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Information about theses in psychology

The final thesis (Bachelor's/Master's thesis) is a written paper that relates to topics of psychological research. The thesis should demonstrate that the student is able to work independently on a problem of the subject according to scientific methods within a given period of time.

Listed below is information on writing a Bachelor's Thesis / Master's Thesis.



Information about the bachelor thesis in psychology

The bachelor thesis is a scientific paper in which you work independently (under supervision) on a limited empirical question in psychology within a given time limit and using scientific methods. During the 3-month processing period, regular meetings are held with the supervisor to discuss the issues arising at each stage of the work.

General information

The subject of a thesis in psychology is usually the planning and execution of an empirical study. However, other formats may also be chosen (e.g. qualitative work, literature studies, etc.); this must be discussed with the supervisor in each individual case. In accordance with the scientific requirements for a thesis in psychology, the following are important for the evaluation of the thesis:

  • the acquisition and processing of the material (thorough research, sensible structuring),
  • the theoretical foundation of the thesis (presentation of the relevant theoretical background),
  • the conception of the research design and the instruments,
  • the implementation of the survey,
  • evaluation and interpretation of the data (formally correct presentation of the results)
  • as well as the appropriateness of the linguistic presentation (correct handling of sources, red thread)

In order to be able to write a scientific paper in psychology, you should be able to apply various skills that you acquire during your psychology studies:

Methodological knowledge

Fundamental - especially for empirical studies - is the knowledge of generating reasonable, workable hypotheses as well as experimental and study design in order to be able to deal with your research question in an appropriate scientific way. For the adequate handling of collected data, a solid knowledge of statistics is a prerequisite, and you should also be familiar with the operation of statistical software (usually R or SPSS). Which knowledge in this context is required for your thesis is best clarified individually with your supervisor according to the subject of your thesis. In principle, you are expected to work independently, which also means that you must acquire any missing knowledge on your own. The methods advisory also offers support for statistical methods that are not included in the curriculum or for special problems such as strong prerequisite violations or similar.

Literary knowledge

Equally fundamental to writing a thesis are also literary skills. These include, on the one hand, scientific work with texts (research, acquisition of the central statements, evaluation, citation or integration into one's own work) and, on the other hand, one's own text production (planning and structuring, time management, scientific expression and formally correct presentation according to the guidelines of manuscript design - usually APA style). Since much of the relevant literature is in English, it is essential that you have the willingness and ability to read original English literature and incorporate it into your work. Support around literary skills can be found here.

Formal conditions

In order to be able to register your Bachelor's thesis, you must have completed modules A ("Introductory Courses"), B ("Statistics") and C ("Introduction to Empirical Scientific Work") as well as at least 3 basic modules, according to the regulations in the subject-specific regulations. Regular participation in the accompanying colloquium of the respective work unit in the amount of 2 SWS is also obligatory. In this seminar you will present your thesis and discuss it with other students and lecturers. It is advisable to present your work both before the start of data collection and during the analysis of the data in order to be able to use hints and suggestions from other colloquium participants in the various phases of your work process. In most cases, however, only one ungraded performance is obligatory.

You must register your thesis with the Examinations Office for Psychology. To do this, download the form from the Examinations Office website and submit it to the Examinations Office after it has been signed by your supervisor. Please note that the title may not change after registration. The processing period of 3 months begins with the date of registration.

Preferably, you have decided on a topic by the end of the 5th semester and have already found a suitable supervisor to guide your thesis.

It generally makes sense to choose a topic for your thesis that interests you and that you expect to be motivated to work on intensively for several months.

Currently available thesis topics of the individual work units can be found (only from the university network / via VPN) here:

Note: The topic portals are updated annually, usually around July 15 (bachelor theses). Very "sought-after" topics, e.g. in the field of clinical psychology, are assigned quite quickly, so it may be worthwhile to contact lecturers with a corresponding research area on your own initiative if you have a concrete interest.

If you are interested in working on another independently developed topic/question, you should contact potential supervisors early on to clarify whether supervision of the work can be guaranteed.

If necessary, it makes sense, after consultation with the supervisor, to work on a very extensive question together with another student. In this case, the scope of the work will increase accordingly and it is particularly important that you identify the individual parts so that they can be assessed separately.

