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Humak's Thesis Manual, Bachelor's degree

Thesis plan

The thesis plan is made for three actors: the author, the commissioner of the project, and the educational institution. The plan will help to outline the project as a whole and to encourage the student to reflect upon the most important issues involved. The commissioner can, in turn, ensure that the parties have understood each other and that the objectives of the project meet the subscriber’s expectations. The plan ensures that the project fulfils the criteria set by the educational institution for the topic and method of implementation of the thesis. The date on which the plan shall be completed is defined in the cooperation agreement of the final project/thesis.  

The thesis plan also includes a data management plan, outlining how you will collect and preserve your data, how you will handle it ethically, and how you will ultimately either dispose of it or deposit it in a permanent archive. Permanent archiving of the data is rare in the context of theses; it is more common for the data to be destroyed after the thesis evaluation. However, proper procedures for the final handling of the data must be ensured. Write the data management plan according to the Template for Data Management Plan and attach it as an appendix to your thesis plan.

The thesis plan should be written keeping in mind the following four key areas

  1. Needs 
  2. Objectives 
  3. Measures 
  4. Results and products. 

Start by defining the development need by answering the questions: Why should the commissioner’s operations have to be developed and why is this final project or thesis important? Justifying the reasons for the development need almost always requires an in-depth familiarization with the conceptual knowledge, i.e. theory, as well as the knowledge base, of the topic. A good understanding of the needs for change in the professional sector and of the current discussions within the field will make the student’s presentation of the development need convincing.  

When the development need has been properly defined, determining the objectives of the thesis is fairly straightforward. The objectives should be written in such a way that when realized, they resolve the previously defined development needs. The objectives should be sufficiently concrete to enable the reader to understand what this exact thesis or final project is aiming at. For example, the definitions, such as the objective is to develop the operations are too vague. 

The indicated measures will explain what is actually done in the final project and describe the kind of development process that is to be carried out within the final project. It is important to choose purposeful measures for the development need, so the information gained is best suited for development work. The measures taken should be planned out ahead of time in detail. Choosing the right measures and actions isn’t only related to the gathering of information. It’s important to plan how the results of the work will be implemented as part of the commissioner’s operations. 

The measures may be research methods, such as interviews, surveys and observations, but often enough the measures used in final projects and theses at universities of applied sciences are also functional and operational. There are various things in development projects which cannot be discovered just by conducting surveys and interviews, rather new approaches or methods must be tested or piloted in practice. The plan should indicate the subject of experimentation, how the experimentation is carried out in practice, and how data will be collected and evaluated with regard to the experiment. In data collection, there is almost always a need for participant observation and often also for interviews with the participants. When writing down the measures, the student should also reflect on how the developed activity or new knowledge is to be put into practice and established as part of the commissioner’s operations. Measures should be planned in as much detail as possible already in the planning phase.  

The description of the product or the development task means the product the commissioner or the entire professional sector gains after the final project and thesis have been completed. It may not be possible to describe the content of the output in the planning phase, but it should be possible to outline the outputs in the first place. If the output is a new mode of operation, a guide, a set of instructions, etc., the way the product is to be put into practice for the subscriber should also be described. The possibility to test the output or product in practice often yields the best results: how does the new guide, product or service, for instance, actually work? If, however, the product is of a more abstract nature, such as new research information, you should ensure that the new information, too, can be used to influence the development of operations. For example, the new information can be used to organise a brainstorming meeting at the premises of the subscriber. The main thing is that the new information will not be forgotten as just one more file gathering dust in the depths of the Theseus online library. 

The plan, based on the four key focus areas, is complemented with a schedule and a preliminary table of contents. The key concepts, as well as relevant sources, should also be outlined. In group projects, the distribution of work between the authors should also be indicated. A descriptive title is also an important part of the plan. A good plan is about 5 to 8 pages long. 

However, the plan for any development project is never carved in stone: development work is typically characterised by the change and refinement of the plan as the work progresses. The changed plan does not have to be rewritten and reapproved again, but any major changes must be agreed upon with the supervising teacher and the commissioner. If the topic of the thesis changes completely, the planning process must be started afresh and a new plan prepared.