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I have been asked to provide feedback regarding a paper a friend of mine has written. I sometimes read scientific research in my free time and I am yet to come across anything similar to what that friend has produced. I don't think I can provide any meaningful feedback as I am not sure how to approach this thesis.

This thesis has no defining research question that it is trying to answer. The aforementioned friend of mine wrote his bachelors thesis to merely inform the reader about the subject. As such, no meaningful conclusions were made. The conclusion section of the paper only contains a short summary of previous chapters. That friend of mine studies in Finland. The subject of this paper is Cyber Security.

Is that friend of mine doing something wrong? If not, could you perhaps point me into the direction of similar research so that I can use that as a baseline to provide feedback?

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I can't be sure, but from your description it seems like this thesis does not include original research, and that is what troubles you. Instead of original research, it sounds like your friend may have produced a survey or review of a particular area, which informs the reader about the body of work in that area. (See this answer to Difference between research paper and scientific paper).

A bachelors thesis may or may not be expected to include original research. Your friend should ask his or her thesis advisor to clarify the expectations in their department.

  • I see. Thanks for the information. However, from where I stand the thing look even bleaker now as my friends paper contains no citations of any other papers. It only contains general information that I would expect to find on a Wikipedia page. In any case, thanks for your help. I'll try to guide him into the right direction. – P_Andre May 16 '19 at 15:18
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    @P_Andre Your friend should definitely ask around to find out what the specific expectations are in his or her department. This varies tremendously from one place to the next. – ff524 May 16 '19 at 15:27
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Original research is not required for bachelors or masters courses, only doctorates. A replication study is acceptable. However the research question, hypothesis, or aims/objectives should still be clearly stated. Many courses still require a dissertation to have original data, even if the conclusions are negative or not novel themselves. What you appear to be describing is a literature review, not a thesis. Please check the requirements of the specific programme to ensure that this is acceptable instead of a thesis. Submitting it as original research would be inappropriate but it should be possible to add sufficient results (including modelling or simulations) in the context of the literature to meet these requirements. If this is the case, then this is a matter which should be taken up with the supervisor as it appears that the candidate has misunderstood what a thesis entails.

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    A "bachelor's thesis" can certainly be a literature review, as mentioned in the other answer. – Bryan Krause May 16 '19 at 23:20
  • My programme certainly would not have allowed this. The requirements were made clear to us. Of course, different fields, institutes, and countries have different conventions. Every course is different so it’s hard to generalise. It is the candidate’s responsibility to read the the regulations of the course but this really should have been discussed with the supervisor if it hasn’t already. – Tom Kelly May 16 '19 at 23:37
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    Agreed that the requirements should be clear for a given program and that it varies, that was why I was raising the issue with your answer that states a thesis requires original data. A "bachelor's thesis" is really just a synonym for "bachelor's project" and can be just about anything, depending on the program. – Bryan Krause May 16 '19 at 23:46
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What you can is compare to other bachelor's theses on the same area at the same university. Most or all Finnish universities have an electronic depository of published articles and theses (these might be different or the same one).

I checked that the repository for University of Jyväskylä does not contain bachelor's theses on this subject.

Aalto's repository has several; but they do not seem to be openly accessible to everyone, see https://aaltodoc.aalto.fi/doc_public/bachelor_info/?la=en. But maybe your friend can access them with their university account.

On cybersecurity: 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17

In a similar spirit, I would suggest asking your friend to find the institutional repository of their university, or alternatively visiting the university library, and checking out some of the theses, if they are accessible. Or maybe you can find some publicly accessible ones. You can use them to get an idea of what such a thesis might look like.

In math

In (fairly pure) mathematics, most bachelor's theses do not contain original research. They likely contain a proof and maybe some context on the problem. This might or might not be different in cybersecurity.

In general

A bachelor's thesis should be a significant contribution to or sign of the writer's understanding, in any case. It is also practice for scientific writing. If it looks like a literature review, then it should definitely have references.

Ask the advisor for more details.

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There is probably no requirement for original research. Check but I bet this is the case. However, based on your statements, including comments, I get the impression the paper is not very good. While you are not an expert in their requirements, your common sense gut reaction seems to lean this way.

Give this advice:

  1. Add citations and comments on the literature.

  2. Also advise the author/instructor to try to come up with some better slant/theme/question or some interesting categorization/structure (importance, front to back end, historical evolution, etc.). Obviously the facts, ideas have a value on their own. But any written work functions better for the reader if there is some narrative or story. It's not an exact problem like an equation to know how to assign a theme, and multiple decent options exist. But the effort to assign one will likely pay off.


The paper will still probably be lacking (I am reading between the lines), but you will have discharged your duty to give a few words of decent advice. At that point, que sera sera. Heck, even if all the kid does is a half-hearted attempt at 1 (writing endnotes but not really evaluating the literature for importance), at least he will have practiced the clerical mechanics of doing citations.

The scope sounds too large. He would have been better off picking something more granular. But at this point, it is likely too far down the pike to worry about. It's really just a school project...let the kid get his gentleman's C and be on his way.

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