Peter Lauritsen, Professor with Special Responsibilities, School of Communication and Culture

Peter Lauritsen, Professor with Special Responsibilities, School of Communication and Culture
Foto: Ida Jensen, AU Foto

Extract from an interview with Peter Lauritsen, Professor with Special Responsibilities, School of Communication and Culture

What’s the advantage of writing your thesis in collaboration with a Company?

“Writing a Master’s thesis in collaboration with a company is an important process through which the student gets to know the company and may even get a job. Sometimes we wrongly reduce this kind of thesis to being simply a matter of transferring knowledge from one party to another. But if you keep your ear to the ground and try to build up a fund of experience in your company, if you show interest in the company from a broader perspective, this kind of thesis can be a huge advantage. Collaborating with a company is also important for many of our students because they realise that the issue they are dealing with is also relevant for other people. I think this gives the students a huge advantage because it motivates them and gives them plenty of energy and drive. The issue they’re dealing with can be turned into something tangible relatively fast.”

What does it take to supervise this kind of thesis? How is it different from supervising a standard thesis?

“In principle, there isn’t much difference because there are some things you always need to consider as a thesis supervisor. For instance, you always need to consider whether the student’s timeframe is realistic. Of course, when you do your thesis in collaboration with an external partner, you are dependent on this partner to a certain extent. This is why it’s important to make clear agreements with the company and find out what they need – and what they don’t need. Students also need to start working at the company and collecting empirical data relatively quickly, so they have time to change their topic if anything goes wrong. Having said that, I don’t think it’s harder to supervise this type of Master’s thesis than any other kind. The same thing happens when the theoretical problem you wanted to study turns out to be different from what you expected and you decide to change course. This is part of any thesis process. So in principle, I don’t think a thesis produced in collaboration with a company or organisation is different from any other thesis.”

How involved are you in the start-up phase of the thesis process? Are there any points you need to be particularly aware of?

“This varies a lot. I’m not always involved in the decision of which company the student should collaborate with. The process often starts with the student reaching an agreement with a company without defining their problem statement first. But if you’re interested in the area in which your company works, you will also find something interesting to study. This is followed by the phase in which the students need to work out what they’re interested in and what they can write about. Supervisors need to remember that like any form of research, Master’s theses can’t always deliver a package that solves people’s problems. A lot of work needs to be done before the results of most research can be used in practice. It’s important to remember that the process involves ongoing dialogue to prevent students from thinking they can solve all the problems in the world. It’s also important to make sure that the company doesn’t ask the student to study their communication problems if the real problem lies with the management. So it’s important that supervisors help to ensure that students don’t make too many promises, and that the issues to be studied are real ones. It’s important to listen carefully and remember that there are two parties involved in defining the problem statement.”