In some fields of study no more a rarity, for many students nevertheless a reason for skepticism and mistrust: the bachelor thesis / master thesis for two. Many ask themselves: Are collective thesis really feasible? Does the grade not suffer from ingenious, but umpteen-fold ideas? Or is group work a good investment in your future career? Here are some answers.
Writing a master’s thesis in pairs – EXAMPLES
Writing a master’s thesis in twos – with regard to professional practice
WHO? The mathematics students Tim Jäggi and Sandro Bortot wrote their master’s thesis at the Bern University of Education as a couple.
THEME? The Swiss came to the topic of “Basic Ideas on the Number Space” by accident when they corrected the exam work of pupils from a secondary school. Mistakes were repeated here regularly, if the numbers should be ordered by size. As part of their master’s thesis, Jäggi and Bortot have now developed corresponding teaching and practice material that has been tested in small groups.
ADDED VALUE? The first attempts actually had a positive effect: after the teaching material was used in six lessons, the students were able to solve tasks correctly. Without the mutual exchange, it probably would not have come to the topic finding. Meanwhile, Jäggi and Bortot also use the material in their own lessons.
Write a master’s thesis in twos with a scholarship
WHY? Inga-Lena Boos and Ricarda Milstein of the Hertie School of Governance in Berlin were able to finance their joint thesis with a scholarship that had been specifically advertised for group work.
THEME? Both were pleased not only about the money for necessary research trips, but also about the fact that they were able to handle the extensive topic of “hospital financing” in pairs.
DISTRIBUTION OF TASKS? Boos organized dates for interviews, Milstein always motivated to the writing process. Especially in the final phase of their master’s thesis, the students spent a lot of time in the library: the individual passages of the text were read, suggestions for corrections discussed and stylistic improvements made. Mutual support and protection both felt particularly valuable.
Writing a thesis for two – teamwork as self-help
WHO? Simone Hinterecker, Frederic Moes and Ingrid Müller wrote their Master Thesis “Hilfe, I am Helfer” on occupational risks in social work. The students of the University of Applied Sciences St. Pölten received the Science Award of the Lower Austrian Chamber of Labor.
AIM? The group work examines from several perspectives the fictional but practical case of the head of a child and youth welfare service, whose professional life is documented.
ADDED VALUE? The result is a contribution that can serve future social workers as a guide to self-questioning. Such a multi-layered treatment of the topic could probably only be done in a team.
The chapters or parts of the work written by the individual authors must be clearly delimited from one another and identified by name.
As a rule, the individual performance and not the entire work is graded.
If a teamwork is considered as a final thesis, the corresponding clause in the examination regulations of the respective university should be checked in advance.
Exceptions and special regulations
One of the exceptions is the master’s program “Political-Historical Studies” at the University of Bonn, where collective theses are not allowed. At the largest German-speaking university, the University of Vienna, master’s theses are admitted as group works, yet individual study program management reserves the final decision-making authority. And at the Faculty of Law at the University of Zurich, it is up to the lecturer to approve a collective master’s thesis.
How often are thesis papers written together?
Despite the relatively clear legal situation, students’ interest in collective theses remains low. With 1300 completed master theses in 2015, only 30 were written in teamwork.
According to the figures of the University of Bielefeld, just two percent of the master’s students decide for a group work!
Experts such as Martina Hielscher-Fastabend, Professor and Program Director for Clinical Linguistics at the University of Bielefeld, advocate such a form of final thesis. Because cooperative learning and working is valuable and prepares for professional practice.
Advantages of a master thesis in a team
Particularly complex and extensive topics, as is often the case in empirical work, for which surveys or interviews have to be conducted, can be better handled by two students for organizational reasons alone.
Working in pairs can increase your own productivity and creativity through mutual motivation. Ideas are searched together, concepts are developed in pairs and problems are discussed together. Ideally, the specific knowledge and competencies of the partner will lead to fruitful exchange and helpful completion.
Especially in the final phase of a master’s thesis students can suffer from loneliness. Group work can counteract isolation: the fellow students motivate and support each other. Also the common discipline is important in this phase. And not to forget: Everybody is supported by a competent lecturer.
Disadvantages of a master thesis in a team
Two or even three persons are responsible for the success of a cooperative master thesis. Are the mutual expectations fulfilled? Or are there disagreements and arguments that in the worst case lead to the termination of cooperation? Do all participants share comparable ideas about the thesis? Do all participants have the same goal? Are the group members working at the same pace? It should also be borne in mind that the personal fate of a partner can jeopardize the continuation of the entire project.
THE RED THREAD
Due to the fact that several students are involved in the final thesis, it can threaten a contentwise decay: in other words, the common thread is not recognizable. The individual chapters are not coordinated enough and a general line of reasoning is missing. In such cases, an extensive text editorial department is required, with which many students are then confronted for the first time.