Bachelor Thesis: How it works

You have completed all the modules of your studies and collected enough credit points? Then the bachelor thesis is now in the house. With her you prove that you can work independently on a scientific topic. If you pass your bachelor thesis – and the following colloquium at many universities – you get the academic title of a bachelor. Prerequisites for this are a suitable topic, a thorough literature search and a meaningful time management. With our tips you get a lot closer to your dream note.

What is a bachelor thesis  and how to write it?

A bachelor thesis, also called a bachelor thesis, is a scientific work on a given or self-chosen topic. She is part of the final examination at universities – usually together with an oral exam (“colloquium”). As a rule, students have between one and three months to complete the bachelor thesis from the day they register, usually between 20 and 80 pages.

Select the right topic

With the choice of a suitable topic you lay the basis. Choose a topic that interests you. Only those who find their topic exciting will work motivated for weeks or months. Therefore, include your interests, previous knowledge and practical experience. Perhaps you have already engaged in a seminar with a topic that you want to deepen now. This would have the advantage, among other things, that you can better assess the source situation. Maybe your Bachelor thesis topic can even pave the way for your future dream job.

To find an exciting topic, first read well graded bachelor theses from your department – preferably on topics you can imagine yourself. This gives you an idea of which topics work in the framework of a bachelor thesis. You can find works by others at faculties of your faculty, in the university library or on the Internet. Other inspirations can deliver you lectures, journals but also magazines and newspapers.

If you have a rough idea of your desired topic, you check out the source location. If there is very little literature on the topic, you better take distance again. An important part of a bachelor thesis is to provide an overview of research approaches and results and to discuss them. In the worst case scenario, this can mean canceling out your desired topic again and choosing a different topic for which there are more sources.

If you have a rough idea of the topic, you get in touch with potential supervisors of your work. From courses you have determined contacts with professors and scientific staff of your department. In a non-binding initial conversation, you will exchange ideas about your topic and the best way to arrange an appointment, to which you present a sketch of the topic. Then you define the topic together and develop a concrete research question. This limitation is important so that you can deal with your topic in the given time and number of pages. Often you get the opportunity to provide information on other important sources as well as the content orientation of your work.

It is best to establish with your supervisor at this early stage how often you want to meet and in what steps you expect the most support. Do you want to work independently or have frequent feedback? In what ways and how often do you want to inform your supervisor about progress at work? Does it make sense to present individual parts of the manuscript to him? Some universities even prescribe such agreements in a kind of contract – a so-called “Learning Agreement”. Even if it is not obligatory at your university – it makes sense anyway, so that you can rely on agreements.

Special case: Bachelor thesis in the company

Great practical relevance, financial support and possibly prospects for a direct entry – you have these advantages when you write your bachelor thesis in a company. In addition, your chances of getting a good rating increase, because the professor is less able to judge your performance than if you write about his body and stomach issue. However, before you write an application for a bachelor thesis in the company, you should clarify whether this is possible at your university.

Research effectively and use only scientific sources

Information is available indefinitely. Therefore, it is important to distinguish reliable from dubious sources. A web research with Google & Co. brings you a lot of hits – but the vast majority is not scientifically sound and therefore useless. This concerns, for example, blog entries and press releases. Also Wikipedia entries can facilitate you at most the entry into the topic.

Better suited is Google Scholar – a search engine for scientific documents. If you enter a search term, you will receive both free pages and paid offers. The focus of the search engine is on journals. In some cases, Google Scholar displays the full texts, in others only bibliographic information.

Google Scholar allows you to narrow your search to publications from the past two or three years to get the latest results. In this way, find a handful of interesting articles on your topic and review their bibliography. They help you to “move on” step by step.

In addition, use libraries and archives. Borrow frequently quoted standard and basic works from the university or state library. In addition, current journal articles are particularly suitable as sources, as these reflect the latest state of scientific discussion.

