M30-ECON Master's Thesis

Credits (ECTS):30

Course responsible:Frode Alfnes

Campus / Online:Taught campus Ås

Teaching language:Engelsk, norsk

Course frequency:Annually

Nominal workload:750 hours

Teaching and exam period:Autum parallel or Spring parallel

About this course

Master students in Applied Economics and Sustainability are required to write a master's thesis on a topic within the field of economics approved by the student´s supervisor. The thesis is expected to be written in English, but it can be written in Norwegian in certain cases (e.g., a thesis that is part of a project funded by a government agency that requires the thesis be prepared in Norwegian). The student can choose from among a broad spectrum of economic theories and methods that are part of the master study program. The master's thesis is an independent or jointly produced academic work. The gathering and analysis of data (primary and/or secondary data) are key elements of the thesis. In some cases, students may also conduct fieldwork or develop a survey questionnaire. The student is supervised in developing a research proposal. If the student is conducting fieldwork, the research proposal must be approved by the supervisor prior to the fieldwork.

The student is supervised in developing a research proposal and follow-up advising is provided throughout the research, analysis and writing process. The approximate length of the master thesis should be a minimum of 10 000 and a maximum of 25 000 words. Students may, after prior agreement with the supervisor, write their thesis in a journal article format.

The student must arrange a work plan with the advisor regarding submission of drafts and for follow-up consultation sessions. The written thesis is to be structured according to an academic style agreed upon with the advisor. The composition of the thesis is typically comprised of several chapters (or sections) that include:

Problem identification and specification of objectives (formulation of a hypothesis in some cases)

Research, literature review and discussion of relevant theory

Data collection, variable selection and model specification

Analysis, reporting and interpreting the results, discussion of important insights of the findings

Conclusions, limitations and suggestions for future work

Bibliography: referencing and citations

The master's thesis is written independently by a student or in some cases by two students working jointly on the project. It is assumed that the efforts of the two co-authors are equally distributed. When an assignment is prepared by two authors, a more comprehensive final product is expected, compared with the output of a single author.

Finally, an oral defense of the written work is required. The student provides a short presentation with a few slides (no more than 10 minutes), followed by a 20-minute question and answer session that serves as a defense of the written work. For students writing jointly, the oral defense can be arranged in two manners: (1) The students give a joint presentation of the written work (no more than 20 minutes), followed by independent defenses of the work, each lasting 20 minutes; or (2) the process is similar to that for a single authored thesis (an independent presentation and defense).

Learning outcome

The master's thesis is the result of a comprehensive research process, involving: problem definition, consideration of alternative relevant theories, collection of data to conduct quantitative analysis, and reporting and interpreting results. The thesis provides training in formal technical writing (to meet rigorous academic standards) and develops written communication and oral presentation skills.

The student will have gained experience in planning and implementing a project over a period of more than six months, and will have independently searched for and assessed various sources of data, theory and literature. Throughout this process, through supervision and independent work, the student will have gained specific knowledge, skills and competence related to the following:

(1) Identification of a researchable economic problem by specifying objectives, posing research questions that their study intends to answer, and/or formulating hypotheses that can be tested;

(2) Ability to conduct effective searches of various information and data sources, and to apply them in the relation to a specified issue within economics (and to the particular problem identified);

(3) Master the more advanced stages of a research process, including developing a methodological framework by which to analyze the problem and address ethical concerns that arise from their study;

(4) If the student has gathered primary data by surveys and/or fieldwork, practical experience will have been gained in formulating questionnaires, interviewing subjects, and collecting data in the field, in addition to the analysis and explanation of research results; and

(5) Capable of processing feedback and accepting criticism by which to critically reflect on the results of the analysis, and recognize the limitations of the work and weaknesses in the approach.

For students entering the program in academic year 2023-24, a mentoring program will be created whereby students 2nd year students will co-mentor (along with a faculty member) first year students on the process of writing a thesis. Mentoring will strengthen the student's understanding of the research process by having to explain the importance of problem identification to their peers. This promotes self-reflection on how they went about the research process by having to share experiences and explain how they overcame difficulties.

