A graduation thesis is a mandatory component of any educational programme, as its assessment result demonstrates a student’s skills and knowledge acquired during his/her study. Furthermore, defense of a thesis is a mandatory part of Final State Certification (FSC).
The preparation and defense of a thesis by HSE Bachelor’s, Specialist and Master’s students must be carried out according to the following documents:
- ‘Regulations for Term Papers and Theses Prepared by Students of the Bachelor’s, Specialist and Master’s Level at National Research University Higher School of Economics’;
- Rules and regulations specified by each educational programme (these rules are specified on each programme’s website in the section dedicated to FSC or term papers and theses);
- ‘Regulations for FSC of Students of Bachelor’s, Specialist and Master’s Programmes at National Research University Higher School of Economics’.
How to choose a thesis topic? Can the student propose a topic?
Students may select the topics of their theses following the procedures and deadlines prescribed for a given educational programme.
Before choosing or refining their topic, students must discuss it with their potential supervisor. Such discussions may be organized via e-mail or LMS.
If the topic discussion goes well, the supervisor must provide the student with a confirmation of his/her supervision. This confirmation must be submitted to the programme office in writing, stating the topic in Russian and English, the student’s name and contact details (email, along with the signature of the supervisor). Furthermore, the confirmation must be registered in the special LMS module or via e-mail.
According to the ‘Regulations for Term Papers and Theses Prepared by Students of the Bachelor’s, Specialist and Master’s Level at National Research University Higher School of Economics’, students can propose a topic of their own by the deadlines prescribed by their faculty.
In this case, a student must submit an application indicating his/her proposed supervisor and the topic followed by a justification.
The programme’s academic council then discusses the relevance of the topic and either confirms it or declines if it’s not relevant to the level or area of the degree programme. If a topic is not approved, the academic council discusses the reasons for this with the student and suggests that he/she rephrase the topic. If the topic is confirmed, the council shall make recommendations for the selection of a supervisor or consultant.
Is selecting a thesis topic by the deadline important?
According to the ‘Regulations for Term Papers and Theses Prepared by Students of the Bachelor’s, Specialist and Master’s Level at National Research University Higher School of Economics’, a student must submit his/her topic by the deadlines prescribed by their respective faculty’s guidelines (no later than December 1 of the current academic year).
A directive on submitting topics and assigning supervisors shall be signed by the faculty dean and issued no later than December 15 of the current academic year.
If the topic has not been chosen by the deadline, an academic debt may appear which can be eliminated from the beginning of the 3rd Module by February 15. This debt is eliminated if the student selects a topic within the extension period.
Otherwise, according to the ‘Procedures for Student Expulsion at the Initiative of the National Research University Higher School of Economics’ (Appendix 9 to the HSE Internal Regulations), students may be subject to expulsion, regardless of the presence of other debts. At the same time, if the student not only fails to choose a topic, but also has two and more academic debts after Modules 1 and 2 of the current academic year, he/she will not be able to choose the topic within the extension period and, thus, shall be expelled for academic failure.
Can a student change the topic of his/her thesis?
A thesis topic may be changed or refined no later than one calendar month before the official deadline for final submission of the thesis following procedures established for the degree programme. Any changes to a thesis topic are enacted by the relevant dean’s directive.
Can a student prepare his/her thesis with an academic supervisor, who works in another school or department? Can a student prepare his/her thesis with an academic supervisor, who doesn’t work at HSE?
There are no restrictions as to choosing an academic supervisor, who works in a department not involved in a given student’s educational programme. Staff members of external organizations may also be academic supervisors if they have practical experience in the relevant field (3 years minimum) or hold supervisory positions and/or graduate degree, thereby ensuring their professional competence in the field connected to the thesis topic (provided that a major part of the thesis is implemented at the supervisor’s place of work.
For students whose supervisors are not employed at HSE, monitors must be appointed from among the University’s staff. Monitors (usually from the department delivering the student’s educational programme) oversee thesis preparation and check whether its content and formatting meet the established requirements.
Can a student change his/her academic supervisor?
Yes, he/she can. In such cases, the student should write a personal request to the dean of the faculty with a brief justification regarding his/her request. The dean has the right to reject the student’s request, giving reasons for this decision. If the change is confirmed, an endorsed document shall be sent to the relevant programme office. Furthermore, any change of thesis supervisor must be enacted by a dean’s directive no later than one month before the deadline for final submission of the term paper, as defined in the curriculum, but no later than May 30 of the current academic year.
What is the role of a research advisor? Who can be a research advisor?
A research advisor is a specialist in a field relevant to a given thesis topic, who usually possesses special or unique knowledge, experience and competence in a particular subject. He/she holds an advisory vote on thesis development. The advisor also consults students on selecting an appropriate research or project methodology, scholarly literature and resources, as well as thesis content.
