Topic list
Core literature
Learning outcomes
Techniques of reading and writing practices

ESST guidelines for writing:

1) thesis outline
2) second semester motivation letter
3) final thesis


The following information should appear somewhere in your outline, although you do not necessarily have to use these headings or this order.

Working title
This may well change for the final draft of the dissertation.

Supervisor: name & email address

Aims and objectives
Clearly specify what you aim to achieve in the thesis. You can express this as a set of key questions you intend to address. You should limit your overall number of questions to or three so that the project remains manageable in the time you have available.

Identification of key literature and debates
Identify main ‘bodies’ of literature that you will be drawing upon and key debates to which your work is intended to contribute. You should include reference to potentially useful theoretical frameworks and key concepts where these already have been identified.

Remember that you need to engage critically with theories of science and/or technology in your chosen area. Do not ‘black box’ science and technology.

Identify key methods you will use to achieve your aims and objectives. These are likely to include a number of different methods for different aspects of the project. Some examples are:

· Literature search (everyone)
· Questionnaire survey
· Interviews
· Case study
· Observation
· Statistical analysis
· Textual analysis

You should state which method will be used for each objective previously identified. This will allow your supervisor to check that you are approaching you data collection in away that is likely to achieve the best possible results.

Indicate the amount of time you will spend on each part o the project (literature review, data-collection, analysis, write-up etc). This will enable your supervisor to judge the feasibility of the project in the time available and agree suitable times for meetings and for handing in drafts of different chapters.

This is a list of key books, articles, reports that you have already identified as being of central importance to your study. Again, this will allow your supervisor to ‘spot’ any obvious gaps and to advise you accordingly.

Suggested structure for final thesis
Provide key headings and sub-headings you think you will use in structuring your final dissertation. You will not be held to these but the process of doing this should help you envisage the ‘whole’ and thereby complement the detailed consideration of the parts (above).

Please remember that the more information you provide at this point, the easier is it for your supervisor to help you improve further. ‘Thin’ and ‘patchy’ outlines at this stage are likely to lead to delays in getting started, including difficulties in identifying an appropriate supervisor.

We are expecting between 2 and 3 pages for the outline as a whole.



Selection Procedure:
*Check the website of the specialisations

*If you have any questions or having difficulties to choose between two specialisations, contact the coordinator of the specialisation

*You hand in a list of three specialisations + motivations: priority 1 and priority 2 and 3 (be clear about which is first and which is second option) latest by 15th of November! Send the application electronically as e-mail to your director of studies.

The application should be structures into four parts:

1) Introduction where you explain briefly about your background (scholarly, professional and otherwise),

2) a statement identifying your first choice for second semester specialisation and the reasons for your choice,

3) similar statements for 2nd choice.

4) Similar statements for the 3rd choice

Note that the choices should be made based on specialisation level, not only on site/university level. In the cases where one university offers two or more specialisations it is in other words possible to apply to more than one of these. It is strongly recommended that the statement is relatively detailed with potential thesis topics identified. It makes it easier for the director of studies to judge whether the university will indeed have supervision capacity and competency available.

* The whole document should be between 3~4 pages long.

* Director of studies will send your applications to 2nd. semester university (first option) (and a list of applicants to International Coordinator) for approvel before a final decisssion is made in the ESST Teching comittee by end of November.

* When you cannot be accepted by the first or second priority specialisation(s) you will get feed-back from director of studies in order to make new priorities.

*By November you will be informed about the final outcome!



You are required to submit a dissertation of between 15,000 and 20,000 words. The thesis is the single most important piece of written work you will produce during your year of study. Its main purpose is to allow you to demonstrate your intellectual grasp of a relevant area and your ability to research and present a complex set of ideas. In addition to the academic content, the thesis will be assessed with regard to the following skills:

clear specification of objectives
effective planning of the work
effective searching of literature
critical use of data
choice and application of appropriate analytical methods
interpretation of results and their comparison with existing knowledge
ability to criticise findings and suggest further developments of the work
presentation of the work in a scholarly and professional manner

In addition to the main body of the thesis, the following items should normally be included: table of contents, synopsis, references, bibliography. Tables, diagrams, etc. should be clearly titled and referenced. Appendices are not part of the overall word length, but should not be used excessively. The thesis should include a title page, indicating your name, the title of the thesis, the names of your first and second semester universities, the title of the programme, the date, a maximum of five keywords, and a word count of the body of the dissertation (excluding bibliography and appendices). The thesis should be typed, double-spaced, reasonable margins and double-sided (in the interests of trees and weight).

You are required to submit three paper copies plus one disk copy by the first Monday of October.

Common pitfalls
Based on our experience of previous years, a number of shortcomings in theses have been identified. You should bear these in mind when preparing your thesis.

* Some students treat science and technology as black boxes. Topics related to science and technology are chosen, but the content of the black boxes is not investigated, particularly not its relationship with society. Some students seem to forget all about their first semester. You should not. One way of avoiding this is to examine the social, historical, cultural, political or economic context of the science or technology you are considering.

* The STS dimension should, at the very least, be visible in the research question you set yourself. One way of checking this is to ask yourself, ‘Would this be a legitimate question in my original discipline?’ The answer should be ‘No’. You need to draw on at least one other discipline in order to justify the question.

* Avoid jargon. Your thesis should be readable and understandable by anyone, regardless of their academic background. Most concepts are contestable. Sometimes you might want to explore the different ways concepts are used in the literature. If you don’t want to do that, at least explain how you are using the terms.

