The Master programme in Political Science requires the writing of a thesis (20 ECTS points), in addition to successful completion of the five courses. In general, the thesis should be no shorter than 40 pages (ca. 16.000 words) and no longer than 60 pages (ca. 24.000 words), including tables and footnotes. It is advisable that the student starts thinking about the topic of his/her final master’s thesis at an early stage. The course Political Science: the State of the Art, offered in the first semester (block 1), undoubtedly helps the student focus on a challenging and relevant topic to be explored in his/her thesis.
During the course Political Science: Theories and Methods, offered in the first semester (block 2), the student will be trained in how to develop a research design and how to plan research for a thesis. The research design must include a problem statement, theoretical foundation, conceptualization and, if applicable, operationalization of key variables, and the methodology and techniques for data collection and analysis. The thesis is written under the supervision of two members of the departmental faculty. One of these two faculty members is the primary supervisor. The second faculty member co-decides about the approval of the thesis proposal and about the thesis assessment and grade, and can be consulted during the process of research and writing.
In the beginning of the second semester (February), the student is expected to start working on the thesis. The thesis work should be completed at the end of the second semester.
The master’s thesis needs to comply with high standards of academic research and writing. In various courses offered in this program, the student will learn how to conduct research and how to write academic papers. Among the criteria used to evaluate the thesis are its originality, consistency, academic (and if applicable, societal) relevance, the choice of an adequate theoretical framework, the correct application of analytical methods, the quality of the data collection, and the presentation of the text. It is important that the thesis is consistent, clear and original in the sense of constituting an own contribution to ongoing research.
Each thesis is supervised by two faculty members of the Department of Political Science at Leiden University. First, the student draws up a thesis proposal that needs to be approved by both supervisors before actual work on the thesis can begin. Regular supervision is in the hands of the first supervisor. Both first and second supervisor is assigned by Dr. Frits Meijerink. The second supervisor approves the proposal, together with the first supervisor, in the beginning of the supervision process and co-evaluates it with the first supervisor once the thesis is completed.
Actual supervision starts with the first supervisor discussing the thesis proposal with the student in depth, possibly leading to improvements. Generally, several rounds of discussion and revision are needed until the proposal can be accepted. During the first meeting in which the proposal is discussed, the student is reminded of the Department’s quality criteria regarding Master’s theses as contained in the thesis evaluation form.
Once the first supervisor accepts the thesis proposal, it is submitted to the second supervisor. If the second supervisor considers the outline still to be inadequate, he or she communicates to the first supervisor which improvements are needed. The first supervisor discusses the requested improvements with the student. Once both supervisors agree with the outline, a meeting is scheduled with the student in which the first supervisor, and if possible also the second supervisor, participate. A copy of the thesis proposal, signed by both supervisors, is submitted to the Political Science secretariat by the first supervisor in order to place it into the student’s dossier of academic records.
The student and the first supervisor agree on a schedule and the ways in which supervision is to take place. Supervision may vary from frequent meetings, e.g. on a weekly basis, to discussion of individual chapters, to (in exceptional circumstances) a rare number of meetings only in the beginning and at the end of the thesis process. The second supervisor may be consulted in crucial stages of the research, by the first supervisor or in a discussion in which the student also participates.
The final version of the thesis is submitted to the first supervisor. A number of meetings and subsequent revisions may be needed before the thesis is considered to meet the required standards. Once the first supervisor considers the thesis to meet all basic requirements, it is submitted also to the second supervisor for evaluation. If the second supervisor considers the product to be insufficient, he or she informs the first supervisor about further revisions needed. These suggestions are then discussed with the student by the first supervisor. Once the suggested revisions have been implemented, the first supervisor hands the revised version to the second supervisor. If the second supervisor accepts the product, the thesis evaluation form is filled in by both supervisors and the final grade is assigned.
Subsequently, the student and the two supervisors schedule a final discussion or meeting. This meeting results in the completion, and signing, of the ‘thesis grade form’ by both supervisors. Finally, the first supervisor hands the completed grade form, together with the thesis evaluation form, to the Political Science secretariat in order to have it added to the student’s dossier of academic records.
Students should take into account that supervisors may take up to three weeks to make an assessment of the final version of the thesis and that supervisors are not available for consultation and assessment through July-August.
More information on the graduation procedures can be found on the website of Political Science .