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I have written a thesis for my bachelor degree and next week I have to defend it. The problem is that I found some small mistakes (not spelling mistakes, but small mistakes in equations, a wrong number in the abstract and so on) and one or two more significant problems. Now I want to write an erratum on my thesis that handles six different of these mistakes. Is this too much? I don't want the jury to think that I was sloppy with writing the thesis or that I didn't check it before I handed it in (I did check it numerous of times).

So, is it normal that an erratum contains so much mistakes?

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A thesis is generally a pretty big document, and it would not be surprising to have a number of mistakes even after several passes of editing. If I were on your committee, I would be happy to see you submit such an erratum, because it would indicate that you are continuing to engage with the material and actually concerned about its quality, not just trying to graduate and leave.

  • Thank you for your answer. This is the first thesis that I also have to defend, so I was kind of worried about the mistakes that are still in it. But I think I am going to hand in an erratum now. – Gregory Jun 17 '15 at 8:08
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    @Gregory, I wouldn't write a separate erratum document for this, but simply fix them in place in the body of the thesis, unless there's some bureaucratic reason not to. – Bill Barth Jun 17 '15 at 12:39
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    The probleem is that I have already hand in my thesis. I can not hand in another one. So, if there are any changes, the only thing I can do is write an erratum. I agree that correct the thesis itself is better, but it is too late for that. – Gregory Jun 17 '15 at 12:43
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    @Gregory: that's what Bill means by bureaucratic reasons. In some other Universities you only hand a (final) draft of your thesis to the committee. The committee will make recommendations on your thesis and only after the viva, are you supposed to incorporate the changes (not just the ones you found but also the suggestions from the committee) and produce the final copy to be signed/deposited. // There are also universities where the committee first gives you some written comments before the viva, you fix the document, and then you defend. // Bureaucracy indeed! – Willie Wong Jun 18 '15 at 13:28
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I've seen a number of students come in to their viva with such a document in hand. It is commonly seen by academics as a bit cutesy-naive; it suggests that you have a conception of the examination process that any minor failing is going to lead to an automatic fail, and that examiners are incapable of grasping the "big picture" of your achievement. As such, it conveys a certain kind of perfectionism, precision, detail-orientation and small-picture viewpoint, which can be good in some situations, bad in others.

That said, I've never seen a bad student bring in such a document; it is always a sign of a good student. It demonstrates a certain confidence and analytical ability to find errors such as this; a weaker, less confident student wouldn't have the guts to come along and assert that they are confident in the mistakes that they have found. It therefore also communicates a kind of command of the material that suggests a high-functioning individual in the subject.

On balance, I think it is a good idea to bring it.

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    Why is it naive? Articles and PhD thesis include erratums when found. It would be bad to leave them unfixed, and have the next student that consults the work trip on them. – Davidmh Jun 18 '15 at 8:17
  • I don't think it is naive in terms of the scientific process, but it seems naive in terms of the examination process - it suggests that examiners aren't able to see past "silly mistakes" and get a big picture view of the depth of understanding demonstrated in the report. In terms of helping future students who read the report, it is, of course, useful (and perhaps institutions need to think about how such errata actually get into the archived copy of the report). – Colin Johnson Jun 18 '15 at 11:31
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Whether or not there is any opportunity to submit the errata will depend largely on the rules of your institution. At some universities, there is a fixed time limit to hand in a thesis (such as 6 months after starting). In such a case, examiners may not be allowed to take into account any erratum submitted after the time limit (or else, any student who doesn't make it withon the time limit could just get around that by submitting the missing parts later as amendments). In such a case, I also wouldn't expect there to be any defined process for what the office where you hand in your thesis should do with an erratum.

Even if it is not ignored, I am not convinced preparing an erratum right after submission comes across as an invariably positive sign. In a way, it shows that you failed to finish on time and to decide at some point that some version, perfect or not, is the final one.

That notwithstanding, preparing an errata document for your Bachelor thesis might be beneficial for later steps where previous works you created during your studies might be taken into account, e.g. for Master study admissions.

In all, the number of mistakes you found is probably pretty normal. If you decide to hand in these errata in the first place, you do not need to worry that you will "reveal" how errouneous your thesis is; the degree of correctness will already have influenced your grade, while at the same time, a typical amount of minor mistakes for Bachelor theses has probably been expected and appropriately considered while grading, anyway.

  • I don't think this would be the case for the OP's case, that is closer to typos than missing chunks. – Davidmh Jun 18 '15 at 8:20
  • @Davidmh: In some universities I am familiar with, whatever has been handed in by the day of the deadline counts; anything else must not be taken into account for grading, no matter whether it's previously missing parts or just corrections for typos. Being able to prepare a document with an acceptable degree of diligence within the time limit (and scheduling one's work in a manner so this is feasible, including layouting, proofreading, etc.) is a crucial part of a Bachelor thesis, hence students who fail at that can well face some penalty for sloppy work, even if noticed later (too late). – O. R. Mapper Jun 18 '15 at 13:39

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