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Community-Based Participatory Research (CBPR): Guide 2.0

Year of publication 2020



In this article, the framework for master’s thesis from a University of Applies Sciences are examined, and the student’s thesis process and related studies are described.


Thesis Framework

Master’s thesis from a University of Applied Sciences is a research and development project that proposes to benefit the development of local working life. In Diaconia University of Applied Sciences (Diak), we emphasise participatory research and development approach (GBPR), through which novel solutions for the development of working life are produced in cooperation with project and working life partners, employees, and customers. The objective is to create new innovations, procedures, and methods for the field of social and health services, and church community. (See Keskitalo 2015; Gothoni et al. 2015; Helminen, 2020)

The objective is to formulate all master’s theses either in Diak’s projects or in topics offered by the working life partners. Both public and private working life representatives, associations, foundations, parishes, or similar actors can act as representatives of working life. The topic will be limited in a cooperation through discussions with working life representatives, students, and the supervisor teacher appointed to the thesis at Diak. The thesis should be a process that benefits both the students and working life representatives. Furthermore, the users of the service, professionals and citizens are not just objects for the process: these actors are active partners. In addition, the student’s own interests and learning objectives are acknowledged in the thesis topic limitation process.  

Towards research, development, and innovation competences  

Master’s degrees at University of Applied Sciences are more focused on research, development, and innovation competences than bachelor’s degrees. Master’s degrees at a University of Applied Science consist of 90 ECTS, of which the thesis constitutes a third, that is, 30 ECTS. The thesis process is supported by research, development, and innovation method (RME and RMP) studies with a scope of 10 ECTS. Prior research information as well as Finnish and international databases are utilised in the thesis. For a student, the master’s degree produces research and development competences needed for the development of working life.

Choosing the Topic, Composing and Planning the Thesis

At Diak, the thesis process is scheduled for three semesters. The next chapter describes the gradual progress of the thesis.

The thesis process for the first semester starts with choosing the topic and ends with establishing a preliminary thesis plan. In the beginning of the thesis process, the student will participate in the communitys partnership event [OSKE-tori], in which Diak projects and working life partners present their cooperation opportunities and thesis topics. After the community partnership event, the student chooses the topic that intrigues them and familiarises themselves with the topic in detail by contacting the projects and working life partners. The topic is often preliminary and is later defined further based on shared discussions. At this stage, you can also find students that are interested in the same topic/topic area. The preliminary thesis idea will be recorded in the form of an idea paper in accordance with instructions from Diak.  

⇒ Idea Paper

After choosing the topic, the student familiarises themselves with the prior research and development projects conducted on the topic. This process will assist in defining the topic further and shaping the research and development questions. In addition, the central terminology and theoretical framework of the thesis will be formulated according to the previous research. The information speciialists of the Diak Library organise workshops on information retrieval, in which information retrieval and formulation of literature reviews are studied.  

Thesis Groups

Thesis supervision is carried out in thesis groups. Thesis groups are formed based on the topics reported by the students. The groups consist of topics that are thematically similar with one another, which means that the theses can benefit from each other. The pedagogic premise is that the thesis groups are multi-professional, and therefore, the supervisors and students represent the social, health, and church community fields. The thesis can be executed as individual work, in pairs, or in a group.

The thesis supervision continues in the same steering groups throughout the entire thesis process. In thesis groups, the students present their progress and receive supervision on the questions in each stage. In addition, the students will also act as an opponent for another thesis.

In the first semester, the course Reseach methods in practice supports the composition of thesis plan, with a special emphasis on choosing the correct data collection methods. The course ‘Expert communication skills for social and health care fields’  focuses on report and research writing.  

During the first semester, the idea, objectives, central terminology, research problem and questions, as well as the methods for the thesis are discussed in thesis groups. These elements will then form the thesis plan. At the end of the first semester, the student will formulate a thesis plan in accordance with Diak’s instructions.

⇒ Thesis Plan

Data Collection and Analysis

After the thesis plan has been approved, the execution stage of the thesis begins. The thesis process of the second semester consists of preparing for the data collection, collecting the data, and preliminary analysis.

Prior to data collection, the student should confirm if the thesis requires a research permit from Diak or from the working life partner. Organisations have their own instructions for applying for a research permit, and these instructions should be followed. The approved thesis plan is to be attached to the research permit application. Data collection can commence after the research permit has been granted. The research permit process usually takes 1–2 months.

During the second semester, the course ’Research, development, and innovation methods’  supports the actualisation of the thesis, with a special focus on choosing the analysis methods for the data.

As the second semester concludes, the student must have most of the necessary data collected, so that they can continue to the stage of compiling, reporting, and publishing the results of the thesis.

Reporting and Publishing the Results 

During the third semester, the final touches to the data analysis as well as reporting the process and results in accordance with Diak’s instructions for publishing and reporting takes place. The method for publishing the results should benefit the development of working life. Therefore, the results can be published in working life and/or in one of Diak’s publication seminars. A report on the thesis will be written and published in Theseus. Finally, a maturity test for the thesis will be written in accordance with Diak’s instructions.

During the third semester, the course ’Expert communication skills for social and health care fields’  supports the publication and distribution of the thesis results.

Summary: Thesis Stages and ECTS

The ECTS for master’s degree thesis are distributed intro three different modules, with each module having 10 ECTS (THE01, THE02, and THE03). The objective is that each student finishes 10 ECTS of studies for the thesis each semester.

  • 10 ECTS for the first semester will be granted after the idea paper and the research and/or development plan of the thesis have been approved.
  • The corresponding 10 ECTS for the second semester will be granted after the student has collected the necessary data for their research-focused thesis, with which they can move on to analysis, or when the student has carried out the planned activities at the workplace in a functional thesis.
  • 10 ECTS for the third semester are granted after the student has published, presented their thesis orally in an agreed method, and participated in a maturity test. The maturity test will be carried out in accordance with Diak’s degree regulations in force at the time of testing.

Figure 1. Thesis Process Progress in Three Semesters


Gothoni, R., Hyväri, S., Kolkka M., Vuokila-Oikkonen, P. (toim.) (2015). Osallisuutta, oppimista ja arviointia. Diakonia-ammattikorkeakoulun TKI-toiminnan vuosikirja. (Diakonia-ammattikorkeakoulun julkaisuja B. Raportteja 60). Diakonia-ammattikorkeakoulu.

Helminen, J. (toim.). (2020). Näkökulmia osallistavaan tutkimus-, kehittämis- ja innovaatiotoimintaan. Diakonia-ammattikorkeakoulun TKI-toiminnan vuosikirja 5. (Diak Työelämä 18). Diakonia-ammattikorkeakoulu.

Keskitalo, E. (2015). Osallistava tutkimus ja kehittäminen ylempien ammattikorkeakoulutukintojen TKI-toiminnan viitekehyksenä. Teoksessa  R. Gothoni, S. Hyväri, M. Kolkka, & P. Vuokila-Oikkonen (toim.), Osallisuutta, oppimista ja arviointia. Diakonia-ammattikorkeakoulun TKI-toiminnan vuosikirja (s. 191–206). (Diakonia-ammattikorkeakoulun julkaisuja B. Raportteja 60). Diakonia-ammattikorkeakoulu.

Elsa Keskitalo (2020)