Thesis supervision

Deze info in het Nederlands – klik hier!

Thesis topics

I’ll be happy to supervise BA and MA theses on any topic in the following domains:

  • Dutch (applied) linguistics,
  • language history,
  • historical sociolinguistics,
  • language variation and change,
  • historical language planning and language policy,
  • sociolinguistics and sociology of language.

Also comparative topics involving other languages (English, German, French, Spanish) or more general sociolinguistic topics are welcome.

Students who have a specific topic in mind, can contact me by sending me a short outline or summary (about 0.5-1 page) of the research questions and proposed method they had in mind. Students who do not yet have a specific topic in mind, can chose any of the proposed topics in the document below, or use them as an inspiration to work on something similar.

     Proposed topics 2021-2022

      (password: motto VUB ‘redelijkeigenzinnig’, preceded by the numbers of the current academic year, i.e. ‘20212022’)

All topics are open to students in linguistics or applied linguistics. Most topics can be adapted to suit either BA or MA students.

All students must apply for the topic(s) of their choice through the MaThis online system.

Practical arrangements

If you have any questions or need feedback, it’s up to you to contact me. It is your job as a student to keep me informed about your progress and to seek help when necessary.

If you can read Dutch, please read the ‘Short Guide to Doing a Literature Review‘ thoroughly before you start. Don’t contact me to say you won’t find any literature without first going through all the steps in this document. If you can’t read Dutch, go through the MOOC on research skills hosted by the University Library instead.

I would like to receive a brief status report at regular intervals (e.g., once a month) by email or during an appointment:

    a. What have you been doing/ reading/writing in the past few weeks?

    b. What do you plan to do/read/write in the coming weeks?

    c. Are there any specific questions or difficulties?

If you have finished concrete and substantial pieces of your paper, you may always submit them (once) in advance for feedback on the outline. Please note that, especially in peak periods, I will need at least 1-2 weeks to read your papers, and that feedback will mostly be given orally during an appointment. Deadlines for final feedback: May 1 (1st session) and July 1 (2nd session).

For substantive questions, please set up an appointment (https://www.rikvosters.be/afspraak). I do not answer extensive substantive questions by email.

Timeline

Assuming you plan to submit for the June exam period (first session), the timeline below is provided for general guidance. Please use this sample timeline as a tool for yourself.

Tip: start writing as early as possible, and build up a daily writing habit with as much regularity as possible. Many things only really become clear when you have to summarize or write them out yourself, and if you only start writing a few weeks before submission, you’ll see that you probably won’t make it. For some ideas: http://goo.gl/4bhvqP and https://goo.gl/zuFq8W.

  • summer through the end of September:
    • contact possible supervisors and think about (sub)discipline and possible themes or topics
    • if you can read Dutch, please read the ‘Short Guide to Doing a Literature Review‘ thoroughly before you start; if you can’t read Dutch, go through the MOOC on research skills hosted by the University Library instead
    • exploratory reading about possible topics and thinking about concrete research design
    • first appointment with supervisor to discuss ideas and possible topics
  • September/October:
    • read through BA or MA thesis guidelines (via faculty student.vub.be website or in course description)
    • second appointment with supervisor to determine topic and research design
    • develop central research question and start bibliography (min. 10 relevant sources) 
    • fix topic and supervisor in MaThis (check deadline in your mailbox)
  • October/November:
    • start doing and writing up the literature review: locate relevant professional literature (not limited to internet sources and/or sources in VUB library!), read, and take synthesis notes
    • based on your literature review, (re)define the subject, the research questions and the problem more precisely and determine your own perspective/angle on the topic
    • make a first draft of the bibliography, the research questions and the problem definition, and start writing the literature review and related theoretical framework.
  • December:
    • read up on appropriate methodology: on the basis of textbooks and other sources (qualitative and/or quantitative research methods) and on the basis of comparable previous research
    • develop and write up your own methodology chapter
    • refine and elaborate research questions and corresponding hypotheses if necessary, given your concrete research design
    • finish writing up literature review (incl. theoretical framework)
  • December/January/February
    • start empirical research, collect and organize incoming results
    • where necessary, adjust and further elaborate methodology
  • February/March/April
    • process and analyze the results obtained: numerical and graphical representation, statistical analysis (where necessary)
    • discuss, interpret and write up the results (including feedback on hypotheses, research questions, theoretical framework and literature)
    • bring the main lines of your research together, relate them back to the broader framework, and discuss the relevance/implications of own research
      • deadline for final feedback for submission in 1st session: 1 May.
  • May
    • finish writing up remaining parts, and rework what you have written already based on the feedback you received
    • write abstract and summary
    • proofreading: several rounds of proofreading (also on paper), by yourself and by others
    • submit!
      (check faculty guidelines!)

