Spoiled for choice or clueless? When it comes to finding a topic for their Bachelor thesis, many students despair. However, those who bear a few key aspects in mind and make a start early on will be able to master this challenge.
© olly - Fotolia.comAt most German universities, students are free to choose their own dissertation topic when they have completed their Bachelor's studies. While students mainly consider preset topics during their studies, suddenly the possibilities are endless. The heads of many students fill with question marks, and they break out in a cold sweat.
Take a step-by-step approachThe aim of the Bachelor thesis is for students to prove that they are able to reflect on an academic issue independently. No more and no less. As such, it is not a case of ploughing through as broad a topic as possible, or of inventing something entirely new. Quite the contrary in fact: in the Bachelor thesis, the topic should be clearly defined.
Within this, the most important question is 'What actually interests me?' Prior knowledge acquired during university lectures and professional experience gained during your studies can serve as inspiration for this. If you discern a particularly fascinating aspect within a topic, you should first review the state of research. Only in this way can you determine what has already been covered within this topic and where compelling questions still lurk. The topic ultimately chosen should differ from those already covered.
Ask the right questions"Initially, I was a little concerned, as I could not find many sources for my topic," says Thomas Düllmann, looking back on when he first began his Bachelor thesis. Düllmann studied software engineering at Heilbronn University. He discussed what academic work actually meant at great length with his professor. "Not only the source research is important, but also the logical conclusion," explains the 26-year-old. "This point should be clarified early on to ensure you do not lose yourself in the sources and waste time unnecessarily." A discussion with a professor of the department early on will help order preliminary ideas and determine whether the topic can even feasibly be approached in the way intended. "Students need to ask the right questions during the consultation," warns Kai Stapelfeldt, Managing Director of Studi-Lektor.de.
The business administration graduate coaches students during the final thesis phase, and advises them to consider exactly which information they require to work effectively before the consultation session. "The most important question is that of the complexity," says Stapelfeldt. "The professor must weigh up whether the proposed topic is viable for a Bachelor thesis." If the chosen topic is too easy, too difficult or not yet sufficiently developed, students should be informed of this in good time to allow them to alter their topic accordingly.
Review the topic suggestions from companiesNowadays, many companies advertise their own Bachelor and Master thesis topics - they have long since recognised the potential of this cooperation with students. However, this also means that the companies set the topics for Bachelor's students. This is an important difference to writing your Bachelor thesis at university. In principle, speculative applications outlining your own topic are possible, though students should allow more time to prepare for this. "The decision on where to write your Bachelor thesis should be based on the topic," believes Düllmann.
He advises students to write their Bachelor thesis at university if they cannot find a company that will allow them to address an interesting topic. "That being said, those who receive an offer of an interesting topic from a company that is ideally located close by and willing to remunerate the Bachelor thesis phase should definitely seize this opportunity." After several queries to regional companies, Heilbronn-based IT company Cirosec suggested a topic to Düllmann that piqued the student's interest. The topic was defined in brief discussions, with flat hierarchies and a good support system ultimately winning him over. The conditions were set out in writing and a contract drawn up, which also covered the legal use and applications of the Bachelor thesis.
Insist on a close cooperationDüllmann's professor conferred with the supervisor at the company and clarified open questions. He also ensured that the thesis met the academic requirements. "The scope of duties at the company and the content of the Bachelor thesis should be defined clearly as early as possible," Düllmann advises. Written agreements and close cooperation between the university and company are a great help, but not always the norm. Students should definitely insist on this, for only in this way could they avoid slipping into the role of a trainee and neglecting the academic component of the thesis during their time at the company. It is also well worth taking a look at the special information sheets on completing the final thesis externally that have been published by several universities.
academics :: November 2013