A thesis is original research that contributes to the theoretical and conceptual body of knowledge in a defined area of study; the research conducted often does not apply to one specific real-world situation, but advances the overall understanding of the subject. For example, a thesis may contribute to the body of knowledge on a specific theory such as cognitive dissonance or the spiral of silence by conducting an experiment, or it may contribute to the understanding of the sponsorship motives on the part of the corporations in a mid-sized city. The end product, therefore, can be further explored, tested, and/or replicated in another setting.
A directed project, on the other hand, often focuses on applying already available research to address a real-world situation or opportunity. In a project, the student's major adviser and the student define the situation to be addressed and then devise and often carry out the plan developed to address the situation. An example is using the body of knowledge in employee communication to develop and implement an internal communication network in a local farm dealership expanding from a mom-and-pop private enterprise into a corporate dealership with non-family employees. The Communication Studies guidelines for doing a directed project stipulate that if a student elects a project, (1) the student must have direct access to the organization for which the project is being done, and (2) the organization must agree to allow the student access to develop the project. In short, there are no "fantasy" projects.
Comprehensive examinations, often referred to as “comps,” are examinations that bring the major concepts, philosophies, & theoretical approaches together in a “big picture” understanding of how the subject area, communication, developed to its current state. Simply, it’s the history & development of the ideas that underlie the discipline, up to & including the current state of various concepts, systems, paradigms, theories, & research in the field. Remember that “comprehensive” means overarching & expansive, taking in major tenets & ideas that define the field.