1. Finding a topic
The final stage of a master programme consists of a research project and writing a master thesis based on the findings. Your master thesis is the report on a problem related to any of the topics discussed in the MSc program Information Management.
This document describes the procedures for starting your thesis projects, finding a topic and thesis supervisor.
1. The topic of your thesis
The topic of your thesis must be related to one or more courses in the Information Management curriculum in Tilburg. You may use the course descriptions of these courses in the study guide or you may check the research interests of the potential thesis supervisors (see the list of available supervisors for each thesis cycle).
A good starting point is also to check the personal web sites of the supervisors where you can check their research interests and recent publications.
There are two possibilities for choosing a topic:
- The topic can be related to a problem that exists in a company. Examples of such companies and opportunities for internships are listed as Announcements (see the Canvas page or the various sites by Asset or SBIT). Note that an internship in a company can provide a good basis to formulate a research question and gather empirical data. The risk of an internship is of course that you focus too much on solving the problem of your company supervisor, and get distracted from answering the research question.
- The topic can be related to a research project of a thesis supervisor. To check options for participating in such a project you may check the web sites of the potential supervisors or listen carefully to the lecturers in your courses. Many lecturers refer to running projects that may provide opportunities for you to join. An advantage is of course that you can start working using the research questions, approach, models, and data that might have already been developed. Note that your thesis cannot be a copy of the existing research. You must always develop your own research question and problem statement.
You can refer to the appendix of available thesis supervisors and find their research interests there. If you write a thesis based on a problem of a company, it is helpful to look for a problem that also fits with the research interests of a thesis supervisor. Thesis proposals that do not fit one or more research topics are likely to be rejected.
2. Criteria for a research topic
The topic of your thesis should meet the following criteria:
- The research should be related to information management or information systems topics discussed in the one or more courses in the MSc program.
- The research should go beyond applying general and current techniques or principles. The project should broaden or deepen the understanding of a particular topic. This may be achieved by applying current techniques or concepts to new fields of application, or by developing new methods/ concepts for solving existing or new problems.
- If your thesis is related to an internship, then the internship and your company supervisor should allow you to operate creatively and independently.
2. Writing a proposal
This document summarizes how you can prepare a thesis proposal. A research proposal is typically about two or three pages.
The thesis proposal has to be written in English. The proposal has to include the following information.
- Student Name, ANR, Telephone number and email address
- (Preliminary) Topic of the thesis :
- (If applicable) the name and address of the company where you want to do the research or collect material
- (if applicable) Short description of the company
- Problem Indication (appr 500 words). Describe the thesis topic. Make clear what kind of issue you want to address and why this issue is relevant for the business/company and for thje Information Management discipline. Make sure to include references to a couple of recent publications. Only refer to the well-known top journals in our field. Also make clear to which Information Management course(s) this topic relates.
- Problem Statement (appr 500 words). A problem statement is a concise description of the issues that you think that you need to address before you solve the problem. The primary purpose of a problem statement is to focus the attention of the reader, the problem owner, the thesis coordinator and your (future) thesis supervisor. If the focus of the problem is too narrow or the scope of the solution too limited, no one will be interested. A good problem statement should clarify:
- What is the problem?
- Who has this problem? (who is the problem owner) This should explain who needs the solution and who will decide whether the problem has been solved.
- What will a solution to the problem look like? Will it be a report? A design of a new process or an information system? An analysis of causes or a well prepared meeting to discuss problem and solutions?
- What is the scope and what are the limitations (in time, money, resources, technologies) that have to be decided, to solve the problem?
- Research Question (50 words) The research question is one of the first methodological steps to take when undertaking research. The research question must be accurately and clearly defined. Choosing a research question is the central element of both quantitative and qualitative research. It indicates the essence of what you want to know. Note that your initial research question will often be short, like “What is the influence of process design on firm performance?” or “Which elements should a new user interface for enterprise content management contain?”
Behavioral researchers may ask two fundamental types of research questions: (a) What is going on? (descriptive research), or (b) Why is it going on? (explanatory research). Design researchers may ask questions like “Which design of an artefact A would solve problem P in environment E?”. See your methodology course materials for more background on formulating the research question.
- Research Design and Research Method (100 words). Here you describe the nature of your research. In each case you have to describe what your approach entails. If you aim to design a solution to a problem or if you aim to test or develop hypotheses, for each research objective you have to indicate the research design that you are going to use. This includes a description of how you aim to collect data such as case study, interviews (which respondents?, how many?), survey, questionnaire, etc.. Be sure to clarify how this data collection, research method and design will help you to answer your research question.
