In general, the master’s dissertation will have characteristics similar to those of doctoral studies, but applied to much more restricted objects, since the period of the candidate is much shorter to elaborate and also the depth and the requirement that they correspond to it. This Guide refers to both, not forgetting that the prototype dissertation (or “thesis”, as the law now expressly calls it) is the doctoral dissertation.
- The nature of a dissertation.
The traditional name of the dissertation is “thesis” because, until the beginning of sec. XX, the candidates should defend the pertinence of a proposition presented by them to the discussion. Today, the dissertation is not necessarily characterized by this assertive tone, and may, in the limit, consist even in the argued formulation of an open problem.
What today characterizes the dissertation is the effort to, clearly described the “state of the art”, to advance the knowledge in this area. Thus his merits will be:
Knowledge – tendentially complete (including necessary references to the underlying theoretical questions and transdisciplinary and comparative perspectives) – of the tradition and current situation of the question taken as the object of study;
The capacity for problematization and advanced reflection on this issue;
The capacity for innovation or innovation revealed in your treatment.
In the current study plan, there are two levels to which
dissertations – the masters and doctorates. This guide has both in mind, without prejudice to the differences already mentioned in the presentation.
- The subject of the dissertation.
The object of the dissertation should be clearly delimited, although the author must be aware of the connections that always exist with other objects of study, which will show, in the places of interest, in a succinct manner and indicating the main bibliography about these connections or referring to an author who deals with them more widely.
The object of the dissertation must contain novelty and novelty, in itself or in the approach that will be made of it. A dissertation is not a compilation or simple systematization of existing knowledge.
The subject of the dissertation should fit the theme (s) of the course in which the dissertation is inserted.
The choice of the object of the dissertation must take into account the time prescribed for its accomplishment, and should never be only the first tranche of a treatment whose continuation is announced.
The choice of the subject of the dissertation should reconcile the academic interests of the candidate with the advisor’s advice regarding the novelty of the topic, the feasibility of its adequate treatment in the face of the time available, the specific skills of the advisor and their availability to follow in that theme , the orientated works.
In choosing the subject, the candidate’s linguistic abilities may constitute conditioning. In principle, the candidate should be able to read, without major difficulties, Portuguese, Spanish, French, Italian and English. For some subjects, the command of German may be indispensable.
For historical or philosophical themes, a certain familiarization with Latin or even with Greek may be necessary.
- The development of the theme.
The first stage of the development of a theme constitutes an initial familiarization with it, which can already serve as a starting point for a judgment on the state of the matter and for the collection of the first sources and the secondary bibliography.
The second phase consists of the elaboration of a first outline of the development scheme, with the tasks connected to each point of the scheme.
These tasks can be:
- theoretical and methodological research;
- field work (or empirical) – surveys, content analysis
- the press or from specialized textual sources or not,
- some historical research;
- some sociological, anthropological or economic analysis;
- consultations with specialists or internships in research centers or specialized institutions (then to be properly identified);
- Reading sources and secondary literature, etc. …
It is very important that a preliminary schema be done as soon as possible and discussed with the advisor, as this scheme directs future work and avoids many useless efforts.
The third stage – which can be started while the previous ones continue and will normally continue during the following ones – is the systematic collection of sources and secondary bibliography. The candidate can be helped by the notions he obtained in the discipline of
Legal, of the indications of its adviser, or, always, of work of
personal research, made or in the catalogs of good specialized libraries or through the Internet. FD-UNL has a university exchange service that allows you to borrow works that do not exist in your library, as well as access to texts, legal or other databases from your site. On the Internet, there are several copy providers
(paid) of articles.
The fourth stage of the preparation of the dissertation consists in the critical reflection on the initial scheme, perfecting it, completing it or correcting it.
Very rarely, the worst of the results can be reached: that the initial theme or scheme of work is at all inadequate. But this possibility has to be looked at and avoided from the beginning, by periodically testing the feasibility of the topic for itself and in conversations with the advisor.