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M.A. Thesis

How do I select a strategy for my research and analysis?

At the moment, policy impact, evaluation, and assessment, dominate research and thinking in the Conflict Resolution field. The key questions seem to be what works and why? Either a qualitative and/or quantitative approach to data gathering and information analysis is suitable for any of the following four example models. Each one is appropriate for the M.A. thesis. Of course, alternative strategies also exist.

Exploring an Abstract Theory

An intellectual exercise to sharpen abilities to think carefully about theory with great depth and greater precision. Example: Fisher and Ury, “principled bargaining” (the win-win approach). Possible thesis chapters:

  1. Introduction: how did principled bargaining develop? What is gained or lost by this approach to understand Conflict Resolution? Is the development desirable or not? Why? Why was it introduced recently?
  2. Description of principled bargaining: what are the main assumptions, how are they applied, what are the central propositions—how applied? What is claimed for this theory?
  3. Spillover into other Conflict Resolution Theories: what approaches have incorporated the Fisher-Ury framework? How does it fit into their structure? (literature review)
  4. Evaluation of principled bargaining: its contributions, its shortcomings.
  5. Conclusion

Applying a Theory to a Current Policy Debate (deductive)

How does Fisher and Ury principled bargaining fit into policy conflicts about land use, about school reform, about terrorism issues, about domestic violence? (Selected substantive context refers to unfinished debates without any reconciliation or end.) Possible thesis chapters:

  1. Introduction: How might principled bargaining be applied to context X?
  2. Description of the abstract theoretical Framework, Principled Bargaining
  3. Description of the Substantive Policy debate, literature review
  4. Applying the theory to the Policy debate
  5. Conclusion: an evaluation and critical assessment

Evaluating a Theory using a Historical Case Study (deductive)

How does Fisher and Ury principled bargaining fit into conflict resolution outcomes in particular case disputes about land use, school reform, a terrorism problem, domestic violence? (Selected substantive context refers to case with reconciliation or another end.) Possible thesis chapters:

  1. Introduction – What does Fisher and Ury principled bargaining tell us about the concluded agreement or alternate end to a dispute?
  2. Summary of the relevant theory, literature review
  3. Description of the case study
  4. Application of Principled Bargaining to the Case Study Lessons learned.
  5. Conclusion – theoretical evaluation, policy implications.

Empirical Thesis: A Case Study (inductive)

Examination of an institution, social movement, event, trend, policy broadly within the field of Conflict Resolution, for example the impact of school violence on peer mediation programs; the impact of conflict resolution training on domestic violence situations; the impact of peacekeeping missions in countries with recent civil war. Possible thesis chapters:

  1. Introduction: context of the focused event, trend, case or whatever. Why important.
  2. Literature Review: key issues and conclusions raised by others
  3. Description of case study
  4. Analysis and Assessment of case study materials
  5. Conclusion – fit to literature, broad implications

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