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The Ninety-five Theses or Disputation on the Power of Indulgences[a] are a list of propositions for an academic disputation written in 1517 by Martin Luther, professor of moral theology at the University of Wittenberg, Germany, that started the Reformation, a schism in the Catholic Church which profoundly changed Europe. They advance Luther's positions against what he saw as the abuse of the practice of clergy selling plenary indulgences, which were certificates believed to reduce the temporal punishment for sins committed by the purchasers or their loved ones in purgatory. In the Theses, Luther claimed that the repentance required by Christ in order for sins to be forgiven involves inner spiritual repentance rather than merely external sacramental confession. He argued that indulgences led Christians to avoid true repentance and sorrow for sin, believing that they could forgo it by purchasing an indulgence. They also, according to Luther, discouraged Christians from giving to the poor and performing other acts of mercy, believing that indulgence certificates were more spiritually valuable. Though Luther claimed that his positions on indulgences accorded with those of the Pope, the Theses challenge a 14th-century papal bull stating that the pope could use the treasury of merit and the good deeds of past saints to forgive temporal punishment for sins. The Theses are framed as propositions to be argued in debate rather than necessarily representing Luther's opinions, but Luther later clarified his views in the Explanations of the Disputation Concerning the Value of Indulgences.

Luther sent the Theses enclosed with a letter to Albert of Brandenburg, the Archbishop of Mainz, on 31 October 1517, a date now considered the start of the Reformation and commemorated annually as Reformation Day. Luther may have also posted the Theses on the door of All Saints' Church and other churches in Wittenberg in accordance with University custom on 31 October or in mid-November. The Theses were quickly reprinted, translated, and distributed throughout Germany and Europe. They initiated a pamphlet war with indulgence preacher Johann Tetzel, which spread Luther's fame even further. Luther's ecclesiastical superiors had him tried for heresy, which culminated in his excommunication in 1521. Though the Theses were the start of the Reformation, Luther did not consider indulgences to be as important as other theological matters which would divide the church, such as justification by faith alone and the bondage of the will. His breakthrough on these issues would come later, and he did not see the writing of the Theses as the point at which his beliefs diverged from those of Rome.


Martin Luther, professor of moral theology at the University of Wittenberg and town preacher, wrote the Ninety-five Theses against the contemporary practice of the church with respect to indulgences. In the Catholic Church, practically the only Christian church in Western Europe at the time, indulgences are part of the economy of salvation. In this system, when Christians sin and confess, they are forgiven and will no longer receive eternal punishment in hell, but may still be liable to temporal punishment. This punishment could be satisfied by the penitent's performing works of mercy. If the temporal punishment is not satisfied during life, it would need to be satisfied in purgatory. With an indulgence (which may be translated "kindness"), this temporal punishment could be lessened. Under abuses of the system of indulgences, clergy benefited by selling indulgences and the pope gave official sanction in exchange for a fee.

Popes are empowered to grant plenary indulgences, which provide complete satisfaction for any remaining temporal punishment due to sins, and these were purchased on behalf of people believed to be in purgatory. This led to the popular saying, "As soon as the coin in the coffer rings, the soul from purgatory springs". Theologians at the University of Paris had criticized this saying late in the 15th century. Earlier critics of indulgences included John Wycliffe, who denied that the pope had jurisdiction over purgatory. Jan Hus and his followers had advocated a more severe system of penance, in which indulgences were not available.Johannes von Wesel had also attacked indulgences late in the 15th century. Political rulers had an interest in controlling indulgences because local economies suffered when the money for indulgences left a given territory. Rulers often sought to receive a portion of the proceeds or prohibited indulgences altogether, as Duke George did in Luther's Electoral Saxony.

In 1515, Pope Leo X granted a plenary indulgence intended to finance the construction of St. Peter's Basilica in Rome. It would apply to almost any sin, including adultery and theft. All other indulgence preaching was to cease for the eight years in which it was offered. Indulgence preachers were given strict instructions on how the indulgence was to be preached, and they were much more laudatory of the indulgence than those of earlier indulgences.Johann Tetzel was commissioned to preach and offer the indulgence in 1517, and his campaign in cities near Wittenberg drew many Wittenbergers to travel to these cities and purchase them, since sales had been prohibited in Wittenberg and other Saxon cities.

Luther also had experience with the indulgences connected to All Saints' Church, Wittenberg. By venerating the large collection of relics at the church, one could receive an indulgence. He had preached as early as 1514 against the abuse of indulgences and the way they cheapened grace rather than requiring true repentance. Luther became especially concerned in 1517 when his parishioners, returning from purchasing Tetzel's indulgences, claimed that they no longer needed to repent and change their lives in order to be forgiven of sin. After hearing what Tetzel had said about indulgences in his sermons, Luther began to study the issue more carefully, and contacted experts on the subject. He preached about indulgences several times in 1517, explaining that true repentance was better than purchasing an indulgence. He taught that receiving an indulgence presupposed that the penitent had confessed and repented, otherwise it was worthless. A truly repentant sinner would also not seek an indulgence, because they loved God's righteousness and desired the inward punishment of their sin. These sermons seem to have ceased from April to October 1517, presumably while Luther was writing the Ninety-five Theses. He composed a Treatise on Indulgences, apparently in early autumn 1517. It is a cautious and searching examination of the subject. He contacted church leaders on the subject by letter, including his superior Hieronymus Schulz (de), Bishop of Brandenburg, sometime on or before 31 October, when he sent the Theses to Archbishop Albert of Brandenburg.


The first thesis has become famous. It states, "When our Lord and Master Jesus Christ said, 'Repent,' he willed the entire life of believers to be one of repentance." In the first few theses Luther develops the idea of repentance as the Christian's inner struggle with sin rather than the external system of sacramental confession. Theses 5–7 then state that the pope can only release people from the punishments he has administered himself or through the church's system of penance, not the guilt of sin. The pope can only announce God's forgiveness of the guilt of sin in his name. In theses 14–29, Luther challenged common beliefs about purgatory. Theses 14–16 discuss the idea that the punishment of purgatory can be likened to the fear and despair felt by dying people. In theses 17–24 he asserts that nothing can be definitively said about the spiritual state of people in purgatory. He denies that the pope has any power over people in purgatory in theses 25 and 26. In theses 27–29, he attacks the idea that as soon as payment is made, the payer's loved one is released from purgatory. He sees it as encouraging sinful greed, and says it is impossible to be certain because only God has ultimate power in forgiving punishments in purgatory.

Theses 30–34 deal with the false certainty Luther believed the indulgence preachers offered Christians. Since no one knows whether a person is truly repentant, a letter assuring a person of his forgiveness is dangerous. In theses 35 and 36, he attacks the idea that an indulgence makes repentance unnecessary. This leads to the conclusion that the truly repentant person, who alone may benefit from the indulgence, has already received the only benefit the indulgence provides. Truly repentant Christians have already, according to Luther, been forgiven of the penalty as well as the guilt of sin. In thesis 37, he states that indulgences are not necessary for Christians to receive all the benefits provided by Christ. Theses 39 and 40 argue that indulgences make true repentance more difficult. True repentance desires God's punishment of sin, but indulgences teach one to avoid punishment, since that is the purpose of purchasing the indulgence.

