For their dissertation students have to write a policy paper, ideally as a follow-up on one or both of the end-of-module papers written during modules II or III.
A policy paper is the outcome of an individual research project where the student makes an academic contribution to the development debate. Like the Master’s course in general, the policy paper bridges “thinking” and “practice”, “reflection” and “action”. This bridge is embodied in the policy relevance of the topic (usefulness), in the depth and coherence of the argument made (soundness), as well as in a reflection about the political economy of decision-making around the issues under discussion (supportability).
You may choose between three types of Master’s dissertation:
- A study based on desk research only. You will make use of the scientific literature and available data to develop your analysis of a selected topic.
- A study combining desk research and fieldwork. There are certain financial provisions to make this option realistic. For further information, please consult the section on travel grants for field research as part of the Master’s dissertation.
- A study based on desk research and an internship. An internship with an NGO or a bilateral or multilateral donor organisation can be instrumental to a better understanding and analysis of the selected topic. The purpose of the internship is to write a dissertation, not an internship report (e.g. an activity report). The internship should take place after the conclusion of the third module. The organisation of the internship is your own responsibility. IOB can offer only limited support (e.g. letters of recommendation). The rules for the funding of fieldwork also apply to internships.
It should be noted that, whichever type of Master’s dissertation you choose, the formal requirements for the final text are the same.
Apart from the rules of academic writing and the content-specific requirements, the Master’s dissertation must also comply with some rather rigid technical and style-related requirements.
The dissertation must be written in full sentences and in Standard English (UK or US). French-speaking students may write their paper in French. However, the public presentation should be in English.
Use only standard acronyms (listed in a list of acronyms). Where an acronym for an organisation or institution first appears in the text, it should either be preceded by the full name or the full name should be provided in a footnote. In any event, be consistent! The accessibility of the text and the use of correct language are two criteria on which you will be assessed.
The length of the Master’s dissertation should be between 15,000 and 20,000 words, including cover and title pages, table of contents, executive summary, and bibliography but excluding appendices. As the number of words is restricted, it is important that your style should be concise. The introduction and contextualisation, for example, should be brief. The aim is to make your point clearly and concisely.
The text should be printed recto-verso in Times New Roman, 12 pt, and spaced at 1.5. It should be preceded by an executive summary of up to 1000 words.