  • Research involves problem definition, searches of information (on previous studies to relate economic theory to understand the problem), collection of data, quantitative analysis, reporting and interpretation of results, and presentation of conclusions. The thesis is the written outcome of this process. The process consists of both a written thesis, structured in a manner consistent with an academic style, and an oral defense (a presentation of the written work followed by questions related to all aspects of the work).

    The student will apply theoretical knowledge of concepts presented in courses and analytical skills used in coursework exercises to study economic relationships. The identification of a problem, specification of objectives, formulation of research questions and/or hypothesis to test is a first step in the research process. The research and writing process move in parallel to have the student review related literature and provide a theoretical context by which to develop a modeling framework that allows the student to analyze the problem and provide answers to research questions and insights relevant to policy makers or decision makers more broadly.

    The student will develop formal writing techniques and presentation skills by communicating economic concepts and relationships, explaining their data and the methodological framework developed by which to analyze and interpret results and make recommendations to decision makers.

  • Preparatory courses: ECN305 and ECN306 are mandatory courses in the M-ECON program. Students write a research proposal for their master's thesis, normally with advice from their prosepctive supervisor. The choice of topic in ECN305 is not binding, but is an opportunity to get a head start on the writing of the thesis.

    Dissemination of information: In connection with ECN305 there are sessions where members of the economics faculty are invited to introduce themselves and to present potential topics of interest for a master's thesis. In addition, the economics faculty are asked to provide of list of topics over which they could supervise. The list of topics are posted on the M-ECON website. The process of selecting your master's thesis topic should start at least six months prior to the submission deadline.

    The thesis is written under the supervision of at least one faculty person on the staff of the School of Economics and Business. The supervisor is appointed by the School of Economics and Business based on the candidate's topic of choice. The School reserves the right to reject topics that are not within its subject area, or which are of a form or extent that make it unrealistic for the student to come to terms within six months of full-time work. If the candidate does not propose an adequate topic for study, the School will submit topics from which the student can choose. It is expected that the candidate regularly communicates with his/her supervisor and actively participates in relevant seminars and meetings organized by the School.

    Each student is entitled to 40 hours of supervision. Students sign a contract with the supervisor. The supervisory relationship is guided by the contract, as well as a common understanding of supervisory responsibilities. The student has a responsibility to stay in touch with the supervisor. The main supervisor must be a staff member at the School of Economics and Business. A co-supervisor from the School of Economics and Business or another department at NMBU or at another university/institution may be arranged and must be approved by the main supervisor.

  • Prior to the full-time research and writing of a master's thesis, the student shall have completed (or is in the process of completing) all course requirements related to the candidate's chosen specialization within Economics or the general program which the student has tailored according to their interest. In general, the student must have satisfied the course requirements before a supervisor is assigned to work with the student. In exceptional cases, approval may be granted if and when the lacking credits are being earned in parallel with the work toward the master's thesis.
  • The master's thesis is evaluated and graded on a scale from A-F. Evaluation of the master thesis has two elements: First and foremost the grade is based on the written thesis which is evaluated by the advisor and an external examiner. In addition, there is an oral defense of the thesis. This includes the student preparing a presentation of the written work, followed by an individual discussion with the external examiner and advisor. The performance during the oral defense can result in a minor adjustment of the final grade for the thesis.

    Master thesis with oral defence Grading: Letter grades Master thesis Grading: Letter grades
  • The supervisor and an external examiner read the written document and are present for the final oral defense. The examiners jointly asses the written work and agree tentatively to a grade. The presentation and the oral defense of the thesis can result in a marginal adjustment in the final grade.
  • Presentation at the thesis proposal conference. Students are expected to both present their proposed research and to comment on the proposals of their colleagues.
  • The School of Economics and Business will at all times refer to the current regulations of NMBU, and remind the students that it is their responsibility to learn and deliver by adhering to all mandatory guidelines. Such as reporting, contracts, registration, deliveries and eventual applications for delayed submissions (requires documentation). Follow the information at the homepage of Student information Centre (SiT) and contact the supervisors for questions.
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