Academic Papers

Guidelines for writing Master’s Theses at the Faculty for Business, Economics and Statistics of the University of Vienna

These guidelines contain the internal procedures of the Faculty for Business, Economics and Statistics (hereinafter “Faculty”) for students and supervisors regarding the process of development for Master’s Theses as well as for the cooperation between students and supervisors.

These guidelines aim to standardize and achieve a common understanding of this academic accomplishment within the Faculty. They also serve as a legal basis for the study program management in case of possible disagreements.

The following information mentions legal regulations insofar as they are relevant for the implementation of these procedures. The legal regulations can be found in the corresponding sources (University Law, the Statutes of the University of Vienna and in the respective curriculum).

General rules and formal requirements of the University of Vienna

According to the statutes of the University of Vienna, students are entitled to request a university instructor to supervise their scientific work. There is NO legal entitlement to supervision by a person WITHOUT teaching authorization or competence on a specific topic (please see the newsletter).

If a student cannot find a supervisor, the Dean of Students will assign a supervisor to the student. All formalities can be found in the Ordinance: Formal requirements for scientific papers.

Please note that due to the anonymization of the data for the plagiarism control, no personal data (e.g. student number, name, curriculum vitae, etc.) may be included in the work after page 7.

Please DO NOT include a CV in the electronic or print version of the thesis.

Rules for good scientific practices at the University of Vienna

All researchers, lecturers and students of the University of Vienna are committed to scientifically correct behavior. This includes independent work on written papers, the correct citation and treatment of sources and the proper implementation of analyzes.

 

All students must confirm that they will abide by the rules of good scientific practice when registering their Master’s or Magister thesis or dissertation.

Link: Basic rules for good scientific practices

 

Basics

Students do not have the right to be supervised by a specific person or to write on a specific topic. There are no formal rules on the length of time a student may spend writing a Master’s thesis; however, the Master’s thesis should only be started if the applicant is able to complete and submit the Master’s thesis within 6 months. The topic of the work must correspond to the respective requirements of the curriculum and be processed with methods acquired during the course of study.

Once a supervisor has committed to supervising a thesis, the student must register the topic of the thesis and the supervisor at the StudyServiceCenter (SSC) with the appropriate form.

What distinguishes a Master’s thesis from a seminar paper?

A Master’s thesis should include new, well-defined elements, results or insights that do not yet exist in scientific literature. An innovation is established when it reflects this definition. The magnitude or importance of the innovation does not matter as long as the “added value” is not negligible. What this innovation entails and to what extent it can be assessed as such should clearly be outlined in the synopsis. A (qualitative or quantitative) summary of literature is not sufficient for classifying the work as innovative (except for legal research).

 

Examples of approaches that reach a satisfactory level of innovation are listed below:

 

  • Development of strategies in specific business or economic practices
  • Adaptation of existing approaches to new situations or circumstances
  • Unification of existing models or approaches
  • Comparative analysis of methods or approaches
  • Collection, statistical evaluation and interpretation of data
  • Simulation for the development of new insights
  • Programming and implementation of new algorithms
  • Simple mathematical modeling and description of theoretical approaches
  • Application and interpretation of the right to new situations and circumstances

 

There is no innovation, for example, if material from different sources is simply collected or if data is merely procured and described. The methodological structure of the thesis should be defined in consultation with the supervisor. 

Finding a topic and a supervisor

In principle, every habilitated professor may supervise Master’s theses within the scope of his/her teaching capacity. Additionally, associate professors (tenure track with a completed qualifying agreement) may also supervise Master’s theses independently. In the case of co-supervision, the co-supervisor must have completed a doctorat and be employed at the faculty.

Below is a list of all possible topics and supervisors (hereafter topic matrix) at the faculty. This list has been created in coordination with all habilitated faculty and aims to provide an overview concerning supervisors and the topics they cover.

List of possible topics

List of possible supervisors

Students are responsible for finding a supervisor. Ideally, students should briefly explain the proposed topic of the Master’s thesis in a short exposé. This synopsis should be 2-5 pages and should cover the topic as well as the methodology of the thesis. It should also include an introductory literature review. Moreover, it should demonstrate that the student has the necessary competence to work on the chosen topic.

During the semester, students can expect to receive a response regarding supervisory commitment, refusal or deferral within 2 weeks. A deferral may mean that the exposé needs to be adjusted or that the potential supervisor wishes that other possible supervisors be contacted first (due to, for example, proximity to the topic or workload). Supervision may not be made dependent on whether certain courses were attended or certain grades were achieved.

