The moment has finally arrived and today I had my master degree exam at the Institute for Communication Science (University of Vienna) – Magisterstudium Publizistik und Kommunikationswissenschaft.
Nevertheless, I decided to write down my experience with the last steps of the Master study (Thesis & Exam) and hopefully it will help other lost souls of the Uni. Keep in mind, I won’t go into details with all the forms you are supposed to hand in but you will find all this information on the website of the Institute.
Ok, let’s do this!
STEP 1: Choosing the right supervisor for your thesis
First of all, you DON’T HAVE TO choose the same professor you had in the MASE class but I would encourage everyone to do that. I took one of the FOSE classes and MASE with Prof. Gil de Zúñiga. By the time I finished MASE, I already hat part of the literature review and a sort-of solid concept so I was more or less ready to get started with the paper. In MASE you are supposed to develop the concept for your thesis so it makes sense to continue the process with the same professor. However, if you want to take someone else, that’s also absolutely fine!
Secondly, when choosing this professor, do some research online: look into websites, Facebook Groups, ask colleagues who had experience with the professors you are interested in. Most importantly, have a look at the speciality of the professors: is the professor more into political communication, advertising or journalism? It is helpful to choose someone who fits to the subject of your thesis. Don’t worry if you really like a professor and his/hers speciality topics have nothing to do with your master thesis idea. Just go ahead and send an email or visit the Institute and ask in person whether he/she would support you as a supervisor.
STEP 2: Start writing!
In my case, we would have biweekly meetings at the Institute, where you could come and ask questions regarding your thesis. When you had an important step finished (ex: survey, statistics), you could send it beforehand to the professor and get some feedback at the next meeting or in writing. This will be different according to the professor you choose.
The whole writing process takes some time and it is normal. It also depends on your own working style and how fast and decisive you can be. At times, you will get the feedback that you need to change things, so it might not always go as planned. You will most probably start by having an in-depth look into the literature and come up with research questions or hypotheses (or improve on your work in MASE).
Then, you will discuss with your supervisor the right way to go about it. You will be frustrated at times but you have to pull through cause it will be worth it! I was happy with my choice as my supervisor was always helpful and encouraging. He was away for a few months on sabbatical but his replacement was just as wonderful. Statistics will make you angry and desperate – but don’t worry too much, you will be fine!
Somewhere in between, you are supposed to announce the subject of your thesis to the Institute via a form. When you are ready with the thesis, you have to upload THE LAST VERSION (you won’t be able to change it afterwards) on Hopla which is a programme that checks for plagiarism and finally print out 2x copies (one for the Uni, one for your professor). Go with both copies to the SSC, they will stamp them and keep 1 copy and the other one you can bring to your professor. Check the SPL page as rules might change and remember to mind the DEADLINES!
STEP 3: Preparing for the final exam
By now you will be waiting for your Master Thesis results and you can use the time to prepare your literature lists and choose a second examiner. For the exam, you will be tested on two subjects:
- Communication Research
- Theories & Methods
I chose to do Communication Research with my thesis supervisor (Prof. GDZ) and for Theories & Methods I chose Prof. Boomgarden. I had not met him before but heard really positive things about him and most importantly, found his literature list interesting. Choose something you like since you will spend some time learning the subjects. Make sure you check with the 2nd examiner (or their assistant) whether they can take you on because they might be overbooked. Then, also check if the reading list you decided upon is fine for them.
In the end, my reading list consisted out of approx. 24 journal articles. I read them and tried to sum up each article in max two pages. Then I did all sorts of things like flashcards, drawings, highlighting and everything that felt helpful. I read everything once again but with less attention to details and tried to get an overview of what was happening in each study. You are NOT EXPECTED to know numbers by heart or memorize details. It is best to know the overall procedure, results and what they mean. Obviously, if there are important theories or models, they might come up in the exam.
STEP 4: The Day
By now you will probably be stressed out and want to have it done ASAP. I was completely stressed in the days before the exam but it is normal to be a bit nervous. It’s your last exam! The exam takes 30′ and believe me, it goes by pretty fast. The 3rd member of the commission (Vorsitz) will ask you to speak about your master thesis – research questions, method and results in 3 minutes. Then each examiner has 12 minutes will you. Overall, I had mainly over-compassing questions – do you see a future for this method? what can you say overall about the way X happens? Please elaborate on this model…). All of the examiners were very professional and extremely friendly and the atmosphere was relaxed. They will also speak a bit and maybe sum up some things so it’s definitely not an interrogatory but more of a discussion.
Afterwards, you have to leave the room and in a few minutes you are called back in and CONGRATULATED! You find out the grades from each examiner and in 2-3 weeks you will be invited to pick up your official papers from the University. That’s it!
Make sure you relax afterwards, celebrate with friends and family. You DESERVE it!
You can also sign up for the official graduation ceremony which usually takes place a few months later.
…now go ahead and annoy everyone by having them address you with your new title <Mag.phil.>