I am currently completing an Masters degree in physics. My M.Sc requires a thesis. Now I applied to Ph.D. programs in the United States and got admitted to one of them. I finished all my M.Sc course requirements. I am still to complete the thesis. Now, I can not find a thesis supervisor currently. Can I just drop the Masters's? Will my admission be affected?

Another question: I am currently doing some independent studies myself. My area of specialization is theoretical physics. Now I think it might be possible to convert what I am independently studying into a Masters's thesis. However, I am not sure if this thesis must involve original research ideas. What I am currently doing is to study some advanced topics in theoretical physics. Can I do a Masters thesis which consists in review of a modern topic of research?

My last question: Can I do a Masters thesis without a supervisor?

  • 3
    I'm afraid the answer to all of your questions can only be given by your university.
    – terdon
    Apr 9, 2020 at 17:37
  • So should I send the school that admitted me that I do not find an advisor so I can not finish my Masters? By the way, Ph.D. students in the US take all these Masters's courses again and complete a Masters's as a component of their Ph.D. program. They take students right out of the Bachelor's degree. My admission offer did not say any thing related to my Masters. I just want to make sure that dropping out of my Masters will not affect my admission negatively. I am reluctant to tell the PhD program that I can not find an advisor so I would like to know if dropping out will affect my admission. Apr 9, 2020 at 18:25
  • Yes, all of these questions can only be answered by your school. The people in the school you applied to are the ones who know if they consider a Masters necessary, those in your current school are the ones who can answer whether they'd accept a thesis without original research and what the rules for Masters degrees are.
    – terdon
    Apr 9, 2020 at 19:12

1 Answer 1


I do not know whether you can do a thesis formally without a supervisor. However, even if it were possible (which I doubt), this is a "Really Bad Idea" (TM). There are very few students who have such a powerful grasp of the topic that they might be able to do an MSc level work without a supervisor, and even they may profit from learning from a more experienced person (Feynman comes to mind who had to learn how to write papers to avoid them getting rejected).

A review of work may be sufficient if it creates a synthetic view of the field, but, again, this is something that only your supervisor can help you decide.

Ultimately, I think the department is responsible to find you a supervisor. They accepted you for the programme. If you have acquired the qualifications entitling you to go forward with the thesis, they have to solve this problem. That being said, the question is why you cannot find a supervisor. Do you have the wrong interests for that department? Or is your profile not strong? If the latter, supervisors may not be enthusiastic to take you on, but then this would not be good starting point to aim for a PhD, though, and definitely discouraged.

Since you do go for the PhD, I therefore assume you have a strong profile and your department should be able to help you.

  • Thank you very much for your answer. It is helpful but it did not answer one of my concerns. My main goal is going for the PhD. I have already received an admission offer. However, I just want to know if dropping out of my Masters will affect my admission. Regarding the supervisor issue, my research interests are not compatible with those of the department. I did have a supervisor in the past. However, for many reasons, I had to leave him. (not compatible interests and abusive behaviour) Apr 9, 2020 at 18:34
  • I forgot to mention that my studies have been disrupted by this coronavirus outbreak. This added more pressure on me. I had to focus more on my job (healthcare).I still have some time to do research though. Apr 9, 2020 at 18:37
  • 1
    Only the institution that made the offer can answer whether dropping out will affect it. It deepens on whether the offer was contingent on finishing the degree. But the advice given in this answer is all valid. Ask someone local who can give definitive answers.
    – Buffy
    Apr 9, 2020 at 19:06
  • Can I know if the offer is contingent on finishing my degree before asking them directly? I have opened my offer letter again and I did not find any such statement. I might be paranoid but I am reluctant to tell the PhD program I am thinking about dropping out of my Masters. Thank you Apr 9, 2020 at 19:09
  • 1
    No one can say but them. Probably (not certainly) they would have mentioned any such requirements. But who can say but them? This isn't something you want to guess about and hope for and then show up and it all falls apart. In the US, a masters isn't normally required to begin a doctorate.
    – Buffy
    Apr 9, 2020 at 19:15

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