The writing of a thesis is usually divided into the following phases, although these are usually not strictly sequential:

  1. literature search and elaboration of the concrete research question
  2. literature review, elaboration of theoretical foundations
  3. derivation of hypotheses
  4. conceptual planning of the investigation
  5. practical preparation and execution of the investigation / data collection
  6. evaluation of the data
  7. writing the thesis

In particular, the writing of the paper can be done in parallel to other steps, and additional literature research is usually necessary during the course of the paper. The writing of an exposé (if applicable) should happen between phases 1 and 2.

A total of 300 hours (10 LP) is allotted for the preparation of the bachelor thesis.

Helpful sources for the writing process can be found under references.

In some work units the writing of an exposé is obligatory, in others not - it is therefore advisable to discuss this point with the respective supervisor. The exposé is an outline of your future work and serves as a basis for planning, but also for concretizing and, last but not least, for fine-tuning your own research project with your supervisor.

Prepare the exposé before you start collecting data and get feedback from your supervisor - this will help you to think through the theoretical background and the design of your study and evaluation and to plan your data collection accordingly so that there is no "rude awakening" later. In addition, having formulated hypotheses will make it easier to get started with your data analysis.

By the way, the hypotheses in your exposé represent a draft and may deviate from it again later in the final paper. The exposé thus represents the step between familiarizing yourself with the topic and conducting the research. It will not be graded, but can serve as a basis and introduction for data analysis and writing the thesis.

The synopsis should be relatively concise (500 - 1,000 words plus references) and present the essential aspects of your planned work. In terms of structure, you can orient yourself on the later structure of the paper. The following parts should be included:

  • Exact question of the thesis
  • Theory to which the paper refers, state of research
  • Hypothesis(es)
  • Research design
  • Measures to be collected
  • Planned sample
  • Planned evaluation strategies
  • Scientific and practical relevance of the study
  • Timeline

A more detailed guide to preparing a synopsis can be found here.

There is also the option to record the plans for your study in a pre-registration in consultation with the supervisor(s). In a preregistration, the key points of the planned study (hypotheses, sample size, variables, analyses, and exclusion criteria) are entered into an online form before data collection begins. This results in a time-stamped document that can serve as evidence that the procedure was already established prior to data collection and analysis.

The submission of such a document is increasingly required by journals, and preregistration also helps (much like a synopsis) to flesh out research questions and to identify any problems with data analysis and sample size at an early stage. Most importantly, it increases the transparency and credibility of research - more information on this topic is provided by the Association for Psychological Science.

There are several platforms that provide a way to pre-register. In this context, data security is important (the plans are not published by default, but you can choose to publish them), for example, this platform is recommended: https://aspredicted.org/.

If you wish to apply for external supervision, please contact the Examination Office for Psychology in good time before registering your thesis in order to discuss the modalities for the necessary application. Please note that the Department of Psychology does not have any influence on the external supervisors - external supervisions happen "at the own risk" of the students with regard to the quality of supervision and adherence to deadlines.

Regular meetings in which you discuss individual steps with your supervisor are helpful and can help to avoid misunderstandings. It is best to clarify at the beginning of the supervisory relationship when such meetings are to be held. Likewise, it should be discussed for which problems what kind of support is to be expected and whether the supervisor will proofread parts of or the complete paper before submission. In some work units, supervisors offer a supervision agreement for this purpose, which sets out important formal arrangements. In general, you should prepare for and follow up on each meeting, for example:

  • Clarify the agenda for the meeting in advance.
  • If necessary, send prepared material in advance (e.g. draft questionnaire, etc.).
  • In case of difficulties, first try to find a solution yourself before asking your supervisor for advice.
  • Take notes during the meeting.
  • Summarize the results of the meeting concisely in minutes that you send to your supervisor.

In this way, you will not only get the most out of these meetings, but you will also show your supervisor that you are working independently and taking responsibility.

The thesis itself should be structured according to a similar pattern as a scientific journal article. It should generally include the following items:

  • Title page / cover page
  • Acknowledgements (at your discretion), if applicable
  • Preface, if applicable (at your discretion)
  • Table of contents
  • Summary / Abstract
  • Theory section
  • Question and hypothesis(es)
  • Method
  • Results
  • Discussion
  • Bibliography
  • Appendix (if necessary)
  • Declaration about the independent writing of the paper

A more detailed orientation of what is meant by the individual points can be found in the appendix.

In principle, the thesis should be as short as possible and contain only those statements that are directly related to the research question. Bachelor theses must have a length of 8,000 words according to the subject-specific regulations - here, figures, tables and bibliography are included, but appendices are not (more extensive supplementary material such as questionnaires, interview guidelines, additional tables, etc. should be presented in an appendix). Exceeding and falling short of up to 1,500 words is still tolerated, larger deviations can lead to grade deductions.

