Department of Government

Master Thesis 15 credits

Table of contents:

Essay-writing at the higher levels is largely work that is done privately in contact with a supervisor before consideration at a seminar. Information on the course and possible contact with the examiners, who in most cases are not the same people as the supervisors, is therefore not as easy to obtain as for the self-study courses. A good deal of information has been brought together on the department’s website in order to overcome some of these difficulties. This text contains a general presentation of the essay course. If you wish to know more about practical details or specific questions please click directly on one of the other links.

15 ECTS points – ten weeks

Ten weeks are allotted at the end of the term for essay-writing and public discussion, after alternative course and method (at the C level). But thinking about the essay ought to begin as early as possible. The students are recommended, even if it is not an absolute requirement, to read the alternative course best linked with the independent study that is envisaged and preferably proceed from some problem that it is dealt with in the literature. Placing the essay work after the course-reading makes it possible to focus both the substance course and the methodological discussions on the student’s future research project. This effort to get the student to think about the essay as early as possible does not mean that we expect the effective essay work to require a whole term; on the contrary, if there has been both mental and material preparation for the task it is quite possible and indeed normal to be able to write an essay in the last ten weeks of the term that will earn either a Pass or a Pass with Distinction.

Supervisor and supervisory guidance

The essay writer must have a supervisor. Basically all the department's lecturers who have defended a thesis may be supervisors. Doctoral students may also be appointed as supervisors. A few weeks before the essay course starts students should register their choice of essay subject by filling in a form.

In the form you should indicate which of the supervision seminars you like to attend and what your essay will be about. Then the department will ensure that you will get a supervisor when the essay course starts. A request for a particular supervisor may by all means be made but may not necessarily be granted. The student who has herself/himself established contact with a supervisor must state that in the form.

The lecturers are paid for their work as supervisors’ equivalent to 2.75 teaching hours/student, which is equal to 11 hours. The students need not therefore feel that they are "bothering" the supervisor, provided that they do not ask for substantially more attention than the time stated allows. As the supervision is provided alongside the lecturers' other duties, however, the supervisor cannot be expected to be available at all times, especially if the essay-writing takes longer than expected and guidance is sought in the "wrong term". Book a time unless the supervisor has a "reception time". At the first meeting times for two more meetings during the term ought to be arranged. Group supervision sessions are also possible.

There are no definite rules for the detailed content of the supervisory guidance; this is based on shared interest in the subject and relationships of trust, which can hardly be made the subject of an order. Normally however the student should be able to expect comment on prospective choice of subject, formulation of problems and choice of method. The supervisor should also assess and advise the student concerning the practicability of the task relative to the time allocated for writing the essay. However the student cannot normally expect the supervisor to read and comment on the finished essay. The supervisor is not to give a "green light" for public discussion at the seminar or to "guarantee" that the essay will pass. The examination is conducted by others, while the supervisor gives advice and assistance but does not take part in grading. The decision to present the essay for discussion at the seminar and responsibility for the final report rest with the student.

The essay

It is the quality of the essay, not its scope, that is assessed. Essays are seldom made better by being made longer. The length ought normally to be in the range 10 000-13 000 words, including notes and references. Essays much over the limit of 14 000 words are not accepted for consideration at the seminar. Addenda of a purely documentational nature, however, e.g. questionnaires or a central document, need not be counted. The upper limit to the volume is based on both a knowledge of what is required of enquiries and reports presented in the occupations for which we are giving training, and the requirement for concentration and stringency that is laid down in the scientific activity for which the essay is also a preparation. We do not require a larger research subject than can be reported on within the above-mentioned limits. A subject which is considered to require more space is probably too broad and should be further circumscribed. A considerably longer essay than the above-mentioned norm indicates a shortcoming – difficulty in specifying the task and concentrating on the essentials – rather than a merit.

The essay is expected to be neatly designed and linguistically correct. Method of quotation, presentation of notes, bibliographies and similar extraneous matters should be so well mastered at C/D level that the seminar discussion can concentrate on the factual content. If you are uncertain, study the methods of established scholars in scientific literature and journals. There is also a wealth of manuals on the basics of essay-writing, e.g. Sanne, Marika, "Skrivråd för statsvetare" (Studentlitteratur), which may be consulted. Our general advice in these matters is the diametric opposite to what applies in other scientific contexts: be conventional! Do not design your own forms of notation or arrangement. The best technical solutions are those that do not attract the reader’s attention, allowing interest to be concentrated on the essentials: the message of the essay.

