Part 9: Master’s Dissertation Faculty Regulations

Article 1: INTRODUCTION & OBJECTIVE

A master’s dissertation proves that students are able to implement the knowledge and skills acquired during their degree course.

There are three formats:

A. ACADEMIC DISSERTATION

§ 1 A master’s dissertation is the end product of students' research projects, during which they carry out academic research in an independent and creative manner on a chosen topic in the field of study. Within the framework of a master’s dissertation, the entire project is developed and written down in a concise report.

B. POLICY REPORT

§ 2 Using a social science analysis, students build up practice-oriented knowledge for a client or for a setting within which the report report is drafted. The problem definition and the research questions can be drawn up in consultation with the actors involved (client, stakeholders, etc.).

In a policy report, students apply the usual communication science, political science or sociology criteria for responsible scientific research. Students thus always maintain their independent position. Ultimately, a policy report has to yield applied knowledge, with concrete policy recommendations arising from research results.

C. JOURNAL ARTICLE

§ 3 A master’s dissertation can also be written in the form of a journal article. In this formula, the master’s dissertation must be drawn up in such a manner that the submitted “article" could theoretically be published in a scholarly journal straight away.

Article 2: FORMATS

A. ACADEMIC DISSERTATION

§ 1 A master’s dissertation can take different basic forms (depending whether the emphasis lies on empirical research, methodological issues, literature study ...). This choice will be made in consultation with the supervisor.

§3 Every master’s dissertation contains a literature review. Its importance and size may vary, depending on the selected format.

§4. Possible master’s dissertation formats:

1. Empirical study

In line with the objective, a distinction is made between two types of empirical studies: testing research and exploratory research. The objective of testing research is to verify the validity of a certain hypothesis, theory or specific model, while exploratory research aims to gather information that contributes to the development or formulation of a hypothesis or model. The literature review in both cases focuses on clarifying the relevant theory, hypotheses, models, etc. as well as situating their scientific context and adjusting and elaborating them when necessary.

2. Methodological study

A research project can also focus on developing a method or research tool. In this case, the master’s dissertation takes the form of a methodological study. In addition to a literature review, this type of master’s dissertation includes at least an illustrative application on empirical data.

3. Literature review

Lastly, a master’s dissertation can also focus completely on a literature review. Literature with regard to a clearly defined research question is collected and studied in order to present an overview in which existing theories, models, insights and/or empirical research findings are assessed. The emphasis, therefore, lies on the literature study, but, naturally, does not exclude (a) a meta-analysis of empirical research findings or (b) a critical analysis of several theories insights and models. From this analysis, potentially testable research hypotheses should emerge

The above overview is not exhaustive. Students can also choose a mixed format. This choice is made in consultation with the supervisor.

B. POLICY REPORT.

§ 4 The policy report does not include subcategories. Policy, however, has to be interpreted in a broad sense. Policy, in this case, can refer to both political policy and -organisation/corporate policy, as well as to concrete research questions (of actors) from the the relevant professional field.

C. JOURNAL ARTICLE

§5 The journal article can adopt several basic formats (similar to an academic dissertation), such as:

  1. a theoretical contribution (with emphasis on literature study)
  2. an empirical contribution (with emphasis on concrete empirical research)
  3. a methodological contribution (with emphasis on methodological issues.

Article 3: FORMAT REQUIREMENTS

More below, you can find the format requirements. Students can, after consulting their supervisor, sometimes deviate from certain requirement

A. ACADEMIC DISSERTATION

§1 An academic dissertation consists of the following elements:

1. The abstract
The first page contains a centred title, followed by an "Abstract" (an English summary of the paper of at least 150 and maximum 250 words). The abstract outlines the examined problems, the methodology and the obtained results.

2. The Recommended corpus

The corpus comprises the entire dissertation including tables and figures inserted to clarify the presentation. Similar to a journal article, the structure of the corpus is emphasised by the choice of appropriate headings.

