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MA Thesis Linguistics


Admission requirements

Students can start work on their thesis once they have earned at least 20 ec for MA courses.


The scope of the MA thesis generally corresponds to a maximum of 1000 words per credit, including notes, bibliography and appendices. The maximum amount of words for your MA thesis is thus 20 000 words.The thesis needs to be written under the supervision of a lecturer affiliated with the LUCL (Leiden University Centre for Linguistics) and evaluated by the supervisor and a second reader (appointed by the Board of Examiners). Students are free to choose their supervisor and suggest a thesis topic.

Aim of the Master’s Thesis

A thesis is an academic essay, written by the student in consultation with the supervisor. The thesis must show that the student is capable of summarizing and analyzing existing literature in a critical manner, formulating one or more well-defined and motivated research questions and of conducting independent research.

Thesis Seminar

The aim of the thesis seminar is to help you to get started on your thesis and to keep you on track and motivated! You will receive support, and support each other, in (1) formulating a research question, (2) finding, processing and critically discussing relevant literature, (3) choosing the right methodology, (4) conducting proper analyses, (4) reflecting on the findings and recognizing the limitations of your study, and (5) structuring your thesis.
While you will write your thesis in the second semester, you will need to start preparing ahead.

Therefore, there are in the first semester
two meetings on Monday 6 November and Monday 11 December
that are directed towards choosing a topic and finding a thesis supervisor.
In the second semester there will be
four meetings on Monday 5 February, Monday 4 March, Monday 8 April and Monday 6 May,
which will lead up to the full draft deadline of June 1.

Choosing a Topic

Generally speaking, students are encouraged to select the topic of their thesis themselves usually based on a Master’s course that they followed. In case of doubt, students can always consult the coordinator of studies. Students should approach a lecturer and discuss with him/her the chosen topic and potential research question(s). The supervisor, also known as ‘first reader’, will be able to recommend relevant literature. A second reader is appointed by the Board of Examiners. At this point, clear agreements should be made concerning the supervision procedure.

At the heart of a Master’s thesis lies a research question, together with the answer to that question. Before a motivated research question can be formulated, the student first has to do preparatory reading. The student then suggests an approach to arrive at possible answers (‘hypotheses’) to the research question. The research can be done by comparing views found in the literature and/or by collecting and analyzing primary (e.g. corpus analysis) and secondary (e.g. intuitions) linguistic data.

Submitting the Thesis Proposal

Once the student has selected a topic, formulated a research question and put together a provisional bibliography, the Thesis Proposal form can be completed. The Thesis Proposal form should include the title of the thesis and a description of the topic. The form must be submitted to the Board of Examiners before September 15 (students writing their thesis in S1) or February 15 (students writing their thesis in S2). The Board will then inspect the thesis proposal to ensure that it is of an appropriate academic level. They will also appoint a second reader.
Deadline for submission complete draft version: 1 June 2024
Deadline for submission final version: 1 July 2024

Research and Writing

Students should start out by formulating a clear plan for the structure of the thesis, in consultation with their supervisor. Only then can they begin writing. Questions of style will only become relevant at a later stage.

Handing in the Thesis

It is advisable to hand in the chapters of the thesis one by one and solicit comments from the supervisors. Once the thesis is approved by your supervisor, the final electronic version can be sent to your supervisor and the second reader.When doing so, you have to put the e-mail address in cc. Check with your supervisor(s) for guidelines regarding format of thesis lay-out and style of bibliographic references.


In assessing the quality of the thesis, the following aspects play an important role:

  • The originality of the research question

  • Explaining the background of the research question;

  • The critical analysis of source materials;

  • Integration of secondary literature into the argument;

  • Language use, structure and style;

  • The degree of independence displayed during the research and supervision process.

Also see: Regulations Linguistics.