Writing a master’s thesis in philology is not really as great a challenge as it seems at first. Good organization is the key. From this guide you will learn, among other things, how to come up with the topic of your work, formulate a thesis and research questions, and how to approach writing individual chapters. I also suggest how not to lose the motivation to act along the way.
I mainly rely on my own experience in college, so it’s possible that some procedures may look different at your university or direction. A lot depends also on the promoter himself and it is best to determine the substantive and technical aspects of your work before starting to write.
How to choose the subject of the master’s thesis in philology?
# 1 Follow your own interests
You should know at the bachelor’s level which field of interest you are most interested in and how you feel best. It is very important that the topic of your master’s thesis is related to what you like. A person who is passionate about English literature, not necessarily with equal fascination, would like to write about psycholinguistics, right? When writing a master’s thesis you will spend hours, months, and sometimes even years, so think carefully about what you want to sacrifice this piece of your life.
# 2 Think about the field you would like to know better
Personally, I think that the Master’s thesis has little to do with the future career, so I would rather not be guided by the choice of subject in this respect. In the interview, no one asks about your master’s thesis in terms of your strengths as a candidate, but rather out of pure curiosity. Think about what knowledge may be most useful to you, in the end when you’re writing a job, you get a really in-depth research. If you have career plans in marketing, then maybe the language of advertising would be a good idea? However, if you are more interested in Victorian literature, then go ahead!
# 3 Narrow the subject of your research
The thesis should cover a narrow scope of research. Do not kid yourself, you probably will not come up with a new theory in cognitive linguistics. Besides, the master’s thesis is not aimed at this. Focus on a narrow niche. Do not analyze whole trends in literature or teaching methods. Narrow topics to specific cases, eg “How to motivate children with autism to learn German.”
# 4 Get inspired by everyday life
Look for an idea about the master’s thesis in the nearest environment. You’re a musician? Do you have friends from a music school who could serve as the object of your research? Look for a mutual relationship between musical talent and language skills. Are you going on Erasmus? Think about how you can use this experience. Maybe they have some interesting items at the target university? You do internships in audiovisual films where there is a lot of regionalisms or slang. Describe how the translator took out of the situation, whether it was a good or a bad move and how it is to generally accepted methods.
The condition is that the master’s thesis should be within the thematic framework defined by the promoter and refers to recognized theories. Do not experiment too much.
Examples of master’s thesis topics
- Function and significance of black characters in selected works of German-language literature.
- Analysis of the role of the mother in selected works of English literature of the Victorian era.
- Analysis of the political discourse of Donald Trump and Hilary Clinton based on the debate of September 26, 2016.
- The influence of advertising language on the emotions of recipients. Analysis of selected examples of TV commercials.
- The impact of loud and silent reading on the understanding of text among junior high school students.
- Impact of the visualization technique on the effectiveness of German language vocabulary teaching for elementary school students.
- Analysis of film translation methods based on two versions of the translation of the film “Pride and Prejudice”.
- Translation in advertising. Analysis of translations of selected advertising slogans.
Do you feel inspired anymore?
What parts and chapters does the master’s thesis in philology consist of?
The master’s thesis consists of an introduction divided into two parts: theoretical and empirical (research) and ending.
Introduction is informative. You bring the subject and research problems, your work and refer to the scientific theory you base on. Then briefly summarize each of the chapters. Paradoxically, the introduction to work is written at the end of
The theoretical part is limited to one chapter in which you describe (or rather paraphrase) what someone has already invented and proved before. As I mentioned earlier, a master’s thesis must refer to a theory.
The second, empirical part, usually has two chapters: methodological and research. In the methodological chapter you describe what is the object of our research and how you planned and carried it out. You define hypotheses and research questions.
The research chapter is the analysis and interpretation of your results based on research questions (or problems) that you set before yourself before starting the research. Each subchapter should refer to one problem or research question. It’s the most creative chapter of all your work. In my opinion it is the fastest and the easiest to write, because you do not have to think over the paraphrases and the selection of quotes.
It is worth adding that the theoretical part should be shorter than the empirical part. You must devote the most space to discuss the methods and results of your research. The length of the master’s thesis should usually not exceed 80 pages.
How to formulate the goal, thesis, hypothesis and research questions?
Depending on the type of your research (then you must agree with the promoter) your work may be exploratory or verification.
Exploratory work explores specific research problems within the existing and scientifically proven theory. We put a thesis in it, which is a statement that is true, but requires confirmation with the appropriate arguments resulting from your research:
For example Spanish students of English make interference errors due to the influence of the first language (L1).
The verification work, as the name suggests, requires checking and proving whether our initial assumption is true if we examine the unknown aspects of any claims. As a result of the conducted research, we refute or confirm the hypothesis we adopted at the beginning.
Loud reading improves the understanding of text in English for students of grades 1-3 of junior high school.
