State Exam

State Exam

All graduate degree programmes at the Institute of International Studies, Faculty of Social Sciences are completed by the state exam.

Final state exams are generally held three times per year. For the winter semester in late January/early February and for the summer semester in June, or September.

A state exam comprises defence of the master’s thesis and academic debate on a selected topic from within the specialisation created throughout the studies (beyond the thesis focus).

Administrative procedures before taking the state exam

Please note that there are a number of administrative steps you must take before you will be allowed to proceed to the Final State Exam

  1. Check whether the grades from all the classes you have taken have been recorded to SIS.
  2. Register for the state exams via SIS.
  3. Upload an electronic copy of your thesis in a ".pdf" format to SIS and deliver two bound copies of your thesis to the Secretary of IMS by the appropriate deadline.

   Your participation in the exam is conditional on your fulfilling all of these steps.

MA Thesis

The Master's Thesis is an extended piece of original academic writing, with which you are expected to complete your studies.

There are several steps to follow in preparing, registering and completing a thesis, which we have outlined below.

1. Determine your thesis topic and tentative research questions

You have some flexibility in your choice of thesis topic. Generally, a thesis topic that falls into any of the main subject areas of the programme will be acceptable, although individual thesis proposals are subject to approval of the programme director once you have discussed the topic with your potential thesis supervisor.

  1. Find Your Thesis Supervisor

Although the final thesis must be your own work, you will be assigned an academic worker who will advise and guide you in your research, especially in the early stages of the thesis. This is your thesis supervisor.  You are encouraged to identify and propose a potential advisor from amongst the regular teachers of the programme/institute, according to your research interests. The choice of a thesis advisor is, however, subject to the approval of the programme director.

  1. Submit a Thesis Project

You have to submit an outline of your proposed thesis no later than 12 months before you intend to graduate. The exact dates are specified in the academic calendar for the particular year. This outline is the so-called thesis project. Generally, it is about 2-4 pages in length, and it must include:

  • The proposed title of your thesis
  • The name of your supervisor
  • A short outline of your proposed line of argument (including potential chapters) and the methodology you plan to use
  • A bibliography of your main sources, related to both the content and the methodology of the thesis

At this early stage, we do not expect you to go into any particular detail, but the text should be sufficiently well developed that we can tell what your main topic will be, how you plan to structure the text, and what sources you plan to use.

The thesis project is subject to approval of the programme director, who may ask you to revise your project if he/she thinks this is necessary. It is therefore advisable to secure the approval of the programme coordinator before you start writing in earnest.

  1. Submit and Complete your Thesis

The thesis itself must be submitted in the final semester of your studies, generally a few weeks before the date of your last exam. The exact deadlines for submitting your thesis project and your final thesis will vary slightly from year to year, but you will always find them in the current academic calendar of the university.

As a rough guide, the basic timeline is as follows, but please remember to check for specific deadlines:

  • If you plan to graduate in the summer (June): submit the project in May/June of the year before you intend to graduate. Submit the final thesis in May.
  • If you plan to graduate in the autumn (September): submit the project in August/September of the year before you intend to graduate. Submit the final thesis in July.
  • If you plan to graduate in the spring (February): submit the project in January/February of the year before you intend to graduate. Submit the final thesis in January.

Formal Requirements of the Thesis

When preparing your thesis, please remember that:

Your thesis is an original piece of academic writing and must fulfil all the usual standards of an academic text (bibliography, attribution of sources, etc).

The minimum length of the thesis is 50 standard manuscript pages, excluding supplements. For the purposes of calculating the length of the thesis, a standard manuscript page is taken to be 1800 keystrokes long (including spaces). Pages should be numbered.

Every student must submit two printed copies of the thesis on paper. An electronic version of the thesis, identical to the printed version, must be uploaded by the student in SIS, through the interface at in the module ‘Thesis (Selection of subject)’, solely in PDF/A format, version 1.3 or higher.

Content of the thesis

Every thesis must contain the following (in this order):

  1. Title page in standard format
  2. The original project of your Master's Thesis, as described above, signed and approved by the Programme Coordinator
  3. Abstract summarising the contents of the thesis, five keywords
  4. Declaration that the thesis is your own work, signed and dated by yourself
  5. Table of Contents
  6. The main text of the thesis itself
  7. Summary
  8. Full bibliography and citations

For detailed information about the formal requirements please ask your thesis supervisor.

Oral Defence of the Thesis

As part of the State Exam, you will undertake an oral defence of your thesis.

Prior to that, your thesis will be independently assessed by an academic other than your thesis supervisor, who will submit a written report on the quality of the thesis. This academic is the so-called thesis opponent, who will often, but not necessarily, be present at the oral defence. His/her report will be available to you in advance of the state exam. Please make sure you get a copy, read it, and prepare yourself in advance to react to his/her comments during the thesis defence.