In addition to the "thread" of content, attention should also be paid to adherence to formal design guidelines. In psychology, these are usually the guidelines of the American Psychological Association (APA, 6th ed.); this applies in particular to references, bibliography, tables, and figures. In other aspects (such as line spacing or text alignment), deviations from the guidelines may be possible or even desirable; in case of doubt, discuss this with your supervisor.

Usually you are expected to create the thesis with a text program (e.g. Word), in which you should set the following formatting guidelines:

  • Top, left, and right margins = 2.5 cm, bottom = 2cm (default setting in Word).
  • Left-aligned text
  • Activated hyphenation
  • Line spacing of 1.5 lines
  • One blank line after paragraphs
  • Easily readable font in font size 12pt (ask supervisor's preference if necessary)
  • Page numbers on all pages except the cover page; all pages up to and including the abstract are numbered with Latin numerals, all subsequent pages with Arabic numerals.

An absolutely central requirement that applies in principle to scientific papers is that every statement should be substantiated. This can be done by your own (comprehensible) considerations or preferably by findings or statements of other authors. Everything that you take over literally (also translations) or in the sense from other sources must be absolutely marked as such under indication of the appropriate source. This is usually done by a so-called "short reference" (author(s), year of publication) in the flowing text, which in turn can be assigned to a complete source citation in the bibliography. Note: You should only cite or indicate as a source literature that you have actually read yourself.

A more detailed guide to the (formal) design of a bachelor thesis can be found here.

Helpful sources for the structure as well as for the guideline-compliant design of the scientific thesis can also be found under references.

Do not forget to back up your texts and data regularly (several times). For the data, it is advisable to write-protect the raw data file - this ensures that you can always start from the original data if necessary (offers the possibility to perform calculations from the beginning, thus avoiding multiple recoding, for example). All evaluations should be documented and commented in syntax files (or script in the case of R data) so that all evaluation steps can be traced (and replicated) at any time. All documents for data evaluation usually have to be kept and submitted to the supervisor upon request (it is not necessary to hand in data carriers to the examination office) - you should therefore make sure when preparing the syntax/script that your supervisor can also find his/her way around in it and can understand your procedure during the evaluation.

Please keep in mind that the individual work steps often take longer than originally expected. Also bear in mind that you have only limited control over certain processes (e.g. coordination processes in companies) and inform yourself in good time about the office hours and vacation times of your supervisor, the second examiner and the examination office. Discuss with your supervisor which parts of the thesis can be submitted for comments before you formally hand it in. This draft should already meet all formal and content requirements. Plan for the time your supervisor will need to read it as well as the time you yourself will need to implement any corrections - and if possible, plan for a small additional time buffer for illness or other unforeseen events at each step.

Note: Until the grade appears on the transcript, you should expect 6 weeks of proofreading time + 2-3 days of processing from the Examination Office. If the grade of the paper is to be included in the grade point average for the Master's application, the paper should be submitted no later than mid-May (most application processes end on July 15). Otherwise, only the completed modules with module grades that have been posted by the time of application will count towards the application and individual grade point average, i.e. the grade of the Bachelor's thesis will not be included in the grade point average.

Helpful resources on time and self-management around the writing process can be found in the literature references.

You must submit the completed Bachelor's thesis to the Psychology Examination Office no later than 3 months after registration. The thesis should be available there in triple bound form. The examiners usually also receive a PDF file of the written thesis (only on request directly to the examiner, not obligatory), the data set as well as the evaluation files in electronic form. However, please do not enclose any data carriers with the bound theses for the examination office (these may not be accepted by the examination office), but submit the corresponding data carrier separately directly to your supervisor if the submission is requested.

Upon justified request (e.g. illness with medical certificate, difficulties with data collection and evaluation, technical problems, proof must be submitted to the Examination Office in each case), the Examination Committee may, in individual cases, extend the processing time of the thesis up to twice as long. In such a case, please contact the examination office immediately to find out about your options and the exact procedure.

If the deadline is not met, the Bachelor thesis will be considered as failed. A corresponding entry will be made in the transcript. However, the bachelor thesis can be repeated. This also applies to Bachelor theses that have been passed (for grade improvement). The thesis must be registered with a new topic/title. In case of a repetition, please contact the examination office for advice.

