A successful thesis should demonstrate a student's ability to conduct guided independent research, exhibit engagement in original and critical thinking, apply knowledge acquired in courses to a specific set of problems, and the ability to produce a clearly written thesis.
The thesis must make significant contribution in the field of biological sciences.
Find out more about academic deadlines (Office of Graduate Studies).
With the guidance of their thesis advisor, students must:
- Demonstrate that they have clearly defined a significant biological question.
- Outline the experimental or analytical/modeling approaches to tackle this question. Some of the experiments, including the appropriate controls, must be designed by the student.
- Carry out the research outlined above, possibly in collaboration with other graduate students or postdocs. If the student's work includes collaboration with others, he/she must specify this in their written thesis and oral thesis defense, which of the experiments they performed.
- Analyze and interpret experimental results and draw the appropriate conclusions.
- Summarize whether or not the student has successfully answered the biological question posed, and define the future directions in which the project can continue.
Get a printable PDF version of this information.
Defending a thesis successfully requires at a minimum that the student has obtained sufficient data to make a significant contribution to a research paper that will be published in a peer-reviewed journal. Such a contribution could consist of 1 or more of the following:
- The student produces at least 1 figure or a table that will be included in a peer-reviewed research paper.
- The student's work lays a significant foundation for further research (for example, the student conducts a genetic screen).
- The student develops a new technique or improve an existing method, producing a significant, applicable technical advance.
If the expectations listed above are not met, the thesis must at a minimum show that the student made a substantial effort to achieve these goals.
The thesis advisor, with help from the MS Thesis Committee, must determine that circumstances beyond the student's control that prevented the student from meeting these expectations.
Your advisor and committee members might use the following criteria to evaluate the quality of your thesis.
Abstract (must not exceed 250 words)
- Does the student briefly and clearly state the focus of the described research, experimental design and methods of data collection?
- Does the abstract provide a summary of the most important findings and conclusions?
- Does the student provide the background information for understanding the problem, its significance, and how it fits in biology at large?
- Does the student support the background information, ideas, and hypotheses with citations of the appropriate scientific sources?
- Does the student identify the gap of knowledge and clearly state the questions being answered/hypotheses being tested?
2. Materials and Methods
- Are the experimental or analytical/modeling approaches appropriate to tackle the specific biological question?
- Are the methodologies described in sufficient detail for another researcher to be able to repeat the experiments?
- Are the experiments clearly described, and their results presented in the appropriate visual formats (graphs, tables)?
- Are the figures and tables of sufficiently high quality and well labeled? Are figure legends concise and informative? Are the figures and tables appropriately referred to and described in the text of the thesis?
- Were the appropriate control experiments carried out?
- Were the appropriate statistical analyses employed?
- Are the interpretations of the experiments supported by the data?
- Are the data collected adequate for the solution of the problem?
- Has the student obtained sufficient data to make a significant contribution to a research paper that will be published in a peer-reviewed journal?
- Does the discussion provide a thoughtful summary of the data and draw the appropriate conclusions?
- Does the student discuss whether the questions posed at the beginning of the study have been answered, and address the adequacy of the obtained data in answering these questions?
- Are there any discrepancies or unexpected results and, if such were encountered, addressed?
- Does the student discuss how her or his findings contribute to our understanding of the area of study?
- Does the student cite relevant literature sources?
- Does the student identify questions that remain unanswered and suggest possible follow-up directions?
- Does the student use a sufficient number of primary and secondary, peer-reviewed literature sources?
- Are all citations in a uniform, accepted reference format?
UC San Diego's Office of Graduate Studies (OGS) has very specific requirements for formatting a Master’s Thesis. These requirements, along with examples of thesis formats, can be downloaded as a pdf file from the OGS website
Below are sample theses that former students have submitted (PDFs):
You can view previously submitted MS Theses in the UC San Diego Library database. Type "biology thesis" in the keyword search area and click on the "search" button.
Once you get the results, you can click on the link for each thesis and in the "Description Notes" section you will see if it is an MS thesis or a PhD dissertation.