Published on 19/01/2023
MA thesis supervision
If you are considering writing your MA thesis with me as your supervisor, please consider the following points carefully before contacting me.
- A supervision relationship can only be effective if the supervisor has the expertise to supervise your research! Please familiarise yourself with my academic profile and my publications to get a sense of the topics and regions I work on and the approaches I follow.
- Writing a thesis is a veritable commitment. This is why you need to think about the scale and scope of it beforehand. Before contacting me, clarify for yourself -as good as you can- what you would like to work on. You need to have a clear understanding of what it is that you want to dedicate a lot of time to in the next few months.
- You will remember this from the "methods and concepts class": At the core of academic research is an analytical concern expressed through research questions, hypotheses or arguments. Simple description does usually not qualify as academic work. When you start thinking about your thesis, it is not sufficient to be just ‘interested’ in a theme. You have to have a question that is connected to a real-life situation. In short, rather than a general theme of interest, you will need a clear research question that, in addition, has some relevance for the fields of Political Science and International Relations.
- As you know, there are many methodologies and approaches in the field, with different conventions in terms of data collection, analysis and presentation. My own approach to research is shaped by a social constructivist framework, an interest in examining critically relationships of domination, qualitative methods including ethnographic approaches and participant observation, interviews and critical text/discourse analysis. As I was educated in a strong area studies tradition, I find particularly insightful case study approaches (mostly single case studies and small-n comparative case studies) which are contextualised well. Importantly, I believe that MA students should engage with real-life issues and collect insights not only from desk research, but from fieldwork in institutions, in different regions and countries, and among people. Rather than examining, in an abstract fashion, theories of migration, for instance, I would like you to go out in the field and do interviews with migrants in your neighbourhood and discuss their experiences in the context of the relevant theoretical approaches.
- With these prior points in mind, please prepare a two-page proposal with the following components (see below) before contacting me.
- Based on this proposal, I will decide whether I can act as supervisor of your thesis or whether we need to think about alternatives.
- In case we agree on a supervision relationship, there will be three supervision meetings in person or online.
- At the first meeting at the beginning, we will set the framework for the thesis.
- The second meeting after you have completed your primary research will be dedicated to support you in structuring the analysis.
- The final meeting will take place after you have submitted your thesis to me and after I have read it in detail. I will not read and comment on individual chapters, but I will read the entire thesis at this point.
Proposal for an MA thesis project
Please find below the most important components of your thesis proposal. You do not have to have the final answers to all of these points/questions, but you should be able to demonstrate that you have thought about them in detail.
1. Research question/Hypothesis/Argument
What is the big issue that you wish to engage with?
Is it relevant and, if yes, for whom?
Has the question you are asking already been answered by others? If so, you need another one!
What kind of outcomes are you expecting?
Make sure that your question is feasible: It should be neither too abstract, nor too limited. You should be able to answer it with the analysis based on your empirical material.
Discuss the context: Where does your interest in the issue come from? From literature, from public debates, from your own observations? What is the historical context? How has the issue emerged and developed?
3. Literatures/theoretical approaches
Which important works in terms of theory and context are there? You don’t need to have read them, but you should have a sense of the literature that you can consult once you begin with your work.
What are your ontological and epistemological positions? What methodology and research design (case studies) do you wish to use? What kind of methods do you intend to use for data collection as well as analysis?
5. Research design and empirical material
What is the empirical basis of your research (case study in a certain community, place, institution or based on other forms of empirical material)? What kind of data will you gather and then analyse (expert interviews, in-depth interviews, newspaper articles, reports)?
What is the timeline of your research project from now until completion?
This is also important for you to make sure that your project is feasible, i.e. that you have the necessary time and energy resources to complete your research.