Plan for the master's thesis
All master students who started autumn 2006 or later (5-year programme) or 2009 or later (2-year programmes), have to hand in a plan for their thesis one semester before they are to submit their thesis.
The deadline for submission is 15 October every year*
*If you are unable to meet the main deadline, we have two postponed deadlines:
15 May for submission of your master's thesis in September/October the following semester
15 August for submission of your master's thesis in January the following semester.
What is the required content of this plan?
In brief, we want a plan that is sufficiently detailed that we can be confident that it is feasible as a master project.
Your supervisor has to accept and sign the plan before you handed it in.
The purpose of the plan is to make sure that the student is ready to start working on the thesis when the spring semester starts. The plan will then be evaluated by the master committee, who will most likely approve the plan. Alternatively, if we find that parts of it is not sufficiently specific or for other reasons should be revised, we will give feedback on what changes are needed, with a corresponding new submission deadline.
You have to hand in your project plan at the reception
Requirement for the plan
The plan should consist of the following points:
1. Topic: What are the questions you want to address?
2. Methods: How do you want to address these questions
3. Data: Do you have access to the required data?
4. Status of knowledge: What do we know about this topic already?
5. Outline of your thesis.
While this is the general requirement, the structure may not fit all possible master projects. E.g. if you want collect data (e.g. in an experiment) as part of the master project, you do not have to document that you have access to the data already, but that your plan for data collection is feasible (e.g. that you do have funding for an experiment). Such amendments of these requirement should be accepted by you supervisor.
Next follows a sample plan with comments:
Some more comments on the subsections
What are possible topics? Almost anything. (There are published economic papers on Christmas gifts, football players’ skills as randomizers and why it is hard to find a taxi when it is raining.) It is a good idea to choose something exiting, but this should also be something that is within the supervisor’s expertise and where the supervisor can provide help.
Big Problems should be narrowed down to something smaller. There is at least 100 000 man-years of economic research each year, and a master thesis can only add a very tiny bit to our knowledge. A large problem like: ”Why are there so many poor people in the world?” may be narrowed down to: ”Has poverty increased the last 20 years”.
Today’s newspaper may give plenty of ideas for a thesis. When this was written, Aftenposten reported that small local radios may be unable to afford DAB-broadcasting and may close if the FM-radio net is closed. Looking at the economics of FM versus digital broadcasting may be a topic for a thesis. Dagbladet.no reports that Real Madrid has increased their bid for Mesut Özil; what determines the price of foot ballplayers? Dagsavisen.no report that an increasing number of public services in municipalities are bought from private providers; The consequences both in terms of cost and quality of services is debated in a larger literature, but maybe there is a special case you know of that can be subject to analysis? Dn.no report that 170.000 tonne fresh seafood is dumped in the sea; what is the economics behind this practice and what instrument would reduce waste? These examples are all from today’s (August 16th) issue, and for all papers there are other stories that could have been chosen. If you have few ideas for a thesis, make it a habit to browse through the newspapers daily with a potential topic in mind.
Once you have settled on a topic you need to think about how to analyze it, what data to use etc. Often this may be a parallel process, that is: One topic may be fine if you have the data, but impossible to pursue if you lack data. The issues in the remainder of this note are thus also important for the choice of topics.
For a given topic you need to think about how to analyze it. If you have data, you may use econometric methods. Or you may look at some general observations, and search for explanations for these. The trend in extent of dumping of seafood may be analyzed econometrically with data, alternatively, you may ask why a profit maximizing firm dumps fish that could have been sold on the market. In the first case you need econometric methods, in the latter case you need microeconomic theory, and most likely some models of moral hazard. If you have no course in asymmetric information and it is not within the specialty of your supervisor, you should perhaps look for another topic.
Thus, specify how you will analyze your topic and make sure that it does not require skill you do not possess.
If you want to look at the economics of digital broadcasting versus FM, then at least some information of costs are required, and most project requires some information about the phenomena you want to analyze. For most empirical project, however, you need much more data. Unless you have formulated the topic with a particular dataset in mind, the data you need is most likely not available in the form you need. Availability of data is a crucial issue in formulating a topic for your thesis.
Status of knowledge
As pointed out above, there exists a huge amount of economic research. One of the reasons why we suggest defining smaller problems is that the big ones are surely analyzed already. But even for a small problem there us a status of knowledge. If you want to consider your local clubs trade with football-players; what do we know about the market for football players?
Note that a survey of a field may be a possible master-project. A complete survey of the relevant literature is thus beyond the scope of the plan. But you should do some literature search to make sure that no-one has already written about exactly your topic and that there is a hole in our status of knowledge that you can fill.