When I am practicing listening, particularly when it comes to university stuff, I'm getting a bit confused how to use the words appropriately. Items are below.

"Mostly" meaning to go to colleges/universities to get honor's (_____) aka "Bachelor's degree" after submitting "Honor's thesis", consisting of freshman, sophomore, junior, senior.

After passing the honor's degree and get the title (______), these who would like to major in several areas of academic courses go. They at the end of the very "term" need to submit Master's thesis aka? Doctoral dissertation to get PH.D. But in some states this is called "Bachelors degree."

Is my categorizing correct?

  • 4
    I have never heard of an "honor's medal". You receive a diploma or a (bachelor's) degree after completing undergraduate school.
    – stangdon
    Jun 19, 2018 at 21:32
  • Coined by me...sorry...
    – user17814
    Jun 20, 2018 at 0:55

3 Answers 3


Most US undergraduate programs do not require an honor's thesis - it is sufficient to achieve take a specific set of courses over four years, and usually the student must maintain a grade-point average (GPA) that stays above some minimum.

At my undergraduate university, there was an Honor's Program that you could be admitted to that did require an honor's thesis. If you completed your thesis (and maintained an even higher GPA than the standard), the you could graduate "with honors". Only a small fraction of undergraduates were in the honor's program. All graduating students got a Bachelor's degree. Students in the honors program got a Bachelor's degree with honors.

Finally, many undergraduate engineering programs do require a senior project, which is usually a year-long project that is done in a small group with other students and produces some working piece of engineering. This is a required course that must be taken in those programs in order to earn the Bachelor's degree in engineering. Other disciplines may have similar senior projects (a musical recital for music majors, for example).

Edited to add stuff about graduate degrees:

At the Master's degree level, some programs require a Master's thesis, many do not, especially in the sciences. In a non-terminal Master's program, which is part of a doctoral program where you satisfy the requirements for a Master's degree (usually just a set of courses) along the way to earning a PhD, there is almost never a thesis requirement. In many fine-arts programs (music, sculpture, theater, etc.), part of the requirements for a Master's degree is a Master's recital or exhibition.

In a doctoral program, where you are earning a PhD, there are usually two major requirements, once the courses that constitute your non-terminal Masters are completed:

  1. A qualifying exam, where a panel of faculty members ask you a lot of questions to prove that you have broad knowledge of your entire field of study.

  2. A dissertation defense, where you present your doctoral dissertation, which is a comprehensive description of narrowly-focused original research that you have completed under the guidance of a faculty thesis advisor. The dissertation is the written requirement: in the sciences it is often compiled from a series of published journal articles, while in the humanities it is usually book-length and may be published as a book. The defense is where you present it to a panel of faculty members who question you about the work you have done.

  • Thank you. Most US undergraduate programs do not require an honor's thesis bewilders me.
    – user17814
    Jun 19, 2018 at 22:20
  • 1
    @KentaroTomono Interesting, why is that? Anyway, I wanted to mention that, from what I've seen, the phrase is "honors thesis" or "honors program", without the apostrophe.
    – David Z
    Jun 20, 2018 at 8:14
  • 2
    @Kentaro If you have another question you should ask it separately. If you wish to clarify your existing question, edit to include that information in your question so everyone gets a chance to address it in their answers. You can always leave a comment to let authors know you have updated your question.
    – ColleenV
    Jun 20, 2018 at 17:43
  • 1
    @KentaroTomono CY noted that master's thesis is not required for every kind of master's degree, and is simply citing some examples of alternatives to it. If your course of study is clarinet performance, you would probably play a clarinet recital before a faculty jury as your final examination. If you are seeking a master's in landscape architecture, you would probably present them a capstone design project of drawings and models.
    – choster
    Jun 20, 2018 at 19:23
  • 1
    Yes, a Master's recital would be a musical concert for someone seeking an MFA in musical performance. A sculptor would have a Master's exhibition of selected works as part of their MFA graduation requirements. In both cases, faculty members would be present evaluating the quality of their work. Jun 20, 2018 at 19:27

Undergraduate programs at US private colleges vary widely. Some (e.g. Reed, Hampshire) require a thesis or equivalent from all students. Others require a thesis only in special programs, sometimes called honors programs. Most have none at all.


In the US:

Undergraduate students may submit (apparently, I hadn't heard of it until today) an honor's thesis in order to complete their bachelor's degree.

Master's students typically submit a master's thesis in order to complete their master's degree.

Doctoral students typically submit a doctoral dissertation in order to complete their PHD.

  • Thank you for your swift answer. Would you elaborate apparently, I hadn't heard of it until today here, then what would you say "ordinarily"?? Textbooks and even Wiki ( somewhat vague ) sets the post secondary academic courses so.
    – user17814
    Jun 19, 2018 at 20:43
  • 1
    You're welcome. I hadn't heard of having to complete a bachelor's thesis as part of an undergraduate program, but looking online it seems fairly common.
    – wrymug
    Jun 19, 2018 at 20:49
  • 3
    To complete the picture: an associate's degree is a 2-year degree offered by many "community colleges" (as opposed to universities). It is not a prerequisite for a bachelor's degree.
    – BradC
    Jun 19, 2018 at 21:00
  • 2
    Most undergraduates do not submit an honors thesis unless their program specifically calls for a senior seminar, thesis, capstone, etc. to qualify for honors. Also, the master's thesis and doctoral dissertation only apply for research-oriented master's and doctorate degrees. You don't complete a master's thesis for an MBA and you don't defend a dissertation for your Pharm.D.
    – choster
    Jun 19, 2018 at 23:35
  • 3
    @马化腾 In the U.S. educational system, it is conventional to reserve the term dissertation for the document submitted for a doctoral degree, whereas thesis is a more generic term for a document that describes a major research project. Thus, you will more often see thesis qualified as a master's thesis than dissertation as a doctoral dissertation, as it is implicit that a dissertation is submitted towards a Ph.D. Note that these terms are used differently in other countries, however. Similarly, a defense in academia refers to the oral defense of one's dissertation..
    – choster
    Jun 20, 2018 at 0:49

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