Methods / Design of experiments

  • Shadish, W. R., Cook, T. D., & Campbell, D. T. (2002). Experimental and Quasi-Experimental Designs for generalized causal inference. Boston, MA, US: Houghton Mifflin.
  • Reiß, S. & Sarris, V. (2012). Experimentelle Psychologie: Von der Theorie zur Praxis (2. Aufl.). München: Pearson.

Writing a thesis

  • Peters, J. H., & Dörfler, T. (2014). Abschlussarbeiten in der Psychologie und den Sozialwissenschaften: Planen, Durchführen und Auswerten. Hallbergmoos: Pearson.
  • Spaeth-Hilbert, T., & Imhof, M. (2013). Bachelorarbeit in Psychologie. München: Reinhardt.
  • Sonnentag, S. (2006). Abschlussarbeiten und Dissertationen in der angewandten psychologischen Forschung. Göttingen: Hogrefe.
  • Shon, P. C. (2015). How to read journal articles in the social sciences: A very practical guide for students (2nd ed.). London: Sage Publications.

Formal design

  • Deutsche Gesellschaft für Psychologie (Hrsg.) (2007). Richtlinien zur Manuskriptgestaltung (3. Aufl.). Göttingen: Hogrefe.
  • Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association (6th ed.). (2010). Washington, DC, US: American Psychological Association.
  • Peters, J. H., & Dörfler, T. (2015). Abschlussarbeiten in der Psychologie und den Sozialwissenschaften: Schreiben und Gestalten. Hallbergmoos: Pearson.
  • Bem, D. J. (2004). Writing the empirical journal article. In J. M. Darley, M. P. Zanna, H. I. Roediger, J. M. Darley, M. P. Zanna, H. I. Roediger (Eds.), The compleat academic: A career guide (2nd ed.) (pp. 185-219). Washington, DC, US: American Psychological Association.

You should consider the following issues when providing supervision:

  • Coordination with supervisor
    • Supervisor agreement?
    • How much time and meetings are realistic?
    • Supervisor's preference for questions and problems
  • Preparation of meetings
    • Draw up agenda (contents and time required) and send if necessary
    • Discuss arising questions with fellow students first, suggest possible solutions
    • Bring along articles, text passages, data on unclear points
  • During the discussions
    • Note down comments directly to the questions
    • Follow up on unclear answers to questions
    • Follow-up on unclear advice: as a suggestion or obligatory expectation?

When writing each section of your thesis, you can use the following sample questions as a guide:

Theoretical introduction (theory, research question):

  • What is the research question being addressed? What problem is to be solved?
  • How does the problem arise?
  • What is the current state of the literature?
  • Are the relevant theoretical approaches presented in an understandable way?
  • Has the relevant literature been cited?
  • Have the hypotheses been derived stringently and correctly from the theoretical considerations? Are they explicitly stated?

Methods section:

  • Is all important information about the sample (gender, age, education, ...), the experimental procedure, the design and the material (operationalization of the variables) included?
  • Is it clear what the concrete operationalization of the theoretical constructs (UV and AV) consists of?
  • Is the method formulated as a continuous text (no bullet point lists)?
  • Would an uninitiated reader (i.e., non-supervisor) understand what was done and an expert be able to replicate the research?

Results section:

  • Were the manipulation controls reported (for experiments)?
  • Have the descriptive statistics been reported?
  • Has the hypothesis testing procedure been transparently described (i.e., could a third party with the same data set replicate the results)?
  • Are the tests performed consistent with the hypotheses stated?
  • Is a correlation table included with all study variables?
  • Have all characteristic values been formally reproduced correctly (either in continuous text or in tables)?
  • Has the significance of the results for the hypothesis been stated in a sentence?
  • Were tables referenced in the text by indicating the no.?

Discussion:

  • Are the main results summarized again at the beginning?
  • Is the significance of the results for the hypothesis(es) stated again?
  • Are reasonable assumptions for (missing) effects discussed?
  • Is it made clear how the results of the final paper relate to the results of other studies (where are there differences, where are there similarities, why)?
  • Are implications for follow-up studies and possibly practice mentioned?
  • Are possible limitations of the study addressed and discussed?
  • Has it been stated (possibly in a conclusion) what the main message of the paper is?

Bibliography:

  • Is all cited literature listed here?
  • Is only the cited literature listed?
  • Is the bibliography formatted according to DGPS or APA guidelines?

