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During my final year at university, I wrote what I thought was a "bachelor thesis". Right before printing it I stumbled upon several documents stating the name "bachelor's thesis". (Here we do not call it a dissertation just yet, so this question is only about the possessive bachelor's vs. bachelor.) A couple of Google search queries later, I had not found out which of these terms is correct. Which should I use?

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It's a master's thesis and a doctoral thesis. Going by these, it should be a bachelor's thesis or a bacheloral thesis. Except bacheloral isn't a word. What is the adjective form for bachelor? Oh, it's bachelor. So by analogy, it's either a bachelor's thesis or a bachelor thesis. I think both should be fine. –  Peter Shor Jul 19 '12 at 16:06
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4 Answers

First off, I would mimic the term that your university uses. Does that give you a satisfactory resolution? (Or are they inconsistent in their use?)

If not, do you use the full term "Bachelor of Arts" or "Bachelor of Science" in your thesis title? If so, you don't need the apostrophe s (and you should capitalize the words as indicated). However, if you are referring to the degree program more informally, then I think you should use "bachelor's thesis." (See this Wikipedia entry in which bachelor's is used throughout.)

Also, the Associated Press Styleguide has these guidelines for Academic Degrees:

  • Use an apostrophe in bachelor’s degree, a master’s, etc.
  • There is no apostrophe in Bachelor of Arts or Master of Science.

I think that would apply to bachelor's thesis as well.

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Inconsistency is the problem. I have seen both versions come up, so it's not about being correct with respect to the university, it's more a question of my curiosity. As BA/BSc is concerned, we do not distinguish between them, we're simply bachelors. I read through some style guides, but none of them address theses specifically, so I was not sure about its application based on "bachelor's degree" and other uses. So your implication may or may not be correct. Still it's the closest I got to a backed answer. –  Ondrej May 10 '12 at 10:25
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In some countries/universities, the word "thesis" or a cognate is used as part of a bachelor's or master's course, while "dissertation" is normally applied to a doctorate, while in others, the reverse is true.

In USA and Canada,

  • Research-based papers presented as the final empirical study of a bachelor with honours (honors) degree are normally called bachelor thesis or honours thesis (in USA, "thesis" is in more commonly use).
  • Major papers presented as the final project for a master's degree are normally called thesis.
  • Major papers presenting the student's research towards a doctoral degree are called theses or dissertations.

In Germany,

  • A bachelor's thesis is often 40–60 pages long, other theses are usually even longer.
  • The required submission for the doctorate is called a Dissertation or Doktorarbeit.
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1) This does not address my issue at all. As I said, it's not about thesis/dissertation, regional specifics, ..., it's only about the first word of the term. 2) The whole answer is only a compilation of excerpts from the "Thesis" Wikipedia entry. Don't worry, read that already. –  Ondrej May 10 '12 at 10:19
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As I understand it, you are the bachelor (or at least the bachelor candidate) by virtue of being on the course, and the thesis is yours, so bachelor's thesis is the correct way to go.

On the thesis/dissertation thing, a thesis is your argument or proposition, and a dissertation is the discourse you defend it with.

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At the college I attended, we used the terms Senior Paper or Senior Thesis to describe that it occurs in the final year of schooling. There are no post-graduate programs at the college in question, which avoided confusion with doctoral or master's level work.

Nomenclature of this final year thesis will vary depending on the institution.

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