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MCS and MSCS Master's Thesis or Project

Master of Science in Computer Science and Master of Computer Science

Students in the Master of Science in Computer Science (MSCS) program can choose to do a Master's Thesis, Master's Project, or coursework-only. Students in the Master of Computer Science (MCS) program can choose to do a Master's Project or coursework-only (but not a Master's Thesis).

To opt for a Master's Thesis or Master's Project, a student must have at least three A's and one B in four core courses. Students who have not yet completed their core course requirements must be aware that if these grade criteria are not met, they will be required either to take additional courses in order to satisfy these requirements, or complete the program under the coursework-only option.

Step 1: Find an Advisor

The student must find a faculty member who is willing to work with the student and supervise the thesis or project. The advisor and the student should formulate a plan for the work to be done. A Master's Project can consist of a high-quality paper or piece of software.

Faculty members will customarily agree to serve as a thesis or project advisor only when they have an interest in the topic and a high degree of confidence in the ability of the student to complete the thesis or project. Students cannot do a thesis or project unless they find a faculty advisor.

Step 2: Form a Committee

Once the work to be done has been planned, a thesis or project defense committee must be formed. With the concurrence of the advisor, the student should ask at least one other member of the faculty to serve on the committee. Once the members of the committee have been identified, the student must prepare a written description of the thesis or project.

Step 3: Carry Out the Work and Defend It

Once the thesis or project work has been completed and a document describing the results prepared, the student must orally defend the work.

  • A student must be registered in the semester in which the oral defense is taken.
  • Defenses are open to the public and should be announced using the department mailing list at least 48 hours in advance. The scheduling of a defense must meet the deadlines established by the Graduate School.
  • It is the student's responsibility to send an abstract when submitting the exam scheduling form; it is the advisor's responsibility to ensure this.
  • After the oral defense, the committee chair should report the result using Form 303. Two additional copies of this form must be made, one for the student and one for the student's file. The original should be sent to the Graduate College.
  • The student must obtain preliminary and final approval of the thesis from the Thesis Examiner using forms 501A and 501B.

Should a student fail the oral defense of a thesis or project for a second time, the committee must decide whether the student will be required to pursue the coursework-only option for the degree. A student has the right to appeal the result of a project or thesis defense by submitting an appeal in writing to the Department Chair within two weeks of notification of the result.

Coursework Limits for a Project or Thesis

Up to 6 credit hours of CS 597 may be taken for credit toward an MSCS or MCS degree. Up to 5 credit hours of CS 591 may be taken for credit toward an MSCS degree. (With advisor approval, up to 3 additional CS 591 credits can be added.) MSCS students working on a thesis may take a maximum combined total of 8 credit hours of CS 591and CS 597. For CS 591 credits to count toward a degree, a student must successfully defend a thesis. To count as a master's thesis, at least one credit hour of CS 591 is required.

Recent Modifications:

  • 8/3/2012: Clarify normal 5 credit limit for CS 591.
  • 6/6/2012: Clarify requirements for defending a project or thesis.
  • 2/18/2012: At least 1 credit of CS 591 is required to count as a thesis.
  • 2/28/2011: Change CS 597 credit limit from 5 hours to 6 hours.

Last modified 8/3/2012