paper. My undergraduate students tend to be really ambitious and want to change the world, and I am grateful for that. Again, and let me reiterate this: narrowing the topic should be a dialogue with your supervisor. Do I have the necessary funding for the entire period of time that this study will require me to do work/fieldwork/laboratory experiments? Obviously, there are a few things that I want to highlight about doing a supervised research project that I think are worth remembering, in particular because my students often ask me so, how narrow is narrow? This is challenging for a lot of students because the what is a contribution question pops.
Thesis or research
You can start reading broadly, but you should be able to pare down the topic asking a few questions such as: Can this study be undertaken within a reasonable (12 months/24 months) time frame? The problem with Masters students wanting to do PhD-level kind of work (or too broad of a project) is that they are often given a shorter time frame, which often requires them to rush through courses and do their thesis under financial duress and time. Youre not alone in the process. You can read my Twitter thread here and the excellent responses.
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For example, for me, a Masters-level thesis is an empirical examination of patterns of bottled water consumption. Its also important that the Masters student supervisor/advisor is realistic in terms of expectations and ability to achieve goals within the shortened time frame, and often within tight budgets or the risk of facing a shortage of funds. Rafa did ethnographic fieldwork for two years analyzing three cases of water conflict, plus a quantitative analysis of a global dataset. Although he has published poems and occasionally served as screenwriter for the Hollywood,. Often, I worry if this is because Im a demanding supervisor and they feel they need to do grandiose, ambitious, all-encompassing projects or because we all face a challenge trying to narrow a topic. One reason why the 3 papers model for a PhD thesis is so popular is because it allows the student to demonstrate competency, depth and originality in a broad range of topics. I always tell them to be focused on a narrowly defined project. The sock test (specific, original contribution to knowledge) is a good one that should be applied to doctoral theses all around. Am I trying to do more cases than needed to prove the hypotheses Im testing or answer the research questions Ive posited? That way, I define the scope of the project in very narrow terms, I give them the tools they need to apply and I let them do the empirical testing or the archival or secondary source searches (though some students of mine even collect primary. While its important that the topic is adequately covered and that the contribution is original, it doesnt need to be a grandiose or far-ranging contribution. As I was leaving my office to head to the airport to fly to Mexico City for a workshop on conflicts in extractive industries, I saw the completed printout of Rafaels dissertation sitting on my desk.
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