Introduction, main part and conclusion – this principle is familiar to every student already from school time and can in principle be applied to any scientific work. Nevertheless, a master’s thesis is more comprehensive than any home or bachelor thesis and possibly the most scientific you will ever master. It is all the more important that you know all the tricks to structure and structure your master’s thesis meaningful and methodically correct right from the start.
In this article we answer the most important questions about the structure and structure of your master thesis – examples included.
The extent of the master’s thesis: How many pages do I have to write?
The following rule of thumb applies at many universities: Bachelor theses correspond to 40 to 60 pages, for master theses about 80 to 120 pages apply. Some universities also give the expectation of the extent in words, which is then between about 15,000 and 20,000 words. Still others only indicate the processing time, but do not express any limitation on the number of pages or words. Depending on whether you are writing your master’s thesis in three or six months, you can already base yourself on the following rules of thumb:
3 months processing time = 60-80 pages
6 months processing time = 80-120 pages
In addition, it is to be learned whether images and references to sources are included in the given framework, or whether they are the pure length of the continuous text. Therefore, the following applies: Before starting the processing time, it is essential to obtain the formal guidelines from the first examiner. For the length of a master’s thesis in Germany often varies depending on study program, university, chair, supervisor and topic. The question of the scope of the Master’s thesis should be clarified before you start with the actual research and writing. Not only because strict rules apply to many universities and non-compliance with formal requirements leads to deduction of points, but also because the structure and structure of your Master’s thesis is determined by its scope. For example, the introduction to a master’s thesis of more than 100 pages may be longer than half a year’s work.
Which part of the master’s thesis should be how long?
Since the average length of master theses can vary, this question can only be answered with percentage estimates. As a general rule, the introduction and the conclusion each occupy about 10-15% of the total text length, while 70-80% of the text is in the main part.
The formal structure: What else belongs to the master’s thesis in addition to the introduction, the main part and the conclusion?
Again, it is essential to comply with the requirements of the university or the supervisor. Many universities publish guidelines for academic work, in which not only the required amount of Bachelor’s and Master’s theses are clearly communicated, but also all other formalities are defined, such as which font size and which line spacing is used and which other attachments it is to be attached.
As a rule, every master’s thesis consists in addition to the content of the master’s thesis topic
– a cover sheet showing your name, course of study, topic of the Master Thesis, as well as the supervisor and the University
– the affidavit confirming that you have authored the work independently and identified all sources correctly and completely
– Acknowledgment and / or Foreword, which are generally not mandatory parts of a Master’s thesis but are common practice in some universities. A Thanksgiving affords the opportunity to thank people who have helped you write your Master Thesis – for example, with your supervisor or a person with whom you have conducted an expert interview. You can use the foreword to explain your personal motivation for your Master’s thesis topic. However, it should not anticipate content or results of the work.
– a table of contents, illustrations, abbreviations and tables: Information about the numbering format common to your university for all directories as well as the order in which they are inserted into the master thesis can usually be found in the guidelines for scientific work
– Attached. H. all that is necessary as additional information for the reader, but not directly or not fully integrated into the master thesis, eg. Eg a transcribed expert interview.
The common thread: How do I structure my master’s thesis in terms of content?
Content stringency and clear lines of argument are the nuts and bolts of a scientific paper. Not only for the future reader, but also for you as a writer, it is important to keep track of the multi-month processing time. If you structure and structure your master’s thesis well from the beginning, you do not run the risk of getting bogged down on the way. The following tips will help you to keep the thread going through your work and to keep an eye on it.
3 steps to perfect the structure
1. The Introduction: Build the arc of tension
The special role of the introduction is often misunderstood in scientific work. It is much more than a neat accessory and “pre-skirmish” to where the real magic happens. The introduction does what is called “pitch” in the startup scene. Pitching is about convincing an idea in the shortest possible time in order to attract investor interest. Related to the scientific work that means: Potential readers in as little space as possible to clarify with well-founded facts, why they must read on here necessarily. If you understand the introduction as a pitch, you not only bring clarity to the reader, but also define a roadmap for yourself, which you can then work through consistently. Three questions should not be left unanswered in the introduction:
What and why?
