Students are required to perform an empirical thesis, between 7,000 to 11,000 words, in an "article" format, i.e., developed and presented as if it were to be sent to a professional journal for publication.
The thesis must be original with respect to the research questions and hypotheses that it states; it should briefly review the scientific state of the question to provide the relevant theoretical background; it should analyze some kind of data (which do not have to be primary, see further below) with the help of clearly stated and appropriate methodological tools; it must present the results of these analyses summarily; and it should extract from these analyses some valid conclusion regarding the stated questions and hypotheses.
Students are NOT required to perform complex analyses, but the analyses must be valid for answering the research question stated in the thesis (of course there is no expectation that the student will give a "definitive" or complete answer to the problem). For most students, this means doing original analyses on a raw data set of their choice; in other cases it means requesting tables or creating them online with the "engines" that most statistical centers put at users' disposal; and for still others it means combining results already made public by other researchers in ways that are original and can answer the research question. It is often more difficult to provide an original and valid answer using results already presented by others, and that is why fewer of our students end up choosing this last option.
At the beginning of the second term, students are asked to state their preferences for the supervisor who will advise them on how to do the thesis by giving two names ranked by order of preference. The supervisor must be chosen among the full-time members of the Area of Socio-Demography listed below:
- Baizán Muñoz, Pau: demography, immigration
- Benach de Rovira, Joan: health, inequality
- Cortina, Clara: family, gender
- Esping-Andersen, Gøsta: family, gender, inequalities, labour market, public policies
- Gónzalez López, M. José: family, gender
- Gumà Lao, Jordi: social determinants of health; gender and health inequalities; aging; demography;
- Ortíz Gervasi, Luis: education, transition from education to work, over education or job mismatch, labour markets, gender labour market inequality
- Palmer, John: migration, social segregation and disease ecology
- Pasaretta, Giampiero: educational inequality, social stratification, occupational career, causal designs
- Rodríguez Menes, Jorge: occupation, mobility, inequality, crime
- Schneider, Simone: inequality, wellbeing, comparative social policy, public opinion
- Solé Auró, Aïda: demography, social and health inequalities, wellbeing, global aging
While the Area's policy is to accommodate as much as possible students' choice of supervisor, this is not always possible. The final decision is made by the Area director and the Master's Coordinator, and will be based on academic criteria: how good is the match between supervisor's skills and student's needs and interests. Students are assigned their supervisors before the end of the second term.
MA Thesis Tutorials
As a general rule, students will be designated supervisors at the end of the second term, in order to develop their MA thesis. The MA thesis will be supervised along the third term by means of a discretional number of tutorial sessions that the supervisor will establish and agree with the student.
Students are to send their materials in time and prepare properly the tutorial sessions. If reading materials are sent in too late or after the deadline, professors are under no obligation to provide feed-back.
If you find that you cannot attend a supervision which has been arranged, or if you know that you will be late, then you should inform your supervisor of this as early as possible.
If things go wrong
If you are having difficulty with supervisions, it is always best to try and discuss this with your supervisor in the first instance. It is generally easier to solve problems when they arise; otherwise they may become major obstacles to your progress.
Students should see the MA coordinator if they have persistent problems with their supervisor.
If you fall behind with your work or fail to perform to a satisfactory standard you may find that your supervisor will automatically contact your Directors of Studies (e.g. if you submit work late, cancel supervisions without good reason, fail to appear).
Whatever your problems or concerns, the coordinator of the program will always be ready to talk things through with you.
"50% of the grade given to the thesis comes from the supervisor's assessment. The criteria that the supervisor will take into account to grade the quality of the master thesis are:
(a) the clear argumentation of the research question
(b) the adequate review of the literature suitable for the research question
(c) the quality of the research design (data, operationalisation and methods)
(d) the rigorousness of the analysis
(e) the accurate discussion of results
(f) the adequate presentation of text and results
(g) and the student's independence, autonomy and responsiveness
The other 50% comes from the assessment of the two members of a Master Committee composed of two members of staff of the Socio-Demography Area, which convenes at the end of the third term to hear students' defense of their theses and discuss the quality of the documents handed in by students about one week before the hearing. The defense consists of a short presentation (10 minutes) of the main research question, hypotheses and results of your thesis. The criteria for the public presentation of the Final Master Thesis are the following:
- Clarity of the presentation, specifically the articulation of the argument and the ability to convey the core concepts relevant to the project and/or empirical data.
- Awareness of the theoretical and methodological tools used, their strengths and limitations, and their impact on research design.
- Ability to respond to questions and comments made by the panel of professors, demonstrating knowledge of the subject.
