Welcome to the online Thesis Seminar of the Department of Management Studies. Below you can find the course syllabus. This course is divided into several sections, and you are advised to proceed in the seminar following the order of the sections (1) Introduction, 2) What is a good master’s thesis, 3) Choosing a topic and formulating research questions, 4) How to search for literature and write a literature review, 5) Research ethics and General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR). The sections are visible in the menu on left side of the page.
In addition to these pages the course will make use of online resources that are produced for the purposes of the school in general. Please follow the instructions in accessing and using these external pages. They offer you great resources that will ease your thesis journey.
In case you do not yet know, what you would like to do in your thesis, you can do your thesis for a research project. Please check out the slides on Ongoing Projects of the Department that can offer thesis topics, data and collegial support for the thesis process. Also note that you can do the thesis as pair work. More information on these possibilities can be found in the Introduction section.Whenever you have questions concerning the course, please ask your questions via the General discussion forum (not by email) so that other students with similar concerns can make use of the information delivered. It is your resposibility to stay infromed of all the advice given through this discussion forum as well. Thus, please make sure your MyCourses settings are set in a manner that you will be notified also of the discussions on the General Discussion forum.
VOLUNATRY TUTORING MEETINGS (MyCourses, zoom)Remember to send the final paper also to your supervisor!
17.1. 16.00-18.00 *
*I will be in the zoom meeting room only for 15 min, if no one shows up. So, if you have something you want to discuss, please come in time. The meeting lasts for two lecture hours but ends before that if you run out of questions earlier.
The introduction section of the course offers you a video motivating the thesis project. In case you do not know what a thesis is and what goes in to different parts of the thesis, please see file 'Thesis writing instructions' in the materials folder. This section further informs you on how supervisors are allocated and what are the rights and responsibilities in student-supervisor relationship (file in the end of the page). Below you can also find information about the possibility to do a thesis in collaboration with someone (a pair thesis) as well as information on projects that you could do your thesis for.
One of the key problems of thesis projects is relating to poor time management. I strongly encourage you to take the “course” Time to Get Cracking – 3 week Self-study material on time management for students (https://mycourses.aalto.fi/course/view.php?id=23146). To do the course would take only 3-5 hours of your time during a period of three weeks. It is worth it! It may reveal where your time is going, and perhaps encourage you to change your priorities in order to get the thesis done.
Doing the thesis as pair work
It is possible to do the thesis together with someone. In case you contemplate this option, make sure you know how your collaborator works. Being a good friend may not be a sufficient criterion for selecting a thesis collaborator. Whoever you will choose as your research partner, please sit down and discuss in detail your expectations regarding the targeted grade, the resources each one of you will bring to the table and the timeframe in which you expect the thesis to proceed. In case you choose this option, please discuss it over with your supervisor. A joint thesis will be evaluated using the same thesis rubric as other thesis, but they will have the following additional expectations.
- must be longer.
- must have more data.
- authors’ must be able explicate their individual contributions.
Do you want to do your thesis for a research project?
Doing a thesis for a project will have one/some/all of the following benefits: Access to already existing data, research questions to select from, additional support, access to organizations and people, and monetary compensation. Below you can find the file ‘Ongoing Projects of the Department’ that offers you an overview of projects that you could join in case you do not have a thesis idea of your own that you want to pursue. If you are attracted to any of the projects, please contact the person(s) in charge following the instructions given on the slides.
Research is an essential component of graduate education. A master’s thesis is the site where you can to demonstrate your competence; your practical as well as academic knowledgeability and skills. For a student it is however quite difficult to understand what a good thesis is. The goodness of a master’s thesis is always evaluated within the traditions of the field of study as well as the institution granting the degree. Aalto University School of Business has constructed a master’s thesis evaluation rubric to articulate its evaluation criteria as well as the expectations we place upon thesis work (evaluation form with rubric below).
One of the best ways to learn what a good master’s thesis is is to read a couple of good theses (examples in the materials folder), and to evaluate a thesis relevant to you topic yourself (assignment 1). You can search for electronic thesis at https://aaltodoc.aalto.fi/handle/12345678/127 Please familiarize yourself with the master’s thesis evaluation form and rubric below. Please note, the final grade of the thesis is not the arithmetic mean of the measurable attributes of the thesis. It is an outcome of an overall evaluation of the thesis.
Please be flexible with your grade expectations. Don’t hunt for a 4 or 5 if you do not have the time to invest in the process. Focus on getting a degree! Most employees do not care about your master’s thesis grade but they might be interested in the topic and what you have learned. Note also, that in the future (possibly already from the beginning of academic year 2021-2022) time spent on the thesis will be one of the measurable thesis evaluation criteria. There has also been a change in the rather loose study right extension policy of Aalto School of Business. In the future, it will be significantly harder to get an extension to your right to study. Working is not seen as a legitimate reason to grant an extension.
Choosing your topic and formulating research questions are important steps in your research process because the they will govern the thesis process and its outcome. One of the most important issues is to reflect what do you want to accomplish with your thesis?
