If students want to apply the knowledge they have acquired during their studies in a specific context, then writing their thesis in collaboration with a company or organisation is a very good opportunity. This kind of thesis focuses mostly on the link between the student’s academic competences and a workplace. The students have to produce a result which the employer will give them feedback about, but they are also in contact with their supervisor on a regular basis. This gives them the opportunity to exploit the dynamics between their degree programme and a company which sets a specific framework for the work involved.
In my experience, the best way to do this is for the student to take primary responsibility for contacting a workplace, or at least work out what kind of workplaces they are interested in. The supervisor’s network also comes into play, especially with a view to assuring the company or organisation involved that it’s a good idea to take on a student. So both the student and the supervisor need to work together on this.
It’s a huge advantage for the student that the thesis is part of a specific framework in a company. This makes the project more useful and realistic, so to speak. The students are working for someone specific, and will have colleagues and managers to discuss things with as well as the supervisor. Students have a far wider group of people involved than students writing a standard Master’s thesis. The students also discover whether the field of work they have chosen to focus on is what they actually want to work with in future. This will make it easier to apply for the right jobs later on. And, of course, there’s an advantage when they start looking for jobs. This applies not only to students looking for the kind of job which is normally taken by graduates of their degree programme, but also to students looking for alternative pathways.
One of the biggest challenges involves striking a balance between what the company wants and the academic demands made on any thesis. It’s important that the student and supervisor constantly talk about how to combine the issue or task to be addressed on behalf of the company, and the academic issue or problem statement in the thesis.
It’s crucial to establish good contact with a partner early on in the process – whether it’s a company, a local government department, a childcare centre or something entirely different. And it’s important, at an early stage, to find a supervisor who thinks it’s a good idea to write this type of thesis. My advice is: Just do it!