Once you have aroused interest in the introduction, it is important to follow this roadmap in such a way that your examiner also gets to read exactly what he or she expects after reading your pitch. The primary purpose of the main part is to present your research results. In scientific work, however, this is never isolated from the current state of research, but always embedded in the thematic context and in relation to what others have already found out. The best way to approach the perfect layout of the main part is to imagine the construction of a two-storey, basement house.
The theory = the cellar
You start your “house building” in the basement. The basic or theoretical chapter forms the foundation of your master’s thesis. Here you have the opportunity to define all terminology and present central theories that are relevant to your further research. The basement has all the background knowledge the reader needs to understand your later analysis and results. Make sure to direct the reader back to your research question in the theory section, in order to keep the red thread in the reader’s presence. (Why is this definition needed to answer your research question?)
The current state of research = the ground floor
Once you have laid the theoretical foundations, you will illuminate the status quo of research in your subject area. What other authors have already published on this topic? Present the contents of previous studies and put them into context, for example by comparing them. No master’s thesis works without dealing with already published results. They are the basis for what you will find out in your work.
The methodology = the upper floor
Now your house is growing – you start to work out your own research results. In order for the reader to understand your findings and to classify them in terms of content, you need to shed light on the context in which they were created. In this part, you will explain in detail your approach by naming and discussing the applied research methodology, your data sources, data structures, and analysis techniques. Only in this way can your supervisor view your results in the overall context and assess the quality of your work.
The results = the roof
With the presentation of your research results you complete the main part – the house is complete. It is important that you not only name but also interpret your results. Which answers to your original research question deliver the results? And how do you enrich the research in your subject area? Draw logical conclusions and emphasize only those points that actually affect your research question.
3. The conclusion: The circle closes
The structure of your master’s thesis is perfect if the introduction and the conclusion are intertwined like gears and all the research questions raised in the introduction are answered in the final section (based on the results presented in the main section). The applied methodology is also included in the conclusion. For the purpose of a resume is also to critically question one’s own approach and the results of the content. Try to think outside the box: what alternative conclusions could be made, what other methods might have led to similar or different findings? Is there a need for further research in this field? Which questions might still be open or have emerged from working on the topic? Of what use are your results for the world? The perfect conclusion provides compressed information about the quintessence of your work and reflects the entire methodical and content-related work process.
Enough theory – time for an example
In the picture you can see how all these tips can be put into practice. For example, we have created a sample outline for a master’s thesis on “Major sporting events in emerging countries: curse or blessing?”. The content of this fictive writing project can of course be argued, but the example shows how the questions “what?”, “Why?” And “why”? in the introduction in the point “problem formulation and objective”, while “how” is treated in the point “methodical approach”. The main part was created and arranged according to the cottage method. The conclusion also follows the logic described above, including summary, critical reflection, and outlook.