Your Master's thesis
Your Master’s thesis is part of receiving your degree. It is written over two semesters, graded by your supervisor and a reviewer, and finally defended in front of the master’s degree committee.
The thesis shall consist of between 20,000 and 26,000 words, including notes and a bibliography. Format and submit the manuscript according to the university template (the first page must follow the template exactly, others may loosely). The thesis may be written in five specific genres:
Deadlines and guides
- The Master's thesis is written over the course of two semesters. SEE DEADLINES IN SIDEBOX.
- In your penultimate semester (typically 3rd), enroll in Diploma Seminar I.
- Seek a supervisor based on the topic on which you would like to work. There are various strategies how to find one. Firstly, you might ask according to themes and topics you have seen them discuss during your courses. Secondly, look at supervisor general fields or at medallions of lecturers on the Department’s website. Finally, if these avenues have been exhausted, contact the program’s study advisor, who will help you to choose a supervisor.
- Contact the selected advisor personally or by email and consult them about the topic. Create a specific topic and enter it into the IS list (see sidebox for .pdf visual guide and deadline).
- Fulfill the requirements of Diploma Seminar I. by submitting part of the thesis into the homework vault labeled by the name of your supervisor.
- You will receive feedback; unsuccessful submissions may be resubmitted before the end of the examination period.
- In your final semester (typically 4th), enroll into Diploma Seminar II.
- You continue cooperating with your supervisor and fulfill the course requirements by submitting the majority of the thesis as per Diploma Seminar II course instructions.
- You will receive an evaluation; unsuccessful submissions will not proceed to the handing of a final thesis. They rework the thesis next semester.
- Students submit complete thesis according to the deadline.
Students choose among four* types of thesis format:
1) Research paper
2) Literature review
3) Policy paper
4) Extended position paper
* Other Master's thesis formats which do not correspond to any of the above are permitted only in exceptional, duly justified cases, and only with the express consent of the head of program.
- Each Master's thesis must contain an abstract explicitly stating which of the it follows.
- An active approach to consultations with the supervisor, as well as the student's own initiative in writing the thesis is part of the thesis evaluation.
1. Research paper
The aim of the research paper is to enrich our knowledge of a certain phenomenon or topic. The basis of the research paper is therefore the novelty of the knowledge it brings. The research paper sets out a research question, evaluates how existing scientific literature answers this question, determines what is missing in the existing literature, and fills this knowledge gap. In doing so, the research paper proceeds to answer the question with reference to its theoretical underpinnings.
A research paper should adhere to the following structure:
• Introduction: The introduction of the topic, the justification of its practical and theoretical importance, the formulation of the main research question (i.e. the general objective of the paper), a brief explanation of why a given phenomenon needs to be examined. It concisely summarizes the results of the analysis and briefly introduces the main thesis of the paper that the author has developed.
• Literature review (theoretical part): Conceptualization of concepts, presentation and critical abbreviated evaluation of the existing literature on the topic (a short version of section 2. literature review). A more detailed presentation of the rationale for why a given phenomenon needs to be examined (why existing literature is not enough). Formulation of hypotheses or specific research questions.
• Data and methods: Description of the data used in the analysis (including data collection description), variable operationalization, data processing method. Of course, data and variables may be qualitative to quantitative depending on the subject matter of the research. Chosen method of analysis is presented.
• Analysis: Presentation of analysis, discussion of results, evaluation of hypotheses / answers to research questions.
• Conclusion: Will briefly recall the goal of the paper and the contribution of the paper. It concisely summarizes the results of the analysis and answers the research questions. It will give thought to aspects that potentially weaken the validity of analysis results. It can propose the direction of future research.
The topic of the research paper must consider the extent of the thesis and the necessity to cover all parts of the research paper (literature review, theoretical grounding, data, method). The problem to be examined should therefore be rather limited and well defined and testing should be limited to specific parts of theories or models. We recommend that the topic and the assignment of the research-oriented paper be consulted in a timely manner with the potential supervisor.
Recommended literature: Murray, R. (eds.). How to write a thesis. 3rd ed. Maidenhead, England: McGraw Hill, 2011, 325. ISBN 9780335244294
2. Literature review
The aim is to describe and evaluate the state of research on a topic. The aim of the literature review is to familiarize the reader with existing research on the subject and find out which areas are unexplored and require further research. In other words, the literature review critically summarizes what we know about the subject, what we do not know, and what needs to be further explored.
