Information Studies (Master's)

Graduate School of Informatics - Faculty of Science

Master thesis

These regulations specify the conditions that apply to the Master theses of the Information Science programme. In all cases in which these regulations do not provide, the exam committee will decide. In the Master Information Science both terms dissertation, thesis, and in Dutch ‘scriptie’ are being used synonymously. MSc IS BIS: Master Information Studies, track Business Information Systems MSc IS HCM: Master Information Studies, track Human Centered Multimedia OER: The education and examination regulations of the programme.

Thesis process


The thesis project is a mandatory part of the MSc programme Information Studies. The thesis is to be performed in a two‐stage process.

The first part is covered by the Thesis Design (6 EC for HCM, integrated in the other courses for BIS), in which the students describe the problem, research question, methodology followed to answer the research question, and a schedule.

The second part is then the actual thesis project (18 EC). This project has to be conducted as an individual project about a topic within the realm of Information Studies, approved by the master thesis co-ordinator (if applicable) or the track-coordinator.

Thesis objectives


The focus of the thesis research will be the scientific study of a problem oriented towards actual research themes in academia and society. The thesis project provides students with first-hand experience in working with established scientists or industry experts during a prolonged period of time. The research project’s objective is to give the student an opportunity to acquire practical experience of quantitative and qualitative scientific research methods and to learn to work independently. In addition, the student has the opportunity to discover gaps in his knowledge or skills and fill these.


The learning objectives of the research project comprise, that after completion of the thesis project, the student:

  • is able to formulate a clear research question in the field of information studies and design a plan to answer that question
  • can show state‐of‐the‐art knowledge in the area of the research project based on the relevant literature by applying in a practical situation
  • is able to process the research data and to critically judge the obtained results in relation to the goals and the line of research of which the research project is part
  • is able to describe and critically discuss the above activities in a written report, in which the methodology is accounted for and the original phrasing is substantiated
  • • is able to  present and discuss the results to a scientific and non-scientific audience
  • • is able to function in a professional environment

Thesis topic


The project will be carried out in an IS setting, such as trade, industry,  governmental or non-profit organizations, or within the university on an IS related topic. In cases where the topic is beyond the field or if students wish to perform a joined project, it Is at the Board of Examiners to approve the proposed project before the start of the thesis trajectory. Also, students may carry out the research project at an equivalent organization abroad.


Because of the interdisciplinary character of the Information Science programme, the type of master theses varies. The most common research formats are:

  • Empirical research, as used in social and economic science.
  • Analysis of existing theories regarding an Information Science issue.
  • Design/Prototype/Evaluation of a complex information, knowledge or media system, or a new design approach or new algorithm for such a system.
  • Report with policy recommendations regarding a complex organizational issue, where the recommendations are explicitly based on theories of the information science domain.
  • Experimental evaluation and/or specialization of a design approach or algorithm for a specific application domain

Typical themes within the BIS track cover:

  • Agility and Adaptive Business Information Systems, Complexity and flexibility in an architectural and infrastructural systems setting
  • Networked Organizations and Cross Organizational Service Design
  • Scenario development, Simulation and Business analytics and Visualization
  • Business Requirements Analysis and Business Systems Specification
  • Business in the e-society, Sense-making and Social Media in a business context

Typical HCM oriented themes are:

  • Evaluation of a single or multi‐modal HCI interaction paradigm applied to a new service or application in the field of information science
  • Development and evaluation of new forms of data analysis, evaluation, or sense-making in the realm of information systems or intelligent interactive systems
  • Visualisation of large data sources for a particular domain
  • Development or analysis of social media environments
  • Requirement Analysis and Systems Specification for human‐centred information systems

Thesis design


The Thesis Design is performed by the student as individual work but supported by the supervisor. Students may propose a supervisor, or ask the master‐thesis coordinator for assistance in finding one.


Students have to write a report of max. 6 pages all inclusive, in which he or she has to describe the problem to be addressed in the thesis project, the relevance of the problem, based on a literature survey,  the resulting research question, the methodological approach to answer the research question and potential sub questions, and a schedule that emphasizes how the different pieces of the thesis work can be achieved within the given time frame until the end of the programme. The report needs be written in English. The final approval is done by the supervisor, and the track coordinator, using the form as described in Appendix C. The final electronic version of the Thesis Design will be submitted to the supervisor and the track coordinator and signed by the supervisor and student on the cover page.