In theses 41–47 Luther criticizes indulgences on the basis that they discourage works of mercy by those who purchase them. Here he begins to use the phrase, "Christians are to be taught..." to state how he thinks people should be instructed on the value of indulgences. They should be taught that giving to the poor is incomparably more important than buying indulgences, that buying an indulgence rather than giving to the poor invites God's wrath, and that doing good works makes a person better while buying indulgences does not. In theses 48–52 Luther takes the side of the pope, saying that if the pope knew what was being preached in his name he would rather St. Peter's Basilica be burned down than "built up with the skin, flesh, and bones of his sheep." Theses 53–55 complain about the restrictions on preaching while the indulgence was being offered.

Luther criticizes the doctrine of the treasury of merit on which the doctrine of indulgences is based in theses 56–66. He states that everyday Christians do not understand the doctrine and are being misled. For Luther, the true treasure of the church is the gospel of Jesus Christ. This treasure tends to be hated because it makes "the first last", in the words of Matthew 19:30 and 20:16. Luther uses metaphor and wordplay to describe the treasures of the gospel as nets to catch wealthy people, whereas the treasures of indulgences are nets to catch the wealth of men.

In theses 67–80, Luther discusses further the problems with the way indulgences are being preached, as he had done in the letter to Archbishop Albert. The preachers have been promoting indulgences as the greatest of the graces available from the church, but they actually only promote greed. He points out that bishops have been commanded to offer reverence to indulgence preachers who enter their jurisdiction, but bishops are also charged with protecting their people from preachers who preach contrary to the pope's intention. He then attacks the belief allegedly propagated by the preachers that the indulgence could forgive one who had violated the Virgin Mary. Luther states that indulgences cannot take away the guilt of even the lightest of venial sins. He labels several other alleged statements of the indulgence preachers as blasphemy: that Saint Peter could not have granted a greater indulgence than the current one, and that the indulgence cross with the papal arms is as worthy as the cross of Christ.

Luther lists several criticisms advanced by laypeople against indulgences in theses 81–91. He presents these as difficult objections his congregants are bringing rather than his own criticisms. How should he answer those who ask why the pope does not simply empty purgatory if it is in his power? What should he say to those who ask why anniversary masses for the dead, which were for the sake of those in purgatory, continued for those who had been redeemed by an indulgence? Luther claimed that it seemed strange to some that pious people in purgatory could be redeemed by living impious people. Luther also mentions the question of why the pope, who is very rich, requires money from poor believers to build St. Peter's Basilica. Luther claims that ignoring these questions risks allowing people to ridicule the pope. He appeals to the pope's financial interest, saying that if the preachers limited their preaching in accordance with Luther's positions on indulgences (which he claimed was also the pope's position), the objections would cease to be relevant. Luther closes the Theses by exhorting Christians to imitate Christ even if it brings pain and suffering. Enduring punishment and entering heaven is preferable to false security.

Luther's intent[edit]

The Theses are written as propositions to be argued in a formal academic disputation, though there is no evidence that such an event ever took place. In the heading of the Theses, Luther invited interested scholars from other cities to participate. Holding such a debate was a privilege Luther held as a doctor, and it was not an unusual form of academic inquiry. Luther prepared twenty sets of theses for disputation at Wittenberg between 1516 and 1521.Andreas Karlstadt had written a set of such theses in April 1517, and these were more radical in theological terms than Luther's. He posted them on the door of All Saints' Church, as Luther was alleged to have done with the Ninety-five Theses. Karlstadt posted his theses at a time when the relics of the church were placed on display, and this may have been considered a provocative gesture. Similarly, Luther posted the Ninety-five Theses on the eve of All Saints' Day, the most important day of the year for the display of relics at All Saints' Church.

Luther's theses were intended to begin a debate among academics, not a popular revolution, but there are indications that he saw his action as prophetic and significant. Around this time, he began using the name "Luther" and sometimes "Eleutherius", Greek for "free", rather than "Luder". This seems to refer to his being free from the scholastic theology which he had argued against earlier that year. Luther later claimed not to have desired the Theses to be widely distributed. Elizabeth Eisenstein has argued that his claimed surprise at their success may have involved self-deception and Hans Hillerbrand has claimed that Luther was certainly intending to instigate a large controversy. At times, Luther seems to use the academic nature of the Theses as a cover to allow him to attack established beliefs while being able to deny that he intended to attack church teaching. Since writing a set of theses for a disputation does not necessarily commit the author to those views, Luther could deny that he held the most incendiary ideas in the Theses.

Distribution and publication[edit]

On 31 October 1517, Luther sent a letter to Archbishop of Mainz, Albert of Brandenburg, under whose authority the indulgences were being sold. In the letter, Luther addresses the archbishop out of a loyal desire to alert him to the pastoral problems created by the indulgence sermons. He assumes that Albert is unaware of what is being preached under his authority, and speaks out of concern that the people are being led away from the gospel, and that the indulgence preaching may bring shame to Albert's name. Luther does not condemn indulgences or the current doctrine regarding them, nor even the sermons which had been preached themselves, as he had not seen them firsthand. Instead he states his concern regarding the misunderstandings of the people about indulgences which have been fostered by the preaching, such as the belief that any sin could be forgiven by indulgences or that the guilt as well as the punishment for sin could be forgiven by an indulgence. In a postscript, Luther wrote that Albert could find some theses on the matter enclosed with his letter, so that he could see the uncertainty surrounding the doctrine of indulgences in contrast to the preachers who spoke so confidently of the benefits of indulgences.

It was customary when proposing a disputation to have the theses printed by the university press and publicly posted. No copies of a Wittenberg printing of the Ninety-five Theses have survived, but this is not surprising as Luther was not famous and the importance of the document was not recognized.[b] In Wittenberg, the university statutes demand that theses be posted on every church door in the city, but Philip Melanchthon, who first mentioned the posting of the Theses, only mentioned the door of All Saints' Church.[c] Melanchthon also claimed that Luther posted the Theses on 31 October, but this conflicts with several of Luther's statements about the course of events, and Luther always claimed that he brought his objections through proper channels rather than inciting a public controversy. It is possible that while Luther later saw the 31 October letter to Albert as the beginning of the Reformation, he did not post the Theses to the church door until mid-November, but he may not have posted them on the door at all. Regardless, the Theses were well-known among the Wittenberg intellectual elite soon after Luther sent them to Albert.