- Is the most important issue to graduate as time is running out? If this is the case, select a topic from a well researched area with clear paths to follow. Remember, most employers do not care about your thesis grade.
- Do you want to get a job in a particular function in a particular industry? Look for topics that combine your career interests.
- Do you want to build your expertise on a particular topic area that is highly relevant currently, for example AI and big data. Look for topics that enable you to build your expertise on AI/big data by combining the topic with some of theoretical discussion(s) in the field of your study.
- Are you highly interested in particular theoretical discussions?
- Do you want to build on your existing strengths, or do you want to broaden your skills set, or are you perhaps seeking to expand your networks?
- Regardless of your interests, you need to find a discussion within the broad field of management studies to converse with.
It is your task to know what you want, what are your skills and what new skills you need to gain to get you on the career trajectory of your choice. If possible, choose a thesis topic that will lead you in that direction. Whatever your choice of topic and research question is, make sure it interests you and it is doable within a reasonable time. In the video (22 min 52 s) you can learn more about how to choose a topic, how to formulate research questions and how to focus them in order to make the research doable.
Writing a literature review is one of the key parts of your thesis, for some it is even the most time consuming part of the thesis. There will be a lot of new information, too many too interesting paths to follow, conceptual confusion as different authors use a bit different concepts for the same phenomenon or the same concept for a different phenomenon.
In order to see how an article of interest/importance to your study is connected to other articles on the topic please use the following tool. It shows nicely how papers ’talk’ with one another. https://www.connectedpapers.com/ You can also use review articles to map out an academic discussion. Please see Academy of Management Annals, IJMR, and Journal of Management that are outlets with high-quality literature reviews.
It is good to understand that writing a literature review is at times slow and not all that you write will end up in the final product. It is a learning process that can be also highly exciting. Further, it offers you a great opportunity to build you expertise. A literature review has a double function:
It helps the author (i.e. you) to:
- Identify your academic audience; i.e. Whom am I talking to? Who is talking to me? No academic research should exist in a void.
- Understand what has been done previously in the field; how it has evolved and why, and what is the current state-of-art.
- Explore and refine your research question vis-a-vis your academic field. Do this until you ’get’ what you are doing. Really.
Helps the reader to:
- Recognize that you are qualified to talk about your research questions as a part of the academic knowledge-creating community. Show what you know!
- Understand how your research question relates to existing bodies of knowledge. Show us what novel knowledge you create.
- Familiarize him/herself with your research tradition in case it is novel.
In this section we will make use of the course Tutorial videos for thesis writing (BIZ) https://mycourses.aalto.fi/course/view.php?id=23125 The videos will help you in tackling some of the key tasks linked to writing a literature review. Please follow the videos in the section titled “Finding your research topic & background literature”. The section has the following video tutorials:
1) How to quickly find out the big picture of a research topic using Scopus reference database?
2) How to search specific research articles in science databases?
3) How to read scientific articles efficiently?
4) How to use Mendeley reference manager to manage your references and easily write-and-cite?
5) How should you refer to your references in the text?
In writing your literature review remember that a literature review is not about mechanistically referencing what others have said but rather a critical and reflective assessment of prior research. Please keep the following criteria for a good literature review in mind. A good literature review is
- Focused: Put weight on the literature that you’ve identified as most relevant for exploring your research questions. Also remember that a literature review analyzes the current state of your field; this is not the section to talk (extensively) about your ideas.
- Not just review but a synthesis. Remember to explore both connections between the different texts, and between the texts and your research questions.
- The use of figures, models and summary tables tends to increase the readability of a literature review.
- Include both classics and recent research articles; but most likely you will have a heavier focus on recent research.
- Avoid referring to single article or book as center of review; pursue a dialogue between several key sources.
- In a Master’s thesis, the literature review is important for building up your credibility. You need to show that you understand your chosen area to a degree that makes you qualified to talk about it.
Research ethics gives you a moral frame within which to conduct and report your study. There are ethical issues in every step of the research process starting from research collaboration, formulating research questions, doing a literature review, gaining access to organizations and individuals, collecting and analyzing data, writing up the report and finally semination of research results. When doing research, you should be guided by the intent not to deceive, and not to harm the research participants and society as whole.
Majority of theses done in the Department of Management Studies collect personal data. Personal data refers to any information from which the person participating in the study can be identified directly or indirectly (name, online identifier, location data, etc.). All such studies fall under the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR). Make sure that you follow the regulations and subject your research under the evaluation of the Ethics Board of the Aalto University in case that is needed. This is not a suggestion, this is the law.
It is your duty to read the slides and all the material under the links below in order to make sure that you would not accidentally violate research ethics. Following ethical guidelines is also essential for the validity of your research.
If you have any ethical concerns relating to your research, discuss them with your supervisor and contact the Aalto services on research ethics (contact information under the links). Ethical guidelines are there to protect the participants of the study, society at large but also you, the researcher.
Note: After passing the seminar you cannot claim that you were not aware of research ethics in case of misconduct.
In case you are doing comissioned work, please discuss and agree on procedures in writing in advance. Please see the links below for further advice. A written agreement is there to protect you as well as the commisioner.