If having some questionable aspects in the thesis - like not elaborated and rather simple theoretical models -, that did not influence the whole work and results, but might still arise the thought "Why didn't the student know/do better here?", can this have a negative influence when applying to some graduate school?

  • 1
    Obviously. This would also cast doubt on the advisor(s)' competence, or the student's sense to communicate with the advisor, and so on. Nothing positive in such a scenario. May 5, 2016 at 22:04

2 Answers 2


My recommendation is for the student to make it clear in the thesis that they know these are overly simple theoretical models. If the models don't significantly affect the main results, it is difficult to see how being honest can hurt. And trying to make it appear that the models are more significant than they actually are could definitely hurt.

  • The student was more confident in his experimental skills than theoretical analysis ones. He explained the observations on a somewhat oversimplified model, but was aware of this and mentioned it whenever felt necessary, while also providing some first correction. He felt that elaborating a full model from the beginning would have exceeded his mathematical skills, eventhough it might have been easy for others...he's not known to be confident in mathematics. Despite providing first correction and mentioning the simple model's drawbacks, might this prevent him from getting into astro grad school?
    – Lucas
    May 7, 2016 at 21:14
  • @Lucas: I don't know ... I'm not familiar with what they're looking for in astro grad students. May 7, 2016 at 21:43

It is very unlikely that the graduate admission committee will read your thesis when making admission decisions. The essay, transcripts, test scores, research experience, letters, and publication authorship are far more likely to be used to select the future graduate students.

  • You'd be surprised. I've read some applicants' posted arXiv papers, and for one of these I realized that it was more or less complete nonsense (probably mainly his advisor's fault). This definitely had a negative effect on his admissions decision—we rejected him. May 7, 2016 at 17:31
  • So eventhough some fault may mainly be due to the advisor, a committee still punishes the applicant? Just out of curiosity and ignorance, so no judging: is this common?
    – Lucas
    May 7, 2016 at 20:32
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    @Lucas: The student's case wasn't good enough for him to be admitted if we completely ignored the research. And how can you tell whether a student is good at research when you're judging this from a mostly nonsensical paper, and the recommendation letter of an advisor who permitted (or encouraged) the student to write this paper? May 7, 2016 at 21:47

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