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How to find a topic for your master thesis

Finding a research topic for your master thesis can be a bumpy road. I sent out my very first application to a company for a cooperation in August 2020. Yes, you heard me right, nearly half a year before I’m supposed to start my thesis. Looking for a topic takes up time, and we tend to forget about the effort frequently.

Magazines, books and the internet

In my case, the early application didn’t work out. So, I did what most students probably do, I waited. I waited because I had a lot of other things on my plate, I waited because I thought, my current course work is more important, and I waited for some kind of enlightenment on how to start my applications. Around end of October 2020, I finally found time to start thinking about research areas, topics and suitable companies. I searched for magazines and books about media, marketing, digitalization and other suitable topics. Of course, I also checked out the internet on several blogs, websites, etc. Always, when something raised my attention, I wrote it down on a piece of paper so that in the end, I had a nice mind map. I gave myself some time to think which topics might be best to write about and then started to focus on them.

In my department, it is not obligatory to write the thesis with a company. This was quite a relief, as I knew that if something doesn’t work out, I would still be able to write the thesis on my own with the help of a KTH supervisor. That took away some pressure, but I still started to search for a cooperation with some company. A good place to find out about companies searching for master thesis students is the KTH Degree Project Portal. On the left side of this page, you’ll be able to choose the assignment type and the subjects you’re interested in.

In mid-November there was also the THS Armada career fair, which gave me some more ideas where I could send my application to. The fair gives you a great opportunity to talk to company representatives in person (or online as in 2020) and they might have some hints for you on how the application process works at their companies. Other chances to find out whether companies offer master thesis programmes is of course through the internet, but you should also try network events, companies from previous research projects you might have been doing or any other business connection you might have.

Start early

The biggest learning for me was: the more, the merrier! At some point you might feel discouraged, if you face rejections or don’t get an answer in the time you expected. This is where it’s important to not stop! Try searching as long as possible and try to send out as many applications as you can.

It’s crucial to start early with searching for a topic and a suitable company! This is, because you will face a lot of unexpected turns or other responsibilities you have to take care of, as for example your other course work. In the end, you will be thankful to have started early on this topic!

How my journey to find a topic continued

I sent out applications until the beginning of December but unfortunately, none of them worked out for me. As mentioned earlier, this was not the end of the world for me, as I’m also able to write the thesis on my own. So in the beginning of December, I started narrowing down a topic and finding a first research question. I knew that Artificial Intelligence would be a topic, I’m interested in. And then I finally found the solution in one of my podcasts. The host was interviewing a German politician and they talked about the problems that the society might face when AI is increasingly used. I started researching about AI and diversity topics and this is how I in the end found my research question, on whether responsible AI development needs ethical guidelines and which ethical principles those should follow.

Now it’s time for me to start the real work, refining the research question and starting on the thesis. If you’re going to write your thesis some time soon as well, you should take with you two learnings from this article:

  1. Start early!
  2. The more, the merrier!

You can also check out KTH’s info on career, writing a CV, seeking a job and much more – just click here. If you would like to read more about writing a thesis with a company, you should check out Vivek’s post.

Good luck!
// Maria

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