The Master Thesis of African Studies involves a writing seminar. Students attend this seminar during both semesters.
A thesis is an academic essay, written by the student in consultation and under supervision. The thesis must show that the student is capable of analysing existing literature in a critical manner, and of conducting independent research. Moreover, the thesis must show that the student is capable of reporting on research in an academically sound manner.
Choosing a Topic
Students are encouraged to select the topic of their thesis themselves, based on a seminar in the Master programme, that they followed. In most cases, the first supervisor of the thesis will be the lecturer responsible for the seminar which inspired the thesis. It is possible to look for other supervisors within the Department.
Before the end of the courses in their first semester students are required to select a topic for their thesis, discussed with and assessed by their supervisor, and to prepare a first research proposal of two pages. After discussing it with supervisor and co-students, students prepare a second version of about 10 pages. Both proposals contain a research question or hypothesis, a theoretical and / or empirical introduction to the thesis topic or research design / outline, a bibliographical essay, and a provisional table of content. It will serve as the introductory chapter(s) and the bibliography of the thesis.
The detailed research proposal should contain a main research question with sub-questions (if useful) or at least a topic worth exploring (a thesis statement), and the (historical and scientific) background of the research topic. The problem/topic needs to be something that is still controversial or open to discussion. The background is more than just a summary of information collected from previous work. Students need to give an argument (in accordance with, or as criticism on, previous research) that supports and explains the scientific and/or social relevance of the chosen question/topic. If the research includes fieldwork, the proposal should explain why collecting new data is important.
The 10-page research proposal also includes a Work Plan on the practical aspects of the research: where, what, when, and with whom? On fieldwork: what is it needed to do/know to organize travel and stay? and in what time frame?
Before a research question can be formulated, the student first has to do some preparatory reading. Formulating the research question is one of the most important components of research because this question forms the basis for all further activities.
The thesis for the African Studies MA programme carries 20 ec, and as a rule will not exceed a maximum of 17,000 words including notes, bibliography and appendices. The thesis is supervised by a lecturer of MA programme of African Studies. The thesis is judged by two lecturers involved in the programme.
Outline Master Thesis
Introductory Paragraph (Topic and main research question: Why to investigate that area/topic? What is the scientific/social relevance?)
Geographical, historical and social context
Scientific literature (A thorough list and review of the existing literature on the subject including problems addressed and criticism).
Theory and Methodology
Fieldwork (If your research includes it: fieldwork should offer a collection of data and information that a) are scientifically relevant (attention to methodology of collection) and socially relevant, and b) offer material for answering your research questions/ addressing your research thesis.
The thesis has to be written in English. Another language might be possible only after approval of the Board of Examiners.
In assessing the quality of the thesis, the following aspects play an important role:
Formulating and analysing the research question;
Structure of the thesis;
Integration of secondary literature into the argument;
Good argumentation of student’s own arguments;
Style, use of language and lay-out;
The student’s independency
Student is able to formulate a research question, to conduct his/her research according to methods and theories established in the research proposal, to describe data and results, and to formulate interpretations.
Once the entire thesis is completed, the student should hand in two copies; one to each supervisor. Their comments must be integrated into the final version. Hard and digital copies of the thesis final version should be sent to the two supervisors and to the secretary.
The thesis will be graded within four weeks. Between 1 June and 31 August it can take six weeks at the most. The first reader/supervisor communicates the result and the grading form to the secretariat and to the student.