No matter what topic you write on: The beginning of the Master’s thesis is a – more or less broad – topic complex that is in any way relevant to our society as a whole or for a part of it. So your first question should always be: What exactly am I dealing with and what is the special significance of this topic? Immediately follows the description of the problem, which results from the topic. Why is it important for you to focus on this topic? Has he received little or no attention in the scientific context so far? Was it considered only under certain (inadequate) aspects? Or has it only been investigated with certain (inadequate) methods?
After identifying previous research gaps, it is important to highlight why it pays to close this gap. Why should you keep writing here? It may sound strange, but telling yourself what higher-level scientific added value you provide is of enormous importance, so as not to lose yourself in details during the writing process, which do not contribute to solving the original research problem. Define your central research question as accurately as possible before you start researching and writing. Your supervisor will ultimately judge your work primarily by whether you’ve answered your research question logically and accurately. It is therefore fundamental that your research question clearly and clearly emerge from your introduction.
After all, the “how?” Is a question about the framework in which the scientific debate takes place. Which sub-questions do you need to answer to get results on your key research question? And: On the basis of which methodology can you do that? The “how?” Completes the scientific pitch by outlining the content and methodical roadmap for answering the overriding question.
If you have addressed all these questions in the introduction, you have drawn the perfect suspense to your master thesis. Your supervisor will happily pounce on the main part, where you u. a. present your results.
2. The main part: Stringent and logically constructed with the cottage method
Once you have aroused interest in the introduction, it is important to follow this roadmap in such a way that your examiner also gets to read exactly what he or she expects after reading your pitch. The primary purpose of the main part is to present your research results. In scientific work, however, this is never isolated from the current state of research, but always embedded in the thematic context and in relation to what others have already found out. The best way to approach the perfect layout of the main part is to imagine the construction of a two-storey, basement house.
The theory = the cellar
You start your “house building” in the basement. The basic or theoretical chapter forms the foundation of your master’s thesis. Here you have the opportunity to define all terminology and present central theories that are relevant to your further research. The basement has all the background knowledge the reader needs to understand your later analysis and results. Make sure to direct the reader back to your research question in the theory section, in order to keep the red thread in the reader’s presence. (Why is this definition needed to answer your research question?)
The current state of research = the ground floor
Once you have laid the theoretical foundations, you will illuminate the status quo of research in your subject area. What other authors have already published on this topic? Present the contents of previous studies and put them into context, for example by comparing them. No master’s thesis works without dealing with already published results. They are the basis for what you will find out in your work.
The methodology = the upper floor
Now your house is growing – you start to work out your own research results. In order for the reader to understand your findings and to classify them in terms of content, you need to shed light on the context in which they were created. In this part, you will explain in detail your approach by naming and discussing the applied research methodology, your data sources, data structures, and analysis techniques. Only in this way can your supervisor view your results in the overall context and assess the quality of your work.
The results = the roof
With the presentation of your research results you complete the main part – the house is complete. It is important that you not only name but also interpret your results. Which answers to your original research question deliver the results? And how do you enrich the research in your subject area? Draw logical conclusions and emphasize only those points that actually affect your research question.
3. The conclusion: The circle closes
The structure of your master’s thesis is perfect if the introduction and the conclusion are intertwined like gears and all the research questions raised in the introduction are answered in the final section (based on the results presented in the main section). The applied methodology is also included in the conclusion. For the purpose of a resume is also to critically question one’s own approach and the results of the content. Try to think outside the box: what alternative conclusions could be made, what other methods might have led to similar or different findings? Is there a need for further research in this field? Which questions might still be open or have emerged from working on the topic? Of what use are your results for the world? The perfect conclusion provides compressed information about the quintessence of your work and reflects the entire methodical and content-related work process.
Enough theory – time for an example
In the picture you can see how all these tips can be put into practice. For example, we have created a sample outline for a master’s thesis on “Major sporting events in emerging countries: curse or blessing?”. The content of this fictive writing project can of course be argued, but the example shows how the questions “what?”, “Why?” And “why”? in the introduction in the point “problem formulation and objective”, while “how” is treated in the point “methodical approach”. The main part was created and arranged according to the cottage method. The conclusion also follows the logic described above, including summary, critical reflection, and outlook.
Do you already have an idea for the structure of your master thesis? Just try it out to visualize it in the Auratikum tool! How exactly that works, you will learn here.