We've been having this discussion about what actually formulates 'contribution to knowledge' when doing a masters or a PhD in a particular field.

For an example from my field (Computer Science), say an MS student finds a particularly good algorithm that has not been used to solve a problem in disaster management. He then goes ahead and builds a solution that uses this algorithm to find position of a cell phone in a disaster situation.

However, while the student has solved a problem of high interest to many people, he has not contributed to the field of Computer Science, per se. Or has he? Some say that since he didn't contribute to Computer Science as a field, he should not get a Masters degree in CS.


4 Answers 4


Contribution to knowledge means creating new knowledge based on the previous available knowledge by doing extensive and innovative research.

Look up this related illustrative post by Matt Might on what is a PhD.

And for the said MS student, he should get his degree without any problem, because he showed a new & original application of the CS algorithm in a new field. Hence, new knowledge generated.


I think of a contribution to knowledge as being a body of work that could be published as a journal article.

  • 3
    Care to explain the downvote?
    – StrongBad
    Nov 26, 2012 at 11:02

Finding a new and good way to solve a problem in the field of interest is definitely counts as a contribution. What makes it as an official contribution is publishing it and making it visible to the peers.


When a researcher uncovers an evidence hitherto unknown to a large number of people within and outside the Academia, this could be seen as a contribution to knowledge because it is a discovery or an uncharted course made possible

  • The name of the first governor of Vermont has probably always been unknown to a large number of people within and outside of Academia. But hardly uncharted: anyone can look it up if they want to. It's not the number of people who don't know that counts; its the fact that it's unkown to those who would have known it if it could have been looked up. [PS: Thomas Chittenden.] Jul 8, 2015 at 5:47

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