I am speaking of project scope here.

So suppose my advisor is working with an industry .And you are asked to build a prediction model for small section of that industry? Does that qualify as a Phd Project or a Master's thesis project.

Or does a Phd project has to be generic model , in the sense all companies in that niche can use that model as basis for their analytics?

I am trying to understand the differences in scope for a PhD and MS Thesis project.

3 Answers 3


I've had this discussion recently—the major differences are in the scope and independence of the work.

There is no easy, absolute method to say "X is a master's thesis" and "Y is a PhD project" without knowing the amount of work involved in each approach, and how independent the student needs to be.

Ultimately, a master's thesis represents a body of effort designed to show that you have successfully completed the project to the satisfaction of your supervisor. A PhD thesis indicates that you have produced a sufficient intellectual contribution to your field, and that you have the capability to be an independent scientist.


Standards vary a lot: for example, I've seen MS theses in theoretical computer science from Israel that are mini-Ph.D dissertations.

But more typically as aeismail says an MS thesis is a demonstration of mastery of a particular topic, and may or may not include original research as a part of this demonstration. In this respect, an MS thesis is closer in form to a bachelor's thesis, but the material will be more complex, and less structured.


The standards will vary quite a bit from field to field, committee to committee, etc. But having gone through this fairly recently, and having been in the position to advise some others:

  • Masters projects: Good Masters projects can be tied up in a single paper - and should be amenable to being published. But they are generally a single, coherent research question. Secondary analysis of existing data, a theoretical paper to support an empirical study, a meta-analysis, etc. are all good examples. There may be lingering questions (there are always lingering questions...) but by and large the student should be able to "walk away" at the end.
  • PhD projects, on the other hand, should lend themselves to multiple papers, at least the number of papers required for graduation, and preferably several more to accommodate changes in funding, research interests, dead ends, or the paper that seems to draw the ire of reviewers everywhere. It should be new, asking fundamentally unknown questions, or at least trying to get at known questions in a different way, and should be substantial enough that, at the end, the student should be able to consider that area to be their area of expertise.

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