There is no pattern authorized by science or by the department for how essays are to be arranged. We do not insist that the writer meticulously and almost mechanically ticks off predetermined subjects under specific headings. The stages in the method courses’ typical research process that need to be discussed depend on the problem being posed and the question that is to be answered. And where in the essay this discussion takes place – whether it is placed first under a separate heading or in the section of the text where it is relevant – is an educational question. A striving for clarity is the overriding concern.

The essay may be written in either Swedish or English.

An essay must have only one author. The grading relates to individual performances and from this it follows that these must be identifiable. This naturally does not prevent students from discussing each others’ ideas for essays or two or more students from collaborating on the collection of material where there are good reasons for such collaboration. However the reporting must be individual.

The seminars

Essays can be publicly discussed four times during the academic year, in September, January, March and May/June. During the “intermediate heat” in September and March, which thus falls at times when other courses are in progress, there is an opportunity for C/D level students beginning that term to attend some seminars in order to familiarize themselves with the seminar setting, and gain an impression of the appearance of essays, the general quality level and the questions normally dealt with. However this attendance is no longer counted towards the compulsory participation (see below).

NOTE! The January and June discussion is reserved first and foremost for those taking the course that term, i.e. completing the course in the "right term". Latecomers are referred to other times for discussion. Exceptions are made only for MFS students, who have done field work during the summer and cannot therefore be expected to have time to discuss their essay in September.

Application for public discussion of an essay must be made before a specific date (see your course timetable) and be made online. Don't forget to state name, personal identity number, title of essay and supervisor when you apply.

f for any reason you cannot be present at any particular time during the public discussion period this must be stated when applying; the public discussion timetable cannot be adjusted afterwards! These requests are treated as requests. It is not certain that they can be granted. The essay is to be handed in by uploading it on our website.

The upload is performed behind logging in. The public discussion timetable, with the exact times and places for each discussion, and also showing which essay you are to oppose, is available on this website.

At the time of handing in the essay a brief introduction is given to the seminars and to what should be borne in mind as author, opponent and participant in the seminar. Using the public discussion timetable on the Internet you can then click the name of the author to obtain the full text of the essay you want to discuss at the seminar. You will receive the essay you are to oppose directly and on paper at the time of handing in.

The seminars are compulsory. The students are divided into groups of about 15 and are expected to take an active part in the work of the group. The rapid increase in the number of essays has led to the compulsory attendance being limited to eight (8) seminars (seminars for both C- and D-students), including defence and opposition. There is therefore a certain freedom of choice but within the framework of membership of the group. Note that the former generous rule under which it was possible to go to seminars before or after the student’s own public discussion and have these counted towards the compulsory number has been withdrawn. Active participation must now be demonstrated in the group to which the student belongs for the student’s own examination.

Every essay will be discussed for a double hour. The main responsibility for what is discussed lies with the opponent, who should initially state which points he or she considers it most important to deal with. Everybody ought to take part in the discussion; the seminars are not a private matter involving opponent, author and lecturer before a passive audience! It is advisable to prepare at least one comment before each essay.

The student is not allowed to choose which essay to oppose. To facilitate accommodation of exchange students in our regular teaching, certain seminars are held in English. The student will be asked on application whether he or she can consider opposing (or defending) an essay in English. In this case the student’s wish not to oppose/defend an essay in English will be respected.


The grade for the course is a balancing of the components essay, defence of essay, opposition and active participation in the seminar discussion in general. This means that the seminars are not unimportant to the grading. The content of the essay naturally forms the core of the assessment, but the importance of opposition, defence and activity in general should not be underestimated. In particular, a good seminar contribution may help to raise the grade in situations where the essay as such does not fully meet the requirements for the grade that is being considered.

The grades awardable are the customary ones: Pass with distinction, Pass and Fail. Fail may require some form of additional contribution ("making up") or mean that there are such shortcomings that new seminar consideration of the essay is necessary. Make-up assignments will be specified and assessed by the lecturer who have taken part in the public discussion concerned. Additional tasks must be handed in not later than three months after the seminar; after this time new seminar consideration of the essay as a whole is necessary.

The author will be told whether the essay is satisfactory at the end of each seminar. The examiner is the ultimate grading authority.

D level

The foregoing also applies to D students with the following additions: the D course is strongly focused on research with the emphasis on problem statement and analysis in its own course memorandum and with stricter requirements regarding the quality of the essay. The higher requirements regarding the essay apply generally, and not in any specific respect, such as theoretical context or methodological sophistication. However the difference between the levels does not consist in the expectation that the D students will undertake more extensive investigations than those at C level; the instructions on the scope of the essay above apply irrespective of level.