06 Jun Writing a Master’s Thesis in two months: Part 2
In late March, I started working on my Master’s thesis. At the time of writing this, I had 10 days left, and I felt confident that I’m going to make it. Yet doing a research and writing a 20 000 word essay on it is something that has put my time mastering skills to the test.
Many things have happened since I wrote my previous blog post about my Master’s thesis. When I had only the final touches left to do, it was time to look back in time again. But first just a quick reminder: in this interviews based research I investigate how news robots affect journalists’ work in practice and how journalists’ attitudes towards robots have changed.
Number of interviewees
Qualitative, interview based researches are easily criticised for small samplings and hardly generalizable research results. This was a problem I also pondered over as the number of subjects tends to be either too small or too large: too small to make statistical generalizations, and too large to make penetrating interpretations.
Unfortunately there is no clear answer to how many subjects you should interview for your research, but one guidance states that eight respondents is enough. Another in its turn says that you should simply “interview so many subjects that you find out what you need to know”. This, of course, would be an ideal situation but because I had only two months on me, I had to decide on a number and that number was twelve interviewees: six from Finland and six from Sweden. Not quite enough for one country alone, but when put together more than plenty.
Once I had settled on a number of people I wanted to interview, I had to contact them and agree on an interview. But as I wrote in my earlier blog post, ‘finding the right people to participate in a research easily eats up half of the time you have for the whole project’. Back then I kinda hoped I wouldn’t have gotten this estimation right, but I did.
The last interview for my thesis was done on May 12th when way more than half of the time had passed. Getting the last interview done this late and close to the deadline–which was on May 29th–is problematic because, with a sampling this small, one interviewee’s response could dramatically change the findings and conclusions, meaning that you are not able to do any solid conclusions or write down any findings before all the interviews are done.
Importance of a thesis proposal
A thesis proposal is something that has to be handed in before really starting to work with the project. The proposal usually includes a brief explanation about the research’s aim, how the research will be conducted, and on what theories the research will rely on. Writing this proposal might seem like a tedious task, but trust me, it’s more than worth doing. Both my Bachelor’s thesis and Master’s thesis have been saved partly thanks to the proposal I made. It helps you when you get stuck.
With my Master’s thesis I got stuck with finding a proper theory to base my research on. You see, it turned out that there aren’t really any theories out there about news robots. First I thought that my research was doomed, then I thought I would have to improvise. Luckily neither of these happened. What happened instead was that as I opened my thesis proposal to copy a few paragraphs on methodology, I also noticed that I had written down some thoughts on theory but utterly forgotten about them.
Writing a thesis proposal makes sense, not because it would be a carved-in-stone guideline but because later on it helps you to remember things you have already forgotten about.
The difference between academic research and investigative journalism
In the earlier blog post I wrote that one of the main differences between investigative journalism and academic research is that the former almost always delves into negatives while latter is gathering information on things, valuing them neither positive or negative. During this whole process of writing my Master’s thesis I have continued to contemplate over this same subject.
Besides the above mentioned, another major difference between these two is that in investigative journalism you might end up in a dead-end because you don’t have enough proof and at worst case, no story at all. Taking the risk of walking down this blind alley is always present.
This is a prospect that academic research rarely has: you will always get a result. It might not be what the study’s original hypothesis or expected outcome proposed but nevertheless, you have a result. There are no dead ends.
The last couple of weeks have been stressful and I’ve been working on my thesis from morning to midnight. Earlier it was the pain in my fingers that agonized me, now it’s my butt that hurts because of too much sitting. But eventually, on Monday morning May 29th I handed in a ready thesis.