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Given a student coming to the end of their undergraduate career working on both a thesis for their bachelor degree as well as a separate research project in a research lab, which would hold more weight towards graduate admissions in US schools.

The main questions started with; in admissions, do people read the bachelor thesis.

I never have, but can't be sure of a standard. If the student is working on a research topic that is set to be submitted for publication, should they focus on that paper and not worry about the bachelor thesis, vice versa, assuming time is constant and the bachelor grade remains the same.

My first thoughts were, a bachelor thesis is not peer reviewed, so any peer reviewed article would be much more likely to be read or at least glanced over beyond the title. No one expects much out of a bachelor thesis, so it will be hard to convince someone to read it, maybe without some two page overview summary linked to the application.

  • Im not saying not to discuss one or the other. Im saying the importance of time to invest before finishing either. Is it worth lowering the quality of the bachelor thesis in order to publish a paper in a conference or journal. – user-2147482637 Jul 30 '15 at 0:56
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Assuming both are closely related to your subject for graduate studies, either could be more important. Even if you have a published paper, graduate admissions committees are not likely to truly read it, though many people may take a quick look at it, to get some sense of what level it is at. (Though if this is a joint paper, just from looking at the paper, a committee will not know how much is due to you.)

Here committees will form an opinion largely based on your letters of recommendation, so if you impress someone in the research lab or your thesis advisor, you should definitely ask for a letter of recommendation. If your thesis advisor is well known, a strong letter from that person can make a bigger impact that one from your research lab. On the other hand, if you don't do a good job on your thesis, you may want to think twice about asking that advisor for a letter.

So, ideally, you should try to do a good job on both, and get letters from both. Presumably you have some tacit agreement with both the lab and your thesis advisor for how much work they expect from you, and you should try to meet both of those. If you can't, this means you are overcommitted, and you need to have a conversation with one or both of these parties. (The same goes if you are unclear on how much work is expected of you and you are having trouble balancing these projects.)

  • Im a little confused, you are saying graduate admissions do not care about having a peer reviewed publication? – user-2147482637 Jul 30 '15 at 1:12
  • academia.stackexchange.com/questions/13500/… both comment and answer seem to allude to the publication of importance (given it is good quality) – user-2147482637 Jul 30 '15 at 1:14
  • @user1938107 No, having a peer reviewed publication is definitely a plus. But just having your name on a joint publication (since you're working at a research lab, I'm guessing your work there is joint) does not necessarily mean too much without letter writers clarifying your role. And an impressive thesis can be more impactful that a mediocre paper. (This is at least true for pure math, but I would guess many other fields as well.) – Kimball Jul 30 '15 at 1:23
  • The student would be first author, and contributed most of the work (its not me who is the student). – user-2147482637 Jul 30 '15 at 1:36
  • @user1938107 Then can you clarify where you fit in in the situation? It seems to me that neglecting work on your theses to do something else should be agreed upon by the student and the thesis supervisor. – Kimball Jul 30 '15 at 11:48
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The student can't finish the thesis after graduation, but s/he could prepare the journal submission afterwards. So, if the student is interested in doing both, perhaps the initial priority should be on cranking out the thesis. Hopefully you (as advisor or mentor) can help the student keep the thesis from getting too big or ambitious.

If it's not feasible to do both (one after the other), and if the planned thesis is non-research-oriented (for example a literature review), then I think the article related to a research project would make the application more attractive.

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