[master, thesis, guide, marketing, economics, management, tisem, research, guidance, preparation, question, proposal, skills, resources]


We help you to prepare for your Master (or Ph.D. or Bachelor) thesis process. In preparation, we cover the following topics:

  • The research question
  • The research proposal
  • Invest in skills beforehand
  • General tips on the thesis process

Go through the following 4 steps and come across all the resources relevant for your thesis writing process:

  1. Preparation phase: The current page
  2. Coding, Workflow, and Data Management: The core foundation of your research.
  3. Thesis structure: The standard structure of a thesis and chapter-specific insights.
  4. Academic Writing tips: Learn effective academic writing and thesis formatting.

The research question

Whether you are still thinking about the subject or you are already writing your thesis proposal, refining your research question is crucial work. Starting early on this is key as it takes time to narrow down and revise your topic.


A good research question:

  • addresses a real-world problem, contributing to existing research in your field
  • is personally interesting, and you can imagine yourself spending time exploring it in the next months

How to come up with a good research question?

Use academic journals

Academic journals are a crucial resource in shaping your research question.

  • Begin by examining (recently published) academic journals within your field. The table of contents might already give you a good overview o “hot topics” and emerging trends.

  • When you have identified relevant articles for your topic, browse through their reference lists to follow these references and discover other relevant papers. This is called backward reference searching.

  • Also forward reference searching is useful, where you identify articles that cite the article you have in your hands. This will help you find new developments on your topic.

  • As you begin to form an idea about the direction of your subject, review relevant papers in more depth. Read the introduction to see the research question from the author’s perspective. Pay extra attention to their suggestions for “future research” (mostly found at the end of the paper), these might give you good ideas for your research!

Other sources of inspiration

To shape your research topic, it is a good order to go outside and start from a “real world” issue. Don’t limit yourself by staying in your field and go beyond academic journals. Think outside the box. Some ideas are:

  • Engage with the business community by reading corporate blogs, white papers, and content on platforms like LinkedIn to connect with real-world issues and industry perspectives.
  • Read news sites to remain informed about recent developments.
  • Talk to colleagues and friends, also the ones that are not in your field. Their input can give you a good idea whether your etopic is something relevant in real-life scenarios.
  • Read practitioner journals like the Harvard Business Review and insights from policymakers (e.g. European Commission), scientific research institutes, and specific industry-focused organizations.

For example, the Marketing Science Institute publishes a list of important research topics regularly, e.g. the list of 2022-2024 research priorities.

  • Reflect on your own experience! Did you encounter a question somewhere in your studies that interested you and left you with a sense of curiosity about potential solutions?

By blending insights from academic journals with real-world observations and diverse perspectives, you can come up with an impactful research question for your thesis.


Take notes from every interesting resource you encounter and avoid losing good resources for later in the process. Be consistent and note down at least the author(s), title, and URL.

Contribution to existing research

When you’ve identified a relevant topic, it is crucial to articulate how your research contributes to existing knowledge. You can make a relevant contribution, by for example:

  • Testing assumptions on which existing research relies: Test their validity through empirical research, potentially leading to modifications of existing theories.

  • Probing external validity: Evaluate the generalizability of findings to different contexts. For example, will these results hold with different background factors, like different periods, countries, or other common background factors?

  • Exploring new domains of inquiry: Investigate unexplored topics that have the potential to significantly impact the field if it is better understood.

  • Working backward in the causal chain: Examine a crucial variable, that by being understood better, can potentially lead to shedding light on fundamental relationships underlying observed phenomena.

  • Intervening in an accepted causal chain: Reconsider existing assumptions or relationships in your field. What happens if they disappear?

  • Challenging conventional managerial practices: Identify gaps in management practices, offering an alternative perspective that can lead to better managerial decision-making processes.

  • Resolving inconsistent findings: Revisit contradictory research findings by critically evaluating the methodologies, contexts, and variables involved.

  • Examining research holistically: Analyze existing research comprehensively, and create a deeper understanding of research that is already there.


The three-question pitch
Formulate a convincing pitch about your research question by summarizing your answers to the following questions:

  1. What’s new about it?
    E.g. new data, new variables, new method?

  2. Is it useful? And to whom?
    Formulate potential outcomes for specific stakeholders, can they implement your findings? E.g. policymakers or managers. Keep it realistic: don’t overstate your contribution and make a realistic assessment of how your study will affect different stakeholders.

  3. Is it interesting?
    If it is an already known fact, it is not interesting. Do you get other people excited about it?

The research proposal

In a short document, you give your supervisor a clear description of your research question and the method you want to use to answer this question. The proposal is the core of your research. Some tips on what to include are:

  • Clearly articulate how your research question will contribute to the field. (Go back to the research question section for tips on how to do this.)
  • Think about the methodology. Also, try to find data sources you can use.
  • Do a literature review. This does not need to be the final version but identify key works relevant to your research.

Invest in skills beforehand

Coding skills

Chances are this will be the biggest independent coding project you have done so far in your studies. Investing in skills beforehand can ease the workload during the thesis process. This includes familiarizing yourself with the software programs you will use and developing skills for data preparation. Also revising your knowledge on model estimation etc. can be useful to do beforehand.

The following resources on the Tilburg Science Hub website and beyond can help you with that:

For programming languages:

Learn LaTeX

  • Tutorial on LaTeX: LaTex is a typesetting system ideal for academic documents, like your thesis, enabling precise formatting and presentation.
  • LaTeX Thesis Template: Get started with our ready-to-use LaTeX Thesis Template.

Other skills


DataCamp is a great platform to grow your data skills. It offers courses on everything that involves data (importing, manipulating, analyzing, etc.), and programming languages (like R, Python, and SQL) and it has courses on AI. You can request free access as a student of Tilburg University.

General tips

Communication with your supervisor

  • Prepare for meetings. Have a list of topics to discuss to make it an efficient meeting and ensure you don’t forget anything.
  • Ideally, have new progress on your thesis before every meeting, recognizing that opportunities for direct interaction with your supervisor are probably limited.
  • Take responsibility for your progress and preparation for each meeting, as this is mainly your project and not that of your supervisor.

Mental health

Writing a thesis can be stressful. Unexpected problems may arise, related or unrelated to your thesis project. Generally, it is good to address any arising issues early with your supervisor. This allows you to come up with a solution together, by for example narrowing down the scope of your thesis.

If you are facing delays due to special circumstances, the program coordinator can provide you with an official extension of your deadline.


If you need professional support, the university offers individual therapy and guidance through student psychologists.

Mental health tips

  • Follow your own pace and avoid comparing your progress to others.
  • Acknowledge that ups and downs are inevitable.
  • Stay active in hobbies and activities that recharge you. Enough recharging will also make you more productive when working on your thesis!
  • While being ambitious is good, also set expectations and realize that your thesis most likely will not single-handedly change the world.
  • Interact with fellow students for mutual support.


Information is based on the Thesis Guide for Marketing Analytics of Hannes Datta.

Contributed by Valerie Vossen