I am planning to apply to a PhD program in applied mathematics next year, and by that time my MSc thesis (which is in pure mathematics) should be finished.

In case my research results are not significant enough to be published in a journal, how will my thesis be evaluated for the sake of the admission process? Will someone from the committee actually read parts of it (note that a potential advisor will probably not be very familiar with my MSc field)? Will my research potential be judged solely based on my references' recommendation letters referring to my thesis/research? (In which case, is it even worth putting effort in how the thesis is written, assuming my grad school is happy enough with it to award me a degree?)

  • in addition to the qualities of your thesis which is reflected in recommendation letters, one can evaluate you writing and presenting skills by skimming through your thesis.
    – user35129
    Mar 11, 2017 at 11:41

3 Answers 3


Given the fact that is extremely rare to have a decent publication out of a Master thesis in pure maths, the content and quality of your thesis will be reflected on the recommendation letters.

This, together with your grades and other activities you may have would be the ticket to your admission.

Note that nobody will read your thesis. For the admission committee should be enough if it is apparent from the letters that you did a decent work in your thesis. Your application should show that you have potential of doing research but nobody has the time (or the will) to go through a thesis document.


I am a pure mathematician in the UK. If people apply to do a PhD with me then I will always ask to see a final year undergraduate project or a masters thesis or similar piece of work, if possible. One can often learn a lot by reading a small section of such work. In some cases I might read the whole thing, if it seemed sufficiently interesting. Of course I will also pay close attention to grades and references.


Although it is hard for me to talk about a phd program in applied math. In my field, for phd in immunology, proffessors like you to have a paper but it is not absolute. If you do have one you have a better chance to find a good option. Your grades will also count. Because, it might help you to get a scholarship. When it comes to your thesis, a closer subject to Phd supervisors field will be a better choice. But nobody will ever read any part of your thesis.

  • I doubt that a MSc in pure math is able to produce any paper. In that case I think the grades + reference letters would be the ticket.
    – PsySp
    Mar 11, 2017 at 9:52

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