Why thesis projects should be optional for every program
Theses aren’t beneficial for students who aren’t interested in research
C/O Ousa Chea on Unsplash
With the winter term wrapping up, many students in their final year are also wrapping up their thesis projects. Thesis projects are multi-unit courses that can range from six units to as large as 15 units. It’s a large research project that many students spend several hours on throughout their final year.
While not all programs are required to do a thesis project, some programs do require one, including health sciences, integrated science and arts and science. However, a year-long thesis is a big undertaking for most students. Although thesis projects have faculty supervisors, most of the research you done independently.
For example, I’m doing a thesis this year. As part of my project, I’m doing a literature review, which involves looking at academic articles on my topics and analyzing current methods, findings and theories in the existing literature. Most of my work involves sitting at a computer, looking at articles by myself. I do have a meeting with my supervisor every week, but even that is mostly self-conducted: I ask my supervisor questions regarding my thesis and outline what I’ve done so far.
I enjoy my thesis topic and I think what I’m doing is important. Yet, even I run into issues and struggle with completing my thesis. I’m sure it’s even more difficult for those that don’t enjoy doing a thesis project. Thus, doing a thesis should be something that is optional for students to partake in.
For one, not everyone wants to pursue research in the future. A thesis can be very valuable when it comes to developing your research skills, but not everyone is interested in doing research after their final year. Some students who finish their undergraduate degree go directly into the workforce, some students complete further studies but opt for a course-based graduate or professional program and some students just simply don’t like research.
If you don’t like research, it can be hard to write a research-based thesis. Even if you do like research, thesis projects typically require you to come up with a new spin on an idea or a theory and not everyone has the capacity to do that. You may like researching topics, but only things that already exist in the literature, such as researching for a project or presentation in a molecular mechanism.
Furthermore, some students gain more from doing course-based work. Maybe taking a presentation-based course, an inquiry course or a lecture-based course is something that is really up their alley. Since we’re paying for our education, shouldn’t we have a say on how we want to learn? Having requirements for certain courses makes sense because, at the end of the day, we’re getting a degree in a specific field.
However, we should have the option to choose the way we learn our required content. If we need to learn about molecular biology, we should have the option to do a thesis, but also have the option to do a project, paper or presentation on it instead.
The need for optional thesis projects is further exacerbated by this year being online. Many students are facing burnout. As we hit the one-year anniversary of the pandemic, it’s important to acknowledge the higher levels of stress that students may be experiencing as well as the decreased motivation that has afflicted us by storm.
Being motivated enough to do self-directed research on top of the pandemic can be incredibly difficult; thus, it is important to consider making thesis courses optional — and especially so this year.
By making thesis projects optional, students will have the opportunity to choose whether a thesis is the best choice for their learning. Some degrees, such as programs under the department of health, aging and society as well as the English and cultural studies program already have optional theses. If optional thesis projects are doable in these programs, they should be doable for every other program, too.