Your Master's thesis (30 EC) is an extensive research report on a specific topic. You are free to formulate your own research question and to find relevant literature and source material. You can always turn to one or more thesis advisors to help guide your research and offer constructive feedback.
For supervision and grading, you will have to choose a lecturer in the History Department. Make sure to start looking for a supervisor in time! Your thesis will be assessed and graded by your supervisor and by a second assessor who has not been involved in the supervision.
Your Master's thesis (30 EC) is comparable to a final exam that you must pass in order to graduate with a master’s degree. In all probability, it will be the most extensive research report that you will write during your graduate studies. You will be given a great amount of freedom to choose a topic and formulate a specific research question.
Your thesis is the culmination of your entire master’s education: with it you demonstrate your ability to formulate research questions, conduct independent research, and present your results in written form according to the highest academic standards.
The thesis is a large project that often takes months to complete. The basis of every thesis is an academic research question: a question or issue that is the subject of scholarly debate but has yet to be fully resolved or adequately answered. The idea is to contribute to a current academic discussion or debate by way of a systematic analysis of primary and secondary source material, an analysis which ultimately guides your arguments and leads to (new) conclusions. For further guidelines on the thesis, including deadlines, length, suggestions on how to find a topic and the role of your thesis supervisor, please consult the Thesis Manual.
Sometimes there seems to be an abundance of attractive topics, which makes it difficult to choose. Sometimes attractive topics seem less suitable because you think that you do not know enough about them. Maybe you have no idea what you might add to the scholarly literature on a particular topic. Few students realize that most topics will become ‘attractive’ once you start investigating them; try browsing around some sources to see what it’s like working with them and how much information they yield.
Look for a problem instead of a topic
It may also be useful to look for a problem rather than a topic. Use the reading and written work in your courses, and especially tutorials and research seminars, for inspiration. You may also want to discuss potential topics with your personal tutor and/or internship supervisor. An internship can be a valuable way of locating a distinct source base that you can then analyse further in your thesis.
The Research MA Thesis is a compulsory component of the Research MA programmes and ought to be supervised by a lecturer in the History Department. You can approach a lecturer who is teaching one of your courses, which are, after all, meant to prepare you for your thesis. You can also browse the departmental pages and look at some of the staff research profiles. Usually a lecturer will respond positively if your topic aligns with their research interests and specialisation. In some cases, however, the teaching load has been divided in such a way that a teacher will have to say no. If this happens, you will need to find another supervisor, so leave enough time to explore several possibilities.
Choose a supervisor in time
If you will be spending the first semester of your second year abroad, you are advised to start looking for a thesis supervisor before the summer, i.e., before the end of the fourth teaching period in your first year. If you are not going abroad, you have slightly more time, but in that case, too, it helps to have located a supervisor sooner rather than later.
It is best to approach a potential supervisor with some ideas in mind to form the basis of your first conversation.
Assessment and grading
The thesis will be assessed and graded by your supervisor and by a second assessor who has not been involved in the supervision. The Programme Coordinator appoints the second assessor.
Submitting your thesis proposal
Do your supervisor and second reviewer approve your thesis proposal? Then submit your proposal in Osiris via Cases > My Cases. Your supervisor and second assessor will then officially confirm that you can start your writing process. You will be notified of this by e-mail.
The thesis writing process will be closely supervised by a designated member of staff with expertise in your research area. You will discuss your ideas on research questions, sources, methodologies and scope of the project with your supervisor. In addition, you may find the following books to be useful guides in setting up your research project:
- Kate Turabian, A Manual for Writers of Research Papers, Theses, and Dissertations and Wayne C. Booth et al., The Craft of Research (both have several editions).
- The UU History Department Research Guide also has helpful hints for doing original research.
In your final thesis, the central research question should be clearly formulated at the beginning and its relevance to scholarly discussions within the discipline set out. The body of the text should show how you went about trying to answer this question, why you proceeded the way you did, and what your findings were. In your conclusion you should analyse your findings in the light of your original question and explain the broader implications of your conclusions.
Handing in your thesis
Once you have completed your thesis, you must submit it in Osiris (and not via an email to your supervisor). Osiris provides you with an evaluation progress as well as your final grade.
If your supervisor has indicated that your final paper is ready for assessment, proceed as follows:
- You can upload your thesis in Osiris via Cases > My Cases.
- Consult with your supervisor how the plagiarism check is carried out (e.g. by uploading your thesis in Blackboard or otherwise)
Did you get a pass?
If you have received a satisfactory grade, you will need to upload your thesis' final version in Utrecht University's thesis archive. This is mandatory.
- Go to Osiris Student > Cases
- Choose Archive & publish thesis - Follow-up Case
- Archive your thesis and, if so desired, you can publish it
The Department of History and Art History annually awards a prize of € 750 for the best thesis using digital methods or techniques. With this award we aim to stimulate digital historical research among students.
When is a thesis eligible?
Your thesis qualifies if you have successfully applied digital methods or techniques in it:
- The answer to the research question relies predominantly on digital methods or techniques.
- All digital methods are allowed: from digital text analysis to GIS and from network analysis to 3D modeling.
- The method is based on existing software or on (your own) programming code (in R or Python, for example).
- Your thesis is written in the academic year 2022/23.
To submit a thesis
Please send an email to Pim Huijnen before 15 September 2023, including the following information:
- Subject: Thesis prize Digital History
- Attachment: he thesis itself (as .doc or .pdf)
You can both be nominated by thesis supervisor or you can compete on your own initiative.
- Joris van Eijnatten (Professor of Digital History, head of the NL eScience Center Amsterdam)
- Pim Huijnen (Assistant professor of Cultural History, Coordinator of the GKG Digital History Group)
- Ortal-Paz Saar (Assistant professor for Ancient History and Classical Civilization
- Selin Dilli (Assistant professor for Economic and Social History
Send an email to Pim Huijnen: email@example.com
Forms and procedures master's thesis
Your Master's thesis will be assessed following specific evaluation procedures. You can prepare for this by reading the following documents and explanations prior to starting your thesis.
All theses will be evaluated by two separate evaluators. If your supervisor is a professor connected to your Master's programme, he/she will also be the first evaluator.
Your Research Master's thesis will be evaluated using a standardised assessment form (pdf). In some cases a third evaluator will be asked to assess your paper. This third evaluator will use another form (pdf) to evaluate your thesis.
Utrecht University considers any form of academic dishonesty to be a serious offense. Utrecht University expects each student to be familiar with and to observe the norms and values that ensure academic integrity.
Therefore, when you start writing your thesis you will have to hand in the Plagiarism rules awareness statement (pdf). With this, you declare to know about and abide by the norms and rules on fraud and plagiarism of Utrecht University. When your professor or supervisor suspects fraud or plagiarism, they will notify the Board of Examiners.
In case you are doing research that involves interviewing people, submitting questionnaires or involving people in any other way, you are probably doing human-subject related research. If so, please review the checklist and discuss it with your supervisor. The checklist contains information on privacy, ethics and data management.
Once your thesis has been completed and approved, you will need to upload the final version and, if so desired, publish it in the thesis archive via Osiris > Cases. Choose Archive & publish thesis - Follow-up Case and Archive your thesis.