The Theses were copied and distributed to interested parties soon after Luther sent the letter to Archbishop Albert. The Latin Theses were printed in a four-page pamphlet in Basel, and as placards in Leipzig and Nuremberg. In all, several hundred copies of the Latin Theses were printed in Germany in 1517. Kaspar Nützel (de) in Nuremberg translated them into German later that year, and copies of this translation were sent to several interested parties across Germany, but it was not necessarily printed.[d]


Albert seems to have received Luther's letter with the Theses around the end of November. He requested the opinion of theologians at the University of Mainz and conferred with his advisers. His advisers recommended he have Luther prohibited from preaching against indulgences in accordance with the indulgence bull. Albert requested such action from the Roman Curia. In Rome, Luther was immediately perceived as a threat. In February 1518, Pope Leo asked the head of the Augustinian Hermits, Luther's religious order, to convince him to stop spreading his ideas about indulgences.Sylvester Mazzolini was also appointed to write an opinion which would be used in the trial against him. Mazzolini wrote A Dialogue against Martin Luther's Presumptuous Theses concerning the Power of the Pope, which focused on Luther's questioning of the pope's authority rather than his complaints about indulgence preaching. Luther received a summons to Rome in August 1518. He responded with Explanations of the Disputation Concerning the Value of Indulgences, in which he attempted to clear himself of the charge that he was attacking the pope. As he set down his views more extensively, Luther seems to have recognized that the implications of his beliefs set him further from official teaching than he initially knew. He later said he might not have begun the controversy had he known where it would lead. The Explanations have been called Luther's first Reformation work.

Johann Tetzel responded to the Theses by calling for Luther to be burnt for heresy and having theologian Konrad Wimpina write 106 theses against Luther's work. Tetzel defended these in a disputation before the University of Frankfurt on the Oder in January 1518. 800 copies of the printed disputation were sent to be sold in Wittenberg, but students of the University seized them from the bookseller and burned them. Luther became increasingly fearful that the situation was out of hand and that he would be in danger. To placate his opponents, he published a Sermon on Indulgences and Grace, which did not challenge the pope's authority. This pamphlet, written in German, was very short and easy for laypeople to understand. Luther's first widely successful work, it was reprinted twenty times. Tetzel responded with a point-by-point refutation, citing heavily from the Bible and important theologians.[e] His pamphlet was not nearly as popular as Luther's. Luther's reply to Tetzel's pamphlet, on the other hand, was another publishing success for Luther.[f]

Another prominent opponent of the Theses was Johann Eck, Luther's friend and a theologian at the University of Ingolstadt. Eck wrote a refutation, intended for the Bishop of Eichstätt, entitled the Obelisks. This was in reference to the obelisks used to mark heretical passages in texts in the Middle Ages. It was a harsh and unexpected personal attack, charging Luther with heresy and stupidity. Luther responded privately with the Asterisks, titled after the asterisk marks then used to highlight important texts. Luther's response was angry and he expressed the opinion that Eck did not understand the matter on which he wrote. The dispute between Luther and Eck would become public in the 1519 Leipzig Debate.

Luther was summoned by authority of the pope to defend himself against charges of heresy before Thomas Cajetan at Augsburg in October 1518. Cajetan did not allow Luther to argue with him over his alleged heresies, but he did identify two points of controversy. The first was against the fifty-eighth thesis, which stated that the pope could not use the treasury of merit to forgive temporal punishment of sin. This contradicted the papal bull Unigenitus promulgated by Clement VI in 1343. The second point was whether one could be assured that they had been forgiven when their sin had been absolved by a priest. Luther's Explanations on thesis seven asserted that one could based on God's promise, but Cajetan argued that the humble Christian should never presume to be certain of their standing before God. Luther refused to recant and requested that the case be reviewed by university theologians. This request was denied, so Luther appealed to the pope before leaving Augsburg. Luther was finally excommunicated in 1521 after he burned the papal bull threatening him to recant or face excommunication.


The indulgence controversy set off by the Theses was the beginning of the Reformation, a schism in the Roman Catholic Church which initiated profound and lasting social and political change in Europe. Luther later stated that the issue of indulgences was insignificant relative to controversies which he would enter into later, such as his debate with Erasmus over the bondage of the will, nor did he see the controversy as important to his intellectual breakthrough regarding the gospel. Luther later wrote that at the time he wrote the Theses he remained a "papist", and he did not seem to think the Theses represented a break with established Catholic doctrine. But it was out of the indulgences controversy that the movement which would be called the Reformation began, and the controversy propelled Luther to the leadership position he would hold in that movement. The Theses also made evident that Luther believed the church was not preaching properly and that this put the laity in serious danger. Further, the Theses contradicted the decree of Pope Clement VI, that indulgences are the treasury of the church. This disregard for papal authority presaged later conflicts.

31 October 1517, the day Luther sent the Theses to Albert, was commemorated as the beginning of the Reformation as early as 1527, when Luther and his friends raised a glass of beer to commemorate the "trampling out of indulgences". The posting of the Theses was established in the historiography of the Reformation as the beginning of the movement by Philip Melanchthon in his 1548 Historia de vita et actis Lutheri. During the 1617 Reformation Jubilee, the centenary of 31 October was celebrated by a procession to the Wittenberg Church where Luther was believed to have posted the Theses. An engraving was made showing Luther writing the Theses on the door of the church with a gigantic quill. The quill penetrates the head of a lion symbolizing Pope Leo X. In 1668, 31 October was made Reformation Day, an annual holiday in Electoral Saxony, which spread to other Lutheran lands. 31 October 2017, the 500th Anniversary of Reformation Day, was celebrated with a national public holiday throughout Germany.[72]

See also[edit]

Notes and references[edit]




