Thesis MSc Business Administration: Leadership and Change Management


Course Objective

The thesis is an academic (i.e., scientific) paper. In this context,
“academic” means that the thesis systematically, objectively and
verifiably demonstrates the knowledge that the student has acquired
vis-à-vis the thesis topic, as follows:
1. The structure of the thesis is systematic. For example, a thesis
consists of an introduction, literature review, research design and
question, data presentation and analysis, discussion, and conclusion.
There should be a tight connection between these individual thesis
sections. From the literature review, for instance, it should be
apparent why the research question is relevant. The methods should
capture data that can be used to actually answer the research question.
Each choice (the literatures to review, the questions to ask, the
methods to apply, how to analyze the data, et cetera) must be well
motivated and connected to and grounded in prior sections. The reference
section should count at least 60 references.
2. Results must be based on empirical findings, which are properly
verified, or which are open to verification. For qualitative research,
we expect students to conduct (the equivalent of) at least 12
interviews. For quantitative research, we expect students to generate
(the equivalent of) at least 100 surveys.
3. It must be possible to confirm the research method. The
incorporation of the literature, the execution of the research and the
conclusions drawn must be recorded and motivated in such a way that any
reader with the relevant expertise should be capable of assessing the
validity of the statements made in the thesis and/or should be able to
replicate the research with similar outcomes as a result, unless the
circumstances of the research provide very little or no opportunity for
such assessment. There are two issues at stake here: the manner in which
the research itself has been carried out and the transparency with which
the research study is reported in the thesis.

Content thesis: To answer research questions (whether of an applied or
theoretical nature), students have to conduct a theoretical
investigation under the form of a literature review as well as a sound
empirical inquiry. Here, the student visits/ observes the object of his/
her research (one or more companies, individuals or other organizational
units) to collect data, which enable to answer the research question.
This can involve conducting interviews, making observations, sending out
questionnaires, studying documents, analyzing sets of data or carrying
out case studies, experiments. Students could instead engage in
developmental modeling, or simulation research. In this latter kind of
research, the student develops a mathematical model to simulate business
processes under varying conditions.

Course Content

In the Master thesis process, students should demonstrate the following

1. To be capable of formulating a clear research problem that fits
within the field of business administration and has a managerial and
scientific relevance.
2. To be capable of presenting the problem through a theoretically
relevant perspective and to know how to end up with a useful theoretical
framework or model aimed at addressing the problem statement. This is
witnessed by a discussion of theories and/or models drawn from various
literatures that are:
a. relevant for the problem at hand;
b. state- of- the- art;
c. accurately, in-depth, and critically described.
3. To be capable of studying the problem in a suitable way,
preferably by using an empirical approach. This involves:
a. a clear description of the method (in terms of sources used,
respondents selected, techniques used or operational definitions);
b. a proper usage of the methods and techniques;
c. an ability to analyze the problem by relying on relevant
theories, models and methods; and an ability to draw correct, complete,
and unequivocal conclusions based on the data collected.
4. To be capable of identifying shortcomings and making practical
and theoretical recommendations. Those recommendations must be based on
the conclusions, and be comprehensible, detailed, relevant, and
5. To be capable of reporting the research properly. This means:
a. a clear, consistent, and structured presentation;
b. a proper use of language;
c. and a accurate and complete list of references.
6. To be capable of performing the research in an ethical way and
conducting high-quality research independently.
7. To be capable of reflecting critically on the results and
limitations of the research, as well as their own (ethical and
professional) functioning as researchers.

Method of Assessment

Assessment of a Master thesis proceeds as follows. The student submits
his/her thesis to the supervisor and uploads the thesis on Canvas for
the anti-plagiarism check. Also, students are expected to hand in a
separate file that contains the raw data upon which the thesis is based
(e.g., interview recordings and transcripts, survey data). If a student
is not able to comply, the thesis cannot be assessed.

The thesis coordinator allocates the thesis to an independent second
reader who is knowledgeable of the thesis topic and/ or its methodology.
After carefully examining the thesis, the supervisor and the second
reader discuss the strengths and weaknesses of the thesis and determine
the appropriate grade. In so doing, the thesis is assessed on both
qualitative and quantitative criteria.

If the two assessors differ substantially in their evaluation of the
thesis (i.e., by two grade points or more), a third evaluation will be
sought from the department head or program manager. The thesis grade
corresponds to the rounded average of the three grades established by
the three assessors. In case the supervisor and second assessor differ
in opinion with regards to whether the thesis is sufficient or not, the
head of department decides. This process ensures a fair and unbiased
evaluation of the Master thesis. Students must attain a 6.0 or higher to
advance to graduation. A ‘7’ is a very satisfactory grade for a Master
thesis project. An 8 may be awarded if the supervisor judges both the
project and the thesis as excellent.

If the thesis supervisor and second reader intend to grade the thesis
with a 9 (or higher), a third assessor must be consulted from outside
the S&O department. The grade 9 can be awarded only if the third
assessor agrees. After receiving the grade, the student submits a
digital version of the thesis to the VU library thesis database. A
student can also fail the thesis. Failure results in an insufficient
grade. In case a student hasn't handed in a thesis by the final deadline
(i.e., no-show), the supervisor will grade the thesis 1.0.

Entry Requirements

In order to start with the thesis MSc Business Administration, students
should have completed at least the first two courses from period 1 of
the programme (received a minimum grade of 6 for each of the two
courses). If this is not the case, these courses should first be
completed and the thesis can only be started in November of the next
academic year.

There is one exception to this rule: a student that fails one of the two
courses in period 1 and receives a minimum grade of 4 for the course
he/she failed, is allowed to start working on his/her Master thesis, but
only if he/she scored a 6 or higher for all other courses in period 1
and period 2. This exception implies that students that score a 6 or
higher during the first round of exams (no resits) for all courses in
period 2 may start working on their Master thesis in January/February
(this is the regular time to start). Those students that fail one or
both courses in period 2 during the first round of exams, but receive a
minimum grade of 6 through resit(s) in March may start working on their
Master thesis in April, but only if they scored a 6 or higher for one
course in period 1 and received a minimum grade of 4 for the course they
failed in period 1.

Students wanting to make use of this exception will have to approach
their specialization coordinator with a formal request (by email), and
hand in a filled-out application form with the specialization’s thesis
coordinator. If this is not the case, students should first complete the
courses of period 1 in the next academic year and the thesis can only be
started in November of the next academic year. For details please
consult the Canvas site Thesis MSc Business Administration: per

Custom Course Registration

See BA Master thesis course manual (available on Canvas) for application procedures.

General Information

Course Code E_BA_THS_LCM
Credits 15 EC
Period Ac. Year (sept)
Course Level 400
Language of Tuition English
Faculty School of Business and Economics
Course Coordinator dr. O.N. Solinger
Examiner dr. O.N. Solinger
Teaching Staff

Practical Information

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Last-minute registration is available for this course.

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