Writing a master’s thesis: Associations between the grade, self-efficacy, approaches to writing, and experiences of the thesis as a teaching and learning environment


  • Laura Mendoza University of Helsinki, Centre for University Teaching and Learning (HYPE)
  • Sari Lindblom-Ylänne University of Helsinki, Centre for University Teaching and Learning (HYPE)
  • Tuula Lehtonen University of Helsinki, Language Centre
  • Heidi Hyytinen University of Helsinki, Centre for University Teaching and Learning (HYPE)




Master’s thesis writing, approaches to thesis writing, thesis as a teaching-learning environment, self-efficacy for thesis writing, thesis grade


Master’s thesis writing is a challenging endeavor, requiring students to engage in deeper learning processes and apply several academic competences. This study investigates the associations between students’ approaches to master’s thesis writing, the perceptions of the thesis as a teaching-learning environment, self-efficacy for thesis writing, and thesis grade. The data consist of engineering students’ answers (N=283) to a survey and their thesis grade, gathered from the study register of a Finnish university. The findings indicate a positive association between the thesis grade, deep and organized approach to thesis writing, self-efficacy as well as levels of interest and relevance for thesis writing. This study identified three groups of thesis writers who differed from each other in their approaches to thesis writing: 1) Students applying a dissonant approach; 2) Students applying a deep and organized approach; 3) Students applying an unorganized approach. Students applying a deep and organized approach to thesis writing differed significantly from the other two groups as they scored higher in their experiences of the elements of the thesis as a learning environment, self-efficacy for thesis writing and thesis grade. This study highlights its results in conjunction with previous research and offers practical implications for master’s thesis writing support. 

Author Biographies

Laura Mendoza, University of Helsinki, Centre for University Teaching and Learning (HYPE)

Laura Mendoza is currently working on her PhD at the University of Helsinki at the Centre for University Teaching and Learning (HYPE). Her PhD research focuses on academic writing, particulary L2 academic writing in increasingly internationalized university studies (EMI contexts). She works as a Lecturer of English at Aalto University, Finland. 

Sari Lindblom-Ylänne, University of Helsinki, Centre for University Teaching and Learning (HYPE)

Sari Lindblom (publishing name Sari Lindblom-Ylänne) currently works at University of Helsinki as a full-time rector. Sari Lindblom is Professor of Higher Education (University pedagogy) and does research in particular on student learning at university (e.g. study processes, study progress and success, well-being, study problems).Rector of the University of Helsnki

Professor, University of Helsinki, Doctoral Programme in Cognition, Learning, Instruction and Communication and Centre for University Teaching and Learning (HYPE)

Tuula Lehtonen, University of Helsinki, Language Centre

Tuula Lehtonen (PhD and Docent) works as a University Lecturer of English at the Language Centre of the University of Helsinki.

Heidi Hyytinen, University of Helsinki, Centre for University Teaching and Learning (HYPE)

Heidi Hyytinen, PhD, title of Docent, is Senior Lecturer in Higher Education at the Centre for University Teaching and Learning in University of Helsinki. Her research focuses on generic skills, performance-based assessment, self-regulation, and pedagogy in higher education. University Lecturer, University of Helsinki, Centre for University Teaching and Learning (HYPE).


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How to Cite

Mendoza, L., Lindblom-Ylänne, S., Lehtonen, T., & Hyytinen, H. (2022). Writing a master’s thesis: Associations between the grade, self-efficacy, approaches to writing, and experiences of the thesis as a teaching and learning environment . Journal of Writing Research, 14(2), 257–286. https://doi.org/10.17239/jowr-2022.14.02.04