I am now past the middle of the thesis writing process (submission date May 18!) and would like to write a post about how students of the Global Health Master’s programme are prepared for this challenging task.
The path to thesis submission starts at the beginning of the academic year, with classes in qualitative and quantitative methodology and academic writing (which I have written about in previous blogs). The library also offers a number of courses on academic writing and referencing, for those who need additional assistance. There is also a workshop available for individual sessions about library related topics.
Early on, we are encouraged to start thinking about thesis topics and to start developing our ideas. Projects may fall into one of four categories: Projects based on primary data collected by the student; Projects using primary data not collected by the student, but available or offered to the student for the purpose of writing a degree project; Projects based on secondary data analysis and; Critical literature reviews. Although, students are welcome to formulate their own thesis projects, many choose to work on a project developed by one of the departments at KI. These are posted in late autumn and anyone interested is welcome to apply. It is mandatory for all students to have a supervisor. Having a co-supervisor is optional. However, one of the supervisors has to be actively affiliated with Karolinska Institutet and must have a PhD.
The first phase of the thesis writing process is the project outline, the purpose of which is to assess the methodological quality and the logistical and ethical feasibility of the project. The outline consists of a title, background, research question and main aim, methodology, timetable and references. Every student is required to peer-review another students’s work.
The second phase is the development of the project outline to a project proposal, which describes the project in more detail. Here the scope of the proposed project is evaluated more thoroughly to ensure that it is doable within the stipulated timeframe. The proposal is presented to the teachers and rest of the class in the beginning of January and feedback is given. For the project to be approved, a number of criteria have to be met. First and foremost, it must have global health relevance (in terms of disease, phenomenon or concept). It also has to have a clearly demarcated research question. In addition, a suitable methodology must be chosen (mix-method studies are not recommended due to time constraints). Finally, any ethical considerations must have been addressed.
At the end of classes, in the beginning of February, students are welcome to join elective sessions aimed at furthering their knowledge of their chosen methodology, be it quantitative or qualitative. It is also a second opportunity for students to share ideas and receive valuable feedback from both teachers and classmates before they part ways to start writing in earnest.
The half-time seminar is an opportunity to present the work that has been done so far and for any revision to be made to data collection or any other aspects of the study design. It is also a chance to assess whether the planned methods for data analysis are appropriate and to deal with any problems that have been encountered. Students working abroad are welcome to join online.
The thesis itself must be submitted in a particular format, follow a particular structure and may not exceed a maximum number of words. It must also meet the formal requirements of academic writing and plagiarism is not tolerated.
After submission, students are required to defend their thesis. This exercise consists of a 10 minute presentation followed by questions from examiners.
Hopefully, we will all pass on the first try. Some of us may have to make some revisions in order to achieve a passing grade. If, for some reason, we are not successful, there are opportunities to resubmit our work at at later date.
Wish me luck!