Finding a topic for a thesis is often a difficult and lengthy affair. Once a topic has been found and accepted by both sides, students often have a hasty tendency to work on content without worrying about the limitations and context of their small project. Here we recommend the use of selected project management methods.
In a kick-off meeting, the supervisor should act like an internal client and set the framework for the small project. The communication of the benefit of the result is of central importance. To enable the creation of a project order, a project delimitation and context definition can be carried out together (at least in a first version).
Project delimitation and context definition
The following dimensions should be considered
Think in advance of what the result of the small project should be and what should be "processed" in the final thesis. This facilitates the creation of goals and not goals. Show students the requirements of the university or college.
Help define a realistic time frame for the small project. Students often "badly" use the process of a case study or expert interviews and therefore set unrealistic time limits. Here you can take countermeasures from the beginning.
The contract represents the finalized result of the project delineation and context definition. It should also be written in the execution of theses as a small project. The following information should at least be included:
After the project definition and context definition has been carried out, some project management methods are used by the student to make the topic and the context visible. The following methods are recommended.
Theses involve a variety of stakeholders. The application of a stakeholder analysis supports the visualization of this and the subsequent communication planning. The description of the relationship and the analysis of the expectations of the individual stakeholders gives students an indication of the intensity of the communication. Above all, building relationships with (perhaps initially unknown) stakeholders is a great learning experience for students. Above all, the so-called stakeholder matrix is well suited for students with little or no project experience. The clear cluster facilitates the further planning of measures.
Stakeholders analyzed in the stakeholder matrix are described in detail, expectations are analyzed and measures are defined. The visualization of the cluster helps the student to define the appropriate measures.
One of the main reasons for the delay in finalizing theses is the late contacting of relevant stakeholders such as case study firms or experts. Through the visualization of the stakeholders, students have to deal with communication planning at an early stage and can start processes on time. The communication and the effort with representatives of case study companies is often underestimated by students.
The definition of delivery objects, or in other words results and intermediate results, helps the students to concentrate on the essentials. One main result, the final thesis itself, is a central and therefore visible result for students. Other results or interim results, such as literature analysis, case studies, must be explicitly made visible. The objects can be displayed in a list or mind map.
The intermediate results must be scheduled in the scheduling! This is very well suited to the milestone plan or schedule.
Especially with formal objects such as a plagiarism check they can give valuable input.
At the end of the planning, the time frame must be deposited by means of a schedule. As already discussed in the context of time, the fulfillment of the small project is not only the "writing" of the thesis, but also includes other work such as correcting or printing the work. Below is a skeleton of appointments shown, this can be extended as desired.
The perception of project coordination and controlling is an important task for projects. For final theses, a quality check of the progress of the work and the appointment controlling are often in the foreground. The project coordination happens constantly. As a small project, the project controlling is less pronounced. Central here, however, are the voting meetings between the supervisor and the student. Central to this is therefore the cyclical reflection of the results of the thesis.
If an accompanying seminar for the preparation of the bachelor's or master's thesis is carried out, the controlling can be reported by means of PowerPoint presentation. This results in a constructive exchange between the students, which has a positive effect on the progress of the research process. Similar or similar questions are discussed in the group and collaborative solutions developed.
An important task in project controlling is the implementation of social project controlling. Cooperation with key stakeholders (case study companies) should be constantly reflected. Social project controlling therefore consists of two tasks. On the one hand, the (mostly external) stakeholder relationships and the defined measures are reflected. Changes in the stakeholder matrix are recognized at an early stage. Furthermore, measures taken may not be "effective" or "inappropriate" for certain stakeholder groups.
The second task is the reflection of internal stakeholders. For these, different methods such as e.g. the flashlight ("what has happened since last XX?") or the mood barometer applied.
In addition to the quality controlling, an appointment and a controlling of the goals and expected results should be carried out together with the student.
Project plans are not "set in stone". Support your students in the adaptation of the plans. The adaptation of measures to the current situation is an essential learning experience for the future work in companies.
The degree does not only include the submission of the bachelor or master thesis, but also the control of whether the goals have been achieved and all agreed results have been realized. In this process, open (pending) activities are discussed and a plan for implementation is created. The original project plans should be revised again to document how the small project has ended. The collected plans can be made visible as part of the thesis.
An important method is the dissolution or transition of important stakeholder relationships. Students are often unaware that they need to explicitly break the relationship with companies and / or experts. This includes, for example, a thank you and, if agreed, the provision of the thesis.
Lessons learned should also be reflected together with the students. Students can use the documentation of their Lessons Learned as part of their thesis, document it and take action if necessary. This reflection may be done in a final presentation during an attending seminar.
Gather stakeholder relationships of your students. You may be allowed to use company contacts for further theses, or you may use the contacts for expert interviews. Future students with less good contacts can access their network.
It is important that the contacts are officially handed over to them as a supervisor and the companies or experts agree to be contacted for further theses
During the Lessons Learned, take note of the difference between Lessons Learned concerning their care process and Lessons Learned which the student draws from carrying out his or her project.