- Degree of professionalism with which the presentation is made (including respect of the time allocated for the presentation, namely 10 minutes).
The deadlines for various stages of your work on the thesis are as follows:
January: By the end of January, students should send to the coordinator by e-mail (with copy to the Office Department: [email protected]) the topic thesis (a tentative title would suffice) and two potential supervisors between the members of the Socio-Demography Area. Before you make your choice, you should speak to your potential supervisor to check for her/his availability and disposition towards the topic.
March: The coordinator will make the final allocation of the supervisor and students will make a final confirmation by e-mail. Students may contact their supervisor to start working on their thesis.
June: Students must submit their master thesis to the supervisor and upload it to the Campus Global too by June 22nd. On the 6th of July students will have to defend their thesis before a Master Thesis Committee (time and place to be announced).
The following databases are potentially useful for developing essays or master theses within the master programme. Each link contains information on country availability, accessibility and themes that can be explored with each database.
Contextual and Macro-level data sets
The GGP is a Longitudinal Survey of 18-79 year olds in 19 countries that aims to improve our understanding of the various factors -including public policy and programme interventions - which affect the relationships between parents and children (generations) and between partners (gender). The accompanying contextual database (CDB) holds data on: legal norms and regulations, social norms, measures of welfare state policies and institutions as well as general economic and cultural indicators.
The OECD has a special website for accessing all of the national and comparative indicators from most of their surveys, including PISA, PIAAC and TALIS. The website offers the possibility to access this data online and download it in Excel formats.
The European Union statistical agency (Eurostat) grants public access to virtually all vital European statistics. They can be disaggregated by several categories like economy and finance, population, international trade, among many others.
Micro-level data sets
The GGP is a Longitudinal Survey of 18-79 year-olds in 19 countries that aims to improve our understanding of the various factors -including public policy and programme interventions – that affect the relationships between parents and children (generations) and between partners (gender). A broad array of topics includes fertility, partnership, the transition to adulthood, economic activity, care duties and attitudes are covered by the survey.
The European Social Survey (ESS) is an academically driven cross-national survey that has been conducted across Europe since 2001. The survey measures the attitudes, beliefs and behaviour patterns of diverse populations in more than thirty nations. The quality of the survey has been assessed as outstanding. The survey is interesting because: a) its multinational character, which goes slightly beyond Europe; b) the number of waves it has already accumulated and c); the existence of thematic modules that could be interesting for the study of specific topics. The only disadvantage of the ESS (besides being cross-national) is that national sample sizes are relatively small, which makes more difficult the study of quite specific groups.
The Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) is a triennial international survey which aims to evaluate education systems worldwide by testing the skills and knowledge of 15-year-old students. To date, students representing more than 70 economies have participated in the assessment.
The Programme for the International Assessment of Adult Competencies (PIAAC) developed and conducts the Survey of Adult Skills. The survey measures adults’ proficiency in key information-processing skills - literacy, numeracy and problem-solving in technology-rich environments - and gathers information and data on how adults use their skills at home, at work and in the wider community. This international survey is conducted in over 40 countries and measures the key cognitive and workplace skills needed for individuals to participate in society and for economies to prosper.
The EU LFS is a large household sample survey providing quarterly results on labour participation of people aged 15 and over as well as on persons outside the labour force. The contents include tables on population, employment, working time, permanency of the job, professional status, among other things.
The New Immigrant Survey (NIS) is a nationally representative multi-cohort longitudinal study of new legal immigrants and their children to the United States based on nationally representative samples of the administrative records, compiled by the U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS), pertaining to immigrants newly admitted to permanent residence.
The MTUS is a cross-national study of time use in over 41 activities. The original MTUS was created in the mid 1970s and allowed comparison of British time use data with the 1965 Szalai Multinational Time Budget Study and data from Canada and Denmark. Since then, the MTUS has grown to offer harmonised episode and context information and to encompass over 60 datasets from 25 countries, including recent data from the HETUS, ATUS, and other national level time use projects.
Note: This survey is in Spanish and there are no English translations to the survey documents
This is a national survey that is regularly conducted by the National Institute for Safety and Health at Work (INSHT) with the aim of providing statistical information on working conditions and health of different groups of workers and the organization and activity of work within companies in Spain.
The Survey of Health, Ageing and Retirement in Europe (SHARE) is a multidisciplinary and cross-national panel database of micro data on health, socio-economic status and social and family networks of approximately 123,000 individuals aged 50 or older (more than 293,000 interviews). SHARE covers 27 European countries and Israel.
