Master's Thesis Seminar (TIES501) at JYU/MIT

Table of Contents

1 General course information

  • The seminar TIES501 aims to support your work on master's thesis
  • 5-credit mandatory course = 133 hours of work
  • graded with pass/fail

To pass:

  • Do the required tasks: 1) abstract-task, 2) introduction-task 3) method-related reading tasks and 4) presentation-task. See instructions and deadlines below in Tasks section.
  • Attend ALL general sessions during the beginning half of the seminar (other than presentations). See session details in Korppi.
  • Attend at least half of the presentation sessions
  • Show half-way progress with your thesis (if this is later than the seminar end date, ask your thesis supervisor to email a note to the seminar teacher)
  • Should there be exceptions, e.g., a session not mandatory to attend, this will be announced by email
  • (Note: there are a couple of compensation tasks available for force majeure absences)

Notice that:

2 Thesis topic and supervision

  • You must have a thesis topic and supervisors agreed as you start in the seminar.
  • Assign supervisors for your thesis by discussing with personnel, e.g. with the professor in charge of your study line. You can ask the seminar teacher about potential supervisors for your thesis.
  • The topic usually relates to on-going research at the department, proposals of companies, or personal interests and hobbies.
  • Get your topic accepted by the professor of your study line, e.g, through the assigned supervisors.
  • Ensure that your topic will be initiated in the Korppi system by your supervisors. This is a good way to ensure that your topic has been accepted. It is also recommended that you write notes of the supervision sessions into Korppi to facilitate the supervision process.
  • During the first seminar week, add a short text file into Optima (e.g. ville-isomottonen.txt) , into folder `Topic and supervisors'. State your thesis topic and superviors in this file.
  • Try to work in a continuous manner (regularly), and show your work to supervisors on regular basis.
  • Master's thesis is usually a monograph, while a research article or a compilation of few articles is also a possible format: agree on the applicable format with your supervisors; agree on the amount of articles with your supervisors and the professor of your study line.

3 Tools

  • Latex documentation preparation system is often used at our department, an appropriate document class file is found at
  • Target questions and problems with the latex class file to
  • CHARRA remote machine has all the necessary latex packages installed, you are thus ready to go if working on the remote machine.
  • Preferably, install latex packages into you personal computer.
  • If you prefer Microsoft Word, pick up the appropriate style temlate (.dot) at
  • Target possible questions and problems with the Word template to
  • Use reference management tools/systems such as bibsonomy or citeyoulike (highly recommended by me)!
  • I recommend the use of a reference management system (EndNote?) also with Word!
  • Version control system will help your work a lot! Consider using Git ( and YouSource (
  • Prepare you environment immediately after the first seminar session!

4 How the research process starts

One, and the traditional, view of the beginning of the research process is displayed in Figure below (see e.g. Jenkins 1985 "Research methodologies and MIS research"). The research starts from an idea which then requires literature searches such that the researcher is able to develop an understanding of how this idea relates to existing research. Through the literature searches the idea may need to be elaborated to a more fresh and informed form as compared with the previous research. Finally, this leads to the formulation of an informed research topic, which is again followed by considerations on appropriate research strategy and design. For instance, the researcher may need to decide whether a qualitative or quantitative study would address the research problem, or what kind of experimentation and data collection methods would be appropriate. There are also other rather different approaches, e.g. the classic grounded theory method, in which there is no strategic literature searches at the beginning, to allow fresh emergent perspectives to arise from the data.


5 A head start to writing issues

Read the instructions and the example for the seminar task1 below in this site.

A guideline for a well-structured abstract:

  • bring the reader into the research domain,
  • state the research objective clearly
  • try to motivate the research (could also be a second item, before the research objective)
  • outline the research approach taken, and,
  • for our purposes, describe expected results.

6 Lecture materials

6.1 Writing issues

Various issues on academic writing are pointed out in these slides: writing issues

6.2 Working with the literature

6.2.1 Search engines and digital libraries

Use the known search engines such as Google Scholar, and the engines of the computing related associations:

Through explorative searches (e.g., by using Google Scholar), try to come to know the keywords that are used in the research literature with respect to your research topic. This will then help in finding the relevant references.

