How to oppose and defend a master thesis

welcome to this master thesis defense seminar at loons University’s Department of Sociology we’re going to show you today both how to defend your master thesis and how to act as an opponent within a thesis defense the example we’ll be using is Tolia jacks master thesis entitled nobody was dirty disrupting in conspicuous consumption and laundry routines normally the first word in the defense will go to the author who will have a chance to mention any omissions or printing errors that came out in the latest version of the text then we will hand it to our opponent henrietta s hould who will start with a summary of the thesis followed by specific questions then there will be a discussion that will go back and forth between the opponent and the author this is an example of a thesis defense conducted in the right way so I don’t have too much to add before we get started there’s a spelling error on page seven and another couple on 14 and 21 and a few of the page numbers dropped from my references but I’ve taken note of this and it will be updated in the final printed copy overall I was pretty happy with how it turned out and I’m really looking forward to hearing your questions and comments I’ve read your thesis and prepared my evaluation of it firstly I will shortly summarize the thesis then I’ll go through it and then I’ll give my feedback on the strengths and weaknesses then you will have the opportunity to respond to my comments and I’ll follow the structure of the thesis starting with aims methods discussion and conclusion and finally I’ll comment on the entire thesis and its applicability to sociological knowledge sounds fantastic you investigate why we was so much using mixed methods surveys and action based research you draw on social practice theory to interpret your data and show ways that your findings relate to a broader sociological understandings of the world I found it easy to relate to your questions and you actually made me think about how much I was my own genes did I miss anything no that was a great summary thank you okay let’s begin your aim was to discover ways of reducing resource intensity in everyday life more specifically you were interested in ways that collective conventions shape social practices looking at laundering yeah that was my final aim we’re clear about the same from the beginning or did it develop the further you got into the research well actually when I started I was more interested in sustainable fashion but the further I got into the reading the more I realized that the biggest environmental impact was in the use phase how we wash and care for our clothes so then I became more interested in use phase and of course people and the social meaning around cleanliness to address your aim you have chosen a mixed method and approach you’ve gathered data through and surveys interviews action research and auto ethnography could you reflect on how you found these methods work together I wanted to explore my research question from as many angles as possible and to do this I started with a survey to give a base kind of description of what was actually going on and then on that I wanted to get a little bit deeper and find out more about the meanings and understandings around cleanliness and that’s where the interviews and the auto ethnography came in I did end up with quite a lot of data but I was able to organize it somewhat using invivo software analysis and that helped me also to kind of identify some of the different commonalities but why haven’t you more actively incorporated your own experiences of wearing the jeans in your analysis and make yourself an object of investigation observation and reflection that’s a great point I did keep a diary when I was doing the study which I incorporated into my favorite database but you’re at I could have made that a lot more active in the discussion section and how did you develop your questioner to start off with I looked at the government Bureau of Statistics to find out what kinds of questions they were asking in similar research areas and then from those questions I developed some of my own to answer my own questions I tested those questions on 10 of my classmates and then I actually had to clarify them a little bit so they were easier to answer and after that I was ready to get going okay then when you went and to analyze the data why did you stop at univariate analysis couldn’t further statistical analysis have helped you to explore your question and for example them it could have been interesting to compare the question how often do you wash your jeans with the question how important is sustainability to you yeah that would have been super interesting and I would have loved to do further statistical analysis given more time and I guess at the same time if I had a focus more on the quantitative data I might have ended up in a whole new direction with a different thesis as it is the quantitative part lays the foundation for the further deeper qualitative investigation which is more pertinent to the kinds of questions I ended up asking your thesis is quite empirical do you think more deeply developed theorists section could have helped to improve the applicability of what you’ve written absolutely that’s something I wish I’d spent much more time on instead of focusing so much on the empirics but you did relate your findings to social practice theory use in Paju and giddons how did you find your soles fitted in with this framing when I first started writing my discussion section I found it really hard to find any patterns and it was a little bit all over the place but after then going back to the theory and looking at my data with the lens of social practice theory I found it much easy to identify patterns instead of looking at individuals I looked at objects like jeans washing machines and powders skills knowing when and how to wash and social understandings like wanting to fit in and not wanting to offend colleagues social pressures became much more obvious and I found it easier to identify ideas of what was normal and where they came from moving forward through our analysis section you’ll find that people are washing because of social pressure rather than physical needs and start exploring this idea of collective conventions what do you mean by that in my interview one thing I heard over and over again was that people weren’t washing because of physical things like dirt or smell but rather some underlying