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  1. #1
    mattbrent is offline Registered User
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    Thesis vs. Comprehensive Exam

    Hi all!

    I am about three weeks away from completing my MSEd with Walden University. After that I'm off to APU for an MA in Ancient & Classical History . That decision is clear. However, what is not clear is whether or not I should opt for the thesis option or the exam option.

    I'm weighing the pros and cons and am hoping you all can help. First, for those of you who have completed a thesis via DL, is it difficult? Do you have access to the appropriate resources? I'm worried that with an emphasis in Ancient History , I may not have access to the primary source material I might need to write an effective thesis. Of course, this is just an assumption, so I really don't know.

    I hope to go on for a PhD after finishing the MA. I'm looking at the University of Florida 's Department of Classics, as they have a PhD in Classical Civilization via DL. However, I know there are rumors that APU may offer PhD's in the future. Worst case scenario, I have also looked at moving to Newark, DE for the University of Delaware's PhD program. However, in considering my ultimate advancement towards a PhD, is there a significant difference in completing a thesis or exam at the MA level? Do thesis students get accepted more?

    I like the idea that a thesis would allow me to explore something on my own. But then again, I also like the idea of taking an exam and having an extra spot to take another course. Either way, it's still an MA, right? And theoretically, shouldn't one MA in History be equal to another MA in History ?

    What are your takes on this argument?

    Thanks,
    Matt
    BA in History - Christopher Newport University, May 2004
    MSEd (Curriculum, Instruction & Assessment) - Walden University, February 2008
    MAIS (History & Political Science) - WNMU, May 2011
    PhD in Leadership - The University of the Cumberlands, in progress

  2. #2
    Tireman 44444 is offline Registered User
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    I went for the thesis option. Helped me get into grad school for history . That is just me. You will hear some say that the thesis option gets you ready for the PhD. In my case, it did.

  3. #3
    mattbrent is offline Registered User
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    Quote Originally Posted by Tireman 44444 View Post
    I went for the thesis option. Helped me get into grad school for history. That is just me. You will hear some say that the thesis option gets you ready for the PhD. In my case, it did.
    Again, this is an assumption, but I would believe that having written a thesis would help when the time comes to write a dissertation. Did you do you thesis and such via distance?
    BA in History - Christopher Newport University, May 2004
    MSEd (Curriculum, Instruction & Assessment) - Walden University, February 2008
    MAIS (History & Political Science) - WNMU, May 2011
    PhD in Leadership - The University of the Cumberlands, in progress

  4. #4
    Tireman 44444 is offline Registered User
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    Well this was my option. As you see above, I told you that is how it worked for me and no, my thesis was done at North Carolina Central University.....face to face.
    BA-History-North Carolina Wesleyan College
    MA-History-North Carolina Central University
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    PhD-History (ongoing)-University of South Africa

  5. #5
    Rich Douglas is offline Registered User
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    Consider a few things:

    Which would you do better? Some would like to get the comps over with quickly, and would do well with extemporaneously writing their assignment. Others would trade that off for the benefit of doing research, contemplation, and writing (and a larger assignment).

    What do you want from the learning experience? A comp is going to demonstrate that you know your stuff. A thesis is going to demonstrate that you can create a new take on things, even if it doesn't rise to the level of a dissertation.

    Where to next? A thesis can help you jump start some new aspect of your career. Also, a thesis will make admission to a doctoral program easier.

    Do you want to control content? You can't with a comp.

    I don't think a thesis experience necessarily helps you research, analyze, and write a dissertation--they're very different animals. But the skill developed in organizing a big paper will help. In most DL doctoral programs, the dissertation is often the first time the student has been faced with something more than a term paper (given the prominent nature of coursework-only master's degrees these days).

    Good luck with your decision.

  6. #6
    Ted Heiks is offline Moderator and Distinguished Senior Member
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    Quote Originally Posted by mattbrent View Post
    Hi all!

    I am about three weeks away from completing my MSEd with Walden University. After that I'm off to APU for an MA in Ancient & Classical History . That decision is clear. However, what is not clear is whether or not I should opt for the thesis option or the exam option.

    I'm weighing the pros and cons and am hoping you all can help. First, for those of you who have completed a thesis via DL, is it difficult? Do you have access to the appropriate resources? I'm worried that with an emphasis in Ancient History , I may not have access to the primary source material I might need to write an effective thesis. Of course, this is just an assumption, so I really don't know.

    I hope to go on for a PhD after finishing the MA. I'm looking at the University of Florida 's Department of Classics, as they have a PhD in Classical Civilization via DL. However, I know there are rumors that APU may offer PhD's in the future. Worst case scenario, I have also looked at moving to Newark, DE for the University of Delaware's PhD program. However, in considering my ultimate advancement towards a PhD, is there a significant difference in completing a thesis or exam at the MA level? Do thesis students get accepted more?

    I like the idea that a thesis would allow me to explore something on my own. But then again, I also like the idea of taking an exam and having an extra spot to take another course. Either way, it's still an MA, right? And theoretically, shouldn't one MA in History be equal to another MA in History ?

    What are your takes on this argument?

