Clinical Master Thesis

In the following section, you can read some of basic aspects of writhing your Master Thesis in the Clinical Master Important: please consult this website regularly, since it will frequently be updated and expanded.

In the following section, you can read some of basic aspects of writhing your Master Thesis in the Clinical Master

Important: please consult this website regularly, since it will frequently be updated and expanded.

OVERVIEW

In many ways, the Master Thesis ‘crowns’ your studies in clinical psychology. It will earn you 20.0 ECTS, and in addition allows you to apply the research skills that you have acquired so far to the broad field of clinical psychology. Also, these skills will be considerably furthered, culminating in a Master Thesis report and possibly even in a scientific journal publication.

TOPICS

A broad range of topics is available that stem from the Master Thesis supervisors’ own research interests. Some topics concern research questions that are well circumscribed from the start. Other topics are more broadly defined and leave room for further specification of the research questions in line with your specific interests or with the then most recent research findings on the topic (for instance obtained in an ongoing Master Thesis).

In general, students should choose from the available topics. This ensures expert supervision and a research question that is both feasible and relevant to the topic. It is possible for students to suggest a research question that is outside the range of available topics, but it is then your own responsibility to find a teacher who is willing to supervise your Master Thesis. Under no circumstances teachers are obliged to supervise a Master Thesis that is outside their research interests or expertise.

Your research method should be empirical (based on observation) and quantitative (as opposed to qualitative), and incorporate statistical procedures that go well beyond mere descriptive analyses of the data. This includes systematic meta-analytic, but not qualitative literature reviews. Preferably, specific hypotheses are formulated and tested, but sound explorative research is permitted.

The above requirements allow for a broad range of topics, including for instance neuroimaging studies in clinical subjects as well as psychometric evaluations of questionnaires. Some topics will require the collection of new data, while others will make use of existing databases. Both will entail their own learning opportunities as well as limitations and difficulties, but each is allowed.

PROCEDURE

At the beginning of each semester (September and February), a plenary opening lecture is held for all Master Students in clinical psychology that start their Master Thesis that semester. The lecture will introduce these students to the general procedures for the Master Thesis. Some time before the lecture, the topic descriptions for that semester will be made available here: [in future insert link to Blackboard?]. You are encouraged to study these descriptions before the lecture. After the lecture, Master Thesis supervisors will briefly present their topics, and are available for questions and further discussion. Students and supervisors are free to schedule further meetings to discuss specific topics. Within the next week however, you are required to have chosen a topic and to have been accepted by a supervisor, who will then pass on your name to the Master Thesis coordinator. Attendance at the lecture and presentations is therefore absolutely neccessary for students who start their Master Thesis that semester.

The time and location of the lecture and presentations will be announced on Blackboard and through your U-mail account. For students in clinical psychology who start their Master Thesis in January or September, a opening lecture will be held in the first starting weeks of the semester. Master Thesis supervisors will subsequently present their topics then.

Other than the opening lecture and presentations at the beginning of each semester, there are no additional plenary lectures or classes. Students and supervisors will meet individually, according to their own planning.

PLANNING

Under normal circumstances, it should be possible to complete your Master Thesis within one year, and students are strongly encouraged to do so. If a longer duration is expected by the Master Thesis supervisor, this will be indicated on the topic descriptions available. Nevertheless, students are advised to explicitly and continuously monitor and discuss the planning with their supervisor, as early as in the first meeting, to be able to make informed decisions all the way. Despite all precautions, unforeseen circumstances might delay your thesis, e.g. difficulties in data collection. Careful planning will reduce this as much as possible. To further facilitate completion of your thesis in time, a time limit is placed on the first phase of the Master Thesis, i.e. writing the Master Thesis proposal (see below). Since this involves literature study, formulating of research question and hypotheses, and developing the research methods, the writing of a thesis proposal does not depend on data collection. It should therefore be possible to complete the Master Thesis proposal regardless of the planning of the second phase of the Master Thesis (i.e. the actual data collection).

