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The process of writing your Master thesis

Now that the thesis process for the September entrants is done I can share my thesis experiences with you. The February entrants are starting their thesis process now so I shall walk you through my thesis process from start to finish. It is focussed on the qualitative research because that was my path.

The beginning of the thesis process starts about a month before the proposal has to be delivered. You’ve heard from your professors that the thesis process is starting and you start thinking about a subject. You can get some inspiration from your courses but you can also think about the subjects that you are interested in. Because Strategic Management is such a broad education, the possibilities on topics for your thesis are almost endless. Don’t think you are restricted to the list of topics that the university shows you, think outside the box. Due to you having to work on your thesis for almost six months (or more in some cases), it is important that you find a topic that is broad enough to write something on and especially one that you love. Six months is certainly a long time to work on something you don’t like. My topic was the succession process within family firms. I chose it because I knew I wanted to write something in the field of family firms and in combination with my internship the topic shaped itself.
You can choose to write your thesis at the university or at an external company, which I choose. Besides writing my thesis I also did an internship. I did my internship at the Rabobank, who also helped me to find my respondents, if you write a qualitative thesis. Since writing your thesis takes a lot of time find a company that is flexible and puts your education first. When you wrote your proposal and your supervisor approved it the process can really start. If you have a good proposal it can count for a great deal of your first introductive chapter.

After your first chapter is done and you know what your problem statement and research questions are, the literature chapter has to be written. This is the foundation of your thesis so make sure you write an elaborate chapter that is in-depth about the questions you want to answer. My experience of writing this chapter was that there is a big difference between your bachelor thesis and your master thesis. The bachelor thesis is mainly a literature study that isn’t elaborate at all compared to the master thesis. In the master thesis you have to be much more critical and elaborate further. Also take enough time to write it because then you have enough time to change some things.

The next chapter is the methodology chapter, this chapter explains how you are going to get your results and form good conclusions about it. This chapter is not that interesting and compared to the others quite small. The first big advantage of writing your thesis at a company is besides that you gain experience, that the company can provide you with your respondents. This saves you the time and stress that you otherwise would have is you had to find your own respondents, which can be quite hard.

Now you are going to conduct your interviews, this takes up a lot of time!!!! I didn’t notice how much time I was going to put into conducting and transcribing the interviews after my first interview was done. I was quite late with getting my respondents so had to hurry to conduct all my interviews and transcribe them which was really stressful, so begin on time. For each half hour interview that you conduct you are transcribing on average for 1,5 hours. The transcribing takes a long time but to be honest I’m happy that I did it myself and did not hire a company to do it for me. Not because of the time but because I had my whole results and conclusion chapter all in my head when I transcribed all the interviews. When the interviews are conducted and transcribed you are going to code them and make relations. This will lead to your results and finally your conclusion.

The results chapter represents your interview questions with your results but then combined in a chapter. The conclusion chapter counts for ⅓ of your grade so make sure you take at least one week for this chapter. Since Arnout wrote an article about the defence I’m not going to elaborate on this further.

The things I learned from my internship and thesis process are:

  • Begin on time (cliché I know but it is true)
  • Take a subject that you like and want to know more on
  • Aim for a supervisor that you have a connection with. The most annoying thing is that your supervisor doesn’t give you the feedback that you want
  • If you work at a company at the same time divide your time between work and thesis 40/60 or more. Always put your thesis first.
  • Don’t be too hard on yourself if you can’t work on your thesis full time, but keep working on it when you have the time.

Hopefully I didn’t scare the future researchers, but believe me it is all worth it. It takes some blood, sweat and tears but in the end you can be proud of your product. Good luck!

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