Evaluation

As you write, use the headings and criteria below as a touchstone for yourself to self-assess the extent to which you meet the proposed quality criteria. Of course, not all criteria apply to the same extent to every type of topic or research design, and not all objectives should be met to the same extent for a BA thesis as for an MA thesis – see the course description as well as Canvas to know the official learning objectives and evaluation criteria.

A. Content

The introduction:

  • contains a clear problem statement
  • describes the motivation for the undertaken research
  • describes the research context in which the study and the research questions are to be situated
  • gives an overview of the scope and objectives of the study
  • demonstrates why this study is innovative and original
  • introduces the main research question(s)
  • provides the reader with an overview or roadmap of the structure of the paper

The literature review:

  • is selective, synthetic, analytical, and relevant to the chosen topic
  • is comprehensive and based on recent and appropriate academic sources
  • demonstrates that the student has acquired a firm command of the most important literature on the subject
  • places the study conducted in a broader research context

The theoretical framework:

  • is presented demonstrating a solid grasp of the subject
  • is interpreted with appropriate insight and applied to the student’s own research setup
  • is appropriate and stands in balance to the research questions posed
  • proves that the student knows, covers, can interpret and can apply the relevant theoretical literature
  • proves that the student recognizes and understands the strengths and weaknesses of the chosen theoretical framework

The research questions and hypotheses:

  • are made explicit and are presented in a clear manner
  • follow logically from the literature review and the theoretical framework
  • are grounded in an appropriate scientific context
  • are relevant given the chosen theoretical framework
  • have the objective of making a significant contribution to the field

The methodology used:

  • appropriately addresses the research questions, and is appropriate within the theoretical framework discussed
  • is described in detail so that the study is replicable
  • demonstrates an understanding of how to apply relevant research methods, techniques, and analyses
  • proves that the student has a good understanding of the advantages and limitations of the chosen methodology

The presentation and discussion of the research findings:

  • summarizes all of the major findings
  • is set forth in a clear and logical manner
  • clearly aligns with the research questions and the hypotheses discussed
  • uses appropriate descriptive or inferential statistics
  • demonstrates the student’s scientific ingenuity and insight
  • makes clear that the amount and quality of data or information gathered is adequate

The discussion and conclusions of the study:

  • foreground and summarize the main results and insights of the study
  • place the proposed results and insights in a broader scientific perspective
  • explicitly link back to the research questions and hypotheses
  • frame the study within the discussed theoretical framework
  • are in balance with the actual results, and logically follow from them
  • bring all elements of the study together in a clear and synthetic manner
  • have an eye for the strengths and limitations of the study undertaken
  • discuss the implications of the study for the broader field, as well as possible applications (where relevant)
  • present avenues for future research

B. Form

Writing skills and style:

  • The work hardly contains any linguistic or typographical errors
  • The style and layout are of a good quality
  • The work is written in an appropriate academic register
  • The student uses appropriate academic jargon
  • Appropriate terminology is used frequently and accurately
  • The argumentation of the work is strongly constructed and logically structured
  • The individual chapters of the work together form a coherent whole

Sources, references and bibliography:

  • References in the text are consistent and in accordance with the conventions of the discipline (APA)
  • The format and structure of the bibliography is correct, consistent and follows the APA guidelines
  • All works referred to in the text are also mentioned in the bibliography, and can be easily located in the bibliography
  • The bibliography contains the most important and recent sources on the subject, and shows that the student has read up on the subject widely and thoroughly