This article provides a few suggestions on how companies and thesis students/graduate students are getting the most out of the case-based thesis partnerships they are entering.

The benefits

There are potential benefits for both graduate students and for businesses by entering into thesis partnerships. The potential benefits for the company could be that the company could have made some market studies it would not otherwise have made or analyses that would cost a lot of money and resources. The company is furthermore introduced to a potential employee. The benefits for the student is she gets a ‘real life experience’, and is allowed to solve ‘a real’ problem. Perhaps the student receives a subsequent job. In any event, the student will get a larger network.

But be aware...

However, there are a few important things the company and the student should be aware of entering thesis partnerships. The most important is to develop a research question that suits both the student and the company. If the student is working on a research question, which is of no relevance for the company, the company’s commitment will be reduced considerably. Entering into a thesis partnership is all about creating the largest mutual exploitation. This means creating the largest shared value for both parties. Remember that mutual exploitation has always worked the best.

When the contract between the company and the student has been signed, it is important not to wait too long before starting the cooperation. It is actually a good idea to start immediately, otherwise, there is a potential risk that the problem identified is no longer relevant when the student begins writing her thesis. In the same vein, it is always a good idea to meet with the company early in the process and meet frequently.

Aligning expectations are important

From a company perspective, it is important to realize how much the student can, but not least how much the student cannot. Although the student is about to write a master thesis, the student may still be quite inexperienced. The company should also be aware that there is a huge difference between students – both regarding intellectual capacity, will and commitment. The student, on the other hand, should realize that the company usually does not have unlimited time resources to put into the partnership. Finally, it is important that the company and the student know before entering the partnership what they want to get out of the partnership.

When the student meet with the company for the first time, it is important to align expectations.

This includes that the student should consider the following topics:

  • The role of your company.
  • Your company’s expectations.
  • The number of meetings your company expects to have with you or your group.
  • Which grade you are striving for?
  • Your company’s strengths and weaknesses in relation to supervising your project.
  • What you should send to the company and what not to send.
  • How many days in advance of each meeting you should send material to the company?
  • The quality of the documents that you will send to the company.
  • At the end of each meeting, agree on action points for the next meeting, a date when you will send new documents to your company, and a date by which you will follow up on the things you talked about at the meeting.
  • When the student send documents to the company prior to each meeting, the student should:
  • Specify what the company has read before.
  • Specify the key problems you want the company to focus on.
  • Specify the objectives of the meeting (i.e., what are the main problems you want the company to consider and give her opinion on).
  • Make sure that the language is understandable and readable.
  • Make sure that long documents have a table of content and page numbers. Also, make sure that the chapters are connected and there are introductions for each chapter.

Finally: Keep your promises! Don’t “disappear” – but send regularly updates to the company. Also if nothing new has happened.

Written by Peter Haisler, CEO of Sustain Consulting