THESIS, SEMINAR PAPER, AND GRADUATION PROCESS

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Please re-read this document on a regular basis. Different parts will apply at different stages, and you will find you complete the thesis or seminar paper much more quickly if you follow these guidelines yourself rather than depend on your advisor to remind you about them.

New students

Upon admittance, new students need to do the following. Note that these steps do not apply to students who were first admitted to one of the institutions from our overseas partners; these students need to see the steps below.

Before their first semester at UW-Platteville, new admitants need to do the following:

  • Decide on which courses to take for the upcoming semester. Note that your advisor will need to pass the course selection on to the graduate college; you will not be able to register yourself. Discuss your course options with your advisor.
  • Make a preliminary decision on which partner institution you will attend, James Cook University in Australia or University of Applied Sciences in Darmstadt, Germany. You will need to discuss this decision with your advisor - there may be reasons why one partner would work better than another in some cases. There are also limits on how many students will be accepted by each partner institution.
  • Determine if you wish to apply for an assistantship. Assistantships are awarded on a competitive basis. The duties include a number of possibilities including writing software for the department, assisting in course development, or helping a professor with a research project. If you wish to apply for an assistantship, review the graduate assistant website, fill out the paperwork, and talk to the program coordinator.
  • Arrange housing, etc. If you plan to complete the program in three semesters, you may find it convenient to live in campus housing to avoid having to sign a full year lease. If so, it is important that you submit your housing application early.

You can obtain your school ID, known as a Pioneer Passport, any time after being admitted. The Pioneer Passport office is located on the first floor of the Markee Pioneer Student Center (MPSC) and should be open until 4pm during the first Monday through Thursday of classes. Once you have your ID, you can then go to the Bear's Den (again, in the PSC) to get your campus network login and password.

New students from partner institutions

Students from Hochschule Darmstadt and James Cook University attending UW-Platteville as their abroad institution will be contacted by people from the campus and given information for coming to Platteville. Once they arrive on campus, they will need to decide if they would like to pursue a degree from UW-Platteville in addition to the degree they will receive from their home institution. If so, they will need to apply to the UW-Platteville graduate program. The application fee will be waived, but the students may need to get official transcripts and other papers sent to the registrar's office. Contact the program coordinator for more details.

Completing the thesis requirement

Students who chose the thesis track option need to complete the following. While this list is intended to be complete, it is still a work in progress. For further information, check the graduate catalog. Also note that some of the material below is specific to the Master's of Computer Science degree; other master's programs at UW-Platteville may have different requirements.

The first step is to discuss your thesis options and ideas with your advisor. Part of this process is determining who will be on your committee.

Once you have your basic ideas, write a thesis proposal. This does not need to be an extensive document, but should clearly describe the focus of the project and what you will do to accomplish your goals. The format of the proposal is specified in the graduate school thesis guide and needs to include the following:

  • Approval page signed by advisor and committee members
    • Note that you must have three committee members, one of which must be from UW-Platteville and another from one of the a partner institution. The third member can be from either institution or even external to both institutions. It's not mandatory that all committee members be familiar with the project area. If you have difficulty finding additional committee members, talk to the program coordinator. It generally works best if the student contacts potential committee members directly.
    • The chair can be anyone on the committee - it need not be a person from UW-Platteville.
    • Emailed approvals are preferred over written signatures, so there is no requirement to sign and scan the document.
  • Introduction
  • Statement of the problem/purpose of the study
  • Significance or implications of the study
  • The theses and seminar papers in the MSCS are to include "significant global content". This content is to be discussed as part of the proposal.
  • Scope of the study
  • There should be some type of evaluation in the project. For example, if developing a system, define a plan for checking that the system meets stated goals. Don't go to extremes on this - comprehensive evaluation is often worthy of an entire thesis on its own. But there should be some type of evaluation which is within project scope.
  • A list of basic tasks with a timeline.
  • In many cases a significant part of the project will be to identify and evaluate resources. The intent of the list is not to be exhaustive, but to give a basic scope.
  • Method of approach including data sources, data gathering methods, and likely analyses
  • General plan for the project
  • Initial references

Including the approval page and references, the proposal should be 5 to 6 pages in length.

Don't forget: the proposal is simply a starting point. It is expected that the project will change as it progresses. If it deviates too far from the original intent, you may need to resubmit it to ensure your committee will approve the revised project. Discuss such concerns with your advisor.

All CS theses are published at Minds@UW. Policies exist for dealing with portions of theses that cannot be published because they contain proprietary or sensitive material. Read the policy for details if this applies in your case.

When possible, the thesis proposal is to be approved before signing up for thesis credits. In some cases this is not possible, especially when differing academic calendars means students return in the middle of their thesis semester. In those cases it is possible to make other arrangements; discuss this with your thesis advisor.

For more information about the proposal and the thesis in general, see the graduate school thesis guide.

Note that the graduate college generally accepts emailed approvals in place of written signatures. We do use scanned documents to put together a final thesis approval page, but all of the other documents can be approved simply by sending email to the thesis advisor and/or the program coordinator.