-In an empirical or a methodological study, the corpus may be divided into the following sections: "Introduction", "Status quaestionis", "Research Design", "Results", and "Discussion and Conclusion".
-In a literature review, the structure choice of the thesis will be determined more by the themes covered.
-In the conclusion, you will have to link the findings of your own study to the findings in the literature review. You should also address the limitations of your study and offer the reader several suggestions for further research in your conclusion.

B. POLICY REPORT

§1 There are a number of (recommended) main sections for a policy report. The structure below may be deviated from in consultation with the supervisor (and any client). 

 1. An executive summary

An executive summary is a short, easy-to-read summary containing (at least) the objectives, starting points, brief methodological outline, and most importantly, the recommendations to the organisation.

2. Problem definition

A policy report starts from an applied problem definition. This can range from a specific problem definition that is formulated in consultation with the client to a broader, independently set-up policy evaluation. As a rule, the following elements should be present: context of the policy, description of the policy question/mission (e.g. information mission, change management or an evaluation mission). Finally, the organisation-specific problem and/or policy questions should be translated into concrete research questions.

3. Theoretical background

Theory is mainly applied to a specific problem in a policy report. Theoretical concepts should, therefore, be implemented practically, in order to arrive at a theoretically driven policy or organisational analysis as a framework for the research. Students should not only pay attention to policy- or organisation-specific processes, but also to broader social processes that may be at play in the research field. An applied literature study requires, in addition to a theoretical study, a thorough analysis of previous research, practical examples and relevant policy documents.

4. Methodology

The methodological soundness of a policy report is as important as in a scientific dissertation or academic paper. However, methodological choices can be made partly in consultation with an organisation (e.g. drawing up a practice-oriented questionnaire). However, any input from an organisation in methodological choices should be explicitly discussed and justified.

5. Results

Results should be presented correctly, but with more attention to the visual presentation and interpretation of the results than in a scientific dissertation. Important results should be highlighted and feedback should already be made to the set objectives and theory (i.e. results do not stand alone).

6. Conclusions

In the conclusion, the results should be briefly summarised with a feedback to the problem definition and the set objectives (have they been achieved or not?). In addition, a (limited) reflection should also be given on the broader social-scientific relevance of the results, with feedback to the theory.

7. Recommendations

Recommendations are given on the basis of theory, results and conclusions, but a feedback to the organisation or the analysed policy is always an added value. Recommendations may therefore be drawn up in consultation with the client. In the report, these should then be critically discussed and evaluated. The independent position of the student has to be safeguarded in this process.

 

C. journal article

§ 3 This format of a master’s dissertations adheres to the guidelines that authors follow when writing a journal article. The criteria can be found in the evaluation form (see annex 2).

The first page contains a centred title, followed by an English "Abstract" (a summary of the paper of at least 200 and maximum 300 words). The abstract outlines the issues that were explored, the methodology and the obtained results.

D. GENERAL FORM REQUIREMENTS

Source reference

§ 4 Students use an APA system for references. In consultation with the supervisor, they can also use another reference system, provided that they can motivate their decision. In any case, students should consistently follow the same reference system when writing their dissertation. (See APA manual on Ufora).

§ 5 If students mainly use legal sources, and in particular, the legislation and case-law, they should use the source reference, quoting and abbreviation manners of academic writing applied in law.

§ 6 The use of EndNote is recommended.

Layout

§ 7 A standard title page is used (indicating the chosen format). A template is made available on Ufora. The chosen format (academic dissertation, policy report or journal article) should also be indicated on the title page. 

E. SCIENTIFIC TRANSPARENCY, LANGUAGE AND PLAGIARISM

§8 The student took an independent approach to the master's dissertation and the choices made fully reflect the student's vision.

Scientific transparency

§ 9 In academic work, all statements must always be well founded using clear language. The writer should enable the reader to follow the argumentation and estimate the scientific value and scope of each claim. This means that students must clarify how he/she has arrived at their ideas (own experience, personal data collection; how, where and when the data were collected). The reader of the master’s dissertation must, therefore, always be able to distinguish which interpretations or arguments come from the student, and which ones are derived from listed academic authors or sources. When referring to ideas or empirical findings of others, students must always adequately refer to the source(s) used.

