This protocol contains the rules and procedures for the thesis process of the various MSc programmes with duration of 1 year offered by Maastricht University School of Business and Economics (SBE). The protocol should offer a transparent perspective on all aspects of the thesis process and contribute to internal quality assurance. The protocol provides no substantive information on content related aspects of the thesis. Such information can be found in the Thesis Guide of each program or track (which is part of the teaching material offered to students). This Code of Practice implements the rules for the Master thesis as can be found in the Master Education and Examination Rules (MSc-EER). The purpose of this Code of Practice is to establish clear and explicit mutual expectations, and to minimize the risks and problems of personal difficulties, inadequate supervision or unsatisfactory student performance. It will be provided to all academic staff and MSc students. All academic staff and students have to familiarize themselves with the provisions of this Code of Practice.
Goal of the Master thesis
The thesis is an independently written essay on a particular subject which is discussed from a theoretical and/or practical point of view. The thesis provides students with an opportunity to analyse in depth a specific topic within the realm of their area of study and to display the ability to carry out original research, therefore the thesis must include:
- a relevant and clearly defined research issue;
- a properly structured and coherent research proposal;
- a thorough analysis of relevant theoretical and empirical literature and collection of appropriate data;
- a well justified and appropriate research design;
- a systematic, objective and carefully structured analysis of the information collected;
- the drawing of relevant conclusions from the analysis and relating these to the existing literature as well as practical implications;
- a demonstration of originality and the ability to pursue original research.
Next to these content related outcomes the thesis process covers additional learning outcomes which are related to competences on master level. In writing the thesis students must apply ethics appropriate to scientific research, demonstrate their ability to work on their own initiative and also demonstrate their ability to organize their work on a longer term project within a tight schedule. Respecting and meeting the deadlines given simulates a professional situation which students will enter upon completion of the programme.
Outline of the process
- The thesis is the culmination of the MSc study programme, which (generally) can be started twice per academic year. To start the thesis project students have to register to participate in specific skills (educational periods 3 and 6) which are related to the thesis process. This skill marks the end of the first semester. Students who are in a joint degree or double degree program and who write the thesis under supervision of SBE are also expected to register for this skill, and the same rules apply to them.
- Students in the MSc Global Supply Chain Management” have to register for the skill “Project and Change Management” ; students in the MSc Econometrics and Operation Research have to register for one of the skills “Topics in Computational Econometrics”, “Topics in Computational Actuarial Methods” or “Operations Research Software: Modelling Languages”; students in Human Decision Science for the skills “Research Skills”.
- Part time students are recommended to register for the thesis skill at the end of the first academic year. At that moment they have taken the same course load as a full time student. If they do so, they get an extension of the deadline by 7 months.
- Students who do not register for the first opportunity to follow the thesis skills training will be invited for a meeting with the thesis coordinator of the department or a student advisor.
- The grade for the skills mentioned in 1. and 2. above consists of two pass/fail partial grades. A pass for the first partial grade is given for successful participation during the skill, a pass for the second partial grade is obtained if a student successfully defends the thesis within 7 months or 7 months plus given extension. Credits for the skill are only given if both partial grades are a pass.
- Students who register for the skill are automatically registered for the thesis, the educational component will be added to the students’ curriculum.
- Within 15 working days after the end of the thesis skill the student will be assigned to a thesis supervisor. If a student gets a fail for the first partial grade of the skill one resit opportunity will be offered within 10 working days.
- The topic of the thesis will be either a topic that has been proposed by the student during the skills period, or a topic that is given to the student by the thesis supervisor.
- Student and supervisor have to agree on deadlines for the different stages of the process:
- Introduction chapter and research proposal;
- Literature review and research method and design;
- Data collection and analysis or theory development;
- Analysis and preliminary findings report;
- Students and supervisor must agree on a minimum of 3 meetings in which the various stages of the process are evaluated. This requirement may vary per department and must be mentioned in the Thesis Guide.
- Supported by a monitoring tool both student and thesis supervisor are informed on the progress of the thesis project. Students are responsible for respecting the deadlines agreed; supervisors and the second thesis supervisor are accountable for providing timely and adequate feedback on content.
- The student has to hand-in the final version of the thesis such that thesis supervisor and the second thesis supervisor have at least 15 working days before the end of the corresponding semester to grade the thesis, and that the defence can be planned before the end of the semester.
- With the final version the student has to hand in an official statement of original thesis.
- If the outcome is sufficient the student has to orally defend the thesis in front of the supervisor and the second supervisor/reader. This has to take place no later than the last day of the semester in which the thesis project was started. If the student participated in the skills in January, this is the 31st of August in the same calendar year, if the student participated in the skills in June, this is the 31st of January next calendar year.
- Each thesis will be controlled for plagiarism.
- If the quality of the thesis is insufficient the student will be offered one resit opportunity; within 3 months after the initial deadline (that is 10 months after passing the skill), the student must present and defend an upgraded version of the thesis. If the student participated in the skills in January, this is the 30th of November in the same calendar year, if the student participated in the skills in June, this is the 30th of April next calendar year.
- If then again failed students have to restart the thesis process again by choosing a new topic. The new topic should in principle be supervised by a new supervisor, unless the student and the old supervisor agree on a continuation. The supervision will start by the end of an upcoming skills period, thus either February or July with the same deadlines applying as before.
