18 ECTS credits
540 h study time

Offer 1 with catalog number 4021674ENR for all students in the 1st and 2nd semester at a (E) Master - advanced level.

1st and 2nd semester
Enrollment based on exam contract
Grading method
Grading (scale from 0 to 20)
Can retake in second session
Enrollment Requirements
Omwille van specifieke risico’s en veiligheidsredenen, moet je geslaagd zijn voor ‘Wetenschappelijke integriteit en ethiek in de praktijk van criminologisch onderzoek’ (6 SP), alvorens dit opleidingsonderdeel te kunnen opnemen. Bovendien kan je het opleidingsonderdeel ‘Masterproef’ enkel opnemen in de afstudeerfase van je opleiding. Neem je i.k.v. de programmawijzigingen in 2023-2024 'Wetenschappelijke integriteit en ethiek' nog op aan 3 SP en in de master, dan volg je beide vakken gelijktijdig.
Taught in
Faculty of Law and Criminology
Educational team
Yana Jaspers (course titular)
Activities and contact hours
540 contact hours Independent or External Form of Study
Course Content

Scientific completion is an important objective of the Master. By writing a master's thesis, you demonstrate that you can practice criminological science independently. Writing a master's thesis is a learning moment and a learning process in which you apply and integrate the knowledge insights, skills, techniques and attitudes you have acquired in order to deliver an original scientific work.

The master's thesis will be graded on 20 points. If you do not obtain a 10/20, you will not be able to pass, regardless of the grades obtained for other exams. Each student defends himself orally with regard to the content and form of the master's thesis. Not showing up after an oral defence is scheduled is considered an incomplete participation in the examination and therefore leads to an "absence" for the course "Master's thesis". The written thesis will be graded on 16 points, the student will defend the thesis orally and answer questions concerning the work for 4 points.

The master's thesis is the student's own and independent work. The student can, however, count on the supervision of a supervisor in the realization of this work.
Within the framework of the course “Wetenschappelijke Integriteit en Ethiek in de Praktijk van Criminologisch Onderzoek” (Scientific integrity and ethics in the practice of criminological research), seminars are organized in the Master to guide the student in drawing up the master’s thesis (see timetables and canvas page).

All details regarding the way of working, as well as guidelines and an overview of important dates are communicated via the master's thesis course page on Canvas.

Course material
Digital course material (Required) : Een uitgebreide masterproefbrochure (‘Richtlijnen Masterproef’) ter beschikking gesteld van alle geregistreerde Masterstudenten (op Canvas)., Canvas
Additional info

The entire (administrative) procedure of choice of topic, title submission and approval by the supervisor, as well as the evaluation of the Master's thesis, takes place via the Mathis platform.

The submission dates, the guidelines for drawing up the master's thesis plan, as well as all other information regarding the procedures to be followed and important dates can be found in the VUB education and examination regulations with faculty additions (faculty of Law and Criminology), and also in the master's thesis brochure (‘Richtlijnen Masterproef’), available on Canvas in the course "Master's thesis".

The student applies for a subject and supervisor via Mathis no later than 15 November of the graduation year. The supervisor's approval is granted via Mathis within ten calendar days after the application, which automatically implies the required notification to the dean. 

If a subject and supervisor are not requested on time, the submission date of the master's thesis will automatically be postponed to the next submission date (art. 120 §1 Education and Examination Regulations).

By 15 November at the latest (or the next working day) you have also submitted your master's thesis plan on the learning platform Canvas. Make sure that you discuss the master's thesis plan with your supervisor in advance.

The subject, the title and the master's thesis plan will be submitted in the academic year in which the master's thesis is included in the study programme. The master's thesis plan will comprise a maximum of 1300 words.

If you obtain less than 10/20, you don’t pass for the master's thesis and you will not be able to pass for the master. If necessary, you will have to rework the master's thesis. If you fail in the first session (June), you can re-submit your master's thesis in the second session (with retention of jury members).

Note: If you do not pass in the second session and if you only must take courses from the first semester, you can re-register for the master and resubmit your revised master's thesis in the first examination period of the first session ('January-session’) of the following academic year. In that academic year, you must submit your master thesis plan (Canvas) and subject, title and supervisor (Mathis) again. Moreover, if you want to graduate during the 'January-session’, in accordance with Article 133 of the Education and Examination Regulations, it is important to apply for an early graduation. Students who wish to graduate at the end of the first examination period of the first session ('January-session'), apply for this in the SelfService for students. Students who fail to pass this examination period, or who have not submitted their master's thesis, can only take part in the examinations again during the second session of the current academic year.