- References. Add at least 5 references to your thesis proposal. This must be references to articles published in the top-journals in our field.
- Preferred Thesis Supervisor. If you prefer a certain professor to supervise your thesis, you may indicate this in your proposal or in the note box when you send thesis proposal to the system. You may add that you have already discussed the topic briefly with the preferred supervisor, or that your preference is based on lectures, or contacts between the supervisor and the company, etc.
After you submit the proposal to the thesis management system, a thesis supervisor will be allocated to you within the specified timeframe. Your thesis supervisor is one of the professors of the Information Management section at the Management Department. The department has implemented the supervision capacity for all thesis supervisors. The number of theses to be supervised for each teacher is defined in each semester. As a result, the supervisor allocation will NOT always perfectly match all students’ preferences due to the capacity consideration.
Your thesis supervisor will tell you how he/she will organize the supervision process. This is often based on regular meetings, varying between once per month up to once per week. In any case, you can expect the following five milestone meetings for your thesis.
- Meeting 1: Thesis Proposal – Chapter I Introduction
- Meeting 2: Chapter 2 Theory/Literature Review
- Meeting 3: Chapter 3 Methodology
- Meeting 4: Chapter 4 Data Analysis and Key Findings
- Meeting 5: Chapter 5 Discussion, Implications, Conclusion – Wrap up for the final report and defense
3. Thesis supervisors
Digital Transformation, Disruptive Innovation, Business Model Innovation, Ecosystem Orchestration, Digital Platforms, Job Automation, Agile Team Dynamics.
IT-Business Alignment, Big Data and Data Analytics, Enterprise Architecture, Information Technology Risk, Modernist Grounded Theory
Digital Transformation (Military, Healthcare, Education), Big Data, Virtual Reality, Artificial Intelligence.
Business Intelligence, Business Process Management, Business Analytics, Data Mining, Data Warehouse, Databases, Decision Support Systems, Information Management and Technology, Information Technology
Decision Making, Energy Problems, Investment Analysis, Logistics, Modeling, Policy Evaluation, Simulation, IT Outsourcing
Regulatory Compliance, Data Protection, Decision Support Systems, E-Government, IT-Audit, Norms, Cyber Security, Agile development methodologies
Big Data, Service Oriented Architecture, Cloud Computing, Software Engineering, Business Process Management, eCommerce, Online Selling, Online Marketing, Fintech
Topics: Open Source Software development, Virtual Teams , Collaboration and coordination, Software Development Methodologies, Licensing, Project Management and Governance, Machine Learning and Analytics;
Methodology : Econometrics, Secondary Data, Hypotheses testing, Archival data collected from social media and websites
Design of multi-actor information systems, in which different groups of stakeholders (need to) exchange information to accomplish (shared) objectives. Specifically information flows within and around public, governmental or non-profit organizations.
Digital Transformation, Data Strategy, Computer-Mediated Communication, Cross-Cultural Research, E- Commerce, Knowledge Management, Social Media and Networks, IT Governance, IT Audit
Information Systems, Psychology, Social Psychology (Links to an external site.)
data modelling and analytics, application of ontology in conceptual modelling, and empirical evaluation of design artifacts
Smart Business Networking, Digital Platforms, Digital Transformation, Enterprise Architecture, IT strategy, Management of IT, Blockchain applications, E-commerce, e-Health, Fintech, e-Government
Topics: Online Platforms, Sharing Economy, Financial Technology, Blockchain, Smart Contracts, Economics of Information Systems
Methods: Econometrics, Machine Learning, Online Experiments, Game Theory
Continuous Auditing, Smart Contracts/Blockchain Applications, Process Mining, Data Management/Data architectures (e.g. data mesh), Business Ontologies, Business Rules,
You can go to the departmental website (Links to an external site.) for the complete list of our faculty members. Please note: the final allocation depends on the student’s thesis topic and each thesis supervisor’s capacity.
4. Agreeing on the Research Proposal
Once you have submitted a proposal, and you have been assigned a supervisor, together you will have to agree on the research proposal. This will involve several discussions, as well as discussions with the internship representatives (if any), to find out what their expectations are.
Internship agreement. In case you have an internship, it makes sense to draw up a contract. Agree on starting date and ending date, expected outcomes, expectations regarding supervision or access to data, confidentiality (see below) and a possible remuneration. Normally, the university is no party to this contract. However, career services can give advice, about what it is wise to sign or not. In particular: you are the main author, and should retain copyright over the text. In case you need an example contract, here is a contact template (NL); (English). download
Confidentiality. You may be asked to keep the thesis confidential. In general, we are reluctant to grant such requests. In most cases, it is better to anonymize the data, and keep sensitive material in the research dossier. In that way, the thesis text itself can still be made public. Discuss these options, when deciding on the research proposal.