A potential supervisor may refuse to supervise a thesis if the student has insufficient knowledge to work on the proposed topic, if there are serious deficiencies in the exposé, or if he or she is already actively supervising more than 10 Master’s theses per year (provided there are other supervisors with the capacity and knowledge for this or related topics). The SPL manages the statistics on which supervisors do not have the capacity to supervise more theses. If a supervisor is supervising less than 10 theses, the faculty assumes this supervisor is available.

If a student receives rejections from all professors who can supervise a given topic, the student should change the topic or emphasis. If, after changing the topic, the student is still unable to find a supervisor, the study program management is required to assist the student actively in finding a supervisor. This search is based upon the topic matrix, the main fields of the study, and the availability of possible supervisors.

Registering the Master’s thesis

Once a supervisor has committed to supervising a thesis, the student must register the topic of the thesis and the supervisor at the StudyServiceCenter (SSC) with the appropriate form. If changes to the topic and/or supervisor occur, the student must inform the SSC with a modification request.

Link: Registering the Master's thesis: topic and supervisor

Collaboration with the supervisor

There should be at least one meeting between the student and supervisor before the first draft of the thesis is completed.
During the semester, both students and supervisors may expect to receive written and oral feedback on questions and comments as well as preliminary written submissions within 4 weeks.

The supervisor may revoke the supervision commitment if there is no evident progress in the writing of the thesis over a longer period of time and despite repeated reminders. The revocation must be in agreement with the SPL.
Supervision does not take place within the framework of the Conversatorium.

The Master Conversatorium

The Conversatorium is an independent course in which students learn about and practice writing scientific works. Students present the topics and contents of their master’s theses and are able to comment on and discuss the presentations of other students. In the Conversatorium, the emphasis is on the introduction and implementation of skills learned during the general course of studies and from the subject area in which the Conversatorium occurs. Particularly, if the Master’s thesis is not written in the subject area of the Conversatorium attended, then the aspects of the thesis that relate to the subject area of the Conversatorium can play a special role in the assessment.

The evaluation from the Conversatorium is clearly separate from the assessment or evaluation of the Master’s thesis. The evaluation criteria are announced in U:find before the start of the registration phase and do not apply to the evaluation of the actual Master’s thesis.

Students may only attend the Conversatorium if they have a supervision commitment by the first meeting. Students cannot drop the course after the official course drop deadline. The Conversatorium must correlate with the assigned curriculum; the study program director must approve exceptions. There are no other requirements regarding which Conversatorium students should attend.  Students should only complete one Conversatorium.

The format of the Master’s thesis

The format of the Master’s thesis should follow the pattern of articles in leading scientific journals in the respective discipline. Particularly, such articles, and thus also theses, contain a title, an abstract with a maximum of 150 words, and introduction, a body, and a conclusion (see the formal requirements of the University of Vienna).  An abstract is not a summary, but contains the motivation behind the research question and outlines what the thesis will examine. According to scientific examples, the work should not exceed 40 pages.

To find the formal requirements, please see the website of the Dean of Students. Particularities include:

  • The thesis should be printed on A4 (210 x 297 mm) paper, portrait orientation and double-sided.
  • The appendix should include an abstract (at least 100 words). If the thesis is not in German, then a German abstract is mandatory in the appendix. 
  • The bilingual title page must be designed according to the official template.

Please observe relevant citation rules, especially regarding pictures, graphics, etc. Details on copyright and image usage can be found on the SSC website.

Plagiarism and the plagiarism check

Plagiarism

There is a zero tolerance policy on plagiarism at the University of Vienna. If proof of plagiarism arises in a preliminary version of the thesis, the supervisor can dissolve the supervisory relationship in consultation with the study program management. Proper citation rules apply to all quotations and borrowed material regardless of whether the source is primary or secondary. Students should generally avoid word-for-word citations; it is preferable that students use their own phrasing.

If it is revealed that the Master’s thesis contradicts the rules of good scientific practice, the thesis will be marked as plagiarized, and the Dean of Students and the supervisor will be informed.

 

Plagiarism check

The plagiarism check detects whether plagiarism has occurred in the submitted scientific work or parts thereof.

