Imagine that you want to contribute to a commercial goal of a brand or business, e.g., inspire consumers to buy their services or upgrade them to higher price points. Because it is a Master thesis, the challenge is to translate that ambition into an academically relevant topic. Here are a few steps:
- Start your topic development paper by reviewing the commercial brand or business goal
- Translate the commercial goal into a generalized, academically relevant marketing or business challenge backed by a short review of academic literature
- Present the goal as a generalized research question
- State that you will answer the research question for your specific case. This, by definition, limits the generalizability of your results
This defines the end point of the topic development paper. The remaining steps apply to the full thesis.
- Keep the theory and hypotheses, again, about the generalized topic and not yet how you are going to apply it to your specific case
- Apply it to your case in the method and study approach section
- Once the study is completed, analyze and discuss for your specific case
- Generalize, in your conclusions and recommendations, to the general marketing challenge
For example, a student investigated if offering the opportunity to configure your own product results in a different product from if the opportunity is not offered, at a higher price point and in user satisfaction. She also studied how nudging impacted the configuration process and result. The approach was highly relevant to the business she had in mind, but generalizability of results was limited. That’s okay with me.