  • Brecht, Martin (1985) [1981]. Sein Weg zur Reformation 1483–1521 [Martin Luther: His Road to Reformation 1483–1521] (in German). Translated by James L. Schaff. Minneapolis, MN: Fortress. ISBN 978-0-8006-2813-0 – via Questia. (Subscription required (help)). 
  • Cummings, Brian (2002). The Literary Culture of the Reformation: Grammar and Grace. Oxford: Oxford University Press. doi:10.1093/acprof:oso/9780198187356.001.0001 – via Oxford Scholarship Online. (Subscription required (help)). 
  • Dixon, C. Scott (2002). The Reformation in Germany. Malden, Massachusetts: Blackwell. 
  • Hendrix, Scott H. (2015). Martin Luther: Visionary Reformer. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press. ISBN 978-0-300-16669-9. 
  • Hequet, Suzanne (2015). "The Proceedings at Augsburg, 1518". In Wengert, Timothy J. The Annotated Luther, Volume 1: The Roots of Reform. Minneapolis, MN: Fortress. pp. 121–166. ISBN 978-1-4514-6535-8 – via Project MUSE. (Subscription required (help)). 
  • Junghans, Helmar (2003). "Luther's Wittenberg". In McKim, Donald K.Cambridge Companion to Martin Luther. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. pp. 20–36 – via Questia. (Subscription required (help)). 
  • Leppin, Volker; Wengert, Timothy J. (2015). "Sources for and against the Posting of the Ninety-Five Theses"(PDF). Lutheran Quarterly. 29: 373–398. 
  • Lohse, Bernhard (1999) [1995]. Luthers Theologie in ihrer historischen Entwicklung und in ihrem systematischen Zusammenhang [Martin Luther's Theology: Its Historical and Systematic Development. Contributors] (in German). Translated by Roy A. Harrisville. Minneapolis, MN: Fortress. ISBN 978-0-8006-3091-1 – via Questia. (Subscription required (help)). 
  • Lohse, Bernhard (1986) [1980]. Martin Luther—Eine Einführung in sein Leben und sein Werk [Martin Luther: An Introduction to His Life and Work] (in German). Translated by Robert C. Schultz. Minneapolis, MN: Fortress. ISBN 978-0-8006-0764-7 – via Questia. (Subscription required (help)). 
  • Marius, Richard (1999). Martin Luther: The Christian Between God and Death. Cambridge, MA: Belknap. ISBN 978-0-674-55090-2. 
  • McGrath, Alister E. (2011). Luther's Theology of the Cross: Martin Luther's Theological Breakthrough. Malden, MA: Wiley-Blackwell – via Questia. (Subscription required (help)). 
  • Noll, Mark A. (2015). In the Beginning Was the Word: The Bible in American Public Life, 1492–1783. New York: Oxford University Press. doi:10.1093/acprof:oso/9780190263980.001.0001. ISBN 978-0-19-026398-0 – via Oxford Scholarship Online. (Subscription required (help)). 
  • Oberman, Heiko A. (2006) [1982]. Luther: Mensch zwischen Gott und Teufel [Luther: Man Between God and the Devil] (in German). Translated by Eileen Walliser-Schwarzbart. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press. ISBN 978-0-300-10313-7.
Woodcut of an indulgence-seller in a church from a 1521 pamphlet
1525 woodcut of forgiveness from Christ outweighing the pope's indulgences
First page of the 1517 Basel printing of the Theses as a pamphlet
This 19th-century painting by Julius Hübner sensationalizes Luther's posting of the Theses before a crowd. In reality, posting theses for a disputation would have been routine.
Print made for the 1617 Reformation Jubilee showing Luther enscribing the Theses on the Wittenberg church door with a giant quill
  1. ^ abLatin: Disputatio pro declaratione virtutis indulgentiarum. This title comes from the 1517 Basel pamphlet printing. The first printings of the Theses use an incipit rather than a title which summarizes the content. The 1517 Nuremberg placard edition opens Amore et studio elucidande veritatis: hec subscripta disputabuntur Wittenberge. Presidente R.P Martino Lutther ... Quare petit: vt qui non possunt verbis presentes nobiscum disceptare: agant id literis absentes. Luther usually called them "meine Propositiones" (my propositions).
  2. ^The Wittenberg printer was Johann Rhau-Grunenberg (de). A Rhau-Grunenberg printing of Luther's "Disputation Against Scholastic Theology", published just eight weeks before the Ninety-five Theses, was discovered in 1983. Its form is very similar to that of the Nuremberg printing of the Ninety-five Theses. This is evidence for a Rhau-Grunenberg printing of the Ninety-five Theses, as the Nuremberg printing may be a copy of the Wittenberg printing.
  3. ^Georg Rörer, Luther's scribe, claimed in a note that Luther posted the theses to every church door.
  4. ^No copies of the 1517 German translation survive.
  5. ^Tetzel's pamphlet is titled Rebuttal Against a Presumptuous Sermon of Twenty Erroneous Articles.
  6. ^Luther's reply to Tetzel's Rebuttal is titled Concerning the Freedom of the Sermon on Papal Indulgences and Grace. Luther intends to free the Sermon from Tetzel's insults.

For other uses, see Thesis (disambiguation).

"Dissertation" redirects here. For the novel, see The Dissertation.

A thesis or dissertation[1] is a document submitted in support of candidature for an academic degree or professional qualification presenting the author's research and findings.[2] In some contexts, the word "thesis" or a cognate is used for part of a bachelor's or master's course, while "dissertation" is normally applied to a doctorate, while in other contexts, the reverse is true.[3] The term graduate thesis is sometimes used to refer to both master's theses and doctoral dissertations.[4]

The required complexity or quality of research of a thesis or dissertation can vary by country, university, or program, and the required minimum study period may thus vary significantly in duration.

The word "dissertation" can at times be used to describe a treatise without relation to obtaining an academic degree. The term "thesis" is also used to refer to the general claim of an essay or similar work.


The term "thesis" comes from the Greek θέσις, meaning "something put forth", and refers to an intellectual proposition. "Dissertation" comes from the Latindissertātiō, meaning "path".

Structure and presentation style[edit]


A thesis (or dissertation) may be arranged as a thesis by publication or a monograph, with or without appended papers, respectively, though many graduate programs allow candidates to submit a curated collection of published papers. An ordinary monograph has a title page, an abstract, a table of contents, comprising the various chapters (e.g., introduction, literature review, methodology, results, discussion), and a bibliography or (more usually) a references section. They differ in their structure in accordance with the many different areas of study (arts, humanities, social sciences, technology, sciences, etc.) and the differences between them. In a thesis by publication, the chapters constitute an introductory and comprehensive review of the appended published and unpublished article documents.

Dissertations normally report on a research project or study, or an extended analysis of a topic. The structure of a thesis or dissertation explains the purpose, the previous research literature which impinges on the topic of the study, the methods used and the findings of the project. Most world universities use a multiple chapter format : a) an introduction, which introduces the research topic, the methodology, as well as its scope and significance; b) a literature review, reviewing relevant literature and showing how this has informed the research issue; c) a methodology chapter, explaining how the research has been designed and why the research methods/population/data collection and analysis being used have been chosen; d) a findings chapter, outlining the findings of the research itself; e) an analysis and discussion chapter, analysing the findings and discussing them in the context of the literature review (this chapter is often divided into two—analysis and discussion); f) a conclusion.[5][6]


Degree-awarding institutions often define their own house style that candidates have to follow when preparing a thesis document. In addition to institution-specific house styles, there exist a number of field-specific, national, and international standards and recommendations for the presentation of theses, for instance ISO 7144.[2] Other applicable international standards include ISO 2145 on section numbers, ISO 690 on bibliographic references, and ISO 31 on quantities or units.

Some older house styles specify that front matter (title page, abstract, table of content, etc.) uses a separate page number sequence from the main text, using Roman numerals. The relevant international standard[2] and many newer style guides recognize that this book design practice can cause confusion where electronic document viewers number all pages of a document continuously from the first page, independent of any printed page numbers. They, therefore, avoid the traditional separate number sequence for front matter and require a single sequence of Arabic numerals starting with 1 for the first printed page (the recto of the title page).

Presentation requirements, including pagination, layout, type and color of paper, use of acid-free paper (where a copy of the dissertation will become a permanent part of the library collection), paper size, order of components, and citation style, will be checked page by page by the accepting officer before the thesis is accepted and a receipt is issued.

However, strict standards are not always required. Most Italian universities, for example, have only general requirements on the character size and the page formatting, and leave much freedom for the actual typographic details.[7]

Thesis committee[edit]

A thesis or dissertation committee is a committee that supervises a student's dissertation. In the US, these committees usually consist of a primary supervisor or advisor and two or more committee members, who supervise the progress of the dissertation and may also act as the examining committee, or jury, at the oral examination of the thesis (see below).

