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making changes to thesis after the fact?


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Hi all,

this is an odd question and after many stressful nights, many google searches and many searches on my own school's website, I havent found much to help me. I defended my Masters thesis months ago but sadly, this whole nightmarish process still isnt over. My advisor wanted me to continue working on the paper to submit it for publication. I was very leery of this idea because my results really werent all that strong, im now juggling both work and writing, and because im so burned out from working on the same project for so long . however, since he wrote me a letter of recommendation for my phd program, I felt obligated and agreed. While working on the paper, I noticed that I made an error in my data analysis which affects one of the conclusions I made in my thesis. Im completely freaking out now and wondering if he could make me redefend or if the school could strip me of my masters. Im not opposed to rewriting portions of my thesis and submitting the changes as long as I dont have to do a defense again. I called the graduate school to ask them about it but they didnt have an answer other than 'probably not'. they said theyd get back to me and never did. I know i should be talking about this with my advisor instead of the internet and i definitely will do that eventually since I cant knowingly submit incorrect results to a journal. However, before talking t ohim, I wanted to mentally prepare myself for what the consequences could be. Does anyone have any insight about what would happen in a situation like this? Ive already been accepted into a phd program (thankfully, at a different school since my experience at my current one was so nightmarish) and im scared of getting my masters taken away and my phd offer rescinded :(

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I don't have any personal experience with this, but here's what I'd think: it happens. Most of the time, people probably don't realize they made a mistake ever. I'd go in with your new results, what it changes, what the mistake made, and how this changes your conclusion (aka be super prepared and thorough). Then ask him how he wants to handle your thesis (my guess: you won't have to change anything) and the paper (my guess: new results). They won't take your master's degree away because you made a tiny math mistake.

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I'm doing this now (writing up my MSc thesis, which I defended last summer, into a paper). Right now, pretty much exactly 0% of the results I wrote and defended in my thesis will be in this paper. Actually, all of the results/simulations are from stuff I did in the last 3 months. It's a little amusing that basically all the actual science output from my 2 year MSc program could have been finished in 3 months if I knew exactly what I was doing when I started! Obviously that's not a realistic scenario and the whole point of the MSc (and most of research) is to figure out what to do.


Anyways, the reason why I redid all of my simulations/computations was because there was a tiny error in one of the lines of code (that someone else wrote). So, it made all of the data in my thesis wrong -- not so wrong that the main conclusions are incorrect, but wrong enough that specific numbers are different, and some trends are stronger/weaker. 


But that shouldn't matter at all. Like I said above, the point of a Masters is to learn research and to do some research. What you wrote in your thesis and what you defended was correct, to the best of your knowledge, at the time. It's perfectly okay to publish a paper that gives completely different results than what you wrote in your thesis (no one will read it anyways). You didn't get the Masters degree for getting a specific result -- you got the degree to recognize the work and education/experience you gained from doing your project. Degrees are awarded to certify a level of training/competence, not because you solved a problem or produced a result!

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