The Technical Communication program offers both a thesis and non-thesis option for completion of the M.A. degree; the non-thesis option can consist of either a final research project or an additional 6000-level technical communication class. Students do not need to decide which option they use at the beginning of their program of study. Students should aim to decide whether or not they are writing a thesis by the half-way point of their program, or at about fifteen hours (five classes).
The non-thesis option is the easier of the two and the one that the majority of our students take. The thesis requires much more work than a single 6000-level class, and it runs the risk of slowing the student’s degree completion time.
Why, then, would a student want to write a thesis? First, if you have a topic in mind that truly interests you and the restricted elective topics offered during your program of study haven’t allowed you to explore it, the thesis will give you the opportunity to do so. Second, a thesis will give you the opportunity to develop a specialization. The M.A. remains a generalist degree, but a thesis allows an in-depth exploration of a limited topic. Lastly, the thesis provides an opportunity for sustained, self-directed research and thus provides preparation for writing a dissertation as part of a doctoral program.
It is widely assumed that writing a thesis gives students a better chance of getting into a PhD program and of getting an assistantship when admitted. However, this is anecdote rather than fact: many of our M.A. students have been admitted into PhD programs without writing a thesis. Nonetheless, the thesis option is good choice for students who are considering further graduate study because the thesis develops the research skills necessary to succeed in a doctoral program.
The research project non-thesis option usually consists of a real-world deliverable product, such as a user manual or a substantial web site, that does not fit the parameters of a traditional academic thesis. It may be an actual document that will be used be an employer or a non-profit. The basic structure of the thesis remains intact: there is still a committee, a proposal, and a defense, but the document does not need to be filed with the UCF Graduate College.