For the thesis work, it is expected that the student will schedule regular meetings with the advisor. It is important to work independently - your advisor cannot direct day-to-day activities - but it is also important to keep your advisor aware of what you are working on. This will keep you from making mistakes such as attempting to solve problems that are unrelated to your project or have already been solved. Meeting with your advisor is key to completing your thesis in a timely manner.

It is recommended that you start writing your thesis paper sooner rather than later. There's really no reason you cannot write it as you go, at least outlining each chapter as soon as you've done significant work on that part of the project. The thesis paper need not be particularly lengthy; most are about 40 to 50 pages in length. But if you can cover the material adequately in 30 pages, then there is no need to write more.

There are some absolute requirements for writing theses:

  • No grammatical errors. If you cannot take enough care to eliminate grammatical errors, why should a reader believe your research is high quality? Be particularly mindful of fragments and run-on sentences - make sure you know how to recognize both and eliminate all. Both can lead to serious misunderstandings.
  • Use formal language. Words such as "like" and "you" as well as contractions should not appear in the document. Find a book discussing formal writing and use it. One that works especially well for some people is Rewrite Right! by Venolia and Sasaki.
  • Be mindful of your audience: computer science and software engineering academics. Do not explain material that is taught in traditional classes or otherwise common knowledge.
  • Define all technical terms unless those terms are common knowledge to CS/SE academics. Generally the definition will take the form of a few words clarifying your usage of the term. Quoted definitions from dictionaries are rarely appropriate.
  • The thesis is not a book report. If a work is cited, there should be enough context for the reader to understand why that work is relevant--and you may even summarize main arguments--but do not attempt to cover the entire work. If the reader is interested in more detail, the reader should and will read the original work.
  • Make sure citations are appropriate: do not include works that are not cited (implicitly or explicitly) in your document, and cite works that are reasonably permanent and have been refereed. Web site and encyclopedic citations should be rare.
  • Every sentence in your thesis document should either support or reject your hypothesis. There may be any number of discoveries you made or works you read during your project, but the thesis document should contain only those items which are relevant to the main point of the thesis. Note this does not apply to the acknowlegements section; in that section you discuss almost anything you desire.
  • Make sure every claim you make in the thesis document can be substantiated. This applies both to your results and generalizations you make about others. Be especially wary of claims about absolutes: it is rare for anything non-mathematical to be true either all of the time or none of the time.

Once you have a reasonable document, start circulating it among your thesis committee members for feedback. Be sure to indicate the type of feedback you're looking for such as a check on the basic outline, whether more material is needed in a specific area, or as a final version to be defended.

Once your thesis is close to being in a final state, arrange for a thesis defense. It may seem obvious, but it is important to have your thesis paper written before your defense simply because the material for your defense will need to come from the document itself. It often works well to start developing your presentation as your committee members read through a final draft of your thesis.

Your presentation during the defense will be approximately 40 to 50 minutes in length. Powerpoint or similar presentation tools should be used. Some guidelines for the presentation:

  • Don't use small fonts. Anything less than about 20 points is probably too small. If you can't read the font easily from the back of the room, it is too small.
  • Don't pack too much into one slide - your audience will not be able to absorb the material.
  • Don't just use text; images can carry just as much meaning and help maintain interest.
  • Don't include too many slides - about 15 slides will be enough for a 40-minute presentation.
  • Remember your audience: you can assume a strong background in computer science, but not everyone will be familiar with the project you have worked on. This generally means you shouldn't need to have more than one slide introducing the problem.
  • Identify key points you wish to make and focus on those. Your thesis may have additional, important material, but you need not cover all of it during the presentation. If you are concerned additional detail will be needed to answer some expected questions, simply include that detail on a slide that can be accessed during the question-and-answer time.

After the presentation, the audience will be given a chance to ask questions. The audience and candidate will then be asked to leave the room, and the committee members will discuss the project and final grade. Results can range from outright failure (which is unlikely - your advisor should know when it's appropriate to defend) to outright pass to a conditional pass based on investigating a key issue or adding a section to the thesis paper.

The final version of the thesis paper will be submitted to the graduate college. The thesis website contains a cover sheet in Appendix B. Have the overseas committee members sign, do a virtual merge into your thesis to make sure that page numbers are correct, and send a scanned copy of the signed form to your advisor at UW-Platteville. Also send an electronic copy of the thesis in either Word or PDF format. The form will be signed, merged in to the final document, and submitted to the graduate school. The graduate school will publish it at Minds@UW.

By the end of the second week of your last semester in the JIM program, you will need to fill out a request to graduate form from the graduation page. You can send this form to gradstudies@uwplatt.edu or the program coordinator, Dr.Yang yangq@uwplatt.edu. Note that the "advisor" on this form is your academic advisor rather than your thesis advisor. You can either scan the form and send it by email or submit a paper copy. See the graduate school website for further details related to finishing your degree.

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