The student has to present the thesis design in a joint presentation session in form of a pitch presentation (3 minutes).



Students will start working at their thesis proposal during the course Integrating Case (6 EC) in block 3, in which research methods are addressed and practiced. Students are recommended to choose the topic for their thesis that coincides with the topic they chose for during this Integrating Case course, but students are allowed to choose a new topic for their thesis. The study load for the preparation of the Thesis Design is included in the thesis work (18 EC). The Thesis Design has to be finished at the end of period 4, before starting the thesis in period 5. The pitch presentation has to be given at the end of block 4.



The Thesis Design (6 EC) will be done in period 3. The student has to present the thesis design in a joint presentation session at the end of period 3. The thesis Design has to be finished at the end of block 3. Both the report and the presentation form the basis for the grade provided by the supervisor. The final  electronic version of Thesis Design will be submitted to the supervisor and the track coordinator and signed by the supervisor and student on the cover page.

Thesis project


A master thesis is defined as ‘an individually written record of the student’s performed original research or design of a scientific nature’. It is an original, independent piece of work especially composed for this occasion containing the creative ideas of the student. Claims, hypotheses, policy recommendations and design choices need to be supported with arguments based on existing theory or empirical evidence.


The master thesis cannot consist of copied resources (internet, books, and journals), unless properly quoted,  and that the material has not already been submitted elsewhere (other courses, study programmes, universities) with the aim to receive study credits for this. The master thesis can however, elaborate on previously submitted work, as long as it is clear which contribution of the student has been submitted for which study programme component.

Start conditions and duration


A student can only start working on the master thesis when the following requirements have been met:

  • At least 30 EC of the master programme have been obtained, among which the course ‘Research Methods’ has been successfully finished.
  • The Thesis Design is approved by the supervisor following the formal requirements as explained in Appendix C.
  • The Thesis Design is approved within the given deadline.
  • The thesis supervisor and the MSc student have signed the thesis agreement, which specifies the formal requirements of the thesis, as described in Appendix A.

The duration for a MSc Information Studies thesis between its starting date and its end date on which the thesis needs to be submitted, is 12 weeks for students who are enrolled as full‐time student.

Thesis supervision


In order to improve the effectiveness of the learning process and provide the means that master students will succeed mastering their research within the time given, each student has access on a general basis (approximately one hour per week) with the supervisor to receive individual feedback on their work as well as get more generic advice on their research. Specific arrangements can be done by the supervisor.

Mid-term evaluation


In week 7 a mid-term evaluation will be performed, of which the results are documented in the mid-term evaluation form (Appendix C). The mid‐term evaluation form, which will be passed on to the central thesis coordination, will be used to make some adjustments to the master thesis research, all to be decided by the examiner. Based on the mid‐term evaluation the examiner may decide to also adjust the research period. The examiner will decide in week 12, based on the draft master thesis, if the candidate will be allowed to the master thesis defence.


A progress report related to the project proposal has to be written by the student (approx. 2 pages) The student is responsible for organizing a meeting with the supervisor and examiner (in special cases, e.g. for projects carried out abroad, the contact may occur by mail or phone). During this meeting the progress report has to be discussed and signed by the supervisor. Also the evaluation form has to be filled out and signed.


The student has to present in a public setting the current status of the thesis project. Feedback will be given using the appropriate evaluation form.

Thesis report language, design, and volume 


The master thesis has to be written in English.


For BIS students:

The size of a 18 EC master thesis may not exceed 30 pages, excluding cover page, table of content, bibliography and appendices


For HCM students:

The size of a 18 EC master thesis is set at 10 pages according to the standards used for ACM and IEEE conferences including the bibliography and acknowledgements, but excluding the cover page and appendices.

Thesis defence


Within the programme, students must present and defend their thesis. The presentation and defence will be held after the thesis has been approved by the supervisor(s). The presentation and defence will be public and cannot be held later than the first week of August of an academic year. One week before the defence, the final version of the thesis has to be submitted via blackboard to allow for plagiarism check.


