Thank you for your interest in a possible bachelor or master thesis in the research group Ethics of Artificial Intelligence at the Institute of Cognitive Science, University of Osnabrück.
Am I the right advisor for your thesis?
I accept excellent and motivated students for supervision of their bachelor’s or master’s theses in the area of ethics of artificial intelligence and critical social theory of the digital society. I consider “ethics” and “critical social theory” in the broadest sense to include the following philosophical approaches:
- social philosophy
- political philosophy
- feminist philosophies
- post-colonial theories
- critical theory
- critical economics
- post-Marxist theory
- you name it.
In some circumstances I do also supervise theses in affect studies or philosophy of emotions.
How to approach me as a potential advisor for your thesis?
After making sure that you and your project fall within the above scope, you should contact me via email. If possible, please include a mini-exposé for your project (see section below “How do I write a mini-exposé?”). Otherwise, your email should include at least the following information:
- Topic of your thesis. Ideally, your topic statement should contain two pieces of information:
- The description of an empirical phenomenon in the context of AI or digital technology that you want to address critically or ethically in your thesis (e.g., an app, a service, a company, a business model, a recent trend, …);
- A small corpus of philosophical references (within one of the philosophical approaches listed above) with which you intend to debate your phenomenon. Think of these philosophical references as the target discourse of your thesis, that is, as the discourse to which you aim to make a small contribution, either by applying theory to the phenomenon or by pointing at limitations of the theory.
- Time frame. When do you plan to finish your thesis?
- A brief self-statement indicating why you have chosen to do your thesis in the area of AI ethics and to what extent you have specialized in this area during your studies. Please also include your name, degree program, and matriculation number.
Based on such an email, we would then meet (in person or via video) and discuss your idea. Note that it is very difficult for me to handle your emails if you don’t state what you want to work on (sometimes people just ask for a meeting without introducing themselves or their topic). If you are not yet clear about the topic of your work, it is better to give 2-3 options (mini-exposés) you are considering rather than not mentioning anything at all.
What happens next?
In a personal meeting or email answer I will give you feedback on your idea. The goal is for you to be able to write and/or complete your mini-exposé (see below). Once this is done, you can start working on your thesis according to a plan we would create based on the mini-exposé. Please do not start working until this is done.
How to write a mini-exposé?
A mini-exposé for a bachelor’s or master’s thesis is a 1.5-3 page document that ideally contains the following information and structure:
- Working title of the thesis
- Description of the topic: 1-2 paragraphs, maximum 0.5 pages. Think of this as an abstract. It should state (a) your motivation, (b) the phenomenon or theoretical desideratum you wish to address, (c) the means (philosophical discourses/resources) by which you intend to do so, and (d) the goal of the thesis. This can be brief and sketchy, but should give a clear idea.
Make sure you describe both a phenomenon (b) and a theoretical context (c). Many students come to me with only a phenomenon in mind, but no idea of the theoretical dimension of their work, or vice versa.
- Draft structure: Using numbered headings and subheadings, note the structure of the work as you envision it. This structure is not necessarily final, as it may change as you work on the thesis. However, the outline also serves as a working plan for the process of researching and writing the thesis.
- Literature List: List the most important references, both in regard to the “phenomenon” you intend to address and to the philosophical literature you will use for this purpose. This literature list need not be exhaustive. It can be a mixture of texts that you already know (and that have given you your idea), and texts that you still want to read. For me, it serves to give me a clearer idea of your philosophical background. So please don’t make it so long that I “can’t see the forest for the trees”.