At most universities, the committee is chosen by the student in conjunction with his or her primary adviser, usually after completion of the comprehensive examinations or prospectus meeting, and may consist of members of the comps committee. The committee members are doctors in their field (whether a PhD or other designation) and have the task of reading the dissertation, making suggestions for changes and improvements, and sitting in on the defense. Sometimes, at least one member of the committee must be a professor in a department that is different from that of the student.

Regional and degree-specific practices and terminologies[edit]


In the Latin American docta, the academic dissertation can be referred to as different stages inside the academic program that the student is seeking to achieve into a recognized Argentine University, in all the cases the students must develop original contribution in the chosen fields by means of several paper work and essays that comprehend the body of the thesis.[8] Correspondingly to the academic degree, the last phase of an academic thesis is called in Spanish a defensa de grado, defensa magistral or defensa doctoral in cases in which the university candidate is finalizing his or her licentiate, master's, or PhD program. According to a committee resolution, the dissertation can be approved or rejected by an academic committee consisting of the thesis director, the thesis coordinator, and at least one evaluator from another recognized university in which the student is pursuing his or her academic program. All the dissertation referees must already have achieved at least the academic degree that the candidate is trying to reach.[9]


At English-speaking Canadian universities, writings presented in fulfillment of undergraduate coursework requirements are normally called papers, term papers or essays. A longer paper or essay presented for completion of a 4-year bachelor's degree is sometimes called a major paper. High-quality research papers presented as the empirical study of a "postgraduate" consecutive bachelor with Honours or Baccalaureatus Cum Honore degree are called thesis (Honours Seminar Thesis). Major papers presented as the final project for a master's degree are normally called thesis; and major papers presenting the student's research towards a doctoral degree are called theses or dissertations.

At Canadian universities under the French influenced system,[10] students may have a choice between presenting a "mémoire"', which is a shorter synthetic work (roughly 75 pages) and a thèse which is one hundred pages or more.[citation needed] A synthetic monograph associated with doctoral work is referred to as a "thèse". See also compilation thesis. Either work can be awarded a "mention d'honneur" (excellence) as a result of the decision by the examination committee, although these are rare.

A typical undergraduate paper or essay might be forty pages. Master's theses are approximately one hundred pages. PhD theses are usually over two hundred pages. This may vary greatly by discipline, program, college, or university. However, normally the required minimum study period is primarily depending on the complexity or quality of research requirements.

Theses Canada acquires and preserves a comprehensive collection of Canadian theses at Library and Archives Canada' (LAC) through partnership with Canadian universities who participate in the program.[11]


At most university faculties in Croatia, a degree is obtained by defending a thesis after having passed all the classes specified in the degree programme. In the Bologna system, the bachelor's thesis, called završni rad (literally "final work" or "concluding work") is defended after 3 years of study and is about 30 pages long. Most students with bachelor's degrees continue onto master's programmes which end with a master's thesis called diplomski rad (literally "diploma work" or "graduate work"). The term dissertation is used for a doctoral degree paper (doktorska disertacija).

Czech Republic[edit]

In the Czech Republic, higher education is completed by passing all classes remaining to the educational compendium for given degree and defending a thesis. For bachelors programme the thesis is called bakalářská práce (bachelors thesis), for master's degrees and also doctor of medicine or dentistry degrees it is the diplomová práce (master's thesis), and for Philosophiae doctor (PhD.) degree it is dissertation dizertační práce. Thesis for so called Higher-Professional School (Vyšší odborná škola, VOŠ) is called absolventská práce.


The following types of thesis are used in Finland (names in Finnish/Swedish):

  • Kandidaatintutkielma/kandidatavhandling is the dissertation associated with lower-level academic degrees (bachelor's degree), and at universities of applied science.
  • Pro gradu(-tutkielma)/(avhandling )pro gradu, colloquially referred to simply as 'gradu', is the dissertation for master's degrees, which make up the majority of degrees conferred in Finland, and this is therefore the most common type of thesis submitted in the country. The equivalent for engineering and architecture students is diplomityö/diplomarbete.
  • The highest-level theses are called lisensiaatintutkielma/licentiatavhandling and (tohtorin)väitöskirja/doktorsavhandling, for licentiate and doctoral degrees, respectively.


In France, the academic dissertation or thesis is called a thèse and it is reserved for the final work of doctoral candidates. The minimum page length is generally (and not formally) 100 pages (or about 400,000 characters), but is usually several times longer (except for technical theses and for "exact sciences" such as physics and maths).

To complete a master's degree in research, a student is required to write a mémoire, the French equivalent of a master's thesis in other higher education systems.

The word dissertation in French is reserved for shorter (1,000–2,000 words), more generic academic treatises.

The defense is called a soutenance.


In Germany, an academic thesis is called Abschlussarbeit or, more specifically, the basic name of the degree complemented by -arbeit (e.g., Diplomarbeit, Masterarbeit, Doktorarbeit). For bachelor's and master's degrees, the name can alternatively be complemented by -thesis instead (e.g., Bachelorthesis).

Length is often given in page count and depends upon departments, faculties, and fields of study. A bachelor's thesis is often 40–60 pages long, a diploma thesis and a master's thesis usually 60–100. The required submission for a doctorate is called a Dissertation or Doktorarbeit. The submission for a Habilitation, which is an academic qualification, not an academic degree, is called Habilitationsschrift, not Habilitationsarbeit. PhD by publication is becoming increasingly common in many fields of study[citation needed].

A doctoral degree is often earned with multiple levels of a Latin honors remark for the thesis ranging from summa cum laude (best) to rite (duly). A thesis can also be rejected with a Latin remark (non-rite, non-sufficit or worst as sub omni canone). Bachelor's and master's theses receive numerical grades from 1.0 (best) to 5.0 (failed).


In India the thesis defense is called a viva voce (Latin for "by live voice") examination (viva in short). Involved in the viva are two examiners and the candidate. One examiner is an academic from the candidate's own university department (but not one of the candidate's supervisors) and the other is an external examiner from a different university.[12]

In India, PG Qualifications such as MSc Physics accompanies submission of dissertation in Part I and submission of a Project (a working model of an innovation) in Part II. Engineering qualifications such as Diploma, BTech or B.E., MTech or M.Des. also involves submission of dissertation. In all the cases, the dissertation can be extended for summer internship at certain research and development organizations or also as PhD synopsis.


In Indonesia, the term thesis is used specifically to refer to master's theses. The undergraduate thesis is called skripsi, while the doctoral dissertation is called disertasi. In general, those three terms are usually called as tugas akhir (final assignment), which is mandatory for the completion of a degree. Undergraduate students usually begin to write their final assignment in their third, fourth or fifth enrollment year, depends on the requirements of their respective disciplines and universities. In some universities, students are required to write a proposal skripsi, proposal thesis or thesis proposal before they could write their final assignment. If the thesis proposal is considered to fulfill the qualification by the academic examiners, students then may proceed to write their final assignment.