Journals to which JYU has online access are listed by the library's Nelli service. Try to identify (with the help of you supervisors) the journals and conference series that relate to your research topic, and use Nelli for access when necessary:

Once you know the relevant journals, use also the specific search engines found in the journals' sites.

6.2.2 What is an "acceptable" reference

Use academic peer reviewed literature:

  • peer reviewed journals
  • peer reviewed conference publications

Also acknowledged books of the research field are applicable. These typically present theories and methods of the research field. Also useful are the books which are compliations about certain research track, usually consisting of chapters written by various authors.

It is clear that when you describe you research context, you may need to also refer to other kind of references, e.g., such that describe a particular real-life domain present in you work. In technical field, you may need to summarize particular standards, for example.

General guideline is that original reference to particular question should be used. In the case the original reference is not accessible, be as clear as possible in how you have gained the information that you are presenting:

As noted by XXX (2010), by referring to work by YYY (1978), the automatic assessment tools in the technical field….

6.2.3 Referencing techniques

Hypothetical examples:

  • There is evidence that TDD causes unwanted cognitive load for novices during introductory programming courses (Jackson, 2002). Here, the cite refers to the current sentence, it is placed before the punctuation mark.
  • Robinson et al. (2010) found that students do not see the purpose of TDD with small programming exercises used during introductory courses. This is an alternative to the first example, allowing you to more emphasize the authors of the references.
  • For stylistic reasons, consider using either of these styles consistently in a particular section.
  • If you directly quote text of other authors, you must emphasize this as a quoted text!
  • According to some guidelines, you can also refer to whole paragraph (or several sentences) by placing a cite after the last sentence of the paragraph or the intended group of sentences, after the punctuation mark. This style, however, is quite rare in the research literature:

These particular methoads have been used accross disciplines. And so on x x x xxx x x x xxxxxxmsaf jsdfälj asädlfj aäslkfjäalksjfalksfj. Aälsfjaldsfjflksfsa slkljfälks faklslkf lkasf alkkf asjfasälkkf alsfj lkaksf asfäj fkja slkklf askl aäsfj lkasfj alkls flks faslklkf aslk asfd askfj. Alsjflaksjaslglödk klf s kaslöf f kl ölksf ök sölkfk fölsdf öl ökf ölsfd lkldsf löfs köl sföf ds. (Johnson, 2010.)

  • Rather than repeating the whole paragraph-like references, you might state at the beginning of a particular section, that, for instance, "This section is fully based on the book by Freeman and Albert (2012)."
  • When to add page numbers to a citation: (Robinson, 2000, 32)? A working guideline is to add page numbers when you refer to books and compilations or other typically lengthy works such as standards. Thus, you are about to enable the reader to find the information you are referring to. It is quite typical that page numbers are not given when you refer to research articles. However, if you directly quote something from an article, it is a good idea to add the page number. …And there are, of course, exceptions. For instance, if you are referring to the general theme of a particular book, you, of course, would not give a specific page number.
  • General guideline: You must ensure that the reader knows where the information you presenting comes from!
  • Remember to be consistent in your selected way of referencing. Examples:
    • In Finnish: (Robinson, 2009, s. 34) or (Robinson, 2009, 34) => be consistent.
    • In English: (Robinson, 2009, p. 43) or (Robinson, 2009, 34) => be consistent. (Robinson, 2009, pp. 23-33) or (Robinson, 2009, 23-33) => be consistent.

6.2.4 How to make synthesis and construct a related work section

…the topic is discussed in the seminar session.

6.3 Systematic literature review, plagiarism

The session on these topics is run by Antti-Juhani Kaijanaho. The lecture slides are found at:

