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Thesis Research Project (MSc GofS)


Admission requirements

To participate in the Thesis Research Project, students need to have completed at least 48 ECTS of the first year MSc courses and participated in the Qualitative and Quantitative Research skills courses. In addition, at least one of the assignments of Quantitative Research Skills must be completed.


The Thesis Research Project is the final course of the MSc programme where students will apply the knowledge and skills acquired throughout the programme. The core activity of the Thesis Research Project consists of a research project, i.e., the capstone project, that students will independently conduct under two supervisors' supervision. This typically results in a written report that can be complemented with additional products resulting from the research work, such as a product/process design or a piece of software. Ancillary activities to this course include a module to prepare students to the common practices involved in conducting scientific research and a final oral defense, where students will present their work and respond to questions from an appointed committee.

Course objectives

By the end of the Thesis Research Project, you should be able to:

  • Integrate perspectives from both environmental science and governance disciplines to analyze and/or develop governance solutions to sustainability problems.

  • Learn to communicate effectively with and integrate the expertise of different stakeholders in the research project.

  • Critically evaluate results of scientific and/or policy literature.

  • Independently design and carry out a research project.

  • Gather and analyze data by employing qualitative and/or quantitative research techniques.

  • Effectively manage the feedback of others (e.g., supervisors, peers, stakeholders).

  • Synthesize your findings in the form of a written report and convincingly present them.


You will find the timetables for all courses and degree programmes of Leiden University in the tool MyTimetable (login). Any teaching activities that you have successfully registered for in MyStudyMap will automatically be displayed in MyTimeTable. Any timetables that you add, manually will be saved and automatically displayed the next time you sign in.

MyTimetable allows you to integrate your timetable with your calendar apps such as Outlook, Google Calendar, Apple Calendar and other calendar apps on your smartphone. Any timetable changes will be automatically synced with your calendar. If you wish, you can also receive an email notification of the change. You can turn notifications on in ‘Settings’ (after login).

For more information, watch the video or go the 'help-page' in MyTimetable. Please note: Joint Degree students Leiden/Delft have to merge their two different timetables into one. This video explains how to do this.

Mode of instruction

Capstone topics are proposed by supervisors prior to the start of the course and consist of a broad research topic. Each capstone topic comprises up to five potential capstone projects. This means that multiple students will be working on a common capstone topic, but each on a different project that aims at answering different research questions within the common theme. The Thesis Research Project is always supervised by two supervisors, one from the Faculty of Science and one from the Faculty of Governance and Global Affairs. The first supervisor is involved with the day-to-day supervision of the student. The second supervisor is (at least) involved in the four formal process moments: kick-off meeting, midterm meeting, greenlight meeting and defense.

At the start of the Capstone project the students follow several introductory seminars, as part of the Thesis Preparation Module. The module guides the students through the proposal phase. During the entire process, students will receive feedback from both their first and second supervisor through written feedback as well as a tutorial-style group or individual meetings. Additionally, four formal process moments are scheduled (kick-off meeting, midterm meeting, greenlight meeting, and defense). See the course manual for full details.

The course manual provides detailed information on all the requirements of the thesis, including its length, structure, and components, as well as the transdisciplinary elements involved.

Assessment method

The main assessment criteria are:

  • Research proposal: 20%

  • Quality of inter- and transdisciplinary skills 10%

  • Quality of research skills 20%

  • Reporting quality 40%

  • Quality of oral defense 10%

A more detailed thesis assessment form, including the criteria, can be found on the Brightspace page. The thesis research project's timeline is in the course manual. Planning and agreements can be adjusted if extenuating circumstances apply. These extenuating circumstances will have to be validated by the study advisor.

The research proposal must be sufficient (5.5) before continuing to the actual research. If insufficient, the student must improve the proposal to a passable grade of 5.5, within a given deadline (see manual). A 5.5 is the maximum grade that can be obtained for a reworked, previously insufficient proposal. The grade for the research proposal does not change during the remaining part of the research project.

The entire project needs to be sufficient (5.5), which will be determined during the ‘greenlight meeting’, during which a final, complete draft is assessed.

If the draft is insufficient, but has been submitted in accordance with the planning, the student is asked to improve the thesis. A new greenlight meeting, akin to a retake, will be planned. Missing the green light deadline means a defense is not possible in accordance with the agreed upon thesis planning. This means the thesis cannot be defended in the same semester.

The final grade will be provided after the defense. The grade will be an average of the grade provided independently by the first and second supervisor.

Capstone outside university or abroad
It is sometimes possible to conduct thesis research with in an organization outside the university or abroad. Consult your primary supervisor at the earliest opportunity, but at least a month before the start of the course, whether this option is available within your capstone. Additionally, inform the study advisor about your study plan and the required formalities.

A word of caution: it is important to note that internships and overseas stays, often result in delays. Demands from external organizations, especially when doing an internship, can differ substantially from what is required in an academic research project.

Reading list

Not applicable


From the academic year 2022-2023 on, every student must register for courses with the new enrollment tool MyStudymap. There are two registration periods per year: registration for the fall semester opens in July and registration for the spring semester opens in December. Please see this page for more information.

Please note that it is compulsory to register for every exam and retake. Not being registered for a course means that you are not allowed to participate in the final exam.

Extensive FAQ on MyStudymap can be found here.


Dr. Gerard Breeman

Dr. Caitlin Black


This course is only open for students from MSc Governance of Sustainability.