10 Tips for Successfully Choosing a Bachelor Thesis Project

(1) Get active and talk to several teachers whose topics you like. From their response you might be able to derive whether they are interested in supervising bachelor thesis projects. Make a small project out of this screening task. You play the “employer”; you are the “search committee”; you try to find the best supervisor for your thesis project. Check out what they have to offer. Quite often, a teacher will re-direct you to some of her co-workers; this is quite often a doctoral student working in the teacher’s research group. Get in touch with this person also and see if they are interested in advising you.

(2) If you have found 1 to 3 “favourite potential supervisors”, don’t forget to engage them in a discussion about their view on a bachelor thesis project. Ask them how they see the difference between a doctoral thesis, a master thesis, and a bachelor thesis. Ask them about how they typically guide a student through a bachelor thesis project. Ask them about reference students who have successfully concluded a thesis with them. Ask them what they consider important when working on a bachelor thesis project.

(3) Keep in mind that your bachelor thesis project is not “the final work” in your life. Check out the typical ECTS points you should do. Multiply with 25 and then divide by 40. This gives you a rough estimate of the amount of weeks you will have to work on your thesis project. To be on the safe side, consider setting aside twice as many weeks. Beware of potential supervisors who do not guide you in this question. After all, you want to avoid to engage into a “never ending story”.

(4) If you talk with a potential supervisor about a potential thesis project, don’t leave the discussion without agreeing on “how to continue from here”. Tell the potential supervisor that you will “think it through” and then let him know after, say, 3 days. Never leave such a meeting without doing this. If you do so, the potential supervisor will just forget about you; she might even think that you are not serious about searching for a thesis project.

(5) Before you “sign into” a project, i.e. before you commit yourself to some project, explicitly discuss “exit strategies” with your potential supervisor. Set yourself a deadline before which you can leave “the boat” without leaving a bad impression. Let’s call this “the trial period”. A typical time frame for a trial period is 10% of the overall project time frame.

(6) Use the trial period for crafting a detailed plan for your thesis project. Submit this plan to your chosen supervisor. If your supervisor does not seriously discuss with you this plan, consider “pulling the rope” before the trial period is over. At this stage, you want to have an mutual agreement on your submitted plan including any revisions suggested by the supervisor.

(7) One of the important aspects of starting a project is to know when and how to end it successfully. This is the essence of “the plan”. If your supervisor does not want to agree on this “when and how to end”, be careful. Work on this issue; together with her/him. Beware of supervisors who suggest that you can “continue the project in the context of a follow-up project”. Here, all bells should ring in your head. Make sure that you discuss “the plan” including how to end the project in detail early on.

(8) Don’t push “the writing of the thesis” towards the end. In particular, since you most likely have no experience in writing a thesis text, you should start early on. In addition to your plan, write a summary of what you want to do in your project early on; yes, write a summary in the beginning. Force yourself to put your thoughts into writing. One of two pages are enough. Discuss this text with your supervisor. Check out the language your supervisor is using when talking about your text. If your supervisor is all too negative, she will stay so. The best case is that your supervisor likes your text. The next best case is that your supervisor criticizes your text; you can respond. The worst case is if your supervisor is not showing interest in your text. This is an indication that she is not taking your efforts seriously. In this case, I would consider leaving before it is too late. You don’t want to train with a trainer who is not interested in your work.

(9) Find other students who have similar projects going. Discuss with them how they work with their supervisor. Offer to read a summary from a colleague. Offer to discuss. Avoid to stay alone with your potential problems.

(10) If you “have a problem” — you most likely always have: Don’t let the problem  live long. You are most likely not the first one to have this type of problem. It is not wrong to have a problem. It is only wrong not to “go about it”. Scientists and engineers like to solve problems. Most often in groups. It is even OK to “kill a project” in case it needs to be killed. Never let a project kill you.

Hope that some of the tips above will help you. I wrote this text in my sincere belief that students and advisers want the same result of a thesis project: They all want to have a satisfying experience. It is “give and take” from both sides. Students have the opportunity to get to know everyday life of a scientist or an engineer. And advisers have a chance to find talents which might be co-workers in tomorrow’s research projects. Apprentices of today are the masters of tomorrow.

By the way, we at IAIK meet for the kick-off of next semester’s project “Bachelor@IAIK 2016” on Tuesday, December 1st, 13:00, IAIK foyer, Inffeldgasse 16a, ground floor. Check out this posting: https://kcposch.wordpress.com/2015/11/19/how-to-bacheloriaik-2016-kick-off-on-december-1st-2015/

Feel free to suggest your best advice for choosing a bachelor thesis project.


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