Masters Thesis (M2)
What is a masters thesis?
A masters thesis is a 5000 word in-depth theoretical investigation into the field of art, science and culture that the artist is engaged in. The thesis doesn’t necessarily be involved directly with the final exam work, but should have a logical thematic relationship with the work. Formulated differently:
the thesis reflects upon the research and the research process itself, or
the thesis deeply investigates the theoretical background and the context of the research field.
In both cases the candidate should at some point in the thesis make a direct explicit connection with the research s/he is conducting in the finalisation of the masters study.
The final form of your thesis is free, but in principle each thesis contains the following elements:
It has a title that indicates the subject.
It has a table of contents that indicates chapter titles and the corresponding page numbers.
It has an introduction in which the subject is introduced. The introduction should also contain a main research question, which is the thread of your argumentation. Introductions often contain the writer’s motivation for this particular subject and a short preview of the main contents.
It has a section describing the methodology of the research. How do you conduct your research and how are the results evaluated? What is your approach to the research to arrive at the stated goals?
Separate chapters in which different aspects of the subject are discussed (including examples and/or case studies).
A summary or conclusion in which you sum up your most important findings and provide an answer to your main question.
A list of references, footnotes, pictures, etc.
The length of the thesis
Although it might seem a thesis of about 5.000 words isn’t that much, this length is deliberately chosen to ‘enforce’ the thesis to be concise and clear in its wording. It prevents the thesis to become bloated and not to the point; i.e. learn to become clear. Remember, the sole purpose of writing a thesis is learning how to reflect upon the work and research and how to think clearly about it.
How to get started?
1. Do some brainstorming in order to map your field of interest. Draw up a list of likely subjects. Choose a subject that you really like, but make sure that it is a subject that you will be able to tackle. Is there enough information about this subject? Is it not too wide, too abstract or too difficult? How does it relate to your own work? In order to determine your subject, you may have to conduct some preliminary research.
2. Formulate a main question. What is it exactly that you want to know about your subject? A clear main question is important because it is the thread of your argumentation. It also helps you to select information that is really relevant.
3. Select information – written, visual or otherwise. Document your sources carefully: if you use written sources, write down the title, the name of the author, and the place and year of publication. You need this for your references/footnotes. When you reference text, write down the exact page number of the original text. While reading, make notes in your own words. Read critically, don’t believe everything you read.
4. Give clear definitions of the main terms or concepts that you use (use encyclopedia’s and dictionaries). Perhaps add a glossary of terms to the thesis.
Research comes before writing, but you should not defer writing too long. While you are writing, keep the following in mind:
Writing is a process that has its own logic. Some writers work with a set text scheme, others write while they think. Usually a combination of both works best.
In any case, your text should have a clear structure, otherwise readers will get confused. The main question is the key to a clear structure as each chapter should deal with a particular aspect of that question. You can also help the reader by making your own line of thoughts explicit: explain which steps you have been taking and how they are connected. Use phrases like “in this chapter I will show …”, “in the last chapter I have argued …”, “with this example I want to show …”, “from this I conclude …” etc.
Don’t expect to be able to write down the whole text in one go. Write a paragraph or chapter, put it aside for while, then read it again and rewrite it. Ask fellow students or friends to read your text and give comments.
If you experience any difficulties: don’t lose time but contact your supervisor immediately!!! It is their job to help you.
Some requirements the thesis should comply with
• A subject that has a direct thematic relationship with the work / research of the student as discussed above.
• It is evident that you have conducted research.
• You have used various sources of information, such as books, essays, reviews, interviews, novels, poems, artworks, etc.
• You may use Wikipedia but you should use other sources as well. Sources on the web need a date and timestamp to indicate when the resource was referenced. It is required to store the resource link (URL) in archive.org’s reference service so it can be found indefinitely. (http://archive.org/web/) Captures a web page as it appears now for use as a trusted citation in the future.)
• All sources are indicated in a list of references and/or footnotes and need to be referenced in the text by a number pointing to the reference and if it’s a textual source a page number and when the source is a time based medium the time.
• The thesis is about 5000 words (c. 10 pages A4), excluding pictures etc. Typeface 11 or 12, 1.5 interlinear space. Insert page numbers!
• The thesis is written in English or Dutch.
Timeline Masters Thesis (see ArtScience online schedule for exact dates)
December: definitive subject (and research question)
January, February: research
Beginning of March: first full draft version thesis (digital)
End of March: final version thesis (digital)
End of April: final version thesis (hardcopy — hand in 2 copies)