Instructions for MSc Thesis

To start and complete a MSc thesis in the Algorithmic Data Science group, follow these instructions.

Before the thesis

Before you start work on your thesis, it is important to put some thought into the choice of topic and familiarize yourself with the criteria and procedure. To do that, follow these steps, in this order:

Step 0: Read the university instructions.

Computer Science Master's program: instructions [link]; grading criteria [link].
Data Science Master's program: instructions [link]; grading criteria [link].

Step 1: Choose a topic.

Choose a topic among the ones listed on the group's webpage [link].

You can also propose your own topic. In this case, you must explain what the main contribution of the thesis will be and identify at least one scientific publication that is related to the topic you propose.

Step 2: Contact us.

Submit the application form [link] to let us know of your interest to do your thesis in the group.
Note: If you contact us, then please be ready to start work on the thesis within one month.

Step 3: Agree on the topic.

We have a brief discussion about the topic and devise a high-level plan for thesis work and content. We also discuss a start date, when you start work on the thesis. In addition, you should contact a second evaluator for the thesis.

Thesis timeline

Below you find the milestones after you have started work on the thesis. In parenthesis, you find an estimate of when each milestone occurs. The thesis work ends when you submit it for approval. The total duration from start to end of the thesis should be about four months.

Milestone #0: Thesis outline (at most 3 weeks from the start).

You create a first outline of the thesis. The outline should contain the titles of the chapters, along with a (tentative) list of sections and contents. An indicative template for the outline is shown below on this page.

Milestone #1: A draft with first results (about 2 months from start).

All chapters should contain some readable content (not necessarily polished). Most importantly, some results should already be described. Ideally, you should be able to complete and refine the results within one more month.

Milestone #2: A draft with all results (about 1 month before the end).

Most content should now be in the draft. Some polishing remains and some results may still be refined.
Notify the second evaluator that you are near the end of the thesis work. Optionally, you may send the thesis draft and receive preliminary comments from the second evaluator.

Milestone #3: Submit the thesis for approval (end of thesis work).

You will receive a grade and comments after the next program board's meeting.


What you can expect from the supervisor:

  • Comments for the thesis draft after each milestone (see timeline above) and, if necessary, a meeting.
  • Suggestions for how to proceed in cases when you encounter a major hurdle.

In addition, you are welcome to participate in the group meetings and discuss your thesis work with other group members.

Note however that one of the grading criteria for the thesis is whether you worked independently -- and in the end, the thesis should be your own work.

Template for Thesis Outline

Below you find a suggested template for the outline of the thesis. You may adapt it to your work, of course (e.g., change chapter titles or structure).

Abstract :

A summary of the thesis that mentions the broader topic of the thesis and why it is important; the research question or technical problem addressed by the thesis; the main thesis contributions (e.g., data gathering, developed methods and algorithms, experimental evaluation) and results.

Chapter 1: Introduction

The introduction should motivate the thesis and give a longer summary.
It should be written in a way that allows anyone in your program to understand it, even if they are not experts in the topic.

  • What is the broader topic of the thesis?
  • Why is it important?
  • What research question(s) or technical problems does the thesis address?
  • What are the most related works from the literature on the topic?
    How does the thesis differ from what has already been done?
  • What are the main thesis contributions (e.g., data gathering, developed methods and algorithms, experimental evaluation)?
  • What are the results?

Chapter 2: Related literature

Organize this chapter in sections, with one section for each research area that is related to your thesis. For each research area, cite all the publications that are related to your topic, and describe at least the most important of them.

Chapter 3: Preliminaries

In this chapter, place the information that is necessary for you to describe the contributions and results of the thesis. It may be different from thesis to thesis, but could include sections about:

Setting. Define the terms and notation you will be using. State any assumptions you make across the thesis.
Background on Methods. Describe existing methods from the literature (e.g., algorithms or ML models) that you use for your work.
Data (esp. for a Data Science thesis). If the main contribution is data analysis, then describe the data here, before the analysis.

Chapter 4: Methodological contribution

For a Computer Science thesis, this part typically describes the algorithm(s) developed for the thesis.
For a Data Science thesis, this part typically describes the method for the analysis.

Chapter 5: Results

This chapter describes the results obtained when the methods of Chapter 4 are used on data.

For a Computer Science thesis, this part typically describes the performance of the developed algorithm(s) on various synthetic and real datasets.
For a Data Science thesis, this part typically describes the findings of the analysis.

The chapter should also describe what insights are obtained from the results.

Chapter 6: Conclusion

  • Summarize the contribution of the thesis.
  • Provide an evaluation: are the results conclusive, are there limitations in the contribution?
  • How would you extend the thesis, what can be done next on the same topic?