* Some students also black-box if not Europe, their own national or disciplinary perspectives. The first is particularly acute for students staying in their own country. One of the benefits of participating in ESST is an increased awareness of the simultaneously shared and different European heritages. (Pay attention to language – for example, England is not the same as Britain.)

* Many students conduct a remarkable amount of empirical work given the time available. Rarely, however, do they reflect on the wider relevance of their material for the STS problematic. Given the short time available, you are advised to limit your empirical work in order to leave enough space for analysis and conclusions.

* Research design and methodology are generally insufficiently clarified, justified or reflected upon. Literature reviews tend to summarise rather than critically review. Often there simply appears a series of summaries of different books or articles students have read. You should be able to demonstrate what you have learnt about the research process.

* Bizarrely, some students seem to regard it as a matter of pride not to meet with their supervisors. It is their job to help you. During the early stages (March-June), you should meet your supervisor at least once every two weeks to discuss your ideas, plan your work, etc. It may be more difficult to meet during the summer months because supervisors go on holiday or you return to your home country. You need to plan your work around these variables. Arrange to send drafts, for example – but be sure to allow a reasonable amount of time. Sending your supervisor a draft of your thesis in the middle of September and expecting comments in time for you to revise it before it is due at the beginning of October is not reasonable.

* Avoid sexist language. Not only is it offensive, it is often a sign of intellectual sloppiness. It is very easy to avoid sexist language when writing in English. For example, use ‘people’ or ‘humanity’ instead of ‘mankind’; ‘chair’ or ‘chairperson’ instead of ‘chairman’. It is trickier when talking about an unknown individual. It is very tempting to use the singular, masculine pronoun but even this can be avoided. There are several alternatives: some people use ‘he’ in one section and ‘she’ in the next; others use ‘she/he’, ‘he/she’ or ‘s/he’. Others avoid the problem altogether by using the plural, ‘they’.

You will be awarded a ‘distinction’, ‘pass’ or ‘fail’. Where appropriate, this will be indicated on your diploma. Within the category of ‘pass’, we differentiate between ‘satisfactory’ and ‘good’. This is not indicated on the diploma, but will be given to you with the comments and can be used in references. This decision is agreed between your supervisor and someone from your first semester university. Some of the features of each are summarised below. All points for consideration are not necessarily included under each heading. For example, methodology is not mentioned each time, but there is a difference between the approach taken to methodological issues in a poor dissertation to the approach taken in an excellent dissertation.

– objectives not clearly specified
– incoherent and/or disjointed reproduction of notes
– poorly written with little evidence of clear thought
– inadequate acknowledgement of sources
– no clear methodology
– lack of engagement with subject area
– no STS perspective

– evidence of critical thought in relevant subject area
– clearly written, well-ordered with reference to own objectives and relevant literature
– gaps, inaccuracies or occasional sloppiness mar overall presentation
– limited STS perspective, but still overly dependent on single discipline and/or limited range of sources (tendency to repeat ideas of others uncritically)

– strong evidence of critical thought in relevant subject area
– clearly written, well-ordered with reference to own objectives and relevant literature
– well-presented in terms of references, bibliography, chapter headings, etc.
– may be some minor gaps, inaccuracies or occasional sloppiness; or may be too long or too short
– good STS perspective, demonstrating understanding of themes and theories introduced in both first and second semesters

– as with ‘good’ – but very minor gaps or inaccuracies
– well-constructed piece of work, marshalling key ideas and evidence
– clear STS perspective, drawing critically on ideas introduced in both first and second semesters
– strong indication of independent and intelligent research and analysis
– original and creative piece of work
– potentially publishable

Massive over or under achievement of word length – less than 10,000 words or more than 25,000 – will not receive a distinction; nor will it fail unless it also exhibits some of the other features of a ‘fail’.

There are many different ways of writing and presenting a thesis and we do not wish to be too prescriptive. However, a good thesis should normally include an introductory chapter, stating the aims, scope, rationale and methods of the project and providing an outline of what follows. The conclusion should summarise the argument, and should not introduce new substantive material. However, it should reflect on the implications of the findings. To do this, you may need to return to the original aims and rationale, and this is your opportunity to reflect on wider but related themes of both content and method.

The examiners of your thesis have to be confident that you alone have done the work. Copying without acknowledging the original author, is called ‘plagiarism’. It is acceptable to use phrases and sentences you find in books and journals, as long as you do not do it too often, and you indicate which bits you have copied by putting them in quotation marks, italics or indenting them. You must also state from where you obtained the quotations, including page numbers. If you do not indicate who first wrote something, you are ‘stealing’ the original author’s words and ideas.

We will notice if things are copied. There is a big difference in style between the work of a student and something written by a more experienced academic. Especially if English is not your first language, the difference in style between your words and those of an English language text will be very noticeable.

All universities within ESST have very severe penalties for students who plagiarise. The most extreme penalty is asking the student to leave the university (without a degree). In some cases, students are not allowed to return to a university for several years. If an ESST student is accused of plagiarism, the regulations of his/her first semester university will be invoked to deal with the charge.

What happens if you fail?
Of course, we all hope this won’t happen, but sometimes it does. You will be allowed to re-submit a dissertation. The deadline depends on the rules and regulations of your home-university. Beware, if you fail, you will not be eligible to receive a ‘distinction’ on your second attempt.

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