How to Write a Masters Thesis?
William D. Shoaff
Department of Computer Sciences
Florida Institute of Technology
Melbourne, Florida 32901
If you are about to embark on the task of developing a Master's thesis in Computer Science, then this document may be of interest to you. The scope of this document is very narrow and deals only with certain features of thesis development that are unique to the field of Computer Science. For more general information, you should consult sources such as Strunk and White's Elements of Style , Turabian's Student's Guide for Writing College Papers , and the University's guide to thesis preparation.
Before we get into the heart of the matter, you should ask yourself if you have the background and skills required to successfully complete a thesis in Computer Science. The next section lists some of the skills you will be expected to possess.
While there are no hard and fast rules that guarantee you have the background and skills required to complete a thesis in Computer Science, there are some indicators. Here is a list of some of these indicators.
- A good grade point average. This indicates that you have basic academic skills. It is difficult to specify an exact cut-off, but a 3.2 on a 4.0 scale is a reasonable minimum.
- The ability to write in the English language. Practice writing. Effective communication is essential in all disciplines. If you need help, contact the Language Institute or English Department.
- The ability to express yourself orally. You will be asked to present lectures on your work at the Computer Science seminar.
- Mastery of the computer language in which you will develop your program. You should not look at your thesis work as an opportunity to learn how to program. You should be very familiar with the operating system you will use and system utilities such as editors, document formatters, debuggers, etc.
- The ability to work with others. You must be able to work with your thesis advisor, and you may need to work with other faculty and students as well.
- The ability to take direction. Your thesis advisor will give you guidance, but you must do the work.
- The ability to conduct literature surveys. You must insure that your work is current and relevant even though it may not be original or unique.
- The ability to integrate ideas from various areas. This is key to a thesis. Extracting items of interest from many sources and generating new information by integrating these items in new ways is the essence of writing a thesis.
- The ability to think independently. Your work must be your own. Your advisor will not tell you what to do at every step, but will only suggest a direction. The rest is up to you.
- The ability to perform when imprecise goals are set for you, that is, you must be self-directed.
Most theses in Computer Science consist of two distinct parts: (1) writing a significant program, and (2) writing a paper that describes your program and why you wrote it. The intent of this document is to guide you in how to do these two things. Of course, you will need to have taken certain courses, read certain books and journal articles, and otherwise perform some basic research before you begin writing your program or thesis. If your thesis does not involve writing a program, you can skip section 3.