6.4 Research methods resources

  • Research paradigm, i.e., basic underpinning beliefs / world view:
    • For ontological, epistemological, and methodological questions, see
    • Discussion on paradigms with design science: Bjoern Niehaves: On epistelmological diversity in design science—new vistas for a design oriented IS research? Twenty Eighth International Conference on Information Systems, Montreal 2007
    • Find literature on paradigms related to your approach/method
  • Tommi K's seminar slides on research methods from autumn 2013 are found at
  • One research methods taxonomy is found at
  • Many selects a topic that links with the 'design-based research', or 'design science', where one intends to develop an informed solution (a construct) to a real-world problem. Notice that design-based research relates to education and learning sciences, while design science rather originates in information systems and management research. Below you find some method papers in this area:
    • Design Science in Information Systems Research. Author(s): Alan R. Hevner, Salvatore T. March, Jinsoo Park and Sudha RamSource: MIS Quarterly, Vol. 28, No. 1 (Mar., 2004), pp. 75-105.
    • Paper that summarizes design science, includes explanation how design-based research differs from professional system development:
    • Fred Niederman and Salvatore T. March. 2012. Design Science and the Accumulation of Knowledge in the Information Systems Discipline. 2012. ACM Transactions on Management Information Systems, 3(1)
    • Sein et al. 2011. Action Design Research. MIS Quarterly Vol. 35 No. 1 pp. 37-56.
    • Joan E. van Aken. 2004. Management Research Based on the Paradigm of Design Sciences: The Quest for Field-Tested and Grounded Technological Rules. Journal of Management Studies, 41(2).
    • Teemu Leinonen, Tarmo Toikkanen, and Katrina Silfvast. 2008. Software as Hypothesis: Research-Based Design Methodology. Proceedings of Participatory Design Conference, CPSR/ACM.
    • Salvatore T. March and Gerald F. Smith. 1995. Design and Natural Science Research on Information Technology. Decision Support Systems. 15, pp. 251-266.
    • Pertti Järvinen. 2007. Action Research is Similar to Design Science. 2007. Quality & Quantity, 41, pp. 37-54.
    • Exemple of Design Science study: Susanne Schmidt-Rauch and Gerhard Schwabe. 2011. From Telesales to Tele-Advisory in Travel Agencies: Business Problems, Generic Design Goals and Requirements. ACM Transactions on Management Information Systems, 2(3).
    • Design-Based Research and Technology-Enhanced Learning Environments. Feng Wang & Michael J. Hannafin. ETR&D, Vol. 53, No. 4, 2005, pp. 5–23.
  • Related to or part of design-science are evaluative studies:
    • March and Smith (1995) Design and natural science research on information technology. Decision Support Systems, 15(4): 251–266.
    • See suggestions for technology validation in
    • Kitchenham (1996). Evaluating Software Engineering Methods and Tool. Part 1: The evaluation Context and Evaluation Methods. ACM SIGSOFT. Software Engineering Notes 21(1).
  • See systematic literature review and mapping above in this site.
  • Mixed methods and triangulation:
    • Bridging the qualitative–quantitative divide: guidelines for conducting mixed methods research in information systems. Venkatesh et al. MIS Quarterly Vol. X No. X, pp. 1-XX/Forthcoming 2012–2013.
    • Why Triangulate? Author(s): Sandra Mathison Source: Educational Researcher, Vol. 17, No. 2 (Mar., 1988), pp. 13-17.
  • Phenomenography:
    • One of the original works: Marton, F. Phenomenography — Describing conceptions of the world around us, Instructional Science, July 1981, Volume 10, Issue 2, pp 177-200.
    • Cope, C. 2004. Ensuring Validity and Reliability in Phenomenographic Research Using the Analytical Framework of a Structure of Awareness. Qualitative Research Journal, 4(2): 5-18
    • Sin, S. 2010. Considerations of Quality in Phenomenographic Research. International Journal of Qualitative Methods, 9(4), 305-319.
  • Some acknowledged books on qualitative research:
    • The SAGE Handbook of Qualitative Research. 2011. Edited by Norman K. Denzin and Yvonna S. Lincoln.
    • Qualitative Data Analysis. 1984. Miles, B.M. & Huberman, A.M. Newbury Park, CA: SAGE Publications.
  • A concise presentation on conducting thematic analysis on qualitative data:
    • Attride-Stirling, Jennifer. 2001. Thematic networks: an analytic tool for qualitative research. Qualitative Research 1(3): 385–405.
  • An example of qualitative interview study: Marco Cinnirella and Kate Miriam. 1999. Religious and ethnic group influences on beliefs about mental illness: A qualitative interview study. doi: 10.1348/000711299160202
  • Survey research:
    • Krosnick, J.A. 1999. Survey Research. Annu. Rev. Psychol. 50:537-67.
    • Bartlett, J. E., Kotrlik, J. W. & Higgins, C. C. (2001). Organizational Research: Determining Appropriate Sample Size in Survey Research. Information Technology, Learning, and Performance Journal, 19(1): 43-50.
    • Jansen, Harrie (2010). The Logic of Qualitative Survey Research and its Position in the Field of Social Research Methods [63 paragraphs]. Forum Qualitative Sozialforschung / Forum: Qualitative Social Research, 11(2), Art. 11, (This article also provides a concise view of conducting qualitative analysis)
  • Components of objecitivity (reliability and validity) in qualitative research:
  • Typical features in computer science education or software engineering research:
    • as observed by Shaw based on ICSE conference papers:
    • as observed by Valentine based on SIGCSE conferene papers: doi: 10.1145/1028174.971391
    • Ramesh et al. (2004) Research in computer science: an empirical study. The Journal of Systems and Software, 70: 165-176.
    • Glass et al. (2002) Research in Software Engineering: An analysis of the literature. Information and Software Technology 44: 491-506.
    • Zelkowitz and Wallace (1997) Experimental validation in software engineering. Information and Software Technology, 39: 735-743.
    • Holz et al. (2006). Research methods in computing: What are they, and how should we teach them? ITiCSE working group paper.