- Students who, as a consequence of a personal situation, are delayed in the thesis process must contact the supervisor and a student advisor. If the circumstances are verifiable and have an impact on the thesis progress the grading date can be postponed. The new grading date needs to be approved by the Board of Examiners in order to come into force.
- After completion and final grading, student and supervisor will be invited to evaluate the process and the outcomes.
Responsibilities thesis supervisor/second thesis supervisor
- General. In starting the supervision the supervisor recognizes and accepts the responsibilities both to the student and to the Board of Examiners implicit in the supervisory relationship.
- Role. The thesis supervisor must be a member of Maastricht University academic employee related to the students’ programme and/or track. At least one of the two required thesis supervisors must have a PhD. The thesis supervisor is responsible for guiding all student activities in the context of the thesis.
- Designation and registration. Within 15 working days after the end of the thesis skill the student will be assigned to a supervisor. The supervisor is responsible to create and maintain a supervision card.
- Duration. The supervisor informs the student on the time schedule at the beginning of the thesis, this time schedule includes the number of meetings planned and the due date for first submission of the finished (for view) version of the thesis.
- Absence of the thesis supervisor. Supervisors expecting an absence from the school for a period of 4 weeks or more are responsible for either offering suitable arrangements for continued supervision, or ensuring that the second supervisor is assigned and instructed to take over temporarily, or requesting the academic unit to appoint another supervisor. These arrangements must be communicated with the student and the academic unit before the absence starts.
- Meetings and monitoring. The planned consultation between supervisor and student should be used to establish and maintain an agreed view of the direction and progress of the thesis and to identify in a timely fashion any remedial action necessary to redirect the student’s work in line with the agreed schedule for completion within the specified academic semester. The supervision card should be updated, students should take the card to every meeting.
- Feedback. It is essential to stimulate the learning process of the student, especially since the master’s thesis is an important part of the programme where the acquisition of essential competences are primary.
- Standards and grading. Evaluation of the master’s thesis is done in an objective and transparent way and must be based on unambiguous criteria used by every assessor. An assessment scheme has been developed in which criteria are standardized; this grading scheme is available in the Thesis Guide. In this evaluation form the supervisor can indicate to which extent the student fulfilled the criteria on a scale from insufficient to exceptional. Students are informed about the evaluation criteria at the start of the master’s thesis and during the guidance these criteria will be used to give feedback.
- Progress. It is the student’s responsibility to pursue the goals described in the thesis guide. The student must make systematic and consistent progress as has been agreed upon in the supervisory relationship, as is outlined in the Thesis Guide (of the programme or track), the EER and this Code of Practice.
- Responsibility. Students must be well prepared for meetings with the thesis supervisor and have to submit a tentative version of the thesis to the supervisor in sufficient time to allow review and revision. It is the student’s responsibility to arrange any necessary meetings which are beyond the planning as agreed upon.
- Delay and personal circumstances. Students should take the initiative in notifying their supervisor on any difficulties that have arisen with the progress of their work. In case these difficulties are personal circumstances (such as illness, extraordinary family circumstances, etc.) students should also contact a student advisor. If the circumstances are verifiable and have an impact on the thesis progress the grading date can be postponed. Students have to submit a request to the Board of Examiners, the request must be accompanied by a positive statement from a student advisor.
- Originality of work: the thesis must be original work by the student and the student has to sign an official statement when handing in the thesis.
- Valid UM registration: the student has to have a valid registration at Maastricht University throughout the process of writing the thesis and until defending it. If not, supervision cannot be continued and graduation is not possible.
Responsibilities school and departments
- Supervision. SBE must ensure that appropriate supervision can be provided for students and that it can be maintained throughout the duration of the thesis process as mentioned above. Supervision must be provided by faculty who are active or related to the students’ topic.
- Facilities. SBE must ensure, within their responsibility, that the appropriate and necessary resources (e.g. library, computing facilities, administrative support, student guidance) are available.
- Registration. After successful completion of the thesis skill SBE automatically registers the thesis as educational component in the students’ curriculum. The starting date is the first day of the educational block following the aforementioned thesis skill.
- Monitoring. SBE monitors the progress of supervision. When delays become visible, student advisors may contact students and inform supervisors, coordinators, departments and Board of Examiners on the (individual) progress of students.
- Personal circumstances / additional guidance. Students who are in need of additional feedback on non-content related (personal) issues (such as illness, extra ordinary family circumstances, but also time management and procrastination issues, motivation and writers block, feedback issues, having too high expectations, perfectionism, etc.) are invited to contact the student advisors. Also supervisors can refer students to the student advisor and, if appropriate. Student advisors will invite students for reflection if the thesis process has stopped or is delayed.
Students and supervisor are requested to discuss any differences in opinion in terms of topic, content, or procedure of the thesis timely in an open and constructive way. If conflicts cannot be resolved this way, the thesis coordinator of the corresponding department should be involved on initiative of the student or the supervisor. The thesis supervisor may decide to involve a student advisor. If also this does not lead to a solution, the board of examiners will be involved to take a decision on how to proceed with the thesis (e.g., issues like change of topic, change of supervision, adjustment of deadlines).