All lecturers in the IST-Department have specific expertise on one or more themes. Within a theme there is usually, but not always, room for conducting your thesis research.

The component elements in a thesis project usually are: literature review, design of the study, conducting the research, anlyzing the results, report writing.

Theme descriptions describe the content, and may include information about audience, research methods and contexts. Each description ends with a set of questions that might be a topic for Ma-thesis research. Ba-thesis students can also do research within a theme. However, they can only elect to work on a predefined topic. The list of topics for a theme are presented immediately below its descriptions.

The themes are:

Critical thinking and scientific reasoning


For the 21st century, we need more and better-equipped people working in the fields of STEM. In addition, citizens are expected to be independent and critical thinkers who can decide for themselves what is good for them. To meet these criteria, science education is getting more attention worldwide (OECD, 2013). Also, there is a shift from traditional, direct instruction methods with paper textbooks to inquiry learning with digital media. One of the assumptions is that inquiry learning practices the scientific reasoning that relates to critical thinking. However, due to the multidimensionality of scientific reasoning and the problems with conceptualization of critical thinking, there is no consensus on this issue.

Therefore, materials are needed that can assess scientific reasoning, critical thinking, or both. In a recent study, a questionnaire was validated that confirmed the existence of three components of scientific reasoning (Van de Sande, Kleemans, Segers, & Verhoeven, submitted). Regarding critical thinking a framework has been put forward in which the components of critical thinking have been defined (Facione, 1990). Some tests have been created, but those did not take the possible overlap with scientific reasoning into account. Therefore, new research on this issue is needed.


The theme is critical thinking and scientific reasoning. You will assess both concepts in a theoretically justified manner. You will identify potential differences and overlap between critical thinking and scientific reasoning. You can also investigate training effects of one on the other. This will have implications for education, such as how to prepare children best for a knowledge-rich society.

You are free to create your own research question within this theme. Two examples of research questions are: (1) Can critical thinking and scientific reasoning be disentangled? (2) What components of scientific reasoning promote critical thinking?


Depending on your research question, you will develop a questionnaire, administer questionnaires in schools, and/or test learning materials in the classroom.  You will analyse data by checking reliability and validity of the questionnaires. Further analyses depend on the research question.

Note: You must speak and write Dutch well, because the participants will be Dutch.


  • OECD (2013). OECD science, technology and industry scoreboard 2013: Innovation for growth. OECD Publishing. doi:10.1787/sti_scoreboard-2013-en.
  • Van de Sande, E., Kleemans, T., Segers, E. & Verhoeven, L. (submitted). Children’s scientific reasoning.
  • Facione, P. (1990). Critical thinking: A statement of expert consensus for purposes of educational assessment and instruction (The Delphi Report).
Children’s curiosity in school

Teachers: Prof. dr. Juliette Walma van der Molen and Tim Post, MSc


Education policy-makers and researchers are increasingly promoting school curricula that aim at stimulating children’s curiosity. Curiosity is believed to improve children’s undertaking of complex inquiry activities, their persistence with learning, and their memorization of new information. Surprisingly, however, the scientific investigation of children’s curiosity within educational settings has so far been quite limited.

In one of our recent studies, we developed and validated a questionnaire that measures children’s images of and their attitudes towards epistemic curiosity (intended for children of 8 to 13 years old). Based on attitude and curiosity theory, we reason that these aspects of children form important precursors to their potential curiosity behavior in the classroom (e.g., when a child perceives the educational relevance of his or her own curious thinking and questioning in class, he or she may well be more inclined to spontaneously engage in such behavior). As part of a large-scale research project, we are now successfully using the questionnaire in several primary schools to evaluate a curiosity-focused school development program.

Possible research questions

This masters’ graduation theme focuses on the investigation of children’s images of and their attitudes towards curiosity in school settings. In particular, you will re-administer the questionnaire among primary school children and will compare this to the images of and attitudes towards curiosity of junior high school students. This comparison may give us new insight into children’s curiosity development. Note: Having a basic understanding of statistical analyses is preferred. However, we gladly assist you with learning about such analyses to answer your research questions.

We would very much like to discuss your own curious research question(s) with regard to the above research theme. Possible research questions of this theme may include:

  • Do primary school children and junior high school students interpret the questionnaire items consistently? (making fair comparisons of children’s scores between these two groups possible)
  • To what extent do teachers agree with students’ scores on the questionnaire, based on their own perceptions of students’ curiosity behavior in the classroom?
  • To what extent do children’s images of and their attitudes towards curiosity differ when comparing primary school children to junior high school students? What might be possible explanations?
  • To what extent do children’s images of and their attitudes toward curiosity differ when taking into account their gender? What might be possible reasons to explain differences between boys’ and girls’ images of and attitudes toward curiosity in school?