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Master Thesis in Psychology: Guidelines and Requirements

Content of document:
A) Time frame
B) Choice of theme and research question
C) Supervision
D) Types of theses
E) The use of previously submitted material in the thesis
F) Form and shape
G) Quality criteria
H)  Ethical guidelines


The thesis work can commence at any given time during the master programme. The commencement is formalized by the supervision agreement. The supervision agreement must be signed and handed in by 1 September in the 3rd semester. The thesis must be submitted in the end of April in the 4th semester (date announced on semester page).The thesis work is equivalent to two semesters full-time load (60 ECTS).


The theme and research question for the thesis will be decided upon by supervisor and student in collaboration. It can prove useful to start the planning of the thesis already in the first semester. The department will introduce the students to the research groups and ongoing research projects during the first two semesters. It is up to the supervisor and the student to decide how integrated or separated the student’s thesis work will be from the existing reasearch within the research Group.


The master thesis is the student’s responsibility. Consequently, it is the student who is responsible for finding relevant literature, choosing methods and interpreting the results. To support this work, the student will receive individual supervision from a member of the academic staff in the department. Before embarking on an empirical thesis or participating in data gathering the student must sign a contract with a supervisor . Individual supervision can be supplemented with other form of supervision, seminars or courses. Supervisors are obliged to follow University of Oslo’s ethical guidelines for supervisors.

Supervisor’s role
The student is entitled to supervision in all phases of the thesis work. The supervisor shall give advice, opinions and feedback enabling the student to write a thesis reaching an acceptable standard. The rights and the duties of the student and supervisor are written in the supervision agreement for the master thesis.
It is the responsibility of the supervisor to inform the student about the laws, rules and regulations that apply The supervisor is responsible for the data when the project ends.

If the supervisor finds that the project that the student wishes to embark on for some reason is not advisable, the student is entitled to an explanation. The supervisor ought to help the student to find an alternative project that is realistic within the time frame.
During supervision the student must present written project descriptions and drafts at regular intervals for the supervisor to provide feedback on.

Expectations to supervision
Both the student and the supervisor ought to be able to raise questions regarding the expectations to supervision, ambitions regarding the grade on the master thesis, emotional reactions to the work, how the supervision works and how it should be organized. The supervisor should inititate the discussion of these topics. If problems arise that cannot be solved by the student and supervisor in cooperation, the administrative coordinator should be informed as soon as possible. If needed, the administrative coordinator will present the case in the selected bodies in the department.

The extent of supervision
The student is entitled to 40 hours of supervision in total, including preparations and follow-up work. Master theses with two authors are entitled to 50 hours in total. The division between the main supervisor and the co-supervisor is agreed on on a case by case basis.

External supervisor

In special cases a master thesis can be supervised by a person that is not employed by the department. If the student and supervisor find it necessary and desirable, a person outside the department with particular professional knowledge of the project involved, can be appointed as a co-supervisor. In special cases, an external supervisor can be appointed as the main supervisor on application to the department. Examples of such instances are master projects that are written at external institutions doing psychological Research.

External supervision must be approved by the department before commencement of the thesis work. When applying for an external supervisor as a supplement to or in stead of an internal supervisor, a thorough assessment of the situation is required. What can the external supervisor/institution provide the student with, and what opportunities for research are offered, other than existing ones in the department? External supervision can be paid by the set hours per thesis. The student also has the opportunity to write a thesis in collaboration with researchers at other universities/institutions that provide supervision free of compensation.Whether the department supports an application for payment of external supervisors is dependant on the financial situation of the department at the time of application.

Supervision agreement
The supervision agreement is a collaboration agreement between student, supervisor and department. The purpose of the agreement is threefold.Firstly, the agreement shall regulate the rights and duties of the student and supervisor. Secondly, the agreement contributes to making the work lucid and assures the quality of the empirical material in the master thesis. Thirdly, is secures that the ethical guidelines are being followed.  All students must hand in a supervision agreement within September 1 in 3. semester. The agreement must be signed by both supervisor and student and sent to the department for approval.



