The Master Thesis in our M.A. Program in Content Strategy – Some Rules (Draft)

This spring the first students of the M.A. program in content strategy at the FH Joanneum University of Applied Sciences in Graz will start to write their master thesises. Last Saturday we had a workshop to prepare this last phase of their studies. I have tried to write down some rules which describe the results of this workshop. I hope that they will be discussed. I apologize for my insufficient proficiency in English.

The following rules are the result of discussions with students and colleagues. I am especially indebted to Rahel Bailie (who has already worked out a template for the thesises), Doris Eichmeier, Sascha Stoltenow, Martin Höllinger, Martin Bredl and Robert Gutounig.

Preliminary remark: The following rules for the master thesis do not cover its most important quality – its creative character.

  1. The thesis must demonstrate that a student has essential competences to work as a content strategist (that does not mean that she will have this job title – especially in the German speaking countries this will not happen often in the years to come).
  2. The thesis must also allow to make comparable, which degree of skills and knowledge a student has achieved. Also for this reason standardization is necessary to a certain extent.
  3. Each thesis must show how a business problem can be solved by using content. The problem itself must be clearly articulated.
  4. Each thesis must also clearly demonstrate the value of the proposed content solution for the user. There has to be empirical evidence for this value.
  5. The thesis should contain typical deliverables of a content strategy project (e.g. content audits, core strategy statement, message architecture, content model, content types, content templates, editorial calendar, KPIs). It depends on the chosen project which of these deliverables will be executed.
  6. It must be clearly documented which tools and methods have been used and why they have been chosen. At least some of the tools and methods should be part of the tool set that is used and discussed in the international content strategy community.
  7. All existing texts and media on the subject of the thesis have to be referenced if they might be relevant. The thesis should build as much as possible on knowledge and methods which have been developed by the content strategy community.
  8. The authors must show that they are aware of the relevant context and implications of a project. All assumptions about resources and organizational content must be realistic even if the proposed solution is not realized.
  9. All data which have been used for the thesis have to be stored and preserved and made accessible if possible. Confidential data (including recordings of interviews etc.) can be archived by the writer of the thesis but must not be destroyed. The data must be accessible for the supervisor of the thesis.
  10. If there are no relevant reasons for confidentiality the thesis and all material used in its production must be accessible on the web. Exceptions have to be justified, but after 5 years at maximum publication is mandatory. Our program is publicly financed and free of charge for the students. The public accessibility of our research and its results are the compensation for the competitive advantages the employers of the master students may have.