If necessary, we can keep a thesis confidential, under the following conditions
- Title, author and abstract are made public, so the thesis existence is traceable
- Supervisor and second reader do have access to a full copy of the thesis and appendices
- A copy of the thesis is submitted for archiving.
If your thesis is indeed confidential, then type “confidential” on the cover and on the title page.
IRB Review In some cases, specifically if your supervisor want to try and publish outcomes of your research, the research proposal will have to be approved by the IRB at TiSEM (Institutional Review Board (Links to an external site.)). They check for careful handling of personal data, and research ethics. They will also make sure data will remain accessible.
Go / no-go decisions. In the schedule you will find a go / no-go date, at which the proposal must be approved. In case the proposal was insufficient, there is also a second chance. Note that supervisors have a lot of freedom in how they organise the approval process. If all is going well, the go / no-go decision is part of the discussion about the research method. But if you are behind, or when there are serious deficiencies, the supervisor may use these occasions to create a sense of urgency. Without a research proposal, the supervisor will discontinue the supervision process.
5. List of good IM journals
TiSEM considers the following journal list for Information Management.
- ACM Transactions on Information Systems Information Systems
- Information Systems Research
- INFORMS Journal on Computing
- Management Science
- MIS Quarterly
- ACM Computing Surveys
- European Journal of Information Systems
- IEEE Transactions on Knowledge and Data Engineering
- Journal of the Association for Information Systems
- Journal of Strategic Information Systems
- VLDB Journal
- ACM Transactions on the Web
- CAiSE Proceedings
- Communications of the ACM
- Data and Knowledge Engineering
- Decision Support Systems
- ECIS Proceedings
- Electronic Markets
- IEEE Software
- IEEE Transactions on Software Engineering
- Information and Management
- Information and Software Technology
- Information Systems Journal
- International Journal of Electronic Commerce
- Journal of Group Decision and Negotiation
- Journal of Information Technology
- Journal of MIS
- Journal of Systems and Software
- Requirements Engineering Journal
- World Wide Web Journal
Many very good IM journals are not included in the above list. Talk to your supervisor for more insights. You may also need theory from neighbouring fields, such as accounting, psychology, or management.
6. Reference and Plagiarism
In the master’s thesis we expect that you know how to properly use references to specify the source of definitions, diagrams, ideas and work of others. At TiSEM we usually use the APA-style, using (Name, Year) or Name (Year) in case the author is part of the sentence. You may also use a [number] format. References refer to a bibliography entry at the end of the thesis. For non-academic references, such as websites or newspapers, we can use footnotes.
All other material in the thesis, without references, is therefore by definition supposed to be your original idea, or commonly known. If some part of the thesis isn’t original, or isn’t your own work, that is considered to be a case of plagiarism (article 21, 22 Rules and Guidelines of the Examination Board). Plagiarism is wrong, because it is unfair and will damage public trust in science. Plagiarism is considered to be fraud. The examination board is very strict about this. Lecturers have to report suspected cases of plagiarism. If plagiarism is proven, the examination board will decide to make the exam invalid. In practice that means that you can’t graduate.
All theses are checked with the Turnitin tool (Links to an external site.). Turnitin returns a similarity score that measures relative overlap between sequences of words in two texts. A high score (above 20%) could be an indication of plagiarism, but often there are other acceptable explanations. For example, some students re-use questionnaires from literature. Other students add a technical standard in an appendix. That is fine, provided the original work is referred to. Therefore, all high Turnitin scores are evaluated by hand. Not all forms of plagiarism can be detected by Turnitin. For instance, copied diagrams will not be detected. Using a diagram counts as a citation: you will need a page number, as well as a reference.
The best way to avoid accusations of plagiarism is to write well and always explain the origin of ideas. Here are some links to help you.
- Rules: Education and Exam Regulations (Links to an external site.), Rules and Guidelines of the Examination Board (Links to an external site.), Fraud rules at TiSEM (Links to an external site.)
- Material from the Library: (Links to an external site.)Sources (Links to an external site.), Referencing (Links to an external site.), RefCITE Course (Links to an external site.)
- Other guidance about reading and writing: HOW TO GET THE MOST OUT OF READING.pdf download SYSTEMATIC LITERATURE SURVEY.pdf download HOW NOT TO PLAGIARIZE.pdf download CRITICAL READING TOWARD CRITICAL WRITING.pdf download