Remember the following formalities:

  • Work proofread as a whole? (preferably not only by yourself!)
  • All references in the index and all information in the index also cited?
  • Line spacing, margins, font type and size according to guidelines?
  • Cover page, indexes and explanation
  • Title verbatim as in application?
  • Do headings guide meaningfully through the text? All headings to be found in table of contents?
  • Copy store: deadline and number of copies BSc/ MSc: 3 copies to be handed in (+ own version?)


Information about the master thesis in psychology

The master's thesis is a scientific paper in which you work independently (under supervision) on a limited empirical question in psychology within a given time limit and using scientific methods. During the 6-month processing period, regular meetings are held with the supervisor to discuss the issues arising at each stage of the work.

General Information

The subject of a thesis in psychology is usually the planning and execution of an empirical study. However, other formats can also be chosen (e.g. qualitative work, literature studies, etc.); this must be discussed with the supervisor in each individual case. In accordance with the scientific requirements for a thesis in psychology, the following are relevant for the evaluation of the thesis:

  • the acquisition and processing of the material (thorough research, sensible structuring),
  • the theoretical foundation of the thesis (presentation of the relevant theoretical background),
  • the conception of the research design and the instruments,
  • the implementation of the survey,
  • evaluation and interpretation of the data (formally correct presentation of the results)
  • as well as the appropriateness of the linguistic presentation (correct use of sources, red thread)

 

In order to be able to write a scientific paper in psychology, you should be able to apply various skills that you acquire during your psychology studies:

Methodological knowledge

Fundamental - especially for empirical studies - is the knowledge of generating reasonable, workable hypotheses as well as experimental and study design in order to be able to deal with your research question in an appropriate scientific way. For the adequate handling of collected data, a solid knowledge of statistics is a prerequisite, and you should also be familiar with the operation of statistical software (usually R or SPSS). Which knowledge in this context is required for your thesis is best clarified individually with your supervisor according to the subject of your thesis. In principle, you are expected to work independently, which also means that you must acquire any missing knowledge on your own. The methods advisory also offers support for statistical methods that are not included in the curriculum or for special problems such as strong prerequisite violations or similar.

Literary knowledge

Equally fundamental to writing a thesis are also literary skills. These include, on the one hand, scientific work with texts (research, acquisition of the central statements, evaluation, citation or integration into one's own work) and, on the other hand, one's own text production (planning and structuring, time management, scientific expression and formally correct presentation according to the guidelines of manuscript design - usually APA style). Since much of the relevant literature is in English, it is essential that you have the willingness and ability to read original English literature and incorporate it into your work. Support around literary skills can be found here.

Formal conditions

Regular participation in two accompanying colloquia of the respective work unit, each amounting to 2 SWS, is obligatory. In this seminar you will present your thesis and discuss it with other students and lecturers. It is recommended to present your work both before the start of data collection and during the analysis of the data in order to be able to use hints and suggestions from other colloquium participants in the different phases of your work process. It is obligatory to submit one study performance and one ungraded examination performance.

You must register your thesis with the Examinations Office for Psychology. To do this, download the form from the Examinations Office website and submit it to the Examinations Office after it has been signed by your supervisor. Please note that the title may not change after registration. The processing period of 6 months begins with the date of registration.

It is recommended that you have already decided on a topic early on (by the end of the 2nd semester) and have also already found a suitable supervisor to guide your thesis.

It generally makes sense to choose a topic for your thesis that interests you and that you expect to be motivated to work on intensively for several months. At the same time, the thesis offers the opportunity to sharpen or round off your own profile to a certain extent, since you will be particularly well versed in this specific topic afterwards. In certain professional fields this can have positive effects, e.g. in directions of the industrial and organizational psychology. In this context, current topics, but also practical cooperations can be an interesting option.

Currently available thesis topics of the individual work units can be found (only from the university network / via VPN) here:

Note: The topic portals are updated annually, usually in September. Very "sought-after" topics, e.g. in the field of clinical psychology, are usually assigned quite quickly. Therefore, it may be worthwhile to contact lecturers with a corresponding research area on your own initiative if you are interested.

If you are interested in working on another independently developed topic/question, you should contact potential supervisors early on to clarify whether supervision of the work can be guaranteed.

If necessary, it makes sense, after consultation with the supervisor, to work on a very extensive question together with another student. In this case, the scope of the work will increase accordingly and it is particularly important that you identify the individual parts so that they can be assessed separately.