In Italy there are normally three types of thesis. In order of complexity: one for the Laurea (equivalent to the UK Bachelor's Degree), another one for the Laurea Magistrale (equivalent to the UK Master's Degree) and then a thesis to complete the Dottorato di Ricerca (PhD). Thesis requirements vary greatly between degrees and disciplines, ranging from as low as 3–4 ECTS credits to more than 30. Thesis work is mandatory for the completion of a degree.


Malaysian universities often follow the British model for dissertations and degrees. However, a few universities follow the United States model for theses and dissertations. Some public universities have both British and US style PhD programmes. Branch campuses of British, Australian and Middle East universities in Malaysia use the respective models of the home campuses.


In Pakistan, at undergraduate level the thesis is usually called final year project, as it is completed in the senior year of the degree, the name project usually implies that the work carried out is less extensive than a thesis and bears lesser credit hours too. The undergraduate level project is presented through an elaborate written report and a presentation to the advisor, a board of faculty members and students. At graduate level however, i.e. in MS, some universities allow students to accomplish a project of 6 credits or a thesis of 9 credits, at least one publication [citation needed] is normally considered enough for the awarding of the degree with project and is considered mandatory for the awarding of a degree with thesis. A written report and a public thesis defense is mandatory, in the presence of a board of senior researchers, consisting of members from an outside organization or a university. A PhD candidate is supposed to accomplish extensive research work to fulfill the dissertation requirements with international publications being a mandatory requirement. The defense of the research work is done publicly.


In the Philippines, an academic thesis is named by the degree, such as bachelor/undergraduate thesis or masteral thesis. However, in Philippine English, the term doctorate is typically replaced with doctoral (as in the case of "doctoral dissertation"), though in official documentation the former is still used. The terms thesis and dissertation are commonly used interchangeably in everyday language yet it generally understood that a thesis refers to bachelor/undergraduate and master academic work while a dissertation is named for doctorate work.

The Philippine system is influenced by American collegiate system, in that it requires a research project to be submitted before being allowed to write a thesis. This is mostly given as a prerequisite writing course to the actual thesis and is accomplished in the term period before; supervision is provided by one professor assigned to a class. This is later to be presented in front of an academic panel, often the entire faculty of an academic department, with their recommendations contributing to the acceptance, revision, or rejection of the initial topic. In addition, the presentation of the research project will help the candidate choose their primary thesis adviser.

An undergraduate thesis is completed in the final year of the degree alongside existing seminar (lecture) or laboratory courses, and is often divided into two presentations: proposal and thesis presentations (though this varies across universities), whereas a master thesis or doctorate dissertation is accomplished in the last term alone and is defended once. In most universities, a thesis is required for the bestowment of a degree to a candidate alongside a number of units earned throughout their academic period of stay, though for practice and skills-based degrees a practicum and a written report can be achieved instead. The examination board often consists of 3 to 5 examiners, often professors in a university (with a Masters or PhD degree) depending on the university's examination rules. Required word length, complexity, and contribution to scholarship varies widely across universities in the country.


In Poland, a bachelor's degree usually requires a praca licencjacka (bachelor's thesis) or the similar level degree in engineering requires a praca inżynierska (engineer's thesis/bachelor's thesis), the master's degree requires a praca magisterska (master's thesis). The academic dissertation for a PhD is called a dysertacja or praca doktorska. The submission for the Habilitation is called praca habilitacyjna" or dysertacja habilitacyjna". Thus the term dysertacja is reserved for PhD and Habilitation degrees. All the theses need to be "defended" by the author during a special examination for the given degree. Examinations for PhD and Habilitation degrees are public.

Portugal and Brazil[edit]

In Portugal and Brazil, a dissertation (dissertação) is required for completion of a master or PhD degree. The defense is done in a public presentation in which teachers, students, and the general public can participate. For the PhD a thesis (tese) is presented for defense in a public exam. The exam typically extends over 3 hours. The examination board typically involves 5 to 6 scholars (including the advisor) or other experts with a PhD degree (generally at least half of them must be external to the university where the candidate defends the thesis, but may depend on the University). Each university / faculty defines the length of these documents, but typical numbers of pages are around 60–80 for MSc and 150–250 for PhD.

Russia, Kazakhstan, Belarus, Ukraine[edit]

In Russia, Kazakhstan, Belarus, and Ukraine an academic dissertation or thesis is called what can be literally translated as a "master's degree work" (thesis), whereas the word dissertation is reserved for doctoral theses (Candidate of Sciences). To complete a master's degree, a student is required to write a thesis and to then defend the work publicly. Length of this manuscript usually is given in page count and depends upon educational institution, its departments, faculties, and fields of study[citation needed]


At universities in Slovenia, an academic thesis called diploma thesis is a prerequisite for completing undergraduate studies. The thesis used to be 40–60 pages long, but has been reduced to 20–30 pages in new Bologna process programmes. To complete Master's studies, a candidate must write magistrsko delo (Master's thesis) that is longer and more detailed than the undergraduate thesis. The required submission for the doctorate is called doktorska disertacija (doctoral dissertation). In pre Bologna programmes students were able to skip the preparation and presentation of a Master's thesis and continue straightforward towards doctorate.


In Slovakia, higher education is completed by defending a thesis, which is called bachelors thesis "bakalárska práca" for bachelors programme, master's thesis or "diplomová práca" for master's degrees and also doctor of medicine or dentistry degrees and dissertation "dizertačná práca" for Philosophiae doctor (PhD.) degree.


In Sweden, there are different types of theses. Practices and definitions vary between fields but commonly include the C thesis/Bachelor thesis, which corresponds to 15 HP or 10 weeks of independent studies, D thesis/'/Magister/one year master's thesis, which corresponds to 15 HP or 10 weeks of independent studies and E Thesis/two-year master's thesis, which corresponds to 30 HP or 20 weeks of independent studies. After that there are two types of post graduate degrees, Licentiate dissertation and PhD dissertation. A licentiate degree is approximately "half a PhD" in terms of size and scope of the thesis. Swedish PhD studies should in theory last for four years, including course work and thesis work, but as many PhD students also teach, the PhD often takes longer to complete.

United Kingdom[edit]

Outside the academic community, the terms thesis and dissertation are interchangeable. At universities in the United Kingdom, the term thesis is usually associated with PhD/EngD (doctoral) and research master's degrees, while dissertation is the more common term for a substantial project submitted as part of a taught master's degree or an undergraduate degree (e.g. BA, BSc, BMus, BEd, BEng etc.).

Thesis word lengths may differ by faculty/department and are set by individual universities.

A wide range of supervisory arrangements can be found in the British academy, from single supervisors (more usual for undergraduate and Masters level work) to supervisory teams of up to three supervisors. In teams, there will often be a Director of Studies, usually someone with broader experience (perhaps having passed some threshold of successful supervisions). The Director may be involved with regular supervision along with the other supervisors, or may have more of an oversight role, with the other supervisors taking on the more day-to-day responsibilities of supervision.

