On 31 October 1517, Martin Luther, an Augustinian monk, submitted his 95 theses to his bishop. This eventually led to the Protestant Reformation. The word ‘thesis’ comes from a Greek word which means ‘position’. For someone to say that he has a thesis means that he has a clear and firm position regarding a certain matter. Luther had such positions (he had not one, but 95 theses!) and defended them fiercely. The Pope excommunicated him, the Emperor issued a decree which put him under death sentence. Still, he did not move from his position.
Two days ago, I, a PhD student, submitted my thesis to the Registrar’s Office. Now that I remember what thesis means, I am a bit overwhelmed. Why should the academic world adopt the word ‘thesis’? Perhaps we should find a humbler terminology. While I do have some positions that I sincerely argue for in my thesis, I am obviously not willing to die defending them. I would not insist that spatial variability must be considered in analysis of rainfall-induced landslides under the pain of death! Nor would I risk excommunication for my conviction that uncertainty is important.
Ah well, perhaps I was just thinking too much about my thesis.