The main component of your MSc studies is your dissertation. During your research you, together with your supervisor will come up with a thesis. The end result of your program is then a dissertation that substantiates your thesis. You will also need to defend your thesis orally in front of an examination committee.

Graduate Seminar (CS 597)

The requirement of the first half of CS 597 (Graduate Seminar) is a thesis proposal. The requirement of the second half of CS 597 is a research report outlining your progress toward implementing your proposal. You choose when to write a proposal by choosing when you enroll in CS 597. We expect you to be ready for this pursuit in your third term in the program.

The thesis proposal is the first step towards your dissertation. Such a proposal should should lay the ground work for your thesis research by providing convincing arguments that the problem is worth solving and can be solved. It also provides a good yardstick against which you can measure your own progress or lack of it, and it helps you focus your energy when you feel you are waffling.

A thesis proposal in computer science should address at least the following six points:

  • Your thesis i.e., a statement of the problem and why it should be solved.
  • Reference to and comments upon relevant work by others on the same or similar problems.
  • Your ideas and insights for solving the problem and any preliminary results you may have obtained.
  • A statement or characterization of what kind of solution is being sought.
  • A plan of action for the remainder of the research.
  • A rough outline of the dissertation itself.

Naturally, neither your supervisor, nor the university, nor your examiners are going to hold you to the details presented in the proposal. The nature of research is that it provides the biggest surprises to those who are most strongly convinced of some fact or idea. Nevertheless, a candidate who is unable to answer the six points above is not ready to embark on the work, let alone follow it, control it, adapt it and force it to some kind of conclusion.

The progress report is a small document that provide a brief outline of the investigation you just started. The role of this report is to make sure that you have started your graduate research on the right foot.

Production of proposals and reports

There is no specific format for the proposal. The text however must be typeset single-spaced, using a reasonable font size (10-12 point) and reasonable margins. Ornate type styles are not acceptable. Italics may be used only for emphasis, or where appropriate (e.g. scientific names).

Your proposal would be typically 10 pages long, including references. The progress report is typically a couple of pages long. Submit your proposal and progress report to the graduate coordinator. The proposal must be submitted by the last day of classes (before the exam period) of your first term in CS 597, and the progress report must be submitted by the last day of classes of your second term in CS 597. Failure to submit either document in time will result in a failure in CS 597.

Dissertation (CS 599)

The end result of your program is a thesis, which must be appropriately defended in your dissertation. While not as original as a PhD dissertation or journal paper, your dissertation must include nonetheless a reasonable original contribution to the body of knowledge. Additionally, the dissertation is a paper that presents a coherent account of a unified research project rather than a collection of results. Therefore your dissertation must present your original research along with the context of that research, including a critical review of previous work and an extensive literature review. A dissertation must be expressed in a satisfactory literary form consistent with the discipline and display a scholarly approach to the subject and a thorough knowledge of it. You are the sole author of the paper.

A Master’s dissertation may me organized in a variety of ways. While the optimal organizational form differs depending upon the author and on the nature of the project, it should follow the following general structure:

  • Title Page (sample)
  • Abstract (not more than 350 words)
  • Co-Authorship (if applicable)
  • Acknowledgments
  • Table of Contents (including bibliography, appendices, etc.)
  • List of Tables (if applicable)
  • List of Figures and Illustrations (if applicable)
  • Chapter 1: Introduction
  • Chapter 2: Literature Review
  • Chapter 3 to n: Body of Dissertation
  • Chapter n+1: Summary, Conclusions
  • Bibliography or References
  • Appendices

Publication or acceptance for publication of research results before presentation of the dissertation in no way supersedes the University’s judgment of the work at a thesis defense.

Production of dissertations

The dissertations must be submitted to the graduate coordinator as a single PDF document.

The format of the title page (see above) is compulsory. Sheet size is US Letter (21.5 x 28 cm or 8 ½ x 11 inches). The text must be typeset single-spaced with 3.8 cm or 1 ½ inch margins. Paragraphs must not have additional space either before or after and their first line must be indented (except paragraphs immediately following a heading, which must not be indented).

The same type font and size must appear throughout. Ornate type styles are not acceptable. Italics may be used only for emphasis, or where appropriate (e.g. scientific names). Bold faces should only be used in headings. A standard font of 10-12 points is required (and a 10-11 point size is strongly recommended), but a smaller type size may be used for graphs, formulas, and appendices. The style of footnotes and references must be consistent throughout the dissertation.

All the entries in the table of contents and (if applicable) lists of figures and tables must include hyperlinks to the items they refer to.  It is recommended (but not required) that hyperlinks be also provided for citations and other references in the body of the dissertation.

Introductory material before the first chapter must be separately numbered using small Roman numerals. The main body of the dissertation, including the text, bibliography and appendices, must be numbered continuously using Arabic numerals. The main body of the dissertation starts with the first page of the first chapter, and should be numbered accordingly.

Dissertations must be carefully proof-read so as to eliminate all typographical errors and mistakes in spelling or grammar before submission for examination. Dissertations which are rendered obscure or difficult to read because of such errors are unacceptable for examination and may be returned to the candidate for correction and resubmission.

We encourage the use of LaTeX in the preparation of your dissertation and proposal. The buthesis.sty LaTeX package contains a set of macrodefinitions that modifies the ‘book’ standard document class to conform with the departmental dissertation style requirements. For more information about LaTeX please visit the LaTeX resource page.