Step 3: Formulate the central research question of your bachelor thesis

Research questions express what insights you want to gain from your work. Your central research question should neither be too broad nor ambiguous or contradictory – and of course be answered.

A good option is to start from a topic (such as child poverty in Germany) and formulate questions on various aspects (for example, who is affected ?, what are the causes, where is there help?). Now you form “question clusters” by assigning one main question (for example, “What causes are there?”) To different sub-questions (for example, “What Causes Parents See?”, “What Do Educators Say?”, Etc.). Then think about the method with which each question cluster could be worked on (for example, interviews with parents or teachers, and literature research). Based on this, you estimate which questions and methods are worthwhile and select a cluster.

Often the nature of the question already indicates which research method is suitable for your bachelor thesis (see step 4). If you are asking about differences and similarities (for example, about political systems), then a comparative study is a good idea. If you want to measure a specific effect (for example, from online courses to exam results), a survey would be useful.

Formulate your research question as clearly and unambiguously as possible in one sentence. Avoid why questions because they are often not specific enough. If you have problems, first write down what exactly you want to examine. For a crisp formulation, the elevator pitch method will help you: Imagine describing a stranger’s topic and research question during a ride in the elevator.

Set a timetable and set the methodology

Before you organize the individual work steps, you go through the requirements that your university places on bachelor’s theses. This applies to both formal criteria such as scope and formatting as well as general guidelines on content and methodology. If you have received additional instructions from your supervisor, for example about building up the work or the number of sources, let them also be included.

Based on the processing period, you set up a schedule for your bachelor thesis. In it you define processing steps and determine their duration. The writing phase should only take about 30 percent of the time. Plan realistically and allow sufficient time for consultation with your supervisor. Also, treat yourself to a few days off every now and then. Ideally, you have the schedule ready before the registration of the bachelor thesis at the examination office.

With your supervisor, you have not only discussed your topic, but probably also already discussed methods that can be used to edit your research question. Now the decision is on how you want to proceed. Is a theoretical or empirical approach the appropriate way – or a mixture of both?

You choose a theoretical approach, if you can not edit your topic with the help of a data analysis. In this case, you depend on literature research. Based on the existing arguments and research results, you try to answer or prove your research question or hypothesis.

If data on your research question can be collected on a scientific basis or are already available, then you choose an empirical approach. You can choose between qualitative and quantitative methods. While qualitative methods – such as interviews and observational studies – ask about how and why and require interpretation, quantitative research – for example, through experiments and surveys – is objective and fact-based.

Develop a logical structure

If the research question and approach are clarified, you take care to structure your argumentation. Expression of this is the structure of the main part of your bachelor thesis. It will guide you through the writing process step by step. Well structured, your work is also easier to read and understand.

Each bachelor thesis consists of roughly three parts. In the introduction, which should cover about 10 percent of the work, you present topic, question and solution approaches. In the main part, about 80 percent of the volume, you present the necessary expertise for understanding and explain research methodology and results. The remaining 10 percent are reserved for the final part, in which you summarize the results and draw a conclusion.

While the introduction and conclusion / conclusion each form a chapter, the main part requires a subdivision. A classic bachelor thesis is structured as follows:

1 Introduction

2. Chapter I

2.1 Subchapter 1

2.2 Subchapter 2

3. Chapter II

3.1 Subchapter 1

3.2 Subchapter 2

Etc.

4. Conclusion / Conclusion

The exact structure depends on the content of your work. Since you do not know all aspects yet, you create a collection of materials to get an overview. In the collection of materials, you list all the questions and considerations that could be important for answering your research question. Conduct a first literature search on the internet for each item to check it out and possibly add new ideas.

Then think about which important elements work together and in which subquestions you can disassemble your research question. What could be the answer to the question and how do you get that answer? Which aspects are general and which ones are special?

In the second step you summarize your material according to content. Ask yourself which aspects can be distinguished from others. You can divide this summary either hierarchically, that is, according to parent and child points, or logically based on each other, so that the outline points lead to a goal.