This page provides information for students that are interested in me supervising their thesis. It provides some ideas on possible topics and guidance on methodology. I believe that a successful thesis accomplishes four main things:
(1) Choose an insightful research question within an interesting topic
The main difference between a very good thesis and an excellent thesis is whether or not you articulate, and answer, a good research question. In most theses that I see, this isn’t the case. Typically students will identify an interesting topic, and then proceed to investigate it. But the purpose of a thesis isn’t for you to learn about something, it’s about contributing to our collective understanding. I don’t expect students to have a good research question at the beginning of their project, but be wary of reaching the end of it without having one.
In terms of research topics, I consider the power of economic reasoning to stem from its applicability, and take a broad and eclectic position of what would constitute suitable subject material. For a general management thesis I don’t require students to work on the same research topics that I do. Indeed, there are several topics that I have thoughts and ideas on which I’d be delighted to see students run with. I’ve provided some examples of topics that I find interesting below:
- How companies can deal with whistleblowing
- Adoption and use of internal prediction markets
- Application of Market-Based Management (R) (or other management tools that can be analysed along the lines of MBM)
- A competitiveness report or a cluster mapping (see here for more examples)
- Replicate and validate a country profile from the Fraser Institute Economic Freedom Index, Heritage Index of Economic Freedom, Legatum Prosperity Index, or Social Progress Index
(2) Provide a rigorous literature review
A literature review is more than just a discussion of your topic, it is supposed to survey the existing literature that relates to your research question. For more see here:
(3) Utilise the right methodological framework
To start off with, I recommend the following articles on research design:
- “What The Bagel Man Saw” (Stephen J. Dubner and Steven D. Levitt, New York Times Magazine, June 6th 2004)
- “Cultures of Corruption: Evidence from Diplomatic Parking Tickets” (Raymond Fisman, Edward Miguel, NBER Working Paper No. 12312, Issued in June 2006)
- “Self-Experimenter Freed Himself from Insomnia, Acne and Love Handles” (Minckel, J.R., Scientific American, March 18th 2008)
Although I’ve created an online course on Analytics my methodological interests are in qualitative and comparative methods.
- Especially for general management students I think case studies are a great way to get an empirical background. See here for my guide to writing case studies. If possible, I’d love to encourage students to engage in ethnographic fieldwork. I’m even willing to consider retrospective fieldwork (i.e. where you write up past experiences). See here for some comments on fieldwork, and see here for a guide on doing industrial interviews.
There are also a few techniques that I am willing to work with students interested in using, regardless of the topic:
- The comparative method (i.e. QCA). (See here for an introduction to the comparative method)
- The experiment experiment, Planet Money
(4) Demonstrate competent project planning
This is crucial because it determines whether the experience is enjoyable or not. The following are necessary (but not sufficient) characteristics you need to have:
- Enthusiasm for the research question (and not just the research topic)
- Genuine desire to have people read your work
- Ability to self-motivate
- Swift communication
I will either provide you with detailed feedback on a full draft, or brief feedback on specific questions, but you should not expect me to provide multiple rounds of comments throughout the process. Depending on how many students I supervise in any given year, I intend to provide a similar amount of help to each and will be unable to devote significant time to your project close to the deadline.
When planning the writing of the thesis take a look at:
Here is the way in which I judge academic articles and conference presentations. It contains information relating to research articles; theses; the use of data; and sociology challenges:
For more details on the grade ranges that I typically employ see page 7 of my guide for students, however you should adjust the passing grades such that what I deem to be a C grade for a thesis would get a mark of 55-60; a B is 70-80 and an A is 85+. These are only general guidelines and there’ll always be a gap between my judgement and your understanding of my judgment. But just because the grading is subjective does not make it arbitrary.
Last updated: May 25th 2021