A literature review is not intended to be a list of annotations for individual scientific papers but should be structured according to topics and sub-topics. Thus, the literature review structure is not based on individual authors (or works), but is based on individual concepts, theories or approaches. While reference to authors and their works is important, it serves only as support for the discussion of concepts, theories, and approaches.
A literature review should have the following characteristics:
• summarizes relevant literature and analyzes it critically
• evaluates the current state of knowledge in terms of its completeness and quality
• presents the author's insight into the strong and weak points of current knowledge. Furthermore, it identifies which topics do not yet have unambiguous conclusions and where blanks remain in the topic.
• presents and analyzes the state of knowledge of the given topic in a synthesizing form, not in the form of a list of authors or scientific works
• at the end, clearly summarizes the current level of knowledge, identifies its strengths and weaknesses, and proposes appropriate research questions or hypotheses for future innovative research
• a literature review may include a description of the subject, but a critical discussion of the literature still represents the core of the thesis.
Recommended literature: Knopf J.W. 2006. Doing a Literature Review. PS: Political Science and Politics 39(1): 127-132.
3. Policy paper
The aim of the policy paper is to provide a proposal for solving a social problem. Unlike "research work", the policy paper does not have the ambition to contribute to the theoretical debate on the issue. The policy paper identifies a practical, politically relevant issue that needs to be resolved (such as religious intolerance, corruption, human rights violations in foreign countries, etc.), identifies possible solutions, evaluates these solutions, and clearly suggests a recommended solution to the problem.
The policy paper sometimes distinguishes between "policy study" and "policy analysis". The bachelor thesis expects a policy study, not a policy analysis (see Young and Quinn 2002 for more about differences). Therefore, a work that is not written for a particular client with a specific assignment is expected, but will be about the problem itself. The work will target readers from experts on public policy analysis, not decision makers (i.e. policy makers). In order to support the argumentation, this genre admits and in specific cases even requires the collection of primary data, not just summarizing the already tested one. With regard to the target audience of the readers, the language of the work should be expert and the reasoning should be appropriate in depth.
A policy paper should include the following points:
• Abstract clearly summarizing the main argument / recommendation
• A description of the serious policy issue and the rationale for addressing the problem. It is necessary to clearly describe the context in which the problem arises and to communicate clearly the purpose / aim of the paper.
• The policy paper contains a methodological section (although it differs from a research paper). It is necessary to clearly describe what data is used, how it is analyzed, and what pattern the workflow and argumentation will follow.
• Limits of the paper are stated and acknowledged as one study cannot include all aspects of the policy issue being examined. Likewise, data availability issues must be acknowledged.
• A description of possible solutions to the problem.
• Analysis of the likely impacts of each of the described alternatives, their strengths and weaknesses.
• Suggestions of preferred alternatives and arguments for the choice of the offered best solution to the problem.
Recommended literature: Eóin Young a Lisa Quinn. 2002. Writing Effective Public Policy Papers. A Guide for Policy Advisers in Central and Eastern Europe. Open Society Institute.
4. Extended position paper
The aim of the extended position paper is adopting an argumentative stance developed in response to a specific position or theory typically exemplified by a monograph or monographs presenting a coherent view (e.g. world becoming more peaceful as exemplified S.Pinker, normative power Europe as exemplified by I. Manners, microfinancing in international development as exemplified by M. Yunnus).
The position should be made clear throughout the paper. An extended position paper differs from a research paper in lacking the necessity of a methodological approach in answering a yet unanswered question, but does require research. It must consider and evaluate relevant evidence both in support and against the adopted stance and present coherent and persuasive argumentation which will stand up to refute. Furthermore, the extended position paper should not only borrow criticism or supportive arguments from already existing works, but also offer some innovative insight as part of the adopted stance.
An extended position paper should include the following points:
• Abstract clearly summarizing the main topic chosen and the stance adopted
• A clear introduction of the relevance of the topic to the readership, the reasons for varying stances on the issue at hand, and the stance adopted
• A concise and analytical revision of the target monograph/text’s main points, strengths, and weaknesses while identifying clearly the tenets to be argued for or against
• Clear argumentative sections encompassing evidence and counter-evidence on the chosen points which best represent the body of the argument
• Innovative insight into argumentation on the topic and suggestions on types of research which might strengthen the stance adopted
• A conclusion which does not simply restate the position adopted, but assesses its strength in light of the evidence provided and refuted
Recommended literature: Ian Johnston. 2000. Essays and Arguments: A Handbook on Writing Argumentative and Interpretative Essays. VIU.