The hypothesis should result from previous research, but it should concern issues that have not been directly examined. In this case, there may be a theory that loud reading improves the understanding of the text in adults, but the study did not include teenagers.
Do you see the difference?
Research questions (problems) are issues that you need to investigate. They are divided into main and detailed. If you construct research questions well, writing the final chapter of your master’s thesis will be much easier because they will determine the direction of your research. In the third chapter you have to answer all of them in turn.
What is the process of writing a master’s thesis?
Set a timetable for writing individual chapters
Sometimes the promoter sets down binding deadlines for the presentation of subsequent chapters, their joint discussion and the introduction of amendments. That was in my case. However, when your promoter trusts his students in adulthood and gives them completely free hand, you have to set up a time frame in order to have enough time for consultations and corrections.
You should think about the subject at the end of the bachelor’s degree, and certainly in the first semester of Master’s degree. Maybe after consultation with the promoter you will have to introduce only minor touches to the subject, or maybe you will be forced to come up with something completely different, because the topic will not be accepted. Approach the topic sooner.
Set the goal, research questions and thesis
If the topic is accepted, you must provide the promoter with the purpose of your work, the main and specific research questions and thesis or theses. After accepting them, it’s time to write a plan of work and outline, although this is not mandatory.
Write an outline, i.e. the skeleton of your work
In the outline you should specify:
- thesis topic,
- objective of the work,
- theses / hypotheses and research questions,
- research methodology,
- chapter plan,
- an outline of the bibliography,
In the outline you have to specify and list the issues that you will develop in your work. In other words, this is a sketch of the table of contents. When drawing up an outline, it may turn out that the range of issues you want to focus on is too wide and you will have to give up a few of them.
An outline is not an obligatory element and not all promoters require it, but it certainly facilitates future writing. It is a plan of action when we get lost in the thick of information.
Look for scientific sources
Frequent and long libraries are waiting for you. Do not limit yourself to the library of your institute. Look for sources in the libraries of other universities. Behind interesting publications, you can even go on a trip to another city or even country (in extreme cases;)).
If you are already exhausting the list of your initial sources, do not forget that every scientific book has its bibliography, and in it … other items that may interest you.
Reading scientific books is unfortunately a tedious and not very exciting process. To avoid losing key information or valuable quotes, take notes on sticky notes. Mark all relevant fragments so that you can easily come back to them when writing.
Try to keep order in the photocopies and notes. It is best to segregate them according to the planned sub-chapters.
Read and write from the march
This is a very important rule. Do not put off writing for later. After reading a few sources about the same issue, please sit down and write the right fragment. Fresh. If you first read all the sources, and after a few weeks or months you sit down to write, it will be harder for you to formulate your thoughts.
Paraphrase and paraphrase once more
Remember that the theoretical part of the work is nothing but paraphrasing experts. Sometimes it’s paraphrasing experts who paraphrased other experts. Remember to put footnotes each time you refer to someone’s words, not just when you place quotes.
The art of paraphrasing must be mastered to perfection, because it is not difficult to detect plagiarism. Master’s theses are checked in this respect by anti-plagiarism systems.
Consult progress with the promoter
Try to consult every major writing progress with your promoter. Systematically make corrections. It may happen that the promoter makes you edit the entire chapter from scratch. Reserve your time for it in your schedule.
Be systematic and do not put off writing for later
Resolving writing work indefinitely is probably the biggest problem for many students. To avoid this, plan how many hours per week you will spend writing and stick to this plan. Be consistent.
A good way to maintain motivation is a system of small prizes for each completed subsection. You can also watch other students on Instagram struggling with the same challenge to awaken the spirit of competition.
Another interesting way to be effective is Pomodoro technique: sessions of 25 minutes of total focus interspersed with a 5-minute break.
Writing the theoretical part is definitely the most time. The mere reading of sources is time-consuming. Paraphrasing is not a creative activity and it quickly becomes boring. If you survive this part, you’ll go down the hill.
Make backup copies
Save your work in several places, and preferably somewhere in the cloud: Google Drive or Dropbox. You never know when, in spite of your anger, your computer’s hard drive will fall or you will pour over coffee.
Review and evaluation of the master’s thesis
Managed to. After the corrections, you finally mounted and handed your ready work to the dean’s office. The other two copies have been submitted for review by the promoter and reviewer. You can not influence the selection of the reviewer. Usually, it is a lecturer with rich knowledge and experience in a specific field.
Read the reviewer’s opinion carefully. It will mercilessly pinpoint all shortcomings and inaccuracies in your work. Pay attention to missing or inconsistent issues, perhaps the reviewer will ask for them on defense.
In writing a master thesis the most important is consistency and striving for a goal. There will be difficult moments. There will come a time when you want to throw the computer out the window, but do not be discouraged. The greater the progress, the closer to the goal. You can do it!