The present college and university degree structure has deep roots in more than 700 years of tradition. The connection of advanced degrees with written theses and dissertations goes back in time almost as far.
The awarding of degrees as evidence of advanced study occurred in a time when skill in argument and appeal to authority were valued highly. The thesis and dissertation (T/D) constituted components of well-reasoned arguments. The successful applicant had to take a position (the thesis), buttress it with logic, and relate it to the earlier conclusions of respected scholars (the dissertation) to the point that it could not be refuted. That concept of the T/D gave rise to a viewpoint that continues to this day, namely that the final act with regard to T/D study is the defense of the study by the student before a group of probing questioners. Historically, successful defense led to advancement of the writer from the status of student first to rank of master,