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Thesis, major paper, and major project proposals

Learn more about the typical elements of a thesis, major paper, or major project proposal.


Major Project

The major project is often given alternate titles such as 'organizational consulting project', 'strategic management project', organizational leadership project', etc. depending on the program. The major project is an independent, typically work-based, problem-solving project. In general, the scope, breadth and structure of major projects will be more flexible than is expected in a thesis. The scope of this integrative learning activity is substantial, such that a client company or organization would normally pay a substantial consulting fee for the level of work undertaken. A major project is typically practical and data driven. Background literature underlying the project may be more selective and practical in scope and less theoretical than would typically be expected for a research thesis. Publication is not a requirement, and the major project will not be submitted to the National Library of Canada. The major project requires a minimum of two supervisors (an academic advisor and a client or sponsor). The project will be reviewed at the program level by a program head or equivalent, designated external reviewer or committee. The project should constitute approximately 200 or 300 or 400 hours of effort by the student resulting in the awarding of 6 or 9 or 12 credit hours respectively. (Royal Roads University, n.d., Graduate Program Research Requirements, para. 4)

Research Paper

A research paper constitutes a substantial written examination of a topic relevant to the program of study. The scope should be appropriate for the requirements of the particular program. Topics need not be original contributions to knowledge, but may constitute exercises in replication of relevant studies, application of knowledge to the field, development of instructional practices or policy analysis or development, surveys, creative work, documentary work and other types of projects negotiated with the program director. Standards of validity and academic rigor apply as appropriate to the nature of the research paper, whether it be a theoretical analysis, empirical study or naturalistic inquiry. Some, but not all, research-related learning outcomes of the program will be demonstrated in the graduating paper. The paper should require approximately 200 hours of effort by the student resulting in the awarding of 6 credit hours. The research paper will normally be assessed by a faculty member holding a doctoral degree, as negotiated with the program director. (Royal Roads University, n.d., Graduate Program Research Requirements, para. 3)

Research Proposal

The research proposal is used to assess the originality and quality of ideas and the feasibility of a proposed project. The goal of the research proposal is to convince others that the investigator has (a) an important idea; (b) the skills, knowledge, and resources to carry out the project; and (c) a plan to implement the project on time and within budget. (Frey, 2018, para. 1)


A thesis is a systematic study of a significant problem, issue, or phenomenon. The thesis demonstrates the ability to analyze existing research, collate or collect data and apply it in the context of an existing problem, issue or opportunity. The result is a synthesis of theoretical and empirical information and/or recommendations for further action. The thesis identifies a problem or issue, states the research question, identifies major assumptions, explains the significance for the undertaking, grounds the research in relevant literature, sets forth the methods of gathering information, analyzes the data and offers a conclusion or recommendations based on the data and theoretical framing. Appropriate quality standards such as validity, reliability, or authenticity must be consistent with the selected research tradition and evident in tool development and data collection. The finished thesis evidences critical and independent thinking, subject expertise, appropriate organization and format, and thorough documentation. (Royal Roads University, n.d., Graduate Program Research Requirements, para. 5)

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Frey, B. (2018). The SAGE encyclopedia of educational research, measurement, and evaluation (Vols. 1-4). SAGE Publications. 10.4135/9781506326139

Royal Roads University. (n.d.). Academic regulations: Section 1: Credit and registration.