Thesis or Student Business Project - EHL Bachelor

December 06, 2020 •

6 min reading

Thesis or Student Business Project? That is the question.

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A Real Life Project

In the final semester of the bachelor program and to complete their Management degree program, EHL students can choose between a Student Business Project (SBP) or an individual applied research project.

EHL Alumna 2020, Patrizia Zueck shares with us her experience:

When I was in my 3rd year at EHL and started thinking about whether I wanted to write a thesis or take on an SBP with my team, it seemed impossible to me to choose one or the other.

Let me be clear: There is no right or wrong in this decision. It all depends on what you want to take from this experience of your last assignment of your bachelors.

Thesis or Student Business Project?

SBP definition: You will join a team of five students tasked with providing a consulting service to an external client. During the course of the project you will either work on the client's premises or on a consulting-mode and deliver your project through a formal presentation on campus. A large majority of our students' proposals are put into action by the clients and a significant number of students are hired by the same client at the end of the project.

An Student Business Project (SBP) is the crown jewel of group work – it will require you to use everything you have learned in previous semesters about collaborating with others, organizing your work, and time management. It is the closest you will get to a simulation of a consulting project – long hours and time pressure included.

Research project definition: Your task will be to find a solution to an industry-specific problem using both qualitative and quantitative research methods. You will be supervised by an experienced faculty member who will coach you in the methods needed to successfully complete your project.

Writing a thesis is a different undertaking – it gives you the chance to analyze a topic in depth that has always interested you and create something that is entirely yours. It is entirely up to you, (taking the input of your supervisor into account of course), in what direction you want to go, how much time you want to invest in each part, and when you want to work on it or not. This freedom does come at a price however: It demands a lot of self-discipline, time management skills and ownership. Your supervisor will be there for you if you have questions and need advice, but he/she will not be calling you every day to make sure you are doing your work which your teammates might do.

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My personal thesis journey

I personally decided to write a thesis, as I wanted to finish my time at EHL with a project that was just mine. I wanted to challenge myself and also see how I liked this way of academic work compared to team assignments. As I always knew I would want to pursue a master’s degree at some point in my career, it also felt like the right training for my academic writing skills.

Finding the topic of your thesis

A big difference in comparison to an SBP is also the timeline of a thesis. The first step of the thesis process is to select a broad topic, and therefore, also the professor you want to supervise your work which usually already happens before you leave for your second internship.

Here there are basically two approaches, either you make your choice based on which supervisor you trust and think you will work with best, or you select a topic that has always fascinated you and approach the corresponding professor whose research overlaps with your interest.

I recommend you to explore different topics and talk to different professors – just invite them for a coffee at M-Bar, they love when students reach out proactively and they definitely love talking about their research. 

Doing your literature review

Once you have found your supervisor and your topic, you submit a proposal with a first outline of your research to the administration team who will then accept or deny your application for writing a thesis. Before the start of your last semester, you will slowly start with your literature review.

This is a crucial step in the thesis process, as it lays the foundation of everything that is to come. You will spend a lot of hours reading pages and pages of academic articles about your domain of research and related topics.

The idea here is that you develop an understanding of what research has been found so far and how your piece of work will contribute to the current state of the literature. Your supervisor will of course point you in the right direction and give you tips, but at this stage, you will have to work very independently, and it is important to note that most students spend a lot of their semester break before electives starting to write up their literature review.

Conducting your research

Once your required classes are over, you will have 9-10 weeks to exclusively work on your thesis. Here, every process is different and depends heavily on the nature of your research design. Should you choose to conduct quantitative research, the first step will be to design a survey based on the knowledge you acquired from your literature review and to collect as many responses as possible.

If your research is of qualitative nature, like mine was, you will start by thinking about what people you need to interview to discover interesting new findings and a lot of time will go intro creating an interview guide, and actually scheduling the interviews. Here, you will be able to apply a lot of knowledge you’ll have acquired in the Research Methodology class and your supervisor will assist you and share their own experience of designing countless studies.

Then in a last step, you will spend the rest of your time on analyzing your collected data and writing up the findings of your work in a coherent and engaging way.

In these weeks, time management is of the essence. You will always have to check in with your supervisor to make sure you get your feedback on time and you can move on to the next step. At the beginning, it can be daunting to have the freedom to decide when to work and when to relax, but slowly you will start to listen to yourself and schedule your tasks more efficiently.

The journey of writing a thesis can feel endless and it is definitely more of a marathon than a sprint, but the reward is more than worth it.

Being able to present your study to your supervisor and your second reader is an exhilarating feeling and will allow you to really understand what you have achieved over the past few months. If I had to do it over again, I would make the same choice, because not only do you learn a lot about your chosen topic, but also about yourself.

Tips & tricks on writing a successful thesis

...based on my own experience!

  1. Make sure you get along with your supervisor and you are not too intimidated by him/her – there will be times when you have to annoy them a bit.

  2. Establish early on in the process how you will communicate and schedule your feedback sessions: A phone call once a week? Check in daily via WhatsApp? A long video call every 2 weeks?

  3. Many professors either do qualitative or quantitative research – ask yourself what do you enjoy more? Talking to people and then spending hours re-listening and re-reading the transcripts of your interviews looking for similar statements? Or crunching numbers and analyzing the collected data in Excel and R? Maybe this influences what topic and which supervisor you should choose.

  4. Establish your own little milestones for yourself – and celebrate them accordingly. It is dangerous to feel like you always have to work on your thesis. You have enough time, take some time off.

  5. There will be days when you cannot bring yourself to write a single sentence. Have a backup plan: read some articles on your topic, transcribe your interviews or switch to Excel for a change. There is always something to do that will move you further along in the process.

  6. Most importantly: have fun! Choose a topic you are really interested in, because you will learn a lot about it over the course of your last semester.