An adviser is usually assigned if the thesis topic features intersecting research fields, applies to a very narrow research field, and if it is impossible to implement a qualitative research project without additional specialist consultations. Appointment of an advisor(s) is initiated by the thesis supervisor (subject to the dean’s consent) and authorized by the Programme’s Academic Supervisor, following a written request drawn up by the student and signed by the supervisor.
Can a student use his/her term paper when preparing the thesis?
Theses may be based on a generalization of a term paper written by a student, as well as be prepared for a defense during the final period of his/her theoretical studies. However, the citation of the perm paper should be executed properly. In addition, in order to avoid self-plagiarism and duplication of previously published information, the student should put links to his/her works and list them in the references. The Academic Supervisor will help the student make a final decision on using the term paper when preparing a thesis.
How are theses checked for plagiarism?
Theses prepared by HSE students shall be subject to mandatory checks for plagiarism before their defense. All students must upload electronic copies of their theses to a special LMS module which will forward them to the Antiplagiat system (there are different systems for works in Russian and English). For more information, please see the ‘Regulations on Checking Student Papers for Plagiarism and the Publication of Bachelor’s, Specialist and Master’s Theses on the HSE Corporate Website’.
This system determines the percentage of unoriginal content in a given work. At the same time, since any system can make mistakes, according to regulations, the final decision as to whether or not copied material in a student thesis was used appropriately, as it appears from reports provided by programme coordinators, shall be made by the academic supervisor of each paper, respectively.
Is a preliminary defense mandatory? Can a student defend his/her thesis without a preliminary defense?
The preliminary defense procedure is not mandatory at HSE. However, respective academic councils and academic supervisors of educational programmes may add preliminary defense as a stage for thesis preparation to their regulations.
If a student has not passed the preliminary defense stage, and if it is prescribed by regulations, the student thus has not acquired the programme material in full and will not be allowed to the FSC process (including thesis defense).
Who can review theses? How many reviewers can assess a given thesis? What information must be indicated in a review?
A reviewer shall be appointed from among the HSE’s academic staff. This reviewer may also be an employee of another university or an organization whose professional focus matches the thesis topic.
The reviewer must analyze the main tenets of the thesis under review, assess if a personal standpoint/project solution is presented, how well research/project methods are applied, how well-grounded the conclusions and recommendations are, if the means selected to obtain the result are appropriate, if the final output is adequate, and how original and feasible the presented solutions are. The reviewer may also evaluate how well the student has mastered the competencies prescribed in the HSE ES. Appendix 5 of the ‘Regulations for Term Papers and Theses Prepared by Students of the Bachelor’s, Specialist and Master’s Level at National Research University Higher School of Economics’ contains a sample review form to be filled in by the reviewer.
In what cases are students not admitted to a thesis defense?
A student shall not be admitted to the defense process:
- if the thesis was not submitted by the deadline;
- if the thesis was not uploaded to the Antiplagiat system by the deadline;
- if confirmed instances of plagiarism have been found in the thesis (the student may face disciplinary action in accordance with the ‘Procedures for Applying Disciplinary Measures for the Violation of Academic Standards for Student Papers at HSE’ (Appendix 7 to the HSE Internal Regulations).
(Important: a bad grade or negative review of the thesis by the academic supervisor or reviewers cannot serve as reason for defense non-admission. The student still has an opportunity to defend his/her thesis in front of the relevant committee).
What is the thesis defense procedure?
A thesis defense shall be held according to the final state examination schedule at a meeting of the examination committee for the relevant field of study/major. The defense procedure is described in the rules and regulations for thesis preparation, as specified by each educational programme.
An academic supervisor’s opinion and a second reader’s review of a thesis are required at the defense.
After the discussion reaches completion, the student shall give his/her closing remarks. In the closing remarks, the student must respond to the notes made by the academic supervisor and the reviewer of the thesis. After the closing remarks, the thesis defense shall be declared complete.
How are thesis defenses assessed?
The local state certification board (SCB) makes a decision on the final grade after the thesis defense process is completed. The criteria of the thesis assessment are stipulated in the relevant regulations.
What shall a student do if he/she fails a thesis defense?
A thesis defense is part of the FSC process. Students who have failed their defense shall be dismissed from HSE. In order to get reinstated, the student may retake the FSC no earlier than within one year and no later than within two years after the first FSC procedure.
Is a student entitled to appeal against the decision of the examination committee?
Students are entitled to appeal the results of the thesis defense on the grounds of violations committed during the procedure (absence of a proper quorum, timeframe violations, etc.).
Please note — issues related to the content of the committee’s commentary and questions will not be considered.
Can students publish their theses on HSE’s corporate website?
Yes, students have a unique opportunity to publish their theses (in full or abstract form) on the HSE website for public viewing. Also, these can be made available for potential employers and other interested parties.
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