The form of the final project at BISLA is a written academic paper – the bachelor thesis (30 to 40 norm pages). The format follows from the academic tradition in Slovakia, however, at BISLA, the final project has more importance, and more space and time is devoted to its completion than is the norm elsewhere. The final bachelor thesis is based on thorough academic research, required orientation in the literature within the selected field, and close long-term collaboration with the thesis advisor.
Goals of the bachelor thesis
The thesis is the most important output of students‘ work during their time at BISLA. It is founded on the same goals and focus on skills, independence, multiperspectivity, which are central to the philosophy of teaching and learning at BISLA. Among the main goals of the bachelor thesis are:
- Independent scientific research
Each student has to plan and carry out an independent research within his chosen field. Bachelor thesis topics are formulated in a way to support original academic research; students are encouraged to conduct interviews, surveys, carry out archival research, participant observation, etc., to master the field research skills and habits and learn to interpret data;
- To master the process of writing a long format academic paper
BISLA students write academic essays from their first semester of studies. However, the bachelor thesis introduces them to a long-term research and writing, thus one goal is to go through the process of planning and carrying out a longer term research and writing, from planning to its defense;
- Style and format
Part of academic writing is acquiring correct habits of consistent citation style and formatting on an advanced level, as to experience a process of editing equivalent to preparing a paper for publication;
- Finding, evaluating, integrating sources of literature
During research, student gets oriented within his or her chosen topic and collects a multitude of sources of academic literature, in cooperation with his or her thesis advisor. The aim is to automatize the habits of online and offline search for academic literature, ability to evaluate sources, and to integrate them along with original research outputs and primary data into the thesis;
- Close cooperation with thesis advisors
Meetings with the thesis advisor on a weekly basis provides student with a unique opportunity to experience the research process with the guidance of an expert in the field first-hand, get feedback and guidance on the research and writing process.
- Publishable quality
BISLA puts quality of the bachelor theses high among its priorities and supports students in publishing the outcomes of their research in student academic journals and presenting them at conferences at home and abroad.
The final project process
A lot of time and attention is devoted to the bachelor thesis at BISLA. Students start preparing for their theses in their third semester. At the beginning of the fourth semester, students choose their thesis advisor and broader topic. With their advisor the plan of research is outlined and during this semester, substantial part of their research is carried out, particularly literature research. In their fifth semester, all students take part in a Bachelor Thesis Seminar, where together they learn and write individual parts of their theses – from initial annotated bibliographies, through literature reviews, abstracts, to drafts of individual chapters. During the course, students also produce a detailed Bachelor Thesis Proposal. The proposal is evaluated by their advisor, as well as by a designated opponent, who also offers feedback, and evaluates particularly sources of literature, theoretical framework, methodology. In December, students present their bachelor thesis to the community of BISLA students and professors, as a mock thesis defense. In January, students are finalizing the process of writing and submit the thesis to their advisors for a final round of feedback, editing, and preparation for printing. Edited and printed, bachelor theses are submitted by February 15. This date coincides with the beginning of the Spring semester and thus students have the time and space to focus on their studies without interruption. Theses are defended during the students’ final exams in the second week of June.
Collaboration with thesis advisors
- Selection of topics
The 106 submitted and successfully defended bachelor theses to date reflects the broad spectrum of subjects offered at BISLA. Topics of bachelor theses are primarily centered around political science, international relations, and political theories, but liberal arts focus allows students to choose also from a broader scope within the fields of philosophy, anthropology, arts, business, anthropology, and more.
A range of topics is listed by internal and external teachers at BISLA; students select from a compiled list of topics, which then get narrowed down and specified in cooperation of the student with the thesis advisor. In case of a specific interest, BISLA will reach out to experts in the field outside the BISLA academic community, provided they are academically equipped to supervise the process of research and writing. Selection of topics and advisors is subject to the approval of the Academic Council, which reviews brief outlines of the planned research.
Intensive collaboration of students with their thesis advisors is a required and core part of the process of the final project completion. During their fifth semester, students meet with their advisors on a weekly basis
Thesis advisor offers the student feedback and guidance on a weekly basis. It is a crucial part of the process, giving students the opportunity to gain correct academic habits, plan, outline, get oriented in a vast amount of literature, master the process of writing, revising, and editing and thus improve research and academic writing skills in close collaboration with an expert in the field.
Criteria for evaluation of the bachelor theses are set in correspondence with the goals of the final project. Written works are evaluated on theoretical and methodological aspect, on the breadth and usage of primary and secondary sources, originality of research, its implication for the field or utility for practice.
These elements of the bachelor thesis are evaluated by the thesis advisor as well as the designated opponent, along with a written evaluation and questions for the author of the thesis. The breakdown of a 100 points scale of evaluation is following:
Relevance of the topic, its reflection of current social and political issues or of a problem debated in the field – 5 points
Meeting the goals outlined by the author – 10 points
Methodological aspect (logical frame, process of inquiry, topic specification, how realistic are set goals and how adequate are proposed working methods) – 15 points;
Sources of domestic and foreign literature, familiarity with relevant literature, its use in the proposal – 15 points
Formatting and style – 15 points
Evaluation of achieved results, research outcomes, their implication for the field and practice – 40 points
Bachelor Thesis Defense
Bachelor thesis defense is the core part of the students’ final exam at BISLA. Defense consists of a brief presentation of the topic, goals and hypotheses of the bachelor thesis, outline of the methodology, major findings, and implications of research in front of a defense committee consisting of three BISLA faculty, one external faculty, the thesis advisor and opponent. Thesis advisor then evaluates the process of collaboration with the student and the content of the thesis. Designated thesis opponent then presents his or her evaluation and questions for the student, which the student can react to. Students receives both the
advisor’s and the opponent’s written evaluation at least three days before the defense. After the evaluations and discussion of the raised questions and issues, the floor is open for general discussion with the defense committee.