The bachelor thesis: general guidelines

Topic assignment for bachelor theses
(Version of May 11, 2010)

General Regulations First of all, based on past experiences, here is some important advice: Please consider the fact that your bachelor thesis must be evaluated. According to the examination regulations, this is normally supposed to happen within two months after submission. Because of the great number of bachelor theses to be graded, one should not expect that reviewers will be able to accomplish this within a much shorter period of time.

According to the examination regulations, it should be possible to complete the bachelor thesis within 3 months. 12 credit points are awarded, which corresponds to a total-workload of 360 hours; assuming a 30-hour work week – more than six hours a day of concentrated work on the bachelor thesis appears rather unrealistic – this corresponds to a 12 week period. Within such a time period, it is not possible to conduct a complex empirical study from the planning phase to data analysis by oneself. Therefore, the members of the Board for Studies and Teaching have developed some ideas and recommendations about how the specifications for the bachelor thesis as listed in the module handbook (see below) can be realized in a practical and economical way.

Task

The supervised investigation of a research question or problem in an area of psychology using the standard methods of the discipline.

Learning objectives

Under the guidance of the supervisor, students are able to scientifically examine a problem in the area of psychology with the standard methodology of the discipline. To this aim, they apply the techniques they have acquired in the course of their studies to search for relevant literature on the basis of which they are able to understand the theoretical background of a specific research question, to describe the theoretical framework, and to derive corresponding hypotheses or research questions.
Furthermore, they are in the position to select and evaluate appropriate approaches and methods to investigate these questions, to use them for data collection and analysis, and to present and critically discuss the results of own studies or of previous research in a knowledgeable and easily comprehensible manner.

Although the time allotted for the bachelor thesis is quite short, it is important that the assigned topics are sufficiently challenging for students. In our opinion, it is desirable that students are given a task that can lead to new scientific insights. This means that the thesis topics should draw on current research, be theoretically grounded, and have the research objective to produce new knowledge (in other words, not a replication of the well-established results of previous studies, not a purely explorative study, in which, for example, observation is used to examine the question if there is “some kind” of gender effect in “some kind” of social behavior). In our view, the following recommendations can help to achieve this goal within the framework of the current regulations. Further suggestions are welcome.

Suggested types of bachelor theses

Empirical Studies

Bachelor theses too will often take the form of an empirical study. In consideration of the given circumstances and requirements, it is important that the research question be clearly defined, the research design already specified, and the necessary material be either directly available or promptly procurable. What would be feasible, for example, is a questionnaire study on an easily available sample (students) or an experimental study with prespecified material. It is important that data collection can be completed within a two week period. In reference to sample size, one should not make concessions: Even within a time period of only two weeks it is possible to conduct an experiment with 60 subjects – if the planning is efficient. Another possibility is to assign the same topic to several students in order to collect a larger number of participants for the study

Tandem Work

The examination regulations provide for the possibility that the thesis topic be assigned to two persons simultaneously (Article 23, Paragraph 6). In this case,, it is important that the responsibilities are precisely defined and documented. Hereby it must be made clear that both persons are responsible for the success of the collective work and that each must contribute equally to the task. In addition, it is necessary that the contribution of each person be documented and evaluated accordingly (grading). Here too, 3 months are relatively short so that a mutual thesis should only be assigned if the research question is previously clearly defined and the design and materials are already available. An example would be the – in this case first - replication of a previous study.

Analysis of already collected data

Many members of the department still have data stemming from earlier research, which have not yet been analyzed or only partially analyzed due to insufficient time or other reasons. If the task is precisely defined and the objective clearly defined, students can be given the assignment to analyze such data for their bachelor thesis.

Continuation of empirical research started in the practical research project

Students in their 3rd and 4th semesters are given a practical research task to work on in groups of 5 persons. This work can serve as a pilot study for a BSc thesis. Supervisors of the practical research projects should inform students that this work can be continued at a later date and - if appropriate – directly address those students who appear to be especially interested in the topic they are working on.

Research Internship

In the framework of a research internship, students work on a predefined or on their own research question. To date, the details of a research internship have not yet been specified. However, the same as in the diploma program, it is presumed that not the entire internship can be done as a research internship, rather 50% at the most, probably meaning 6 weeks duration. This work can be used as a preliminary study for a BSc thesis, the same as the work done in the practical research project module. Research internship offers, topics, and further specifications must be made public (see below).

Theoretical Work

The bachelor thesis must not necessarily be empirical; it is also possible to do theoretical work. Here are some suggestions: A survey of recent studies on a specific theory or issue (e.g., current findings on the contact hypothesis by Allport in the context of real intergroup conflicts), Theoretical review and discussion of a number of empirical results in a specified area (e.g., to which extent do models of working memory need to be extended or modified in the light of new findings), A critical discussion of a recent (or older) theoretic concept (e.g., to which extent does the theoretic distinction between „proactive“ and „reactive“ aggressive behavior make sense and is justified?), A critical discussion of the methods used in available studies on a particular theory or issue (e.g., problems of methodology in media effect research) Here too we believe it is important that the assigned topic is one that offers „true“ knowledge gain and not - as it sometimes happens in term papers – simply is the summary of a chapter of a piece of secondary literature. It should also be made clear that theoretical studies are highly demanding in reference to students’ ability to analyze and evaluate theories and/or research findings in regard to specific objectives and research questions and generally also require good methodological skills in order to be able to evaluate the significance of research findings.

For further details and design guidelines, click here.