At the end of each day this week, in the approximately 20 minutes between finishing my day's tasks and falling into a deep workshop-induced sleep, I have been reading an MS thesis. I am on the MS student's committee, and he sent the thesis to me just before I went into an internet-challenged zone for a few days.
I understand the theoretical value of having committee members read and comment on the thesis before the defense, but in reality it is harder to know the best way to proceed as a committee member/reader.
This student has given informal talks in the department over the course of the research, so I have had opportunities to comment on the work long before the thesis is written. Now the research is done, so there is no point in making any more comments about the research design or methods. It is even too late to comment on the interpretations and conclusions. It's August, the student is defending, and unless there some major fatal error is discovered, the thesis isn't going to change much based on committee comments.
I refuse to do technical editing -- the advisor can do that. If I see something that I don't think the student or advisor will catch, I will comment, but I don't think my role as a committee member is to spell-check the thesis.
So, what is left for me to do, other than read it and draw a smiley face on the cover page to show that I approve of the thesis? The most useful thing I can do at this point is comment on places where I think the thesis is not clear in its explanations or logic. Presumably the thesis will soon be a manuscript or manuscripts, so perhaps this type of comment can be useful beyond making the thesis *perfect*.
6 months ago