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 Ludwig- Maximilians - Universität München

Abteilung Psychologische Beratung und Intervention

Prof. Dr. E. Elbing

Research Methods
Master Thesis or Dissertation Skills


1. Topic: The Proposal Form
1.1 Introduction
1.2 The Form
1.2.1 Name of students
1.2.2 Supervisor
1.2.3 Title of Master Thesis or Dissertation
1.2.4 Aims
1.2.5 Relationship to previous work
1.3 Methodology
1.3.1 Plan of work
1.3.2 Resources required
1.3.3 Form of presentation

2. Topic: The Role of the Supervisors
2.1 Introduction
2.2 What Supervisor will Do
2.3 What Supervisor don't Do
    A final dream                                                                                     


Topic: The Proposal Form


Before beginning a master thesis or a dissertation students are required to submit a proposal which outlines the nature of their chosen subject and you will have to complete a form termed the "proposal form". ( Details of the administrative arrangements involved eg. handing dates, etc. will be given to you separately ).

Master's students in the past have tended to find completing their proposals very difficult - hopefully the advice given below will help explain the sort of thing that's required. Remember the form is intended to get you to think in a realistic and positive way about your dissertation. It is essential that the University knows what you want to do so that you can be assigned to a member of staff who has a good knowledge about your subject. Also the form ensures that you study a topic that can be developed into a master thesis or a dissertation and that you have not been over ambitious in your choice of title.

Although the things you write on the form are not fixed in "tablets of stone", they should reflect that you have given serious thought to the chosen topic, and made a real attempt to show how you propose to study it. Many students, however, consider proposals a tedious and unnecessary chore. This is not so. Thorough preparation at an early stage saves a great deal of time later and always pays dividends.

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The Form

Let's go over the layout and nature of the proposal form. Remember the form is not aimed at limiting your ideas and imagination, but simply a way of getting you to think in a practical way about your dissertation.

Name of students

Full name is essential

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Leave this blank. Course Leaders normally allot supervisors . However, if you have discussed your proposed topic with a member of staff it is a good idea to note this on the form, naming the member of staff.

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Title of Master Thesis or Dissertation

"A Study in ..." is too vague. You should decide whether you want to collate, compare, assess, evaluate, etc. The idea of an investigation must be contained within the title. The title can be changed depending on how the work goes, and a working title is usually sufficient at this stage. Even so it must give some idea as to the direction of the proposed study.

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Use a brainstorm plan or similar technique, together with an early visit to the library to sort out and identify what you want to do.

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Relationship to previous work

Obviously, at this stage , you cannot be expected to have read eveything published on a topic. This is not the intention of this section of form. However, an early visit to the library should have been made to identify the amount and kind of material available. You are advised to search out a small number of key recent publications which pro vide background and help set the scene for your dissertation. The section on conduc ting a literature review should help here. Any sources mentioned should be referen ced in an accepted academic style, eg, the Harvard system.

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This section is very important and time spent working out the way in which data and information is to be collected and analysed is never wasted. Be prepared to spend some time on this section. Decide the research approach you are going to take.

Plan of work

Dissertation have deadlines, and all processes involved in producing a management study tend to take longer than originally estimated. Although it is early days try to gauge how long each stage will take. Be realistic, things tend to take longer than you think.

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Resources required

List what you need. For example, if you intend to use a tape recorder, camcorder etc. then list it in this section.

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Form of presentation

Most students present a bound, written up study following a traditional format. If you wish to include videos, tapes of interviews, computer programms, etc. this is usually fine, but it is a good idea to consult your supervisor early in your preparation to confirm this is OK. Also remember that videos/ tapes often record only a description; it is the analysis and criticism of the description that is looked for in a good dissertation.

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Topic: The Role of the Supervisors


Although the dissertation is an independent piece of work, the University, quite rightly, realises that you need support in its preparation and writing up. And you will be allocated a supervisor. Once you are allocated your supervisor it is normally your responsibility to contact them. Supervisors normally don't chase up students. See your supervisor regulary and establish a good working relationship. Many students don't and as a result their dissertation suffers. Simple things like keeping appointments, doing any set tasks helps establich a good working relationship. Remember that staff usually supervise a number of students on top of a heavy teaching, administrative and research workload. Students, therefore, turning up unannounced expecting the red carpet treatment, don't get it ! It's a good idea to write down at the end of each meeting with your supervisor a summary of the points discussed, and what specific things you need to do before the next meeting. Make for yourself an informal agenda. When you see your supervisor for the first time, decide whether it is better to see them weekly, fortnightly or monthly etc. As your dissertation progresses you may need to see them either more or less frequently depending on your needs. Lecturers realise this since most of them at some time have written their own dissertations, and as a result are usually more than willing to accommodate the hard- working, motivated student. Regard the meetings with your supervisor as a real chance to engage in some meaningful academic debate. It is really an informal learning contract. The following lists what supervisors will and will not do.

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What Supervisors will Do

They will encourage you to do well

Help and support you when things go wrong.

Identify gaps in your knowledge and help you to put them right.

Identify extra skills that you need and advise you how to acquire them.

Check and monitor progress by reading and commenting on draft of chapter and sections of your dissertation.

Remind you of dates when work has to be finished.

Open doors by introducing you to other members of staff thet may give specific help with certain parts or chapters requiring specialist treatment, like data analysis or statistics.

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What Supervisors Don't Do

The work !! It is your dissertation, not theirs.

Write the dissertation for you. Supervisors will read sections and comment on general points. For example, how the argument is constructed, but don't expect them to rewrite every sentence, correct misspellings and grammatical errors.

Do all the worrying.

Supervisors are naturally concerned when things start to go wrong, and will try and help the coscientious, hard- working student. However, if you lack motivation and have a couldn't care less attitude don't be surprised if you get a somewhat cool re ception the next time you visit your supervisor.

Give orders. Supervisors will suggest how to approach a problem and may indicate the advantages and limitations of particular methods and approaches. It is for the student to make the final decision.

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Now be inquisitive how you will make your own work!

You only can find out it, if you start to work!

A summer dream, dreamed in the summer 1997:
"The hints above support you and your work is running".

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Quelle: (99-07-01)