The writing of a thesis is usually divided into the following phases, although these are usually not strictly sequential:

  1. literature search and elaboration of the concrete research question
  2. literature review, elaboration of theoretical foundations
  3. derivation of hypotheses
  4. conceptual planning of the investigation
  5. practical preparation and execution of the investigation / data collection
  6. evaluation of the data
  7. writing the thesis

In particular, the writing of the paper can be done in parallel to other steps, and additional literature research is usually necessary during the course of the paper. The writing of an exposé (if applicable) should happen between phases 1 and 2.

A total of 900 hours (30 LP) is allotted for the preparation of the master's thesis.

Helpful sources for the writing process can be found under references.

In some work units the writing of an exposé is obligatory, in others not - it is therefore advisable to discuss this point with the respective supervisor. The exposé is an outline of your future work and serves as a basis for planning, but also for concretizing and, last but not least, for fine-tuning your own research project with your supervisor.

Prepare the exposé before you start collecting data and get feedback from your supervisor - this will help you to think through the theoretical background and the design of your study and evaluation and to plan your data collection accordingly so that there is no "rude awakening" later. In addition, having formulated hypotheses will make it easier to get started with your data analysis.

By the way, the hypotheses in your exposé represent a draft and may deviate from it again later in the final paper. The exposé thus represents the step between familiarizing yourself with the topic and conducting the research. It will not be graded, but can serve as a basis and introduction for data analysis and writing the thesis.

The synopsis should be relatively concise (500 - 1,000 words plus references) and present the essential aspects of your planned work. In terms of structure, you can orient yourself on the later structure of the paper. The following parts should be included:

  • Exact question of the thesis
  • Theory to which the paper refers, state of research
  • Hypothesis(es)
  • Research design
  • Measures to be collected
  • Planned sample
  • Planned evaluation strategies
  • Scientific and practical relevance of the study
  • Timeline

A more detailed guide to preparing a synopsis can be found here.

There is also the option to record the plans for your study in a pre-registration in consultation with the supervisor(s). In a preregistration, the key points of the planned study (hypotheses, sample size, variables, analyses, and exclusion criteria) are entered into an online form before data collection begins. This results in a time-stamped document that can serve as evidence that the procedure was already established prior to data collection and analysis.

The submission of such a document is increasingly required by journals, and preregistration also helps (much like a synopsis) to flesh out research questions and to identify any problems with data analysis and sample size at an early stage. Most importantly, it increases the transparency and credibility of research - more information on this topic is provided by the Association for Psychological Science here.

There are several platforms that provide a way to pre-register. In this context, data security is important (the plans are not published by default, but you can choose to publish them), for example, this platform is recommended: https://aspredicted.org/.

If you wish to apply for external supervision, please contact the Examination Office for Psychology in good time before registering your thesis in order to discuss the modalities for the necessary application. Please note that the Department of Psychology does not have any influence on the external supervisors - external supervisions happen "at the own risk" of the students with regard to the quality of supervision and adherence to deadlines.

Regular meetings in which you discuss individual steps with your supervisor are helpful and can help to avoid misunderstandings. It is best to clarify at the beginning of the supervisory relationship when such meetings are to be held. Likewise, it should be discussed for which problems what kind of support is to be expected and whether the supervisor will proofread parts of or the complete paper before submission. In some work units, supervisors offer a supervision agreement for this purpose, which sets out important formal arrangements. In general, you should prepare for and follow up on each meeting, for example:

  • Clarify the agenda for the meeting in advance.
  • If necessary, send prepared material in advance (e.g. draft questionnaire, etc.).
  • In case of difficulties, first try to find a solution yourself before asking your supervisor for advice.
  • Take notes during the meeting.
  • Summarize the results of the meeting concisely in minutes that you send to your supervisor.

In this way, you will not only get the most out of these meetings, but you will also show your supervisor that you are working independently and taking responsibility.

The thesis should be structured according to a similar pattern as a scientific journal article. It should generally include the following items:

  • Title page / cover page
  • Acknowledgements (at your discretion), if applicable
  • Preface, if applicable (at your discretion)
  • Table of contents
  • Summary / Abstract
  • Theory section
  • Question and hypothesis(es)
  • Method
  • Results
  • Discussion
  • Bibliography
  • Appendix (if necessary)
  • Declaration about the independent writing of the paper

A more detailed orientation of what is meant by the individual points can be found in the appendix.