A limited psychological problem is researched through literary studies. Theory, discussion and interpretation of research results are required. Theoretical theses can also be of purely analytical nature and focus on basic understanding of different psychological phenomena. The work shall lead to specific conclusions, theory assessment, concepts, and suggestions on how psychological research or experiments can be carried out in order to answer essential research questions. A theoretical thesis requires an explanation of the literature selected.


Experimental research
A limited psychological problem is researched through one or more experiments. There is an emphasis on good experimental design and methods that operationalize the psychological concepts in a valid and reliable way. The number of research subjects must be adjusted to the resources and time frame for the master theses.

Non-experimental research
Surveys of large populations to selected groups. The data is usually the answers from the questionnaires, but can also include registry studies. Data can be gathered at a given point in time or by following the same individuals over time. Usually, a quantitative approach to the data is used. Answers to open questions are categorized and quantified, but they can also be analyzed qualitatively and presented as text.

Quantitative and qualitative analysis of data
A quantitative analysis consists of primary data being categorized and converted into numbers. When the material is of a substantial size, SPSS or similar data programs are used. Quantitative approaches are often used in experimental studies, survey studies as well as in case studies.

Qualitative studies are empirical studies of human reactions in their natural environments or contexts. Data is gathered through interviews, text studies and observation. The analyses can be phenomenologically oriented, directed towards ways of thinking and understanding, communication, conversation, social interaction and discourse.

It is common to find combinations of quantitative and qualitative approaches within the above mentioned research traditions.

It is expected that the student sheds light on the question of reliability and validity in the choice of methods connected to the research questions.

Working on parts of a larger research project
Students have the opportunity to take part in an ongoing larger research project. The student’s effort depends on which phase the project is in at the time that the student gets involved in it. However, a main rule is that the students should in collaboration with the supervisor decide on a research question that is narrowed down and supported by gathering new data or analysis of an existing data set. The work of the student must appear as an independent contribution to the main project.

Pilot Study
This type of thesis aims to improve and develop a subsequent and more comprehensive study. The description and the evaluation of the results of the preliminary studies are used to plan and structure the main study.

Developing instruments and special methods of analysis
The aim is to develop a method or test for measuring a psychological concept or variable. The task is to develop a method or test that is reliable and valid. In addition, standardization of an existing method could also be a topic for a thesis with focus on methods. The development of new methods for data analysis can be done under the condition that the thesis explains how the methods can be applied to a pscyhological data set.


Previous work of a student can be submitted as part of the master thesis on the condition that the work has not been submitted as previous exams or been used to obtain a qualification/degree. If the work has been published, it should be referred in the same way other sources are referred to. Additionally, it need to be clarified in the thesis how the work has been used.

Master theses, as well as other exam papers, cannot be submitted for more than one exam or test. This includes all theses and exam papers submitted at UiO as well as at other institutions in Norway or abroad. This applies to parts of exam work as well. Breach of this rule will be treated as plagiarism.

However, the student can build on ideas from previous work or use data material that was gathered in connection with previous work. The student must then quote the extracts from previous work, but only to the same extent that is allowed from other sources. All use of previous work must be cited and referred to.

Sometimes it can be useful to add the previous work (or parts of it) as an appendix. It needs to be clarified that the appendix is part of previous work.The size of the new work in the thesis must respond to the credit load of the master thesis, and it is the new contribution that is assessed by the examiners.


The master thesis can be written as either an article or a monograph.

Writing alone or together?
Often the thesis project is part of a larger cooperation that involves more than one student. Two students can submit a thesis where both are listed as authors.

Quotes and referencing
APA (6 or 7) is the standard when writing master theses in the Department of Psychology. Information can be found on

The Social science faculty also has an information page.

Page number, font and margin

The number of pages varies according to the type of thesis. Empirical theses amount to 30-40 pages, and they are not to exceed 50 pages including figures and tables.

Theoretical theses are usually 50-60 pages, and they should not exceed 70 pages including figures and tables.

