Empirical Bachelor Thesis: Now it’s becoming Statistical … If you are facing a bachelor’s or master’s thesis, a fundamental question arises. Is writing a theoretical or an empirical work? Of course, it depends on the discipline, the formal requirements and the exact topic. Some are very well suited for empirical investigations, others less so. Nevertheless one expects today at least a small practical part in scientific works. What this means and how to meet this requirement, we explain in this article.
Empirical Bachelor Thesis: Theoretical vs. empirical work
What exactly is the difference between a theoretical and an empirical bachelor thesis? According to Duden, theoretically “means the theory of something”. In contrast, empirically means “gained from experience, observation”.
If you write a theoretical bachelor thesis, you do not collect any data yourself. Rather, one resorts to already existing material. That does not mean, however, that this variant is less demanding. After all, one has to use the existing data in a certain way to close a research gap. Nevertheless the Duden lists as synonyms for “theoretically” the terms “abstract”, “speculative” and “unfamiliar with practice”. For many, this has a negative connotation and they prefer to opt for a more active, more practical research method. However, one must remember that the decision for the method always depends on the question. Personal preferences should not really matter.
Anyone who writes an empirical bachelor thesis uses specially collected data. This has the advantage that you do not have to rely on other researchers, and can carry out the study according to their own ideas. However, it must also be clear that an empirical bachelor thesis thus means considerably more expenditure of time. Therefore, one should consider whether the project is worth this effort. For example, a large-scale study with hundreds of participants would be disproportionate for an empirical bachelor thesis. Here one can think about using a mix of theoretical and empirical elements. Especially in qualitative social research, one often carries out a small-scale interview or observation. In a master’s thesis or dissertation that looks quite different. Since a certain amount of practical work is often required even for existence.
In general, however, one can not avoid the theory in an empirical work. Here, too, one must be able to know and apply the state of research as well as basic theories and concepts in which one’s own research is embedded.
What are the possibilities of an empirical bachelor thesis?
At the beginning of an empirical bachelor thesis there is an overarching question. To answer this research question, you collect data and interpret it as you go about your work. There are many ways to get there. As a researcher, you can, for example, make observations, conduct individual interviews or group discussions, conduct experiments and tests, or conduct surveys. The first three examples are used more in qualitative analysis and research, the others in quantitative analysis. Which method you choose depends largely on the topic and scope of the work. For theses, it is advisable to discuss in good time with your supervisor, usually a lecturer.
It is important for all methods that they correspond to the quality criteria of empirical social research. The procedure and the results must always be systematic, true, objective and comprehensible. It does not make sense to observe people aimlessly or to question them arbitrarily. Every step must be documented and substantiated from the beginning. So: who or what should be questioned, observed or tested and why? To what extent does this approach serve to answer the research question? Which theoretical assumptions support the project? How exactly is the data collected and evaluated? If you perform a computer-aided data analysis and use special software, you can identify its evaluations in an appendix. Thus, the professional audience receives the greatest possible transparency of the research process.
The construction of an empirical bachelor thesis
It is important that you do not lose the formal overview of all these requirements for an empirical bachelor thesis. Because every research achievement is only as good as it is documented. One should therefore stick to a rough, formal structure when writing. This should be based on the practical procedure.
At the beginning the research question is mentioned in the introduction and its background is explained. This can be classically derived from detailed literature research. Also interesting are current events such as a political event or a social debate. Afterwards one should reflect the current state of research on the topic. Who has already dealt with this question, against what background, with what result? Which questions have not yet been asked, which aspects have not yet been investigated?
In the next step, these are hypothesized, which you want to check in the course of the research. The goal here, of course, is that the empirical bachelor thesis closes a gap in research. The reasoning and derivation of the scientific hypotheses should also be discussed here. Also, a short overview of the selected method can already be given.
How the main part is applied exactly, however, should only be shown in the middle part of the empirical work. This is called operationalization. In the process, specific questions about the number of participants, questionnaires, examination fields, locations, procedures, etc. are clarified. The evaluation procedure must also be defined here.
Following this, the exact procedure is documented and the results of the study are interpreted. One should always refer to the previously established hypotheses. This is a red thread, both for yourself and for the reader. For quantitative data, you should also pay attention to good formatting of graphics and tables to illustrate the results.
In conclusion, one must finally confirm or refute the hypotheses. However, it is not enough to just make a statement. You always have to work close to the data, justify conclusions and reflect. The work concludes with a summary and an outlook. In particular, there is room for unanswered questions or questions that have raised the research results. In addition one should not miss it at the end of the writing process, to treat oneself a proofreading of the bachelor thesis. Otherwise all the trouble was in vain.
An empirical work causes a lot of extra work compared to a theoretical one. You should not underestimate the time you need to do your own study. The planning and, if necessary, consultation with lecturers or supervisors may also be protracted. Particularly with bachelor theses, for which one has usually only about three months time, this expenditure hardly pays off. Here, a mixed methods approach would be more useful. Wherever practical research is possible and feasible, it is only recommended. But the commitment that you put into an empirical work will already attract the attention of the examiners. In general, research that includes a practical part is a high priority in science.