In principle, the thesis should be as short as possible and contain only those statements that are directly related to the research question. Master's theses must have a length of 10,000 words according to the subject-specific regulations - figures, tables and bibliography are included here, but appendices are not (more extensive supplementary material such as questionnaires, interview guidelines, additional tables, etc. should be presented in an appendix). Exceeding and falling short of up to 2,000 words is still tolerated, larger deviations can lead to grade deductions.

In addition to the "thread" of content, attention should also be paid to adherence to formal design guidelines. In psychology, these are usually the guidelines of the American Psychological Association (APA, 6th ed.); this applies in particular to references, bibliography, tables, and figures. In other aspects (such as line spacing or text alignment), deviations from the guidelines may be possible or even desirable; in case of doubt, discuss this with your supervisor.

Usually you are expected to create the thesis with a text program (e.g. Word), in which you should set the following formatting guidelines:

  • Top, left, and right margins = 2.5cm, bottom = 2cm (Word default).
  • Left-aligned text
  • Activated hyphenation
  • Line spacing of 1.5 lines
  • One blank line after paragraphs
  • Easily readable font in font size 12pt (ask supervisor's preference if necessary)
  • Page numbers on all pages except the cover page; all pages up to and including the abstract are numbered with Latin numerals, all subsequent pages with Arabic numerals.

An absolutely central requirement that applies in principle to scientific papers is that every statement should be substantiated. This can be done by your own (comprehensible) considerations or preferably by findings or statements of other authors. Everything that you take over literally (also translations) or in the sense from other sources must be absolutely marked as such under indication of the appropriate source. This is usually done by a so-called "short reference" (author(s), year of publication) in the flowing text, which in turn can be assigned to a complete source citation in the bibliography. Note: You should only cite or indicate as a source literature that you have actually read yourself.

Helpful sources for the structure as well as for the guideline-compliant design of the scientific thesis can also be found under references.

Do not forget to back up your texts and data regularly (several times). For the data, it is advisable to write-protect the raw data file - this ensures that you can always start from the original data if necessary (offers the possibility to perform calculations from the beginning, thus avoiding multiple recoding, for example). All evaluations should be documented and commented in syntax files (or script in the case of R data) so that all evaluation steps can be traced (and replicated) at any time. All documents for data evaluation must be kept on hand and submitted to the supervisor upon request when handing in the paper (it is not necessary to hand in data carriers to the examination office) - when preparing the syntax/script, you should therefore make sure that your supervisor can also find his/her way around it and understand your evaluation procedure.

Please keep in mind that the individual work steps often take longer than originally expected. Also bear in mind that you have only limited control over certain processes (e.g. coordination processes in companies) and inform yourself in good time about the office hours and vacation times of your supervisor, the second examiner and the examination office. Discuss with your supervisor which parts of the thesis can be submitted for comments before you formally hand it in. This draft should already meet all formal and content requirements. Plan for the time your supervisor will need to read it, as well as the time you yourself will need to implement any corrections - and if possible, plan for a small additional time buffer for illness or other unforeseen events at each step.

Helpful resources for time and self-management around the writing process can be found in the references.

You must submit the completed master's thesis to the Psychology Examination Office no later than 6 months after registration. The thesis should be available there in triple bound form. The examiners usually also receive a PDF file of the written thesis (only on request directly to the examiner, not obligatory), the data set as well as the evaluation files in electronic form. However, please do not enclose any data carriers with the bound theses for the examination office (these may not be accepted by the examination office), but submit the corresponding data carrier separately directly to your supervisor if the submission is requested.

Upon justified request (e.g. illness with medical certificate, difficulties with data collection and evaluation, technical problems, proof must be submitted to the Examination Office in each case), the Examination Committee may, in individual cases, extend the processing time of the thesis up to twice as long. In such a case, please contact the examination office immediately to find out about your options and the exact procedure.

If the deadline is not met, the master's thesis will be considered failed. A corresponding entry will be made in the transcript. However, the master thesis can be repeated. This also applies to master's theses that have been passed (for grade improvement). The thesis must be registered with a new topic/title. In case of a repetition, please contact the examination office for advice.

Methods / Experimental design

  • Shadish, W. R., Cook, T. D., & Campbell, D. T. (2002). Experimental and Quasi-Experimental Designs for generalized causal inference. Boston, MA, US: Houghton Mifflin.
  • Reiß, S. & Sarris, V. (2012). Experimentelle Psychologie: Von der Theorie zur Praxis (2. ed.). München: Pearson.