    Thanks,
    Matt
    The MA with thesis is considered more advantageous if you're hoping to go on to PhD studies.
    Theo the Educated Derelict
    BA, History/Political Science, Western State College of Colorado, 1984
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  7. #7
    mattbrent is offline Registered User
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    Quote Originally Posted by Rich Douglas View Post
    Consider a few things:

    In most DL doctoral programs, the dissertation is often the first time the student has been faced with something more than a term paper (given the prominent nature of coursework-only master's degrees these days).
    Yes, my program through Walden did not involve a thesis. But then again, neither did my wife's education program, and her's was done through the College of William and Mary School of Education , which is constantly being ranked one of the best in the nation. With her program, however, she had to do a Master's project, which was not a thesis. With my program, I had to complete a portfolio, though I did have to do a research project as a part of my Action Research class.

    I would honestly prefer to do a thesis because I think I could do more with it than with an exam. I'm just concerned that if I do it via distance learning, I may have trouble gaining access to source material. If I'm going to do a thesis, I want to put everything into it I possibly can. That's my major concern. But thanks to all of you thus far for your comments!

    Matt
    BA in History - Christopher Newport University, May 2004
    MSEd (Curriculum, Instruction & Assessment) - Walden University, February 2008
    MAIS (History & Political Science) - WNMU, May 2011
    PhD in Leadership - The University of the Cumberlands, in progress

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  9. #8
    mbaonline is offline Registered User
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    Should not be a problem...

    Quote Originally Posted by mattbrent View Post
    I would honestly prefer to do a thesis because I think I could do more with it than with an exam. I'm just concerned that if I do it via distance learning, I may have trouble gaining access to source material. If I'm going to do a thesis, I want to put everything into it I possibly can. That's my major concern. But thanks to all of you thus far for your comments!

    Matt
    Matt, I think most online programs have full access to either or both of (1) shared lending libraries aka "inter-library loan" or (2) online reference libraries. Plus, there is also Google "Scholar" which brings more articles and resources to your computer screen. http://scholar.google.com/intl/en/scholar/about.html

    My grad school had great access to almost anything (except pay-per-view articles from Harvard Business School). APU, where I just signed up for a class starting in April, also looks to have a full slate of journals, publications and inter-library loan options. (I don't think you have access to look at it, though, until you register.)

    Another idea is to get "visiting scholar" privileges at your local university. If your wife is going to a B&M school that might be an option at her school. And if you're a teacher , maybe a local U will give you privileges for no other reason than that. Also, your alma mater should do the same.

    My expertise is limited but I think that knowing how to do research before you get to a PhD program might come in handy.

    Congratulations on getting close to the first Masters'!
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  10. #9
    edowave is offline Registered User
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    Quote Originally Posted by mattbrent View Post
    Hi all!

    I hope to go on for a PhD after finishing the MA. I'm looking at the University of Florida 's Department of Classics, as they have a PhD in Classical Civilization via DL. However, I know there are rumors that APU may offer PhD's in the future. Worst case scenario, I have also looked at moving to Newark, DE for the University of Delaware's PhD program. However, in considering my ultimate advancement towards a PhD, is there a significant difference in completing a thesis or exam at the MA level? Do thesis students get accepted more?
    Thanks,
    Matt
    Neither of my Masters degrees had a thesis, and I got into UF just fine, with an assistantship to boot. :-) My advice, do the comps, it will be quicker, and you will have plenty of time for 'exploring' with your dissertation.
    BS, MS, PhD - University of Florida
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  11. #10
    PhD2B is offline Dazed and Confused
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    Quote Originally Posted by edowave View Post
    Neither of my Masters degrees had a thesis, and I got into UF just fine, with an assistantship to boot. :-) My advice, do the comps, it will be quicker, and you will have plenty of time for 'exploring' with your dissertation.
    I agree. I did the comp instead of a thesis for my masters degree and had no problem getting accepted into two doctoral programs (Old Dominion University and Dakota State University).
    BS, Mathematics – Indiana University of Pennsylvania (IUP)
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  12. #11
    mattbrent is offline Registered User
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    Quote Originally Posted by PhD2B View Post
    I agree. I did the comp instead of a thesis for my masters degree and had no problem getting accepted into two doctoral programs (Old Dominion University and Dakota State University).
    Wow... I didn't realize ODU had distance learning doctorate. (Assuming it was distance ed, of course.) My sister went there for undergrad. It's a nice campus.

    -Matt
    BA in History - Christopher Newport University, May 2004
    MSEd (Curriculum, Instruction & Assessment) - Walden University, February 2008
    MAIS (History & Political Science) - WNMU, May 2011
    PhD in Leadership - The University of the Cumberlands, in progress

  13. #12
    PhD2B is offline Dazed and Confused
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    Quote Originally Posted by mattbrent View Post
    Wow... I didn't realize ODU had distance learning doctorate. (Assuming it was distance ed, of course.) My sister went there for undergrad. It's a nice campus.

    -Matt
    ODU does offer some DL doctoral programs, but the one I was accepted into is offered locally via VTC. They offer all of the coursework for the PhD program I was in, but still haven't nailed down how to handle the dissertation requirement. I took one class and basically told them I would not take any more until they figured out the dissertation portion. There was [is] not much interest locally for the program so they are obviously not in a hurry to get the dissertation piece straightened out.

    This link will provide ODU's graduate DL programs.

    http://dl.odu.edu/database.php?todo=program&level=2
    BS, Mathematics – Indiana University of Pennsylvania (IUP)
    MS, Operations Research – Florida Institute of Technology (FIT)
    MS, Information Systems – Dakota State University (DSU)

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