According to the Universities Act 2002, the definition of plagiarism is as follows:

“An act of plagiarism is unquestionably committed, when text, content, or ideas are used and presented as one's own. This encompasses in particular the appropriation and use of text, theories, hypotheses, findings or data by directly quoting, paraphrasing or translating them without appropriate acknowledgement and reference to the source and the original author.”  (§ 51 Abs. 2 Ziffer 31 UG)

 

During the plagiarism check,students should be aware of the following:

Not a test run

The plagiarism check is not a test run! Once the document and the sworn declaration have been uploaded, any plagiarism discovered can have legal consequences.

PDF conversion

The thesis must be uploaded as a PDF to the university server. Students should use the latest version of a PDF converter when converting the document to PDF .

File size

Files larger than 40 MB often cause problems and should be avoided. Therefore, please pay attention while formatting pictures, tables, etc.

Annotated title page

When the thesis is uploaded to the university server, an annotated title page appears. This serves to explain how a proper title page should look. Click through the annotated title page and confirm at the bottom that the title page of your submitted thesis complies with the title page specifications of the University of Vienna.

Find more information on the plagiarism check here.

Title page

Students must strictly adhere to the specifications for the design of the title page.

Common errors

1) Academic titles of the student
If the student has already acquired an academic title, this title must also be entered into U:SPACE so it can be listed on the title page of the thesis. If the title is not listed in U:SPACE, the student has 2 options:

  • The Admission Office may enter the academic title. Thereafter, the academic title may be included on the title page of the thesis.
  • The student simply includes his/her name on the title page without academic title.

2) Academic titles of the supervisor

  • In U:FIND, students can find the correct academic titles and full names of all thesis supervisors

Sample title pages

Since March 1, 2016, there are new specifications for title pages. Please do not reference scientific papers uploaded before March 2016; rather, please use the following sample title sheets as templates.

All information on the title page must be in both German and English. The only exception is the title of the thesis, which may only be in the language of the approved topic.

Link: Sample title pages

Jointly written theses

If a student would like to co-author the Master’s thesis with a colleague, he/she should keep the following in mind:

  • The students must receive approval from the study program management before registering the thesis
  • Each student must submit 3 bound versions of the thesis to the StudyServiceCenter (SSC)
  • The students must use the title page template for co-authored theses for the title page of their jointly written thesis
  • The table of contents must convey which author wrote which chapter. This is the only way to assess the performance of the students separately (UG § 81 (3))
  • The electronic version of the thesis must be uploaded to HOPLA (https://hopla.univie.ac.at)

After successfully uploading the thesis to HOPLA, students will receive an upload confirmation. The students must sign and submit this confirmation as well as the bound versions of the thesis to the StudyServiceCenter (SSC).

Delivery and assessment

With the agreement of the supervisor, the student must upload the completed thesis in PDF format to the university server (https://hopla.univie.ac.at). In the case that certain attachments cannot be converted into the PDF format, support is available through: e-theses.ub@univie.ac.at.
The upload process records metadata and requests the abstract separately.

Once the student has successfully uploaded their thesis, they will receive an e-mail confirmation. The student must present this confirmation to the StudyServiceCenter (SSC) when the student submits the print versions of the thesis.

Furthermore, the students can choose whether their thesis is accessible online. This is not equivalent to applying for a publication ban of the thesis (see Publication ban of an academic paper).

Students automatically receive the results of the plagiarism control via email. Within 10 days, students must submit the bound print versions (3 copies of the Master’s thesis or 5 copies of the dissertation) the StudyServiceCenter (SSC). Please note the formal requirements of the University of Vienna.

Please consider the following criteria for submission:

  • 3 copies of the thesis (black, hard cover; printed double-sided)
  • 2 additional copies for PhD candidates (these can be soft cover or in a ring binder)
  • Signed email confirmation of the upload to HOPLA
  • Completed form “Assessment of Scientific Work”

The supervisor must assess the Master’s thesis within 2 months of submission and must prepare an appraisal of the thesis. Students have the right to access the assessment documents regarding their scientific work.

Thesis embargo

If a scientific work cannot be released for public availability due to sensitive company data, the student must apply for a thesis embargo. The study program management recommends that the student submit the application for a thesis embargo as soon as the student has registered the final thesis in the SSC. Therefore, an individual contract must be established between the company concerned and the University of Vienna.

Link: Downloadcenter

Students can find out more about the distinction between the publication of a full text on the University server and a thesis embargo in the information sheet of the Dean of Students.

The Defense (Oral Exam)

If the supervisor cannot test the specialization of the student, the supervisor and the student must organize an examiner for the specialization as soon as the Master’s thesis is registered. This examiner must be available for the defense of the thesis.