Language

§ 10 The master’s dissertation is written in English. On request and agreed upon by the supervisor, it may also be written in French.

§ 11 If the Master's dissertation is written in English or French, a summary in Dutch is required (OER art 59). This Dutch summary may take the form of an abstract, unless explicitly agreed otherwise with the supervisor.

Plagiarism

§ 12 The Faculty has drawn up Faculty Plagiarism Regulations (see section 9 of the Faculty's education and examination code) with regard to master’s dissertation irregularities when writing a master’s dissertation or dealing with other forms of (written) reporting.

It is not allowed to copy text parts in the Master's dissertation from papers made in the context of other course units. This applies both to the format 'academic dissertation', 'journal article' and 'policy report'. A student who opted for a CSL course or a 'challenges course' may therefore also not (re)use the research question and/or the results in his/her Master's dissertation either.
An exception is the research paper. After all, this counts as a preparation for the actual master's dissertation and a certain degree of similarity (e.g. in the literature review) will therefore not be considered auto-plagiarism.

Article 4: SIZE

A. ACADEMIC DISSERTATION

§ 1 The size of the academic dissertation ranges from 15,000 to 25,000 words (abstract, tables, bibliography, footnotes and possible attachments not included). The number of words (word count) is mentioned on the title page (the Faculty Student Administration Office checks this when the dissertation is submitted).

Please note that these minima and maxima may under no circumstances be exceeded. If this is the case, the master’s dissertation will be declared inadmissible.

Students always have to add attachments of all the material that the readers (supervisor and commissioner) need to correctly evaluate the work and the results. For interviews, these are, for example, the transcriptions and audio files and (if possible) the consent forms, for a survey or experiment this can be the raw datafile,  and so forth. Each supervisor, however, can ask for additional material if he/she deems it necessary. For more information on this, please see section 5 "Submission master's dissertation".

B. POLICY REPORT

§ 2 The size of the policy report ranges from 15,000 to 25,000 words (abstract, tables, bibliography, footnotes and possible attachments not included). The number of words (word count) is mentioned on the title page (the Faculty Student Administration Office checks this when the dissertation is submitted).

Please note that these minima and maxima may under no circumstances be exceeded. If this is the case, the master’s dissertation will be declared inadmissible.

Students always have to add attachments of all the material that the readers (supervisor and commissioner) need to correctly evaluate the work and the results. For interviews, these are, for example, the transcriptions and audio files and (if possible) the consent forms, for a survey or experiment this can be the raw datafile,  and so forth. Each supervisor, however, can ask for additional material if he/she deems it necessary. For more information on this, please see section 5 "Submission master's dissertation".

C. JOURNAL ARTICLE

§ 3 A journal article contains between 8000 and 10,000 words (abstract, tables, bibliography, footnotes and possible attachments not included). The number of words (word count) is mentioned on the title page (the Faculty Student Administration Office checks this when the dissertation is submitted).

Please note that these minima and maxima may under no circumstances be exceeded. If this is the case, the master’s dissertation will be declared inadmissible.

Students always have to add attachments of all the material that the readers (supervisor and commissioner) need to correctly evaluate the work and the results. For interviews, these are, for example, the transcriptions and audio files and (if possible) the consent forms, for a survey or experiment this can be the raw datafile,  and so forth. Each supervisor, however, can ask for additional material if he/she deems it necessary. For more information on this, please see section 5 "Submission master's dissertation".

Article 5: PROCEDURE & DEADLINES

A. The Supervision

§ 1 Each student is supervised by a lecturer, or post-doctoral researcher/post-doctoral assistant.

§2 The supervisor belongs to the Faculty of Political & Social Sciences and is a member of the department that is (partly) responsible for the study programme of the student.