MASTER THESIS PROPOSAL

The first stage of your Master Thesis will involve the writing of a Master Thesis proposal. The proposal should describe the research questions and hypotheses and their background, as well as the methods used to answer these research questions. As such, the proposal forms the basis for what later will be the Introduction and Methods sections of your Master Thesis report (or journal article). The Master Thesis proposal should cover no more than five pages and include the following elements:

  1. Title page The title page should include your name and student number, supervisor’s name, date, and a tentative title.   
  2. Introduction The introduction should describe the current theoretical and empirical state of affairs that led up to your research questions. Also, describe the theoretical and/ or practical significance of the research, and its position within the broader field of clinical psychology. Give definitions and descriptions of concepts and variables relevant to your research questions. Conclude the introduction with clearly stating the actual research questions and hypotheses (testable predictions). These should logically follow from theoretical notions and/ or empirical findings described earlier.
  3. Methods The methods section should describe the research design of your study (e.g. experimental, quasi-experimental, observational). Also, it should describe the study population (e.g. inclusion and exclusion criteria, required number of participants) and how participants are recruited. Next, make clear how the research variables are operationalized (e.g. interviews or self report questionnaires and their relevant psychometric characteristics, performance on memory or other experimental tasks). Describe the actual research procedures (e.g. setting of the research, experimental procedures and instructions). Conclude with a description of the statistical methods that you’ll use to analyse the data.   Please consider and discuss with your Master Thesis supervisor whether your Master Thesis proposal might have to be submitted to an Institutional Review Board for ethical approval, and describe this in the Methods section of the proposal.
  4. Planning The Master Thesis proposal should include a detailed and realistic planning of the various research activities, ranging from the recruitment of participants to submission of the final Master Thesis report to the reviewer.
  5. Budget This part of the Master Thesis proposal is optional, but mandatory if you plan to request financial support from the Daily Board (DB). Keep in mind that the DB will not consider compensation of costs that are not included in the budget. Requests for compensation will only be considered before the start of the research. There is no guarantee that a request for compensation will be granted. In principle, students are responsible for any financial costs that their Master Thesis might entail.
  6. References Conclude the Master Thesis proposal with a list of References. Ensure that the list of References as well as the text references accurately follow the relevant APA guidelines.   The exact contents of the proposal of course depends on the research questions and methods, and will be the result of discussions between you and your supervisor. Variations on the above guidelines are therefore possible. Stated more generally, your Master Thesis proposal should make clear that your research questions are relevant to the field of clinical psychology, and that the proposed research methods will enable you to answer the research questions.

APPROVAL OF THE MASTER THESIS PROPOSAL

After your Master Thesis proposal has been approved by your Master Thesis supervisor, you can submit the proposal by email to the Master Thesis coordinator (giezen@fsw.leidenuniv.nl). The coordinator will assign your proposal to a reviewer. The reviewer will (1) approve your proposal, or (2) suggest modifications to the proposal before giving approval. In the latter case, you will have to (1) revise and resubmit the proposal in line with the suggested modifications, or (2) convince the reviewer that suggested modifications are unnecessary and/ or suggest alternative modifications. In all cases, you should obtain the reviewer’s explicit approval of the (revised) Master Thesis proposal before proceeding with collecting and analyzing the data. If you don’t, you run the risk that your final Master Thesis report will later reveal flaws in the research design that are, at that stage, beyond repair and will negatively influence your grading.

Please allow two weeks between submission of the Master Thesis proposal (and each revised version) to the coordinator and receiving feedback from the reviewer.

EXAMINATION

Your Master Thesis should result in a Master Thesis report, that you should submit to the same reviewer who has approved your Master Thesis proposal. The report can be replaced by a manuscript that is submitted for review to a peer reviewed scientific journal, as evidenced by the cover letter that accompanied the manuscript to the journal’s Editor. The manuscript should identify you as the first author.   Your supervisor and reviewer should then reach agreement on the grading of your Master Thesis. The grading will depend heavily on the quality of the Master Thesis report or the submitted journal manuscript, but can also include other aspects of your functioning. Your grade should be 6 or higher for you to pass this subject.

MASTER THESIS COORDINATOR

For issues that are not described here, please contact the Master Thesis coordinator. The Master Thesis coordinator for clinical psychology students is dr. A. van Giezen. A face-to-face or telephone appointment for her consulting hours (Wednesdays 13.00-14.00) can be made through the secretariat (room 2B57, phone 071-5273726 or 071-5273754). Please consult the above information before making an appointment.

Last Modified: 04-03-2009