The presentation lasts 20 minutes and has to be performed in English. Then a Question and Answering session follows (20 minutes), where first the audience is allowed to ask questions, then the second examiner, and finally the first examiner. Once this part is concluded, the examiners retreat to discuss the grade. Once the decision is made, manifested in the Thesis Assessment Form, they return first the student about the outcome. It is here that the student also has to sign the Thesis Assessment Form. Based on the consent of the student they then either inform the audience about the grade or they simply state if the student succeeded or failed.


The Thesis Assessment Form needs to be submitted by the examiner to the Education Service Centre and The final version of the thesis report needs to be submitted to the UvA thesis repository.

Thesis assessment


Master theses are always assessed by at least two examiners, namely the supervisor and an examiner assigned by the Board of Examiners (the student as well as the supervisor can suggest a second examiner). When the master thesis is finished, it will be submitted via blackboard to the supervisor. The supervisor will ensure that the second examiner evaluates the thesis. Both examiners determine if the thesis is good enough to be publicly defended. Theses that have been handed in too late will be considered insufficient.


The conduction of the master research, the master thesis, the presentation and defence will all be taken into consideration for deciding on the grade. A specific assessment form will be used for this (Appendix D). Deviations from the agreed research period will also be taken into consideration and have an effect on the grade.


If the master thesis does not meet the requirements sufficiently, the student is offered a one-time opportunity to improve the thesis according to the feedback given during the thesis defence. The maximum period assigned to a student to improve an insufficient thesis is:

  • • 3weeks for a student, enrolled full-time
  • • 6 weeks for a student, enrolled part‐time


During the period when the improvements are made, the student has a right to the previous amount of supervision. Should the improved thesis version again be of insufficient quality the thesis is considered failed.


If it was decided to start a new thesis, the entire process starts again, of course, under the requirements as stated in these regulations. For the assessment of master theses a fixed period of 20 working days exists in accordance with the Student Charter of the University of Amsterdam. July and August should be taken into account as a longer period because of the holidays.

Examination authority


The main supervisor can be from within the university or externally from the organization where the research is conducted. In the latter case the external needs to be able to supervise the student based on academic experience (a PhD degree) or due to gained work experience. The approval of an external examiner/supervisor is to the judgment of the Board of Examiners.


The second examiner has to be member of the UvA academic staff, and must be qualified for examination which means that (s)he should be part of the permanent academic staff of a department involved in the study program (Information Science).

Fraud and plagiarism


For the university’s fraud and plagiarism regulations apply, please click here.

Storage regulations for master thesis


The thesis had to be submitted via blackboard where a plagiarism check will be performed.


A copy of each MSc IS thesis has to be included in UvA’s digital library. A copy should also be uploaded to Blackboard. The master thesis is basically public. The student can only gain the diploma once the thesis has been uploaded.


If the student believes that certain information used in the Master's thesis should remain confidential, he should make a request for suspension of the public at the Board of Examiners. A written request must be made, properly motivated and countersigned by the supervisor. The student should submit the application once it is known that information is confidential, but no later than two weeks before the final date of the thesis.


The student can opt for one of the following three options: a limited confidentiality (up to three years) or an extension thereof (up to six years, but only in exceptional cases), or a parallel version of the thesis, i.e. a thesis which confidential information has been removed or otherwise anonymous. In all cases, approval by the Board of Examiners is required.


If a Master thesis is confidential (with the permission of the Board of Examiners), the master's thesis will be stored in the library, but cannot be viewed for the agreed period. The Master thesis, in that case, can only be seen by the writer, the supervisor, the examiner and the Board of Examiners. If requested, confidential papers may also be viewed by external visitation committees or accreditation bodies, who nationally assess the education quality.

Objections and appeals


Try to solve a complaint or conflict with the person in question, if necessary with the student advisor present as an independent third party. Problems that cannot be solved in this manner may be submitted to the Board of Examiners. Judgments of the Board of Examiners can be appealed at the Examination Appeals Board. The student advisor can help you find your way when serious problems occur.


Published by  Education Service Centre

6 November 2013