The master’s thesis as a literature analysis or as an empirical study?

Which methodology is suitable for the Master thesis?

In the case of a master’s thesis, the question usually arises, together with the topic, which type of work is involved and which scientific research methodology leads to the goal. In other words, should it be a pure literary work or an empirically based scientific work?

Basically, this depends primarily on the chosen topic and the associated problem and the scientific interest in understanding. In addition, however, the instructions given by the chair in relation to a quantitative or qualitative method are decisive for the choice of method of investigation.

The question of the desired empirical investigation method is also essential for the selection of the suitable ghostwriter.

Literature-based master thesis

For example, in literature, theories are at the center of an analysis, i. Here theories serve not only as a means of describing and explaining empirical phenomena, but are themselves at the center of analysis.

The aim is to research relevant publications on the topic, to analyze and to provide their own critical classification and assessment of the selected theoretical approaches by means of e.g. to do a content analysis. In order to limit the subjectivity and arbitrariness of a literature search, this can be done by means of a systematic literature analysis (more on this in another article).

Empirical master thesis

Often, however, an empirical methodology is provided especially for master theses. Empiric means nothing more than gaining experience through a methodical-systematic collection or collection of data. In such a case, different methods are available. In principle, quantitative or qualitative methods are to be distinguished, which can also be used in combination in research practice.

Quantitative studies typically test known theories or hypotheses. Qualitative research designs are more likely to be used where there are only a few findings on the subject.

Basically, quantitative research is considered more object-related, i. it attempts to identify explanations and cause-and-effect relationships, while the qualitative approaches tend to be interpretive in order to facilitate subject-related understanding.


Let us first consider the quantitative methods. At the beginning there is the development of concrete theory-based hypotheses, which are operationalized, quantified and subsequently statistically evaluated. Phenomena have to be described in the most objective way in the form of models, contexts and, in particular, numbers, in order to discover and make verifiable fundamental laws and relationships.

A quantitative study design includes both sample selection, data collection (measurement) itself and analysis (analysis) of the data. A central prerequisite for this is the so-called “operationalization”, i. it is about making the concepts contained in the hypothesis “measurable”. To what extent the operationalization meets the scientific quality requirements is expressed by the classical “quality criteria” objectivity, reliability and validity.

The evaluation of quantitative examinations is usually carried out by descriptive statistical methods, e.g. Frequency distributions / distributions, correlations, multivariate analysis methods, etc., which in turn requires a corresponding qualification of the subject or its ghostwriters.

Qualitative procedure

In contrast, qualitative characteristics compared to quantitative methods have the following characteristics:

a) The aim of the qualitative process research process is not the testing of precisely formulated theories and hypotheses. Rather, in qualitative research, based on general theoretical assumptions, concrete categories and theoretical assumptions are developed only with the aid of empirical data.

b) The data will not be collected in a standardized way using special measuring instruments, but through “open procedures” (for example, semi-structured expert interviews), which may result in poorly structured transcriptions or video recordings.

c) These data are evaluated not by statistical methods but by interpretive and categorizing methods. There are also various evaluation methods available (for example, Mayring).

The aim of qualitative procedures is therefore a precise description of complex relationships or processes. Depending on the question, different research designs (eg cross-section, intervention), different survey instruments (eg written or oral interviews, document analysis, case studies) may be used. For final papers, questionnaire surveys and / or (expert) interviews will usually be the method of choice.

Which procedures are used in a particular case must be decided against the background of the intended interest in cognition. Here it is particularly important that it does not remain with a mere accumulation of case descriptions, such as the person interviewed and their statements. Raw data of all kinds (interviews, observation protocols, text documents, etc.) are not yet a result, but always require interpretation and subsequent theoretical classification.

The interpretation of empirical data

Whether quantitatively or qualitatively – an empirical work is not completed with the presentation of the findings. Rather, it requires an interpretive discussion of the findings described above in order to clarify what they actually mean and to classify them in the scientific discussion.

In this case, a link should also be made, in particular with the assumptions made in the theoretical part of the thesis (reference questions) in order to interpret the findings accordingly. The discussion should not exclude a critical reflection of the own research process in order to explore possible generalizations and a transferability of the developed findings.

Our ghostwriters and statistical experts are available for any questions concerning the empirical design of your bachelor thesis, master thesis or dissertation. We are happy to advise you in advance which methodology as well as the survey and evaluation method will fit your topic and your question.

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