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I am writing my master thesis (sociology of migration) and I've started my data collection process with some research questions in mind, so my interview questions went in that direction. However, at the end of the data collection, when re-reading my interviews and analysing my data, I came across some interesting 'patterns' that made me want to discuss my material under a critical lens that was not planned at the beginning. Now I am in the situation of finishing my thesis and my supervisor told me I have to incorporate somehow those new approaches into my theoretical background, otherwise, my discussion/conclusion will sound detached from the rest of the thesis. BUT at this point, I don't feel like changing my research question because 1) I haven't asked any questions regarding this new topic; 2) I feel like lying about my research process. So the question is: how do I make clear in my thesis that this new 'topic' emerged naturally and unexpectedly during my data collection? Can I write something about it in my methodological part? If so, how would you do that? And how can I write my theoretical part in a way that does not sound that those theories guided my research (because I actually added them later)?

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  • A thesis is not a retelling of the work in chronological order. It exists to get a point (or points) across to the reader. New insights come up during research - that is kind of the point of the research in the first place. If you knew the answer before starting you aren't doing anything new.
    – Jon Custer
    Jul 14, 2022 at 14:35
  • Thank you for your answer! I did not know the answer before starting, I was just looking at a different angle and then something interesting came along. I cannot change the all structure of my thesis but I would like to find a space where to briefly explain those unexpected insight.
    – Mirtilla
    Jul 14, 2022 at 14:42
  • "how do I make clear in my thesis that this new 'topic' emerged naturally and unexpectedly during my data collection?" Here is a big red flag about the whole field of sociology ... how is that? people are required to state that data collection is not biased? It sounds like either it is an awful political work, or a very simple statistical sample description ...
    – EarlGrey
    Jul 14, 2022 at 15:01
  • Dear EarlGrey, I am just a student and I am still very inexperienced and probably unable to express myself properly in 'academic jargon. In my research, I've used a qualitative method, composed of interviews and fieldwork. So there is no statistic involved, just qualitative observations. My question about the 'natural way' was not to protect myself from the accusation of biases, was just an attempt to find a proper place in my thesis where to explain what happened during the research process.
    – Mirtilla
    Jul 14, 2022 at 15:07

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I suggest that you add a section to the thesis to discuss "interesting insights that arise from the data". This keeps it separate from your main theme. It can also lead to future work to follow up on those insights. Having future work is always a good thing.

But, I agree, that changing the "research question" leads to too many issues, some of which are improper.

While your data may "suggest" things, other studies may be needed to confirm them. Some things that are just noise can seem significant. So, additional research is probably needed.

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