Different types of research projects
Master’s theses can be based on various types of research projects. Up to now, it has been most common to implement empirical projects. Empirical theses are based on observed and measured phenomena and derive knowledge from actual experience rather than from theory or belief.
Empirical theses shall:
- account for the theoretical and empirical background and framework for the project. They must have a clear thesis statement or research question(s)
- account for the research design, including overall approach, methodology, data collection, systematization and/or coding, and analysis
- discuss relevant questions about reliability, validity and ethical issues
- present results in a clear and systematic way
- discuss the results and their implications in light of the thesis statement or research question(s), and the theoretical and empirical background
The data material that is used as the basis for empirical theses is usually research-generated. The data is usually collected through the use of questionnaires, interviews or observations. The data material can also consist of existing documents (such as curriculums, guides, reports, white papers, or archival records), analyses from previous studies (such as forms of systematic reviews), secondary data analyses (e.g. PISA), or other types of sources. The different types of data material can be combined.
The Master's Thesis can also be based on an evaluation project. Evaluation projects have the objective of evaluating initiatives, programmes, work practices, collaboration, etc. Master’s theses based on an evaluation project will often contain the same requirements regarding research methodology as empirical research. In addition, the following shall be accounted for
- what is to be evaluated
- the objective of the evaluation
- criteria, values, formulation of objectives or similar evaluation aims
- the role of the evaluator
A third type of Master’s Thesis could be to assess development projects, implemented innovation projects, for example. A thesis based on a development project will usually include an evaluation of the quality development work carried out. Therefore, it will often include elements of the evaluation research (see above). Master’s theses based on quality development work shall account for:
- the situation before the quality development work started
- the objective of the quality development work
- the innovative idea
- innovation strategy(ies) for the quality development work
- planning of the quality development work
- the implementation
- evaluation and discussion of continuation and dissemination possibilities
It is also possible to choose to conduct the Master's Thesis as a pure theoretical study without any type of empirical investigation. Some theoretical studies may also include a limited empirical investigation. Theses that deal with issues in the philosophy of science, conceptual analysis, or the like, are included in this category. Historical theses can also be theoretical studies. Theoretical master's theses that take into account and analyse selected literature shall have clear thesis statements or questions, in the same manner as the other types of master's projects. They have the same requirements regarding independent scholarly work as the other types of master's projects. The thesis statement or question shall be relevant to the subject of Special Needs Education.
The candidate is expected to orientate themselves in theory and research relevant to the thesis statement or question. Therefore, certain theoretical studies can be considered as “library fieldwork” or literature reviews, e.g. qualitative reviews or narrative reviews. Emphasis is placed on the candidate’s ability to shed light on the thesis statement or question, both through the selection, presentation and discussion of theory. Furthermore, it is important that the candidate is able to use the theory in an independent and critical way. Simply accounting for and referring to theory is not enough.
For theoretical theses, it is expected that the candidate
- analyses various theoretical perspectives
- provides an informed discussion of sources
- justifies their choice of material and supports their reasoning.
For theoretical theses, normal requirements apply regarding verifiability. Methodological thesis statements or questions shall be discussed and sources provided in such a way that the research process can be verified.