§3 Assistants, scientific collaborators or externals with the necessary experience and expertise may also be involved in supervision activities, under the overall responsibility of the supervisor.

B. Registration in Plato and Oasis

The registration deadlines are communicated via https://www.ugent.be/ps/en/education/administration/data.htm.

§ 4 If students fail to register in time in Plato and Oasis, they cannot hand in their master’s dissertation.

C. Submission of the master’s dissertation

§ 5 Students of all programmes have to submit the master's dissertation electronically on Ufora (PDF format). The submission dates can be found on https://www.ugent.be/ps/en/education/administration/data.htm. It is possible to deviate from this, always in consultation with the supervisor.

§ 6 Digital attachments up to 1 GB have to be uploaded via Ufora. Anything above 1 GB has to be supplied separately in consultation with the supervisor (via USB or CD-ROM or shared via OneDrive or wetransfer, ...). Interview transcripts should, therefore, not be added to the text of the master's dissertation itself, but can be forwarded as separate files, together with the audio files and consent forms, to the supervisor and the commissioner at the time of submission.

Exception:

§ 7 The Examination Committee may also meet after the first part of the first exam period in a graduation year of a master's degree for students who only have to pass for their master’s dissertation and/or first semester subjects. In this case, students are allowed to submit the master’s dissertation in the first semester.

The submission deadline is communicated via https://www.ugent.be/ps/en/education/administration/data.htm

D. Oral defense

§ 8 The master’s dissertation is a written report. Students, regardless of department or study programme, must also orally defend their master’s dissertation.

The oral defense is an exposition of the master’s dissertation with the aim of additionally reviewing the points which emerged from the assessment of the submitted thesis. The place and time of the oral defense of the master’s dissertation are communicated electronically. A student cannot withdraw from the oral defense under any circumstances (otherwise, the student will have failed this course). In exceptional cases (internship, foreign study visits ...), the oral defense can be organised via Skype or similar media tools.

F. The evaluation procedure

§ 9 Each master’s dissertation is evaluated by both the supervisor and one Commissioner on the basis of a report. The Programme Committees appoint the commissioners. The final score is determined on the basis of the assessment of the written version of the master's dissertation by the supervisor and commissioner and the assessment of the oral defense. If there is a large discrepancy of 4 or more points between the assessment of the supervisor and commissioner, a third assessor will be appointed.

§ 10 The assessment and scoring framework can be found in the “master’s dissertation assessment form” (see annex).

G. Feedback

§ 12 Every student has the right to feedback on his/her master’s dissertation. When the marks are released after the first (and/or second) examination period, the FSA will, at the request of the student, forward the evaluation forms via e-mail.

H. Master’s dissertation agreement

§ 12 If a third party is involved in a master’s dissertation (e.g. a company, external organisation) it is desirable that all parties sign a master’s dissertation agreement. This agreement governs the liability (confidentiality and property rights). This master’s dissertation agreement is signed in three copies, first by the supervisor and afterwards by the student. Students then submit the master’s dissertation for signature to the external party. Lastly, the Faculty Director of Studies signs the document on behalf of UGent.

The Faculty Education Services (called the FSA at our faculty) scans the signed agreement and attaches it as document type in OASIS to the course 'master’s dissertation' of the student. The signed copy of the master’s dissertation agreement is kept at the Faculty Education services. The other two copies are for the student and the third party. The formats for the master’s dissertation Agreement can be found on the website of UGent TechTransfer:
https://www.ugent.be/ps/nl/voor-studenten/administratie/masterproef/overzicht.htm

Article 6: ADDITIONAL REQUIREMENT FOR STUDENTS WHO DO NOT PASS THEIR MASTER’S DISSERTATION AND RESUBMIT IT AT A LATER DATE

Students who do not pass their master’s dissertation and resubmit it at a later date, have to add a separate document, in which they (a) give an overview of the changes made, and (b) indicate how they have responded to the reports and the comments on the earlier version.