Studies.

A simple record of meetings with the thesis advisory committee and with the advisor is kept. This includes any special recommendations or issues that have arisen.

The following is a suggested timeline to ensure completion of the major research project. Individual timelines can be negotiated with supervisors, in consultation with the graduate officer.

The assumption is that a supervisor has been selected by the end of September. Throughout the year (September to August), the student and the supervisor should meet at least once a month in the fall and winter terms and at least once every second week in the spring term. In addition, the following milestones should be met on or before the following dates:

Nov. 1 – Committee and student meet

Apr. 15 – Research proposal submitted to the committee

May 1 – The committee meets with the student and discusses the proposal and the research plan for the Spring term

Aug. 1 – Major research project is essentially complete and ready for evaluation

Aug. 15 – Major research project is presented at a department seminar and is then evaluated by the MRP supervisory committee.

Aug. 31 – Corrections as needed are completed and the final version of the project and other materials are submitted to the department.

A simple record of meetings with the committee and with the advisor is kept. This includes any special recommendations or issues that have arisen.

Requirements

The thesis is a major requirement or an option in many master’s programs and when completed it marks the culmination of a candidate’s program. The master’s thesis must demonstrate the candidate’s capacity for independent work and must be single-authored. It should demonstrate a scholarly approach to the subject matter and a clear understanding of how the work fits with the relevant practice and/or literature of the discipline concerned.

The thesis must be defended in an oral examination, which is a departmental examination. The candidate must be registered for the term in which the defence takes place.

For more information, see  Regulations and Procedures Governing the Master's Thesis in the graduate academic calendar.

General Objectives

Students registered in MA695 must complete a project based upon research in some topic within the scope of the Laurier MSc in Mathematics program.

Supervisor

The student will be assigned a supervisor by or in consultation with the graduate coordinator.

Procedures

  1. The student will select a project in consultation with the supervisor. The project selected must have the consent of the supervisor, who will have the responsibility of guiding the student throughout the project (for example, through regular meetings with the student).
  2. The student must complete a research paper on the topic chosen.
  3. The student and supervisor together must agree on the organization of the paper. Normally the paper will have an introduction, conclusion, and references. The research paper should be written in such a way to be understandable to a general mathematical audience. While there is no expectation that original work will be included in the paper, it may be included where appropriate.
  4. The project will be evaluated by an examination committee selected by the graduate coordinator in consultation with the supervisor, which will normally consist of three faculty including the supervisor. Normally, one member of the examination committee is external to the department. The student will present the project in a department seminar. The examination committee’s responsibility is to evaluate the project on the basis of both the oral and written presentations.

Committees

Composition of Thesis Advisory Committee (TAC)

The Department of Mathematics appoints an advisory committee for each candidate, consisting of advisor and one to three additional members, chosen in consultation with the advisor. At least one of the other members of the TAC will be from Mathematics. Normally there are two or three members on a TAC. All members may come from the department, but need not do so. The advisor and committee members must be members of the graduate faculty at Laurier.

Should it be deemed desirable to invite a member of the graduate faculty of another university (or another qualified individual) to act as a member of the thesis advisory committee, this person should function as an additional member of the committee so that no committee would consist of fewer than three members of the graduate faculty at Laurier. Such an appointment may only be made by the dean of Graduate and Postdoctoral Studies upon receipt of a written recommendation from the department.

The dean of Graduate and Postdoctoral Studies shall be informed of the appointed thesis advisory committee membership as soon as the candidate's thesis topic is approved. Any change to the advisory committee composition must be made in writing to the Graduate and Postdoctoral Studies office.

Composition of Thesis Examination Committee (TEC)

The composition of the thesis examination committee (TEC) is governed by the regulations of the Faculty of Graduate and Postdoctoral Studies. See the graduate academic calendar for details.

Major Research Project (MRP) Supervisory Committee

The supervisory committee consists of the supervisor and, normally, one other Mathematics Department graduate faculty member. This committee acts as both the MRP supervisory committee and the MRP evaluation committee.

Research Proposal

For students who enter the program in the fall term, a research proposal must be written by the student and submitted to the thesis advisory committee. The proposal will normally be presented by Dec. 15 (Apr. 15 for MRPs) and no later than the end of the first week of classes of the winter term (the spring term for MRPs).

The proposal should comprise a body of five to seven pages, including references, tables, figures, details of methodology, and any necessary appendices. An abstract is not required; however, a lay summary of the proposed research is to be included. In the body of the document, the student will outline the basic literature and rationale supporting the proposed research; indicate any facilities and resources needed; and a likely timeline for completion.

The following guidelines apply both to research proposals of both the thesis and the major research project.

Submitting the Thesis or Major Research Project

The Department of Mathematics recommends that the text be organized into the format of mathematical journal articles. The manuscript is to be typeset in LaTeX and printed in PDF format. The student must follow the following guidelines from the Office of Graduate and Postdoctoral Studies.

Thesis students should also see the graduate calendar for information on submitting approved master's theses.

Contact Us:

Zilin Wang, Graduate Coordinator

E: zwang@wlu.ca
T: 519.884.0710 x2870

Teresa Wendykier, Graduate Studies Assistant

E: mathdept@wlu.ca
T: 519.884.0710 x2304
Office Location: LH 3054A