How to write a Bachelor’s and Master’s thesis?
This is a short guide for my students in the fields of law and law in business, being a supplement to the subjects of the proseminar, the methodology of writing a BA thesis and the seminar I hold.
I know from the promoter’s experience that the students in the publications about writing the work are being flooded with scientific digressions, which loses key information such as the form of footnotes, structure of work, which in the final assessment can weigh and cost the lack of a five on the diploma.
It should also be remembered that writing a thesis is a test of the discipline and organization of work that is needed throughout life; these skills are worth to start grinding as soon as possible.
Bachelor’s and master’s thesis
The question often arises as to the difference between a BA thesis and a Master’s thesis. This difference can not be quantified, although it is true that bachelor’s theses are usually shorter than the master’s thesis. It should be emphasized, however, that the BA thesis expects the student to have a good knowledge of professional literature on the subject – in the thesis the student should demonstrate a good knowledge of the scientific literature.
The volume of work varies from 40 to 200 pages. In most cases, however, good works have between 50 and 80 pages including bibliography and other formal elements of the work. Very long works are obviously not wrong, but the volume of the text is associated with the risk of committing more formal mistakes and substantive errors. It is worth focusing on the quality of the text, not on its quantity. Such a philosophy also works well in the lawyer’s professional work. Often, a short but well-written letter will have a better effect than a well-spoken and over-developed letter. Large quotes from sources that anyone can access in a few seconds over the internet are undesirable.
Each diploma thesis must have a clear structure. The behavior of the structure makes it easier to follow the author’s thoughts, but also allows the evaluator to determine the degree of freedom of the author to use the commented matter. The main elements of the work structure and sample tables of contents are discussed below.
The structural element starting work is the introduction, it should contain:
- presentation of the topic (this part should give information about the scope of the subject of the study);
- justification of the choice of the topic (indicates the motivation of the author causing interest in the subject, in principle an optional part, it is better to omit it if it were to be forced);
- justification for the need to develop a topic (for example: no literature, recent changes in law or in the realm deserving to be discussed);
- present the meaning of the chosen topic (here indicate the importance of the topic for society, science, a specific social group);
- the objectives of the research procedure;
- main work hypothesis,
- applied research methods;
- the nature and type of sources used;
- presentation of the state of knowledge;
- presentation of subsequent chapters.
An optional element of the introduction is thanks. Deciding to thank you should be guided by the feeling – they should be sincere, and if they are directed towards the promoter or other employee of the university, it is worth keeping them restrained, after all, these people do their job. A thank you note should not exceed the tone directed to other people whose services the author uses.
It is often repeated that the introduction is written twice. There is a lot of truth in this statement; it is worth to write an introduction before starting work – as a kind of research manifesto of the author. After writing a thesis, it is worth revising the new knowledge acquired by the author while writing the work.
A chapter is a basic unit of construction. The way in which the student divides the material into chapters reveals his proficiency in the subject being developed. There are two basic ways to divide material into chapters:
- historical division,
- problem division.
Apart from them, there may be other ways of dividing the material into chapters, eg mixed (part of the chapters deals with historical issues and some of the problems), methodological division (individual chapters correspond to the stages of the conducted research.
It is the basic component unit. The number of chapters can not be precisely determined in advance, because it depends on the research undertaken and the scope of particular issues falling within their scope. Often there is a need for a more detailed structuring of the text, i.e. distinctions within the chapters of sub-chapters (and in them even paragraphs), preceded by appropriate headings.
Examples of ways to divide material into chapters:
- Historical division
- Title: The seller’s responsibility history for hidden defects
Chapter 1. Responsibility of the seller in ancient Roman law
1.2. Shaping responsibility in archaic and pre-classic law
1.3. The period of classical law
Chapter 2. Departure from the Roman model in the almost middle ages
2.2. Early Christian thought and seller’s responsibility
2.3. The influence of Thomism on the seller’s responsibility
Chapter 3. From casuistry to general clauses. Responsibility of the seller in the era of great codification
3.2. Sales in the Napoleonic Codex
3.3. Napoleonic influences in Spanish law
3.4. Seller’s responsibility in BGB
Title: Responsibility of the seller and effectiveness of legal transactions
Chapter 1. Information asymmetry as a factor justifying the existence of the seller’s civil liability
1.2. Transfer of information risk in the light of game theory
1.3. Risk as an economic value
Chapter 2. The problem of defects unknown to both parties from the point of view of marketing efficiency
2.2. Economic analysis of responsibility for defects unknown to the parties in relation to the sale by the manufacturer
2.3. Economic analysis of responsibility for defects unknown to the parties in relation to the sales by the distributor
Chapter 3. The optimal seller’s scope of responsibility
3.2. Presentation of the model
3.3. The scope of application of the model
The last mandatory element of the work are final conclusions. This is a very important element because it is there that a summary of all achieved work results is found. It should be briefly mentioned in the conclusions about the way in which we have reached the conclusions. The conclusions may be cognitive, i.e. we indicate the observation of some regularity previously unknown, they may also have the character of a postulate of legal reform (so-called de lege ferenda applications).
Annexes (source materials)
In some diploma theses there is a need to include at the end of the work various annexes to which we refer in the text. In empirical work it is necessary to include in the annexes the formulas of research tools (questionnaire pattern, instructions for the interview, analysis scheme, etc.).
Footnotes and bibliography
The obligation to label the work with footnotes results from the provisions of civil law and copyright law. From the student’s point of view, however, the footnotes are one of the few methods to demonstrate the readiness of the promoter and reviewer evaluating him. Footnotes do so it’s worth it. Correct making of bibliographic footnotes avoids unpleasant plagiarism allegations, the effects of which may be as innocent as the need to explain apparent plagiarism with the promoter, up to as serious as the punishment referred to in art. 115 para. 1 of the Act of 4 February 1994 on copyright and related rights.
There are many ways to make footnotes (they are called citation styles), in the legal literature the so-called traditional system that has not been codified (as opposed to foreign systems, eg Bluebook or Chicago Manual of Style).