The Master Thesis: General Guidelines

Topic assignment for master theses
(Version of 18.04.2013)

General Regulations

First of all, based on past experiences, here is some important advice: Please consider the fact that your master 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 master thesis within 6 months. 300 credit points are awarded, which corresponds to a total-workload of 900 hours.

 

Task The investigation of a research question or problem in an area of psychology with the standard methods of the discipline where the student works mostly independently.
Learning objectives
Largely independently, 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 master 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, have a firm theoretical basis, 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). We believe that the following recommendations can help to achieve this goal within the framework of the current regulations. Further suggestions are welcome.

Suggested types of master theses

Empirical Studies

Most master theses will be empirical in nature. When planning the study, students should strive to produce a work that would be suitable for publication. Developing and defining the scope of the research question should occur in close consultation with the supervisor. The formulation of hypotheses derived from theory, the design of the study, operationalization, conduction, and data analysis is predominantly the students’ task. In the discussion of the results, it important to make the connection to the theory from which the question and hypotheses were derived. The thesis supervisor has mainly advisory functions.

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 (graded).

Continuation of empirical research from the BA thesis or a practical research project

In a practical research project, students work on a task that is given to them or perhaps even on their own research questions. This work can serve as a pre-study for a master thesis. Research projects, topics, and further specifications should be advertised by departmental units (see below). Also, master theses can be based on previous research from the bachelor theses.

Theoretical Work

The master thesis must not necessarily be empirical; it is also possible to submit a theoretical work. 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 the summary of a chapter of a piece of secondary literature. It should also be 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 (German).