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Homepage / Getting started on your School of Management thesis

Getting started on your School of Management thesis


Writing a thesis, business plan, internship project or company project can be a daunting task, and you might have some uncertainty or questions around how to get started. This post will share some ideas and tips to help you.

Choosing your thesis topic

Your course leader may provide you with ideas for topics or give you a specific project or research question to answer. If you are completing your studies whilst in the workplace, your employer might have specified a topic for you to examine. In some cases, however, you may need to think of and refine the topic yourself. Have a think about the following points to help you focus:

  • Look back at what you have been taught during your Cranfield course and consider if there is a particular topic or assignment that you found interesting or had questions about. It really helps to pick a topic that is of genuine interest to you.
  • Are there any topics that might benefit your future employment plans? Will it add anything to your CV? Will you be able to talk about it in job applications?
  • Examine the research interests of the academics in SOM, particularly those in your course area. Could you build on this?
  • Is there a hot topic in the news that relates to your subject area?  You could try searching in our news database Factiva
  • Is there anything you experienced on a work placement, or study abroad, that would make an interesting research subject?
  • Are there any potential topic areas which fit with your wider interests or future study plans?

You may also want to take a look at our Writing your thesis and conducting a literature review pages.

Look at what others have done

It’s a good idea to have a look at what has already been done, especially by previous students on your course. Previous theses and projects can be a source of subject information, or an inspiration for a research topic, but also they are a guide to the layout and the approach so you know what is expected of you. Visit our Theses page on our library website to search for Cranfield theses and for theses published nationally and internationally. You may also contact your SAS lead for previous examples.

If you cannot find a specific thesis, it may be subject to an embargo or security restriction. Please contact us for more advice.

Plan your research – what are you looking for?

Outline your topic and any sub-areas for research. Think about what you already know, or previous research – there might be core texts from your modules, for example, that you could revisit. For many, your focus will be on searching for literature in our journal databases. However, it might be relevant to look at a wider range of resources, which, depending on your topic, might include:

 Try to structure your research and have a plan of what you need to find. For support with searching, you might like to visit our search tips page, look at our blog posts (see out blog post on journal searching or on researching a market or industry or one of the many other posts we provide) or the resources in the Study Skills Hub.  Our pages on Writing your thesis and conducting a literature review might also help you if you are doing a structured literature review or need more in-depth guidance on literature reviews.

If you are struggling to find useful information, or would like a refresher in using our specialist databases, please contact your SOM librarian.

Brush up on essential skills

To refresh your knowledge on finding, evaluating and using information, take a look at the Study Skills Hub. Check out our academic language support pages to learn about options available to you to improve your writing skills.  Learn more about academic writing skills, referencing, reference management software and database search skills at one of our Research and Academic Skills Development events

Our tip: Investigate the various software applications our IT department supports, including Qualtrics survey software and data analysis tools such as NVivo and SPSS.

Keeping up with new research in your area

In order to keep up to date with what is happening in your subject area, consider setting up email alerts based on your searches in our databases. They will keep you informed of any new research in your area. Check the ‘help’ section of your favourite databases to see if they offer search alerts – our journal databases, Ebsco and ProQuest, offer search alerts and you can use our blogpost, Unlock your full searching potential with a personal account in EBSCO or ProQuest, to find out more about setting these up.

Keep track of references

For larger written projects, reference management software can be really useful. In the Library, we’re keen on using Mendeley – free online software which allows you to store, group and annotate articles. It can also be used to help format your references and reference list in a specific format – including APA7, which is used in SOM.

Our tips:

  • Use the annotation and notes tools to record your thoughts on each article – you can then review them when it comes to writing up.
  • Use the tags and collections functions to organise your articles – perhaps by topic or research area?
  • Install web importer so you can add online content including journal articles, videos and webpages really easily.
  • Remember to check the data for each item in Mendeley for accuracy. Read our advice on referencing and Mendeley.

Formatting and submitting

You can find a range of guidance on the University intranet explaining how to format and submit your thesis: 

Off-site Access

You should be able to access all our resources (with the exception of Bloomberg) when off-site.  Remember to use your Cranfield login and ideally go via the SOM library webpages to successfully log in to our databases.

Remember that your SOM Librarians can be contacted via email and are happy to meet via Teams – you can book an appointment here.

Stay connected

Always check with your thesis supervisor if you need specific advice and to check you are meeting School requirements.

Please remember we are always here to help you as much as we can. Do not hesitate to get in touch with us if you have any questions, or if you just need to see a friendly face.

Featured image from Pixabay

Helen Holmes

Written By: Helen Holmes

An Assistant Business Librarian since 2023, Helen provides support for SOM students and staff

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