United States[edit]

In some U.S. doctoral programs, the "dissertation" can take up the major part of the student's total time spent (along with two or three years of classes), and may take years of full-time work to complete. At most universities, dissertation is the term for the required submission for the doctorate, and thesis refers only to the master's degree requirement.

Thesis is also used to describe a cumulative project for a bachelor's degree, and is more common at selective colleges and universities, or for those seeking admittance to graduate school or to obtain an honors academic designation. These are called "senior projects" or "senior theses;" they are generally done in the senior year near graduation after having completed other courses, the independent study period, and the internship or student teaching period (the completion of most of the requirements before the writing of the paper ensures adequate knowledge and aptitude for the challenge). Unlike a dissertation or master's thesis, they are not as long, they do not require a novel contribution to knowledge, or even a very narrow focus on a set subtopic. Like them, they can be lengthy and require months of work, they require supervision by at least one professor adviser, they must be focused on a certain area of knowledge, and they must use an appreciable amount of scholarly citations. They may or may not be defended before a committee, but usually are not; there is generally no preceding examination before the writing of the paper, except for at very few colleges. Because of the nature of the graduate thesis or dissertation having to be more narrow and more novel, the result of original research, these usually have a smaller proportion of the work that is cited from other sources, though the fact that they are lengthier may mean they still have total citations.

Specific undergraduate courses, especially writing-intensive courses or courses taken by upperclassmen, may also require one or more extensive written assignments referred to variously as theses, essays, or papers. Increasingly, high schools are requiring students to complete a senior project or senior thesis on a chosen topic during the final year as a prerequisite for graduation.[13] The extended essay component of the International Baccalaureate Diploma Programme, offered in a growing number of American high schools, is another example of this trend.

Generally speaking, a dissertation is judged as to whether or not it makes an original and unique contribution to scholarship. Lesser projects (a master's thesis, for example) are judged by whether or not they demonstrate mastery of available scholarship in the presentation of an idea.[dubious– discuss]

The required complexity or quality of research of a thesis may vary significantly among universities or programs.

Thesis examinations[edit]

One of the requirements for certain advanced degrees is often an oral examination (a.k.a. viva voce examination or just viva). This examination normally occurs after the dissertation is finished but before it is submitted to the university, and may comprise a presentation (often public) by the student and questions posed by an examining committee or jury. In North America, an initial oral examination in the field of specialization may take place just before the student settles down to work on the dissertation. An additional oral exam may take place after the dissertation is completed and is known as a thesis or dissertation "defense," which at some universities may be a mere formality and at others may result in the student being required to make significant revisions. In the UK and certain other English-speaking countries, an oral examination is called a viva voce.

Examination results[edit]

The result of the examination may be given immediately following deliberation by the examiners (in which case the candidate may immediately be considered to have received his or her degree), or at a later date, in which case the examiners may prepare a defense report that is forwarded to a Board or Committee of Postgraduate Studies, which then officially recommends the candidate for the degree.

Potential decisions (or "verdicts") include:

  • Accepted/pass with no corrections.
The thesis is accepted as presented. A grade may be awarded, though in many countries PhDs are not graded at all, and in others, only one of the theoretically possible grades (the highest) is ever used in practice.
  • The thesis must be revised.
Revisions (for example, correction of numerous grammatical or spelling errors; clarification of concepts or methodology; an addition of sections) are required. One or more members of the jury or the thesis supervisor will make the decision on the acceptability of revisions and provide written confirmation that they have been satisfactorily completed. If, as is often the case, the needed revisions are relatively modest, the examiners may all sign the thesis with the verbal understanding that the candidate will review the revised thesis with his or her supervisor before submitting the completed version.
  • Extensive revision required.
The thesis must be revised extensively and undergo the evaluation and defense process again from the beginning with the same examiners. Problems may include theoretical or methodological issues. A candidate who is not recommended for the degree after the second defense must normally withdraw from the program.
The thesis is unacceptable and the candidate must withdraw from the program. This verdict is given only when the thesis requires major revisions and when the examination makes it clear that the candidate is incapable of making such revisions.

At most North American institutions the latter two verdicts are extremely rare, for two reasons. First, to obtain the status of doctoral candidates, graduate students typically write a qualifying examination or comprehensive examination, which often includes an oral defense. Students who pass the qualifying examination are deemed capable of completing scholarly work independently and are allowed to proceed with working on a dissertation. Second, since the thesis supervisor (and the other members of the advisory committee) will normally have reviewed the thesis extensively before recommending the student proceed to the defense, such an outcome would be regarded as a major failure not only on the part of the candidate but also by the candidate's supervisor (who should have recognized the substandard quality of the dissertation long before the defense was allowed to take place). It is also fairly rare for a thesis to be accepted without any revisions; the most common outcome of a defense is for the examiners to specify minor revisions (which the candidate typically completes in a few days or weeks).

At universities on the British pattern it is not uncommon for theses at the viva stage to be subject to major revisions in which a substantial rewrite is required, sometimes followed by a new viva. Very rarely, the thesis may be awarded the lesser degree of M.Phil (Master of Philosophy) instead, preventing the candidate from resubmitting the thesis.


In Australia, doctoral theses are usually examined by three examiners although some, like the Australian Catholic University and the University of New South Wales, have shifted to using only two examiners; without a live defense except in extremely rare exceptions. In the case of a master's degree by research the thesis is usually examined by only two examiners. Typically one of these examiners will be from within the candidate's own department; the other(s) will usually be from other universities and often from overseas. Following submission of the thesis, copies are sent by mail to examiners and then reports sent back to the institution.

Similar to a master's degree by research thesis, a thesis for the research component of a master's degree by coursework is also usually examined by two examiners, one from the candidate's department and one from another university. For an Honours year, which is a fourth year in addition to the usual three-year bachelor's degree, the thesis is also examined by two examiners, though both are usually from the candidate's own department. Honours and Master's theses sometimes require an oral defense before they are accepted.


In Germany, a thesis is usually examined with an oral examination. This applies to almost all Diplom, Magister, master's and doctoral degrees as well as to most bachelor's degrees. However, a process that allows for revisions of the thesis is usually only implemented for doctoral degrees.

There are several different kinds of oral examinations used in practice. The Disputation, also called Verteidigung ("defense"), is usually public (at least to members of the university) and is focused on the topic of the thesis. In contrast, the Rigorosum is not held in public and also encompasses fields in addition to the topic of the thesis. The Rigorosum is only common for doctoral degrees. Another term for an oral examination is Kolloquium, which generally refers to a usually public scientific discussion and is often used synonymously with Verteidigung.

In each case, what exactly is expected differs between universities and between faculties. Some universities also demand a combination of several of these forms.


