Prize-Winning Thesis and Dissertation Examples

It can be difficult to know where to start when writing your thesis or dissertation. One way to come up with some ideas or maybe even combat writer’s block is to check out previous work done by other students on a similar thesis or dissertation topic to yours.

This article collects a list of undergraduate, master’s, and PhD theses and dissertations that have won prizes for their high-quality research.

Note
As you read the examples below, bear in mind that all universities have their own guidelines for writing theses and dissertations. The requirements for length, format, and structure often vary by faculty and department. Different disciplines have different research conventions and use different citation styles.

We highly recommend that you review your own university’s policies, and discuss any questions with your supervisor.

Award-winning undergraduate theses

University: University of Pennsylvania
Faculty: History
Author: Suchait Kahlon
Award: 2021 Hilary Conroy Prize for Best Honors Thesis in World History
Title: “Abolition, Africans, and Abstraction: the Influence of the “Noble Savage” on British and French Antislavery Thought, 1787-1807”

University: Columbia University
Faculty: History
Author: Julien Saint Reiman
Award: 2018 Charles A. Beard Senior Thesis Prize
Title: “A Starving Man Helping Another Starving Man”: UNRRA, India, and the Genesis of Global Relief, 1943-1947

University: University College London
Faculty: Geography
Author: Anna Knowles-Smith
Award: 2017 Royal Geographical Society Undergraduate Dissertation Prize
Title: Refugees and theatre: an exploration of the basis of self-representation

University: University of Washington
Faculty: Computer Science & Engineering
Author: Nick J. Martindell
Award: 2014 Best Senior Thesis Award
Title: DCDN: Distributed content delivery for the modern web

Award-winning master’s theses

University: University of Edinburgh
Faculty: Informatics
Author: Christopher Sipola
Award: 2018 Social Responsibility & Sustainability Dissertation Prize
Title: Summarizing electricity usage with a neural network

University: University of Ottawa
Faculty: Education
Author: Matthew Brillinger
Award: 2017 Commission on Graduate Studies in the Humanities Prize
Title: Educational Park Planning in Berkeley, California, 1965-1968

University: University of Ottawa
Faculty: Social Sciences
Author: Heather Martin
Award: 2015 Joseph De Koninck Prize
Title: An Analysis of Sexual Assault Support Services for Women who have a Developmental Disability

University: University of Ottawa
Faculty: Physics
Author: Guillaume Thekkadath
Award: 2017 Commission on Graduate Studies in the Sciences Prize
Title: Joint measurements of complementary properties of quantum systems

University: London School of Economics
Faculty: International Development
Author: Lajos Kossuth
Award: 2016 Winner of the Prize for Best Overall Performance
Title: Shiny Happy People: A study of the effects income relative to a reference group exerts on life satisfaction

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Award-winning Ph.D. dissertations

University: Stanford University
Faculty: English
Author: Nathan Wainstein
Award: 2021 Alden Prize
Title: “Unformed Art: Bad Writing in the Modernist Novel”

University: University of Massachusetts at Amherst
Faculty: Molecular and Cellular Biology
Author: Nils Pilotte
Award: 2021 Byron Prize for Best Ph.D. Dissertation
Title: “Improved Molecular Diagnostics for Soil-Transmitted Molecular Diagnostics for Soil-Transmitted Helminths”

University: Utrecht University
Faculty: Linguistics
Author: Hans Rutger Bosker
Award: 2014 AVT/Anéla Dissertation Prize
Title: The processing and evaluation of fluency in native and non-native speech

University: California Institute of Technology
Faculty: Physics
Author: Michael P. Mendenhall
Award: 2015 Dissertation Award in Nuclear Physics
Title: Measurement of the neutron beta decay asymmetry using ultracold neutrons

University: University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Faculty: Computer Science
Author: John Criswell
Award: 2014 Doctoral Dissertation Award
Title: Secure Virtual Architecture: Security for Commodity Software Systems

University: Stanford University
Faculty: Management Science and Engineering
Author: Shayan O. Gharan
Award: Doctoral Dissertation Award 2013
Title: New Rounding Techniques for the Design and Analysis of Approximation Algorithms

University: University of Minnesota
Faculty: Chemical Engineering
Author: Eric A. Vandre
Award: 2014 Andreas Acrivos Dissertation Award in Fluid Dynamics
Title: Onset of Dynamics Wetting Failure: The Mechanics of High-speed Fluid Displacement

University: Erasmus University Rotterdam
Faculty: Marketing
Author: Ezgi Akpinar
Award: McKinsey Marketing Dissertation Award 2014
Title: Consumer Information Sharing: Understanding Psychological Drivers of Social Transmission

University: University of Washington
Faculty: Computer Science & Engineering
Author: Keith N. Snavely
Award: 2009 Doctoral Dissertation Award
Title: Scene Reconstruction and Visualization from Internet Photo Collections

University: University of Ottawa
Faculty: Social Work
Author: Susannah Taylor
Award: 2018 Joseph De Koninck Prize
Title: Effacing and Obscuring Autonomy: the Effects of Structural Violence on the Transition to Adulthood of Street Involved Youth

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Tegan George

Tegan is an American based in Amsterdam, with master's degrees in political science and education administration. While she is definitely a political scientist at heart, her experience working at universities led to a passion for making social science topics more approachable and exciting to students. A well-designed natural experiment is her favorite type of research, but she also loves qualitative methods of all varieties.