The master’s dissertation is the final product of two years of research. This document records the student’s contribution to the academic community. It is an individual effort to advance collective knowledge.
The text usually starts from a problem, usually expressed as a question. It is this questioning that leads to the discussion about the data collected by the researcher. Such information involves both observation of reality (empirical part) and reading of other authors (theoretical part).
At the end of the report, the master is expected to respond to the guiding question in order to present the results obtained. If that is the case, it may also open the door to future investigations – in a doctorate, for example.
How to structure a master’s thesis
There is no recipe. Each research has specific objectives and, therefore, the structure of the final text may vary. Still, there are basic items that usually appear in any scientific work of this magnitude.
The dissertation is formatted according to the rules of the graduate program to which the student is linked. In European countries, the standard of the Technical Standards Association is usually followed.
In this model, it is necessary to include the so-called pre-textual elements, which correspond to everything that appears before the report itself. Enter there cover, summary, summary of the research and thanks, among others.
Then come the textual elements, beginning with the introduction. In this part, it is usually presented the theme of the study, the objectives of the researcher, the research problem to be answered and the relevance of work to society (justification).
The theoretical chapters of the master’s dissertation serve to contextualize the phenomenon investigated. In this point, concepts pertinent to the problematic are retrieved from the reading of authors relevant to the area of knowledge.
It is not enough to just mention famous works. One must articulate the thinking of the intellectuals, showing how each contributes to answer at least part of the doubts raised in the course of the discussion.
Still in this stage, the state of the art is traced. In other words, it explains what has already been researched on the subject and what aspects still need to be deepened. In order to do so, it is possible to use the theses and dissertations database of the Coordination of Improvement of Higher Education Personnel.
All scientific research requires a methodological arrangement to observe the empirical object. Basically, they are techniques recognized by the peers as a way of approaching the reality studied.
In the exact sciences and in nature, it is common to resort to experiments in the laboratory. In the case of humans, there may be interviews, focus groups or ethnographic approaches. The composition of the methodology depends on what is investigated.
In this chapter, it is important to highlight the research steps and justify each strategy adopted. Even when a procedure does not work, it generates some kind of knowledge.
It is at this moment that the researcher confronts theory with observed reality. It seeks to understand the research object and to glimpse possible answers to the problem.
In conclusion, the idea is to evaluate the results of the research and verify if the objectives have been achieved. It is recommended to resume points presented in the introduction of the work, even as a way to make the text more accessible to the reader.
The ABNT stipulates rules for citing the bibliographic references used. Other elements, such as appendices and appendices – images, transcripts of interviews, documents, etc. – also appear on the final pages. It is worth reviewing everything very carefully to fit the project to the required standard.
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