prof. dr. K.F. Roszbach
I will supervise a number of MSc theses. See the separate page with information about the MSc thesis on the Finance department webpage.
Below, I have attached some suggestions for topics and tips on how you should think about writing an MSc thesis. For students already writing a thesis (or a proposal) under my supervision, I have posted a PDF with very concrete and practical suggestions for increasing efficiency in thesis writing.
Under normal circumstances, I meet with students between three and five times during the whole thesis process. Except for the earlier meetings, I let students send me their draft thesis and return it with comments in the pdf or word document after a maximum of two weeks. We then meet at the university or discuss the draft by Skype, depending on both your and my agenda.
Tips and suggestions for MSc theses
I will act as a supervisor for a few MSc students’ thesis. In what follows below, I will attempt to provide you with:
1. Some tips for how I believe one can arrive at an interesting topic for an MSc thesis. These suggestions are not a substitute for the excellently written document “How to write a thesis” by Lammertjan Dam. Instead they reflect my personal interest for thesis topics.
2. Pitfalls in writing a master’s thesis.
3. Easy ways to improve the quality of your thesis
4. Some broadly defined ideas for suitable thesis topics that I believe are of (current) interest.
My personal interest lies mainly in the empirical analysis of banking and financial intermediation. By this I mean the study of the banking sector in its broadest sense. There is an extensive literature on many aspects of banking, such as banking relations, credit risk, the monetary transmission channel, payment systems, banking supervision, financial stability, the importance of financial development for growth, competition, credit rationing, small business finance, microfinance, household finance, alternative means of finance for poor households, efficiency, mortgage finance, stress testing, and the origins and consequences of the recent financial crisis. In other words, whatever topic you pick, somebody is likely to have written a paper on a related issue. So when you believe you have an idea, start by checking the available literature. Good sources for published papers are Econlit, Jstor, Sciencedirect. Unpublished papers can be found for free at SSRN and Repec.
A master’s thesis is not expected to be an original research paper, although every now and then somebody does manage do accomplish this. It’s unusual however, and you should not be disappointed or stressed when you feel that your idea doesn’t meet the highest standard.
In my view, a master’s thesis should reflect your ability to analyze a narrowly defined topic using the tools you have mastered in the preceding semester(s) and write down the results in a coherent and articulate manner.
Typically, at the MSc level, an empirical project has a higher probability of passing all hurdles than a theoretical paper. This is because very few students have learned enough theoretical tools (read: math and statistics) to do theoretical work. Unless of course you are confident you have above average mathematical knowledge and skills.
As any paper, a master’s thesis starts with an idea. Try, however, to think simultaneously about the availability of appropriate data to do your analysis. If there is no data available, any analysis becomes difficult. You should think about things like the breadth (cross-sectional dimension), the length (time-series dimension), the frequency (daily, monthly etc.), the quality (survey, official, self-reported, etc.) and the availability (confidentiality, cost, format, time it takes, etc) of the data. If you’re a foreign student, maybe you know of data in your home-country that few or no people are aware of here. As a rule of thumb, collecting data yourself is not a good idea for a MSc thesis, because things always take more time than you think. But as before, exceptions do occur.
A way to increase the probability of doing something new, is to think about datasets that you could get access to with a minor effort. This could, for example, be possible because you have a relationship with a former employer, who maintains a database with information that has something unique.
Above all, however, think about what interests you. Eventually, your thesis will be part of your academic work and a signal to future employers about your abilities and interests.
There are some classical examples of how you can lose time while preparing and working on your thesis. One way is to start writing a long literature survey before you have narrowed down/defined your thesis topic. Try to comprehend the main idea in research papers that you have selected for reading, but avoid writing down very long surveys. For most people it’s more difficult to keep a text short than to make it long. Also, avoid locking yourself up in your room or apartment. Discuss your ideas with other people, and do the same for them. That will help you discover how you can improve upon your own thoughts. Don’t try to answer very broad questions. Instead, aim for a narrowly-defined topic and describe carefully in your paper what the assumptions are that you need to make in your analysis.
Transparency about your assumptions is crucial for your readers.
3. Easy ways to improve your thesis
Everybody has to learn how to write a thesis and since this is likely to be your first thesis, try to see it as an opportunity to learn. Some elements of the thesis writing are difficult for most of the students and it is relatively easy to learn from the experiences of your fellow students. Common areas where I tell students that additional effort would substantially improve their thesis are:
* Use of the English language: look for a student who has English as a native language or who is at least better at it than you. Have him or her read your thesis and come up with suggestions for improvement. Even somebody who has comparable fluency will improve your text. you can return the favor later on.
* Tables and figures in a manuscript need to be self-contained, i.e., the reader must be able to understand the point made in the table or figure without having to scroll through your thesis for an explanation of the data, the dependent or independent variable(s) or the kind of regression your are running. An excellent example of how to do this is: Ioannidou, Vassou, and Steven Ongena, (2010), Time for a Change - Loan Conditions and Bank Behavior when Firms Switch Banks - Journal of Finance VOL. LXV, NO. 5 (OCTOBER), pp. 1847-1877.
* Discuss your results, so not merely repeat in words what is already in the tables and figures. With statistical packages becoming increasingly user-friendly, estimating complicated models is ever easier. Understanding what one has done and conveying this to the reader requires your effort. Make sure that your advisor gets this message. While doing so, make sure to carefully refer to each table or figure, if needed even by mentioning which line or column of the table you are picking results from.
* Preferably before you start working on your thesis, write down what hypothesis or hypotheses you want to test. Think what result would make you accept / reject the hypothesis/hypotheses? This increases your focus of yor thesis and can save you a lot of time.
4. Research topics
a. Effects of the financial crisis
Many renowned academics are working on this topic. Still, people are predominantly working on the very big issues. There are many areas where an empirical analysis can provide useful insights about the impact a financial crisis can have. You could consider looking at particular effects in a region, or differences between regions, in particular industries, or split up effects by financial institution category. Key will be to have a decent measure of what happened during the crisis.
b. Household finance
We still know relatively little about how households choose their financial products. Maybe you know a company or somebody who has data on financial products that people buy? Financial planning by households (for example their ability to make rational choices) is attracting a lot of interest. Economists are doing a lot of work trying to understand why some households spend a lot of many of obviously expensive financial products.
c. Payments and electronic money
This is closely related to household finance and telephone banking.
Economists are still in the midst of understanding supply, the demand and the pricing of many payments services and electronic money. Competition between means of payments is not well understood either.
d. Telephone banking
Especially in developing countries, many new financial products are being developed for people who have no bank accounts but do have (access to) a cell phone. We still know very little about this.
e. Natural experiments
Natural experiments in financial markets can be a powerful and relatively easy way to investigate an interesting question.
|Last modified:||06 November 2012 01.53 a.m.|