feeling that they should people were actually washing quite a lot without being able to explain exactly how this added any benefit to their life that made me think that there was some common denominator some shared understanding about what people should do that had quite a lot of agency and what people did do interesting thank you I’ve also made some small suggestions with the grammar and formatting which I’ll email to you overall I found the flow in logical and your thesis was well-written and engaging to read and did you have any specific questions no you give me plenty to think about thank you thank you and all the best with your final edits we’ve just enjoyed a master thesis defense seminar at loons University’s Department of Sociology our opponent has just gone through the different parts of the thesis highlighting their strengths and weaknesses our author responded to the opponent’s questions and highlighted her own view of the thesis at this point we would normally pass the discussion on to the audience giving them a chance to ask questions in this very positive example the opponent asked her questions in a way that was very structured and diplomatic and she provided us with the context which showed us how answering those questions could improve this thesis she also listened to the author’s responses the author showed us her very specific scientific reasoning behind her research choices her responses to the opponent were reflective communicative without being defensive what we’ve seen was a professional discussion that was content focused and helped everyone understand the scientific reasoning behind the thesis in the second example we’re going to show you a master thesis seminar conducted in a less ideal way I don’t have really anything to add before we get started I’ve read it a couple of times and I’m pretty sure there are no mistakes I was pretty happy with how it turned out so yeah well I’ve read your thesis and it was interesting reading and you did some interviews and some surveys also I think you engage people in wearing the same pair of jeans for three months and then you try to link your empirical material to textbooks from our classes and that seems nice and it’s probably valid because we took this sociology course together your conclusion is that the pupil was the jeans too much and shouldn’t was that jeans what is it yeah pretty much on the other hand I thought it was a little all over the place and some parts didn’t make any sense at all and you used a lot of really complicated concepts really yeah like social practice theory yeah I was also a little bit confused by that my professor thought it was a good idea they actually thought I should read a book by Amanda cadence but it was out of the library so I got one by her brother Anthony okay but what about this idea of structuration of social practices governing resource consumption what do you mean by that um which pages that on oh yeah well I guess that Giddins I wrote about sustainability and he is a sociologist right and plus I reference with a page number so that’s totally okay right and then on page 23 when you analyze just surveys why did you only use univariate analysis what do you mean by univariate analysis didn’t you take a course on quantitative methods I mean why didn’t you control for factors like age and gender ah yeah I took quantitative methods but I didn’t really get how to use SPSS um I used YouTube videos to make those graphs but didn’t you discuss how the methods interacted with each other mmm not really I didn’t think it was that important and what was your aim with your study ah well I was pretty much trying to make fashion more sustainable but I changed my mind the week before and in the end it says here on page 34 that I tried to understand everyday life and collective conventions okay um that wasn’t so clear from what I read also I couldn’t really understand how you collected the data and you didn’t have any method section what did you know I thought we could just talk about that here because I did so much work I thought it would take ages to write about so I did 256 interviews and then I transcribed them but actually I recorded them first and transcribe them afterwards and then I put them into nvivo but then I also did interviews yeah that’s what I meant that I transcribed I transcribed 31 interviews but then I did 256 surveys and I also wore my jeans myself and then I put all of that into nvivo but also this other Facebook group thing and I did some web articles as well have you guys heard about in vivo it’s like this great data analysis software um so that was that but I’ve got a feeling I forgot something okay that’s quite a lot of data to put together and how did you find any coherence well I just like with my gut feeling but how did you show how your discussion relates to the data well actually I used grounded theory so that means you can just go in and make some observations on the ground and then theorize about them and that’s what I did okay I think maybe we have different views on grounded theory and so what can we learn from your study well we wash too much and nothing bad happens if we don’t wash being clean is just a social construct yeah I guess so you’re also a bit messy with your formatting and the funky use was too fancy and you kept changing reference style and look at this page in 64 here you have two different funds and it seemed it just seems like you have you cut and pasted from somewhere else okay I’ll fix it it doesn’t really make a difference okay okay but but actually it was it was really good it was a really nice reading and yeah good good job thank you this example shows how a master thesis defense seminar should not be conducted there was no clear structure in the questioning we did not get a clear idea of what the thesis was about and the focus was more on trivial details than unimportant content the tone was sometimes too aggressive and at other times it was superficially positive and again not content focused the language of both the opponent and the author could have been more professional the author in her answers was vague and uninterested and she could not clarify some key ideas in her master thesis she sometimes relied on appeals to authorities such as my supervisor told me so instead of explaining her scientific reasoning we hope that this video helps you prepare for your master thesis defense seminar good luck to you you

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