Duo master's theses

There is also the possibility to write duo-master's theses, in which two students work on the same or a similar subject and work together on the literature study and the research design, but each explore a different aspect in the empirical part of the research. Both empirical analyses should be complementary, for example one student explores views of police officers on young people and the other explores the views of young people on police officers. Because the work concerning the literature study and the theoretical-methodological framework can be shared, more time can be invested in the empirical analysis. 

Duo master's theses are supervised by the same supervisor, but they form two separate pieces of work, assessed separately. This means that there are also separate oral defences. 

The separate pieces of work contain both the individual and the collective parts, so that they can be perfectly read separately. The master's thesis contains a separate section in which the collaboration is made explicit and in which it is clearly indicated which parts have been created together and which parts are the result of individual work. Throughout the master's thesis it should be clearly indicated who is responsible for which pieces. The master's thesis plan must also explicitly state that it concerns a duo master's thesis. 

Learning Outcomes

General competencies

The student is able to conduct original criminological research in an autonomous way. The student able to write a scientific report about this research.

More in particular the student is be able to :

  • develop and analyse a criminologically relevant research problem
  • develop and apply a transparant methodological design;
  • to analyse scientific sources (literature and empirical data);
  • to write up conclusions and points for further discussion/reflection
  • to defend the thesis orally and to answer questions concerning the conducted research


The final grade is composed based on the following categories:
Oral Exam determines 20% of the final mark.
Master Thesis determines 80% of the final mark.

Within the Oral Exam category, the following assignments need to be completed:

  • Mondelinge verdediging with a relative weight of 4 which comprises 20% of the final mark.

Within the Master Thesis category, the following assignments need to be completed:

  • Masterproef with a relative weight of 16 which comprises 80% of the final mark.

Additional info regarding evaluation

Each student will defend their thesis orally with regard to the content and form of the master's thesis. Not showing up to the oral defence is considered an incomplete participation in the examination and therefore leads to an "absence" for the course "Master's thesis". The oral defence will be graded for 4 out of the 20 points, the written master thesis 16 out of 20 points. 

Each master's thesis is assessed by the supervisor and one member of the jury (reader). They draw up a written report. Their evaluation is introduced in Mathis. Once both jury members have entered their evaluation, the student receives an automatic e-mail via Mathis. The student can then log in to Mathis to read the evaluations. The student receives this qualitative assessment (no grades are revealed) at the latest 3 calendar days before the oral defence. In the event of a force majeure event, the student and teacher will negotiate an alternative time in accordance with the procedures outlined in Article 111 of the Education and Examination Regulations.

This evaluation focuses on the following aspects of the master's thesis:

Problem formulation

  • Are the problem formulation and the research questions clear?
  • Is the problem formulation sufficiently criminologically relevant?

Theoretical background and literature review 

  • Has the right literature been selected?
  • What is the degree of difficulty of the national and international literature used?
  • To what extent is the consulted scientific literature personally processed?
  • Is the reference system and bibliography complete and truthful?
  • Are there any forms of plagiarism or writing off?

Methodology and processing of research results

  • Are the research choices sufficiently described and justified?
  • Are the strengths and weaknesses of the methodology used assessed?
  • Literature study: are the sources used honestly and is there paid attention to source criticism?

Form and language

  • Is the work (layout) decently edited?
  • Is the work written smoothly and correctly?

Synthesis and conclusion 

  • Does the master's thesis provide an answer to the formulated research question(s)?
  • Is the work sufficiently written to-the-point?
  • Are there enough critical considerations?

Summary of the assessment

  • Does the student have the ability to practice criminological science independently?

Additional information about language

Obviously, your work must be submitted without any language or spelling mistakes. Do not only rely on the spell checker, but also use dictionaries and spelling guides. Re-read your work several times. Provide enough time for this in your planning.

VUB students write their master's thesis in Dutch. The student can submit a motivated request, co-signed by the supervisor, to the dean to write the master's thesis in English or French. The request must be sent to facrc@vub.be. 

Incoming Erasmus students write the master's thesis in English or French, regardless of their mother tongue. 

Allowed unsatisfactory mark
The supplementary Teaching and Examination Regulations of your faculty stipulate whether an allowed unsatisfactory mark for this programme unit is permitted.

Academic context

This offer is part of the following study plans:
Master of Criminology: Standaard traject (only offered in Dutch)