Queen's University Queen's University

Project vs. Thesis: Choosing A Route For Your Academic Journey

This post is dedicated to all of those first year masters students who will come to that fork in the road at some point this year, when a decision must be made on which route to take on this academic journey. Will it be the project route, or the thesis route?

Some people know which route they’d like to take before they even begin their program. Others, like me, think they know what they should do and then have a breakdown breakthrough and decide to go the other way.

Since we’re always encouraging more voices on Gradifying, I’ve enlisted some help from students in the faculty of education to share their reasons for choosing either a project or a thesis.


 Peter van Gestel is in his second year and nearing the end of his journey (project completion).

I pretty much knew what I wanted to do when I got here a year ago, although the work has gone through some changes as the year progressed. For the most part it has always been about making Shakespeare more accessible to students from a place of experience…in other words, the question I kept asking myself was, “If students experienced Shakespeare as an actor experiences Shakespeare, could a relevance or personal connection be made/found?”I decided ultimately on the project route because it just felt the right fit for me and what I wanted to accomplish while I was here.  Another primary reason for going project over thesis was the opportunity for creativity. Projects are not as regimented as thesis. There is more room for freedom of expression and in the end, the process of completion was simpler.”


Marijane Davis is also in her second year and is in the final stages of completing her project.

For me, knowing that I am returning to work in the public education sector, preparing a curriculum unit that will support student success and address the achievement gap just makes sense! The thought of sharing my project with colleagues and influencing their teaching practice pertaining to vocabulary instruction is highly motivating. Bottom line, I am a teacher. Creating a unit that uses evidence based instructional strategies will impact student performance. As a teacher, that’s my job, what I’m passionate about, and like I said- that’s the bottom line.



Heather Coe is in her second year of the masters program.

I wanted to have the option to do a PhD afterwards. I don’t necessarily think that choosing the project route cuts you off from doing a PhD but I think it might be more of a barrier. In doing a project you’d have to work against more barriers, whereas doing a thesis it opens more doors. However, if I didn’t want to do my PhD I think I’d want to do a project because I think it could be timelier. You’d have your own timeline whereas if you want to do a thesis for education and you want to go into the schools you are really limited on when you can do your research, so your year is basically dictated on when you can go into the school.


Sean Cousins is a first year masters student.

I’m building on my previous masters program in which I did a project. I have experienced what it’s like to do a project and I know how involved and comprehensive it can be. This time I want to enrich and deepen my understanding of the subject and I find the thesis route able to facilitate that. My decision has been constructed based on the environment here at Queen’s, where I can pursue what I’d like to do, which is diabetes care in schools. It’s not something that I just one day picked out and said, ‘I want to do it’. It’s from the conversations I’ve had and in reflection of the sources I consulted I decided that this is the best option for me at this point in my academic career.

And what about you out there? What are your stories? How does one decide which route to take?

How did you decide?


Posted in New Students, Thesis, Uncategorized
9 comments on “Project vs. Thesis: Choosing A Route For Your Academic Journey
  1. Colette says:

    It would be great if we can get some thoughts from other faculties, so come on, don’t be shy. Give us your reasons which route you chose to take.

  2. Atif Atif says:

    I should prefix this by saying that we don’t have the option in Epidemiology of a project vs a thesis. My understanding though is that if you do a project, it’s more difficult to do a PhD (as Heather said), while if you do a thesis, you can still have all the options available to you that a project would allow.

  3. Andrew says:

    I know this was intended for master students but I was also wondering the same thing about undergraduates. Would an undergraduate student be better off completing a thesis rather than a project if they’re hoping to complete a masters?

  4. Sharday says:

    That’s a good question. As credentials inflate, the ways we make ourselves competitive for our desired opportunities are changing. Your best bet will always be to make personal contact with the program you hope to join and find out what their training expectations are for their incoming students. If you’re talking about a program like mine (Cultural Studies), for instance, which is an interdisciplinary program that has a project option even at the PhD level, your choosing to do something nontraditional wouldn’t be in and of itself an impediment to your admission. I know anecdotally that for a lot of undergrads hopeful for Clinical Psychology graduate programs, students expect to do directed labs, directed readings, and an honours thesis in order to demonstrate that they have the research chops necessary for an intense program. Talk to the directors or chairs of your potential programs and ask them to put you in touch with current or former students, too. Many will be only too happy to share with you what they know now and wish they knew then.

  5. Joseph Mwema says:

    I went the Thesis way for my MSc in Computing because I wanted to have a good groundig for embarking on PhD. Thesis is so time engaging and requires a lot of devotion but when you are done with it and you publish a few research papers from it you feel so good

  6. Titus W. Wasike says:

    I intend to pursue a PhD after my MSc, from the comments I’ve read I may opt for the thesis route.

  7. Khalil says:

    Let us put it this way. If you want to go to the Masteral thesis route then you have a much easier way in taking a PhD. Whereas if you choose project you need do more work even take additional subjects just to go through a PhD. A Masteral thesis is a basis if you want to take a PhD. If you are already happy with a Masters degrees and not go through a PhD then choose the project.

  8. PhD Notebook says:

    Very interesting comments from every one of you. I am taking notes for future references in my Phd research.

  9. NiveJ says:

    Hello Queen’s Uni students and Profs,

    I am taking Project based MSc on Computer Science, since I couldn’t get into MSc thesis at Queen’s. I’m really into PhD and I wanted to transfer my Project based to thesis based! Is it Mandatory that I have to complete thesis on Msc to do PhD or project based, work experience and some more additional courses would get me into PhD? I’m bit confused! Please advise.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *


Subscribe to Gradifying

Gradifying Poll

Grad Community at Queen's
How connected do you feel to a community of other graduate students at Queen's?