Het opstarten van je onderzoek

Graduation contract

When starting the graduation process, it is important to complete a graduation contract. This contract is to state your research subject, the importance of this research and the methods you will use. The contract is a tool for drawing up a full and detailed research proposal in cooperation with your supervisor, allowing you to come to know exactly what you can - and need to - do. It is important that this step is laid down in an official document, as it allows you to force all persons involved to comply with its contents should someone suddenly wish to veer off into another direction. It also allows the programme directors to officially lay down the date you plan to graduate and whether you meet (almost) all of the requirements. In addition, the thesis contract is of importance in connection with awarding course credits. As the coming to agreements and detailing your final thesis project form part of the learning process, it is understood that you cannot always have drawn up a complete thesis contract at the start of the graduation process. However, we do expect you to submit the contract to the programme's Educational Affairs Office within one month of starting with your thesis.

Research proposal

By drawing up a strong research proposal, you ensure that it will not later be found that the research question was insufficiently detailed or that the research design was unsound. The proposal will be assessed by your supervisors. A strong research proposal will also be of use when you write your actual thesis. The introduction to your master's thesis, for instance, is likely to be a more elaborate and/or emended version of the introduction to your research proposal. Try and force yourself to properly think through your research proposal, and to discuss it extensively, as this will only make things easier for yourself in the end. Final thesis projects on the list often already have a related research proposal available. However, this proposal tends to not be very detailed. It is worth the effort to critically read through this proposal and adjust and elaborate it where appropriate.

Writing a research proposal is a three-part process:

1.

Specifying the research question

2.

Specifying the research plan

3.

Drawing up a time schedule for conducting your research and writing the thesis

1. The research question

The defining characteristic for a research question in academic research is the fact that it cannot be answered from existing knowledge. Determining whether no answer already exists requires a review of the available literature. When the question is of a practical nature, all underlying theories will still need to be specified, so it is clear how certain views have come to exist.

What requirements is the research question to meet?

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the research question may not be formulated in overly broad or narrow terms and preferably is not comprised of multiple subquestions

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the research question is to be clear and unambiguous

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any suppositions included in the research question are to be based on the literature reviewed

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the research question may not be phrased as a yes-no question, unless there are definite expectations as to the results of the research

In addition to meeting the above requirements, a research question is also to meet all scientific standards:

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No answer may as yet exist to the research question.

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The answer to the research question is to be of import to theory and/or practice.

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The research question is to be operationalizable.

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Research to answer the research question can be completed within the time limit (five to six months).

2. The research plan

The broad research plan is to provide answers to three questions:

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Why will I conduct research to answer this question, why is it of scientific interest?

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In what way will I conduct my research?

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What is the importance of answering the question?

So as to have the research plan contain answers to all three questions, we recommend that you keep to the following format:

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Introduction (What is the composition of the research plan?)

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Background (Why conduct this research?)

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Research question (What is the research question to be answered by the research?)

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Operationalization (How will the research be conducted, where and with whom and in what manner?)

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Importance (What is the import of answering the research question?)

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Contents of the final report (Into which chapters and sections will the final thesis be divided?)

Should there be a practical background to the question to be answered, most of the necessary information can be obtained by way of interviewing the officials of the organization the research will be conducted at. Naturally, the student is to themselves provide the theoretical framework on the basis of their review of the literature.

Should there be a theoretical background to the question to be answered, the following most often serve as research background:

- An interesting theme has not been previously investigated

- Contrary opinions exist on the subject

- The research topic has not been subjected to a sufficient amount of research

3. Time schedule

This first schedule needs not yet be very detailed. However, it does help you properly think about the planning of your graduation process. It is recommended that you constantly keep track of and adjust your schedule over the course of your final project. As you continue to get a better picture of the various components of your final project, you can update and concretize your schedule. The use of timelines allows you to check whether your progress is on schedule for each component. Do make sure your schedule is realistic: when you know in advance that you will be unable to meet a deadline, your schedule will not come to serve as a guideline, but only as a stress factor. A realistic, detailed schedule, on the other hand, can only be of help. Do ask your supervisors for advice in this connection, as they tend to have more experience with conducting research and are better aware of how much time each component needs.

Drawing up the thesis contract

You are to submit your thesis contract to the Educational Affairs Office within about a month after starting your research. Make sure that you have drawn up your research proposal and have your supervisors' approval by this time. The thesis contract is to contain the following data:

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title,

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description of the research theme,

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statement of the problem and research questions (main and subquestions),

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research method,

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schedule,

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signatures

Be specific; should you conduct a survey, for instance, also state the target population, state whether you will draw up your own questionnaire or make use of an existing one, etc.