Demographic and Health Surveys (DHS) are nationally-representative household surveys that provide data for a wide range of monitoring and impact evaluation indicators in the areas of population, health, and nutrition.
The German Socio-Economic Panel (SOEP) is a wide-ranging representative longitudinal study of private households, located at the German Institute for Economic Research, DIW Berlin. Every year, there were nearly 11,000 households, and about 30,000 persons sampled. The data provide information on all household members, consisting of Germans living in the Old and New German States, Foreigners, and recent Immigrants to Germany. The Panel was started in 1984.
The Millennium Cohort Study (MCS) is a multi-disciplinary research project following the lives of around 19,000 children born in the UK in 2000-01. It is the most recent of Britain’s world-renowned national longitudinal birth cohort studies. The study has been tracking the Millennium children through their early childhood years and plans to follow them into adulthood. It collects information on the children’s siblings and parents.
IPUMS-International is an effort to inventory, preserve, harmonize, and disseminate census microdata from around the world. The project has collected the world's largest archive of publicly available census samples. The data are coded and documented consistently across countries and over time to facilitate comparative research. IPUMS-International makes these data available to qualified researchers free of charge through a web dissemination system.
The European Union Statistics on Income and Living Conditions (EU-SILC) is an instrument aiming at collecting timely and comparable cross-sectional and longitudinal multidimensional microdata on income, poverty, social exclusion and living conditions. The EU-SILC project was launched in 2003 on the basis of a "gentlemen's agreement" in six Member States (Belgium, Denmark, Greece, Ireland, Luxembourg and Austria) and Norway. The start of the EU-SILC instrument was in 2004 for the EU-15 (except Germany, the Netherlands, the United Kingdom) and Estonia, Norway and Iceland.
The Mexican Migration Project (MMP) was created in 1982 by an interdisciplinary team of researchers to further our understanding of the complex process of Mexican migration to the United States. Since its inception, the MMP's main focus has been to gather social as well as economic information on Mexican-US migration. The data collected has been compiled in a comprehensive database that is available to the public free of charge for research and educational purposes through this web-site.
The MAFE project is a collaborative research project that started in 2005 with the objective of collecting and analyzing innovative data on migration between Sub-Saharan Africa and Europe. The MAFE project generated multi-sited, comparative and longitudinal surveys carried out in 3 African countries and 6 European countries. It offers a unique source of data that enables researchers to study the patterns, causes and consequences of African migration. Data collected in African countries can also be used to study other socio-demographic phenomena (union formation, fertility, socio-economic outcomes…)
This is a list of some MA theses selected for their excellence along the last academic years.
Academic year 2014-2015
Jorge Cimentada's MA thesis evaluates a World Bank policy called 'Apoyo a la Gestión Escolar'. This policy aims to involve parents in the decision making process of schools in Mexico. Using data from an experimental design, the thesis explores whether parental involvement in four rural provinces in Mexico improved math test scores and survey response rates, which is a new and innovative measure of conscientiousness. The thesis finds that the application of the treatment did not have any significant impact in both measures of interest, but it also finds that indigenous students attained higher response rates later on than in the baseline survey, resulting in better behavioural outcomes.
After getting his MA degree, Jorge Cimentada was accepted in the Ph.D. programme of the Dpt of Political of Social Sciences of UPF. He is also currently working as a research assistant in a social mobility project.
Academic year 2015-2016
Using data from the Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA), Elena Bastianelli’s MA thesis studies the conditions that promote or hamper immigrant students’ educational success, specifically analyzing the impact of parental education and school ethnic and social composition. The thesis provides evidence on Turkish students in five European countries. A considerable effect of parental education is found, however it does not explain differences in educational outcomes between Turkish and natives. Moreover, school environment, in terms of composition of the student body, influence students’ performance regardless of their individual background. Differences are found among countries of residence, but in all the five European countries under study, Turkish students considerably lag behind their native peers.
After getting her MA degree, Elena Bastianelli received a six-month scholarship from her region in Italy to work in the Demographic Service of the Municipality of Rome where she is participating in the collection of data and creation of a dataset with information on the resident population; she intends to continue her studies in a PhD program.
These articles could be useful for the research design of your MA thesis:
- Publishing in AMJ - Part 1: Topic Choice
- Publishing in AMJ - Part 2: Research Design
- Publishing in AMJ - Part 3: Setting the Hook
- Publishing in AMJ - Part 4: Grounding Hypotheses
- Publishing in AMJ - Part 5: Crafting the Methods and Results
- Publishing in AMJ - Part 6: Discussing the Implications
The following link my allow you to format tables for your essays and MA thesis