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Master thesis series: it is your subject, you are an expert in the field, you can do it!

Date:24 June 2022
Working on your thesis
Working on your thesis

Choosing a topic, putting data together and writing your thesis is an exciting but also somewhat worrying process. In Campus Fryslân Master thesis series learn what is good and what is challenging, and simply get to know a variety of exciting thesis ideas.
Ayla Grotenboer from the Tourism, Geography & Planning programme is writing about the effects of colonial relations on tourism, learn more about it!

Topic: The lingering effect of colonial relations and selecting holiday destinations
Favorite snack: I am the kind of person who says - I will still work for an hour really focused and then I can have a bowl of crisps.
Playlist: If I’m on a difficult task that requires concentration I really need silence. But if it is something more administrative or repetitive I will turn on some R&B playlist.
Place: As I require quite some silence normally at the university.

What is your Master’s thesis about?

I am writing my Master thesis about the lingering effect of colonial relations and specifically about how this impacts decision-making in selecting holiday destinations and the experiences, and more specifically I am focusing on Dutch tourists visiting Indonesia.

What motivated you to choose this topic?

I’ve always been quite interested in sustainability and through my Bachelor, which was in tourism management we focused a lot on the ecological and natural aspects of it. And then in my Master’s I met Meghan (Meghan Muldoon, an assistant professor Sustainable Tourism), whose research is focused on the human aspect of sustainability, so the impact of tourism as experiences by local communities. Among other things we talked a lot about postcolonial patterns and themes. I find it really interesting and I am quite connected to the Indonesian- Dutch history because I am Dutch-Indonesian so it all kind of fell into place. Besides, it’s a new topic that hasn’t been researched before. So it is really academically challenging and of a personal interest to me, that’s always a really good combination. It gives you a lot of enthusiasm because you need that motivation while working on your thesis.

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Some tips on how to choose your thesis topic

I think for me this is always the most difficult part, finding an actual topic, as soon as you have it it kind of falls into place and you just start writing and getting into it.
For me, finding the topic is just reading a lot. It also really helped that we discussed some new things during the modules as well and then you could already spot what you found interesting and where there were gaps in the research to which you could contribute. Time is definitely a topic in this process, therefore I think it would be good to kind of already have a sense of what you find interesting and already start reading from the start, it would help. 

What is the hardest part about the whole process?

For me the hardest part was really just selecting the topic, really finding what it is that I want to do, getting nervous not knowing what I was going to do. You really get the feeling that you really have to choose now and the time pressure doesn’t really help. And here my tip would be just to start. If you think this is the topic you might be interested in - just start reading, start writing and then it will all come to you. And if you then see it is not what you want then just start over. As soon as you’ve started it will be okay. Just start doing it.

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What is the best part about writing a thesis?

I kind of like the whole process of it. For me the most exciting part is not the writing itself but the moments when you discuss it with your supervisor and then they are getting really enthusiastic about what you are doing and seeing the value of it. Because sometimes you doubt yourself during the process, and when someone reassures you that “it’s really good, you really found something to contribute to the research”.  It really gives you this important feeling that you are doing something that matters. I think that’s the most valuable thing for me so far.

What curious facts, notions or findings did you come across while writing?

During the process I found it quite interesting that you don’t hear a lot about post-colonial themes still playing a big role in tourism or in daily life. But when you start really looking into it in the literature, and it is also something I noticed in my own research, you do see that maybe unconsciously and sometimes consciously this does still play a big role.  It has been so many years already and people start normalizing certain things, they are not aware of them anymore.  I think it is not only interesting, it is something we need to pay attention to.

Share your overall experience writing a thesis

I was quite surprised that it all went so well. What is always my biggest struggle is the period when you are not really sure what you are going to do and doubts as for how to start. So I just procrastinate for a very long time. But I think this is a very human thing and everyone I know does it. I just told myself - it doesn’t help to stress out, so just start writing and if in the end it still doesn’t make sense you will change it. You do know it, it is your subject, you are an expert in the field. Just repeat to yourself that you’ve got it.