Theses

  • Peters, J. H., & Dörfler, T. (2014). Abschlussarbeiten in der Psychologie und den Sozialwissenschaften: Planen, Durchführen und Auswerten. Hallbergmoos: Pearson.
  • Spaeth-Hilbert, T., & Imhof, M. (2013). Bachelorarbeit in Psychologie. München: Reinhardt.
  • Sonnentag, S. (2006). Abschlussarbeiten und Dissertationen in der angewandten psychologischen Forschung. Göttingen: Hogrefe.
  • Shon, P. C. (2015). How to read journal articles in the social sciences: A very practical guide for students (2nd ed.). London: Sage Publications.

Formal design

  • Deutsche Gesellschaft für Psychologie (Hrsg.) (2007). Richtlinien zur Manuskriptgestaltung (3. ed.). Göttingen: Hogrefe.
  • Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association (6th ed.). (2010). Washington, DC, US: American Psychological Association.
  • Peters, J. H., & Dörfler, T. (2015). Abschlussarbeiten in der Psychologie und den Sozialwissenschaften: Schreiben und Gestalten. Hallbergmoos: Pearson.
  • Bem, D. J. (2004). Writing the empirical journal article. In J. M. Darley, M. P. Zanna, H. I. Roediger, J. M. Darley, M. P. Zanna, H. I. Roediger (Eds.), The compleat academic: A career guide (2nd ed.) (pp. 185-219). Washington, DC, US: American Psychological Association.

You should consider the following issues when providing supervision:

  • Coordination with supervisor
    • Supervisor agreement?
    • How much time and meetings are realistic?
    • Supervisor's preference for questions and problems
  • Preparation of meetings
    • Draw up agenda (contents and time required) and send if necessary
    • Discuss arising questions with fellow students first, suggest possible solutions
    • Bring along articles, text passages, data on unclear points
  • During the discussions
    • Note down comments directly to the questions
    • Follow up on unclear answers to questions
    • Follow-up on unclear advice: as a suggestion or obligatory expectation?

When writing each section of your thesis, you can use the following sample questions as a guide:

Theoretical introduction (theory, research question):

  • What is the research question being addressed? What problem is to be solved?
  • How does the problem arise?
  • What is the current state of the literature?
  • Are the relevant theoretical approaches presented in an understandable way?
  • Has the relevant literature been cited?
  • Have the hypotheses been derived stringently and correctly from the theoretical considerations? Are they explicitly stated?

Methods section:

  • Is all important information about the sample (gender, age, education, ...), the experimental procedure, the design and the material (operationalization of the variables) included?
  • Is it clear what the concrete operationalization of the theoretical constructs (UV and AV) consists of?
  • Is the method formulated as a continuous text (no bullet point lists)?
  • Would an uninitiated reader (i.e., non-supervisor) understand what was done and an expert be able to replicate the research?

Results section:

  • Were the manipulation controls reported (for experiments)?
  • Have the descriptive statistics been reported?
  • Has the hypothesis testing procedure been transparently described (i.e., could a third party with the same data set replicate the results)?
  • Are the tests performed consistent with the hypotheses stated?
  • Is a correlation table included with all study variables?
  • Have all characteristic values been formally reproduced correctly (either in continuous text or in tables)?
  • Has the significance of the results for the hypothesis been stated in a sentence?
  • Were tables referenced in the text by indicating the no.?

Discussion:

  • Are the main results summarized again at the beginning?
  • Is the significance of the results for the hypothesis(es) stated again?
  • Are reasonable assumptions for (missing) effects discussed?
  • Is it made clear how the results of the final paper relate to the results of other studies (where are there differences, where are there similarities, why)?
  • Are implications for follow-up studies and possibly practice mentioned?
  • Are possible limitations of the study addressed and discussed?
  • Has it been stated (possibly in a conclusion) what the main message of the paper is?

Bibliography:

  • Is all cited literature listed here?
  • Is only the cited literature listed?
  • Is the bibliography formatted according to DGPS or APA guidelines?

Remember the following formalities:

  • Work proofread as a whole? (preferably not only by yourself!)
  • All references in the index and all information in the index also cited?
  • Line spacing, margins, font type and size according to guidelines?
  • Cover page, indexes and explanation
  • Title verbatim as in application?
  • Do headings guide meaningfully through the text? All headings to be found in table of contents?
  • Copy store: deadline and number of copies BSc/ MSc: 3 copies to be handed in (+ own version?)

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