7 Links

8 Tasks

There are mandatory tasks during the seminar. You should return your outputs with the tasks 1,2, and 4 (both the tasks and reviews) into Optima of University of Jyväsylä. Review pairs are anounced during the first two weeks of the seminar. After the due date, you can access your review pair's work in Optima.


8.1 Task1: Abstract

Prepare an abstract for your work, state you research problem in the form of a question below the abstract, and list the key references (minimum of 5), and, in particular, explain how the given references relate to your work. Thus, you need to already be able to identify and explain what is relevant literature (related work) for your thesis. The references must concern related research, theory, or methods.

Have the abstract in place using the appropriate document template for thesis (there's a place for abstract), and state the research question and the references under "Introduction" section.

This task is done in English.

DUE DATE: Feb, 12th. The task must be returned by this date, which leaves few days for your peer to read it before the seminar session on Feb, 16th.

8.1.1 Example

Abstract: "Lecturing is known to be a controversial form of teaching. With massed classrooms, in particular, it tends to constrain the active participation of students. One of the remedies applied to programming education is to use technology that can vitalize interaction in the classroom, while another is to base teaching increasingly on programming activities. The present research will take a form of an exploratory action research study. Teaching programming without lectures, exams, or grades, by heavily emphasizing programming activity, and, in a pedagogical sense, student self-direction, is investigated. Along with the exploratory research approach, the aim is reflectively analyze student responses to the course model of this kind. The data will be collected through several surveys conducted during the course. The results will be compared with related empirical studies, and with theory on self-direction, on the one hand, and with theory emphasizing direct instruction (e.g. CLT), on the other."

(The example is modified from (Isomöttönen & Tirronen, ACM transactions on Computing Education, June Issue, 2013))

Research question: How do students react to active learner role requiring self-direction?

Key references:

  1. Candy. P. C.: Self-Direction for Life-Long Learning: A Comprehensive Guide to Theory and Practice. San Franscisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.

    COMMENT: This is an extensively cited theoretical work on self-direction and its attributes, and hence provides the standpoint to refer to and to define self-direction.

  2. Gannod, G.C. and Burge, J.E. and Helmick, M.T.: Using the Inverted Classroom to Teach Software Engineering. ICSE '08. ACM/IEEE 30th International Conference on. 2008.

    COMMENT: This article reports empirical experiences of using an inverted classroom pedagogy where learners (CS students) are expected to take an active role. The results can be compared with this study.

    …and so forth!!!

8.1.2 peer review

Your peer reviewer will comment on your work during a seminar session, and it is also commented by the teacher by email, and, finally, either accepted or rejected. Thus, the seminar teacher may require improvements on the task done.

