Thesis Structure

Teaching and Learning Activities

Thesis Requirements

To answer research questions (whether of an applied or theoretical nature), students have to conduct a theoretical investigation under the form of a literature review as well as a sound quantitative and/or qualitative inquiry. Here, the student visits/observes the object of his/ her research (one or more companies, individuals or other organizational units) to collect data, which enable to answer the research question. This can involve conducting interviews, making observations, sending out questionnaires, studying documents, analyzing sets of data or carrying out case studies, experiments. Students could instead engage in developmental modeling, simulation, or action research. In this latter kind of research, the student develops a mathematical model to simulate business processes under varying conditions. In case a student wishes to divert from these more conventional empirical qualitative/quantitative methods and prefers to use a different method (e.g. meta-analysis; systematic literature review), please contact the thesis supervisor whether or not this is possible and, if so, under what conditions.

The manner used for conducting the research should align with the methodological requirements imposed by academic research. Research methodologies are presented in the course “Research seminar”. It is strongly recommended to get familiar with those methodologies before starting working on your thesis.

The thesis is an academic (or scientific) paper. In this context, “academic” means that the thesis systematically, objectively and verifiably demonstrates the knowledge that the student has acquired vis-à-vis the thesis topic, as follows:

  • The structure of the thesis is systematic. For example, a thesis consists of an introduction, theory (literature review and hypotheses when appropriate), research design and question, data presentation and analysis, discussion, and conclusion. There should be a tight connection between these individual thesis sections. From the literature review, for instance, it should be apparent why the research question is relevant. The methods should capture data that can be used to actually answer the research question. Each choice (the literatures to review, the questions to ask, the methods to apply, how to analyze the data, et cetera) must be well motivated and connected to and grounded in prior sections. The reference section should count at least 60 references.
  • Results must be based on empirical findings[1], which are properly verified, or which are open to verification. For qualitative research, we expect each student to conduct (the equivalent of) at least 12 interviews.[2] For quantitative research, we expect each student to generate (the equivalent of) at least 100 questionnaires.[3] 
  • It must be possible to confirm the research method. The incorporation of the literature, the execution of the research and the conclusions drawn must be recorded and motivated in such a way that any reader with the relevant expertise should be capable of assessing the validity of the statements made in the thesis and/or should be able to replicate the research with similar outcomes as a result, unless the circumstances of the research provide very little or no opportunity for such assessment. There are two issues at stake here: the manner in which the research itself has been carried out and the transparency with which the research study is reported in the thesis.

Thesis structure

This section presents an example of a thesis outline.[4] It shows the integral components of a well-structured thesis.

Cover page, including

  • Thesis title;
  • Author’s name and student number;
  • MSc-programme (HRM, lM, MC, LCM, or S&O);
  • Name of the thesis supervisor;
  • Application- and submission-date;
  • Word count (number).

Preface, which states that

  • The copyright rests with the author. The author is solely responsible for the content of the thesis, including mistakes. The M&O department cannot be held liable for the content of the author’s thesis.

Abstract (max. 300 words)

  • The abstract includes the topic, a statement of the research question and hypotheses (if applicable), a short description of the method, a brief overview of the results, and a conclusion with implications.

Introduction (+/- 1,000 words)

  • Clear description of the topic;
  • Contribution to literature and research problem;
  • Research question;
    • Questions should be clearly developed. They cannot be answered by yes/ no, and have to be specific enough, so that they can be investigated;
    • Sub-questions that target the concepts used in the question;
  • Theoretical and practical relevance;
  • Brief outline of the structure of the thesis.

Theory (+/- 2,000 words)

  • Relevant and comprehensive, yet dense literature review, including:
    • Clear definitions of key constructs;
    • Clear explanation of relevant theories;
    • Clear theoretical arguments.
  • Clear exposition of the extent to which your study is similar to prior studies or differ from those;
  • Conceptual model (i.e., verbal and figural representation of hypotheses/ propositions examined).

Methods (1,000 – 1,500 words)

  • Research design: choice of methodology is well motivated;
  • Research context: in which setting is the research project situated;
  • Data collection: explain all steps and choices relevant to data collection;
  • Measures: operationalization of the key concepts;
  • Operational definitions: definitions of the key concepts;
  • Data analysis: explain how you have analysed your data.

Results (typically 1,000 – 1,500 words for quantitative and 3,000 – 3,500 words for qualitative)

  • Clear summary of the data collected (e.g., tables that summarize your data);
  • In-depth analysis (e.g., compelling quotes from interviews, regression analyses);
  • Interpretation/ propositions.

Discussion & conclusion (1,000 – 1,500 words)

  • Elaborate on the way the research question(s) are addressed. Explain how the findings can be interpreted in light of prior literature;
  • Discuss the theoretical and practical contributions/ implications of your findings;
  • Discuss limitations and avenues for future research;
  • In this part of the thesis, it is expected that you restate the research goal and briefly describe your research findings. As they are already explained in detail in the results’ section, this part of the thesis should be used to discuss your findings, not to summarize them.

Formating guidelines

  • A thesis should not contain more than 10,000 words. The word count does NOT include the reference list  appendices. However, it DOES include in-text references, figures and tables.
  • Use Times New Roman, 12 point font, standard margins, and 1.5 line spacing.
  • Make sure to work with paragraphs and express one thought per paragraph.
  • A good size paragraph is between 7 and 12 lines long.
  • For referencing, please make sure a consistent way of referencing (e.g., APA, AOM or Harvard  referencing style, etc.).

Writing style

It is very important to adopt an academic style of writing. You are taking a neutral stance by detaching yourself from the matter at hand. Any conclusions and opinions must be based on information from prior literature or your own empirical research. Back up every statement that contains a claim, every claim that you make with a reference to prior literature or with the appropriate piece from your data. Look at an exemplary article and analyze it: how does the author construct an argument? Try to adjust your writing style accordingly. Above all, recognize that any findings, including your own, are always subject to limitations in the research methodology. You should reflect this uncertainty in your thesis. For example, never use words such as “prove”, “it is a fact”, et cetera. Instead, proper phrases to use are “suggest”, “imply”, and so forth.

[1] At any time, you should adhere to ethical standards of doing research. Please make sure that you receive a consent from your interviewees and respondents in a survey to use the collected data. Examples of such consent forms are available on Canvas. Please also adhere to SBE’s Research Ethics Guidelines (see document on Canvas) and do the online self-check prior to conducting your research. 

[2] An interview typically lasts 30-60 minutes.

[3] Other means of data gathering, such as generating archival data or merging primary with secondary data, are allowed as long as the associated workload matches the one needed for conducting and transcribing 12 interviews or generating and analyzing 100 surveys. If in doubt, discuss this issue with your thesis supervisor and/or the thesis coordinator. Interview transcripts, survey data, or other raw data must be delivered upon request. Examples of sources for obtaining secondary data are available on Canvas.

[4] The exact structure and section length will depend on the nature of the Master’s thesis, i.e., qualitative/ quantitative, inductive/ deductive. Discuss this with your thesis supervisor. Please bear in mind that in all cases the maximum word limit is 10000 words (excluding reference list at the end of the thesis).

Do you need urgent help with this or a similar assignment? We got you. Simply place your order and leave the rest to our experts.

Quality Guaranteed!

Written From Scratch.

We Keep Time!

Scroll to Top