References, table of contents , abstract and front page does not count towards the total number of pages. It is the body text that counts in the total number. The thesis must be written in A4-format using Times/Times New Roman 12 font, paragraph 1,5  and 2,5 cm frame. 

If a master thesis has two authors, the total amount of pages required will be the same, but the requirements to the work load of the project will be different.

Front page
The following needs to be included: Name of student, thesis title, “submitted as master thesis at the Department of Psychology, University of Oslo», semester and year. Many students also want to include the UiO-logo( Apollon-merket).

The thesis must have an abstract of up to 500 words. This should be placed after the title page and before the table of contents. The abstract should have the same standard as the rest of the thesis with regards to font, paragraph and margin. The abstract should be written on one page and the following needs to be included:
- Name of author
- Title of thesis
- Name of supevisor
- A short presentation of the research question(s)
- In an  empirical thesis you give an overview of who the participants were, the design and the methods that were used. The most important results are presented briefly. The student clarifies whether the work is an independent research project or whether it is part of a larger project. Moreover, information must be given on the collection of data, whether it was done by the student or based on already existing data material.
- In a theoretical thesis the abstract consists of, in addition to the research questions, a short presentation of the different theoretical positions that are presented and analyzed. Finally, a few sentences should be written on the main conlusions.


The master thesis is a scientific work that aims to fulfil the criteria with regards to documentation and reports that are applicable within the research field that the master thesis is written on. The student must be aware of the conventions for documenting and reporting that is applicable to the relevant area. The assessment of the master thesis builds on the impression the reader is left with. The following criteria are important in the assessment and grading of the thesis:

  • The research question(s); clarity and precision
  • The relevance of the research question for psychological theory or practice
  • Description of applied methods; precision and lucidity
  • Selected litterature; relevance with regards to research question(s), results and discussion
  • Choice of methods; justification and description
  • The development of the results; logic and relevance
  • Presentation of results; precision and selection
  • Discussion of results; related to the research question and choice of methods
  • Conclusion; Thoroughly worked over
  • References; Correct and adequate
  • The outline and form; lucidness
  • Originality, creativity and scientific importance
  • The handling of the research ethics


Master thesis with data on persons
All projects with person data must be reported to Norsk samfunnsvitenskapelig datatjeneste (NSD) at least 60 days before the data collection starts. NSD will assess whether the data that you will collect is subject to licensing or not. More information can be found on the NSD web pages. NSD does not give an ethical approval of a project, they only assess the data management and whether data are collected in a way that secures personal privacy. An ethical approval is necessary for publishing projects. You should consult the department´s own ethical Committee if you plan to publish.

Master theses with research on patients, and projects on health and sensitive themes
It is the responsibility of the supervisor to report the thesis project to the Regional komite for medisinsk forskningsetikk, Sør-Norge (REK Sør). Clinical research (concerning patients) and projects on health and sensitive themes should have advice from REK before the data collection starts. Research projects on underage persons should be reported to NSD. The department has prepared a REK-guide to help students and employees regarding which projects that should be reported. Please consult the department´own ethical Committee

Ethical principles for medical doctors and others who do medical research on human beings should follow the Helsinki Declaration´s advice

Data management plan

Students must make a data management with assistance from their supervisor. The supervisor's role should be to help the student classify their data and if necessary apply for storage in TSD. 

Lenk to template for datamanagement plan:

Informed Consent
Projects can only be started with the consent of the participants. The department does not have a standardized consent form, but advice on what a form should contain, can be found on the web pages of Norwegian Data Protection Authority .

Professional secrecy
In order to obtain information from public administrative bodies, hospitals, social security offices etc, it might be necessary to apply for permission. Such applications should be sent to the specialist ministry that the public administrative body belongs under. For health information, one needs to consult Sosial- og helsedirektoratet.

Data collection at external institutions –  contracts required
When the data collection is taking place at external institutions, there has to be an agreement between the department and the institution. The form can be downloaded here.

Published Sep. 19, 2014 4:59 PM - Last modified Oct. 22, 2020 2:47 PM