  1. Guidelines for the peer review

    Helpful questions for the peer review:

    • Describe the research that is proposed to be done?
    • Does the writing show that the author of the text has knowledge of the research field?
    • How the research is motivated? Is this research useful?
    • Is the research question clearly stated?
    • Make suggestions
  2. Example of a peer comment:

    It seems that you have really began to immerse youself into your topic, and are aware of the proper research approach. However, is this a topical issue, how much there is empirical research already? By the way, is the analysis in your study conducted by one person, or will there be multiple analysts cross-checking the findings? Did you know that there is a debate going on in the literatre on self-direction vs. direct instruction, google with 'Kirschner', for instance. Overall, I think you proposal is acceptable, but I suggest that you consider the questions raised here.

8.2 Task2: Introduction

DUE DATE: Mar, 4th. The task must be returned by this date, which leaves few days for your peer to read it before the seminar session on Mar, 8th.

Prepare Introduction section into your thesis, and have it in place in the correct document format that is based on the template. When writing, pay attention to issues discussed under the title 'Writing guidelines' during the seminar. Thus, prepare a well-structured and systematic writing, which 1) introduces the domain of your work to the reader 2) motivates you research 3) states the research problem clearly, and potentially divided into relevant sub-questions, 4) describes and justifies the selected research approach and method, and 5) describes the contents of the thesis. Use correct citing technique within the text.

If there's less than 10 references needed in you Introduction, complement the tasks by providing a reference-list such that you will altogether refer to at least 10 references in this task. Again, comment how these references relate to your thesis. The references (at least ten) must concern related research, theory, or methods.

This task is done using the language of your thesis (Finnish or English).

8.2.1 Example

Examples are pointed out and discussed in a seminar session. Read more examples in the web! There are good ones and bad ones, be critical!

8.2.2 Peer review

Similar to the first task, your introduction is peer reviewed and discussed during the seminar session. The seminar teacher emails about acceptance or asks for a revision.

  1. Guidlines for peer review
    • Is the introduction well-structured?
    • Does it provide an understandable 'window' into the research that will be presented in the thesis?
    • Can you identify the research question?
    • Is the introduction supported and motivated by relevant references?
    • Do you agree on the planned contents of the thesis?

8.3 Task3 Reading tasks

The reading tasks below are conducted during the seminar. One relates to the research paradigms and one to the research method applicaple to your thesis. The results of your readings are discussed during the seminar sessions. The seminar teacher informs participants of the deadlines during the seminar. Of course you can start early, hence see the tasks below.

8.3.1 Reading task 1

Think of the research approach and the research method of your thesis. Find method references that apply to your work and pay attention to the guidelines presented in these references. In particular, find out what `validity' means with the approach/method that applies to your thesis. Bring the papers with your notes to the seminar session.

8.3.2 Reading task 2

Read the article by M. Lynne Markus carefully:

Pay attention to the topic of the article (what is being studied in the article) and to what kind of research is presented (e.g. how the literature is incorporated in the article, what is the role of theory in the study, how data collection occured, etc.). Bring the paper with your notes to the seminar session.

8.4 Task4: Presentation

Presentations are given during the latter half of the seminar. The schedule will be anounced in Optima during the seminar.

8.4.1 Instructions

Prepare a presentation of your thesis according to its current state. Include at least the following:

  • Domain, thus describe and explain about your research area
  • Your focus, i.e. what is your research question
  • What is your research approach and method
  • What is the current state of your research, provide results if possible
  • Show the planned contents of your thesis
  • Describe your experiences with the thesis, what has been most difficult so far?
  • Submit your prensetation into Optima at least two full office days before the presentation. 'Presentations' folder in Optima is public to the course participants, thus you do not need to email your work to anybody.

NOTE: The list above is a 'tiplist', meaning that you can and should prepare your presentation so that it is interesting to the audience and matches the current stage of your thesis. The presentation must not exceed 20 minutes! The presentations are given in English.

8.4.2 Peer review

Provide verbal feedback on the presentation using the same guidelines as in the above tasks! You as a peer reviewer are responsible for starting the discussion on the presentation.

9 The Final note on the 'Seminar'

Doing research and documenting it are a continous learning process!

All we say and do during the seminar must be understood constructively and as constructive feedback. We are allowed to be critical and challege ourselves as it is the way to make ourselves think and make progress. This is about issues on doing research, instead of about us as personalities.

Author: Ville Isomöttönen

Created: 2016-02-09 ti 10:32

Emacs 24.5.1 (Org mode 8.2.10)