Like the British model, the PHD or MPhil student is required to submit their theses or dissertation for examination by two or three examiners. The first examiner is from the university concerned, the second examiner is from another local university and the third examiner is from a suitable foreign university (usually from Commonwealth countries). The choice of examiners must be approved by the university senate. In some public universities, a PhD or MPhil candidate may also have to show a number publications in peer reviewed academic journals as part of the requirement. An oral viva is conducted after the examiners have submitted their reports to the university. The oral viva session is attended by the Oral Viva chairman, a rapporteur with a PhD qualification, the first examiner, the second examiner and sometimes the third examiner.

Branch campuses of British, Australian and Middle East universities in Malaysia use the respective models of the home campuses to examine their PhD or MPhil candidates.


In the Philippines, a thesis is followed by an oral defense. In most universities, this applies to all bachelor, master, and doctorate degrees. However, the oral defense is held in once per semester (usually in the middle or by the end) with a presentation of revisions (so-called "plenary presentation") at the end of each semester. The oral defense is typically not held in public for bachelor and master oral defenses, however a colloquium is held for doctorate degrees.


In Portugal, a thesis is examined with an oral defense, which includes an initial presentation by the candidate followed by an extensive questioning/answering period. Typical duration for the total exam is 1 hour 30 minutes for the MSc and 3 hours for the PhD.

North America[edit]

In North America, the thesis defense or oral defense is the final examination for doctoral candidates, and sometimes for master's candidates.

The examining committee normally consists of the thesis committee, usually a given number of professors mainly from the student's university plus his or her primary supervisor, an external examiner (someone not otherwise connected to the university), and a chair person. Each committee member will have been given a completed copy of the dissertation prior to the defense, and will come prepared to ask questions about the thesis itself and the subject matter. In many schools, master's thesis defenses are restricted to the examinee and the examiners, but doctoral defenses are open to the public.

The typical format will see the candidate giving a short (20–40-minute) presentation of his or her research, followed by one to two hours of questions.

At some U.S. institutions, a longer public lecture (known as a "thesis talk" or "thesis seminar") by the candidate will accompany the defense itself, in which case only the candidate, the examiners, and other members of the faculty may attend the actual defense.

Russia and Ukraine[edit]

A student in Ukraine or Russia has to complete a thesis and then defend it in front of their department. Sometimes the defense meeting is made up of the learning institute's professionals and sometimes the students peers are allowed to view or join in. After the presentation and defense of the thesis, the final conclusion of the department should be that none of them have reservations on the content and quality of the thesis.

A conclusion on the thesis has to be approved by the rector of the educational institute. This conclusion (final grade so to speak) of the thesis can be defended/argued not only at the thesis council, but also in any other thesis council of Russia or Ukraine.


The Diploma de estudios avanzados (DEA) can last two years and candidates must complete coursework and demonstrate their ability to research the specific topics they have studied. After completing this part of the PhD, students begin a dissertation on a set topic. The dissertation must reach a minimum length depending on the subject and it is valued more highly if it contains field research. Once candidates have finished their written dissertations, they must present them before a committee. Following this presentation, the examiners will ask questions.

United Kingdom, Ireland and Hong Kong[edit]

In Hong Kong, Ireland and the United Kingdom, the thesis defense is called a viva voce (Latin for "by live voice") examination (viva for short). A typical viva lasts for approximately 3 hours, though there is no formal time limit. Involved in the viva are two examiners and the candidate. Usually, one examiner is an academic from the candidate's own university department (but not one of the candidate's supervisors) and the other is an external examiner from a different university. Increasingly, the examination may involve a third academic, the 'chair'; this person, from the candidate's institution, acts as an impartial observer with oversight of the examination process to ensure that the examination is fair. The 'chair' does not ask academic questions of the candidate.[14]

In the United Kingdom, there are only two or at most three examiners, and in many universities the examination is held in private. The candidate's primary supervisor is not permitted to ask or answer questions during the viva, and their presence is not necessary. However, some universities permit members of the faculty or the university to attend. At the University of Oxford, for instance, any member of the University may attend a DPhil viva (the University's regulations require that details of the examination and its time and place be published formally in advance) provided he or she attends in full academic dress.[15]


A submission of the thesis is the last formal requirement for most students after the defense. By the final deadline, the student must submit a complete copy of the thesis to the appropriate body within the accepting institution, along with the appropriate forms, bearing the signatures of the primary supervisor, the examiners, and, in some cases, the head of the student's department. Other required forms may include library authorizations (giving the university library permission to make the thesis available as part of its collection) and copyright permissions (in the event that the student has incorporated copyrighted materials in the thesis). Many large scientific publishing houses (e.g. Taylor & Francis, Elsevier) use copyright agreements that allow the authors to incorporate their published articles into dissertations without separate authorization.

Failure to submit the thesis by the deadline may result in graduation (and granting of the degree) being delayed. At most U.S. institutions, there will also be various fees (for binding, microfilming, copyright registration, and the like), which must be paid before the degree will be granted.

Once all the paperwork is in order, copies of the thesis may be made available in one or more university libraries. Specialist abstracting services exist to publicize the content of these beyond the institutions in which they are produced. Many institutions now insist on submission of digitized as well as printed copies of theses; the digitized versions of successful theses are often made available online.

See also[edit]


  1. ^Originally, the concepts "dissertation" and "thesis" (plural, "theses") were not interchangeable. When, at ancient universities, the lector had completed his lecture, there would traditionally follow a disputation, during which students could take up certain points and argue them. The position that one took during a disputation was the thesis, while the dissertation was the line of reasoning with which one buttressed it. Olga Weijers: The medieval disputatio. In: Hora est! (On dissertations), p.23-27. Leiden University Library, 2005
  2. ^ abcInternational Standard ISO 7144: Documentation—Presentation of theses and similar documents, International Organization for Standardization, Geneva, 1986.
  3. ^Douwe Breimer, Jos Damen et al.: Hora est! (On dissertations). Leiden University Library, 2005
  4. ^"The Graduate Thesis". 
  5. ^Thomas, Gary (2009) Your Research Project. Thousand Oaks: Sage.
  6. ^Rudestam & Newton (2007) Surviving your dissertation. Thousand Oaks: Sage.
  7. ^"Italian Studies MA Thesis Work Plan". 
  8. ^
  9. ^Comisión Nacional de Evaluación y Acreditación Universitaria (in Spanish)Archived 25 August 2010 at the Wayback Machine.
  10. ^"Carleton University – Canada's Capital University". Retrieved 24 November 2010. 
  11. ^"Our Universities – About Theses Canada – Theses Canada Portal". 24 October 2008. Retrieved 24 November 2010. 
  12. ^"MSc Engg and PhD in IISc". Retrieved 24 November 2010. 
  13. ^Admin. "How to Write Methodology for Dissertation". Research Prospect. Retrieved 16 March 2017. 
  14. ^Pearce, Lynne (2005) How to Examine a Thesis, McGraw-Hill International, pp. 79–85
  15. ^"Oxford University Examination Regulations, 2007". Retrieved 24 November 2010. 

External links[edit]

Look up thesis in Wiktionary, the free dictionary.
Cover page of a Licentiate dissertation in Sweden