In the final thesis project, the student carries out a research project under the supervision of one of the staff members of the research groups offering the AI programme. The project can be done based at Utrecht University, at a company or research institute, or at a foreign university (see also: ‘stay abroad - traineeship’).
Before starting the thesis project students are strongly advised to first attend the thesis information session meeting, which is offered at the start of each teaching period. See course INFOMTIMAI for more info.
When looking for a project, please check the following sources.
The AI Thesis Project is split into a 14 EC project proposal phase (INFOMAI1) and a 30 EC thesis phase (INFOMAI2). The thesis project takes about 8 months (three periods). The set up phase that is necessary to arrange your project is not counted.
The thesis project consists of a project idea, a UU graduation supervisor, and a graduation project facilitator. The project facilitator can either be a company or the University. Original ideas from the students are welcome, as long as they are aligned with the research interests and/or proposed projects by the supervisors.
For a thesis project, the student always needs a supervisor from one of the research groups of the UU offering the AI programme. If the final project is conducted within a company or external institute, both a local supervisor within the company/institute and a supervisor of the AI programme teaching staff monitor and guide the student.
When can a thesis be started? When all courses are successfully completed, with the exception of Dilemmas of the Scientist (FI-MHPSDL1 and FI-MHPSDL2), for which you can do the second workshop (FI-MHPSDL2) during your theses process. Further exceptions can be given by the AI programme coordinator for students with one pending course. Note that you should start looking for a supervisor and a subject before you have finished all your courses (see “Set Up” below).
Where do I start? Read the information on the various stages of the thesis project below. If you have any questions not covered here contact the programme coordinator (email@example.com).
How long does the thesis take? Normally, a thesis project (phase 1 + phase 2) runs for 3 periods/terms (see the schedules). However, holidays, courses or other activities may lead to a thesis projects that takes slightly longer. Please Please see below what to do when your thesis is delayed and you have to apply for a thesis deadline extension (part 1 and/or part 2)
Previous theses. To get an overview of what an AI thesis looks like, you can consult previous theses online.
Learning goals. After completing your thesis project, you will:
- have advanced knowledge about a specific subject within AI
- be able to findings on a specific subject within the broader, interdisciplinary field of AI
- be able to independently perform a critical literature study
- be able to formulate a research question of interest to AI and a plan / method to answer this research question
- be able to perform scientific research according to a predetermined plan and a standard method within AI
- be able to report the research findings in the form of a scientific thesis
- be able to report the research findings by means of an oral presentation
This preliminary step is executed before the official start of Phase 1. The duration largely depends on how quickly a supervisor is found and a topic is agreed upon. This part is excluded from the duration of the thesis project.
1. Find a project and a supervisor
You can do an external or an internal (UU) project. The following tips might come in handy when looking for a project.
- Think about the courses you found interesting and ask the lecturers of these courses if they have/know of any projects.
- Konjoin always has a number of AI projects.
- Jobteaser also has interesting external internships for AI students.
Note that any topic has to be agreed with the UU staff member who will act as a first supervisor. Arrange meetings with staff members to discuss possible options, based on their research interests (look at their webpages, their Google Scholar profile, or ask the Programme Coordinator (firstname.lastname@example.org). If unsure about possible topics, please arrange a meeting with the Programme coordinator. Students can also try to arrange a project that fits within an internship with a company. Any project, however, requires a first supervisor from the department who guarantees the scientific quality of the thesis project, so it is advisable to talk to potential supervisors and/or the graduation coordinator before agreeing on an internship.
2. Define your project
Together with the first supervisor, describe your project's title, problem, aims, and research goals. Come up with a short textual description (about 200 words). Also make clear arrangements with your first supervisor concerning planning, holidays, supervision meetings and so forth. Please make sure you have a clear understanding with your first supervisor regarding deadlines and extra work, holidays etc. to be done during the thesis project. Normally, a thesis project runs for 3 periods/terms, but you can set any reasonable deadline in agreement with your supervisor. Please see below what to do when your thesis is delayed and you have to apply for a thesis deadline extension (part 1 and/or part 2).
3. Ensure adherence to Ethics and Privacy regulations - Quick Scan
From Period 2 of 2022-23, all Master AI thesis projects require ethics and privacy approval. For projects that do not involve human users and data privacy issues this will be a very brief and straightforward process, but you still need to complete an ethics checklist.
If you are doing your project with a supervisor in a department that already has ethics approval process in place (such as Cognitive Psychology), then ask the supervisor what you need to do in order to obtain ethics approval. Otherwise, please inform your supervisor that you need to obtain an ethics and privacy approval. Go to the website that contains the ethics checklist and sample Information sheets and consent forms: https://www.uu.nl/en/research/institute-of-information-and-computing-sciences/ethics-and-privacy.
First, download the Word form and discuss how to fill it in with your supervisor. Then fill in the Qualtrics form. Please fill in as the moderator email: email@example.com.
4. Work placement agreement
If you conduct a project outside UU, the GSNS Work Placement Agreement (WPA) should be filled in, and signed by the student, company supervisor, and the Science Research Project Coordinator. Deviations to the standard contract shall be discussed with the Science Research Project Coordinator.
You need to fill out and upload your WPA with your Research Project application form (see next step) in OSIRIS student.
5. Formalize the start of your Research Project via submitting the Research Project application form
Use Osiris student (select 'MyCases', 'Start Case', ‘Research Project GSNS’) to submit your research project application form; if applicable, you will also upload the signed Work Placement Agreement with your application form in OSIRIS.
Important: in order to apply completely and correctly, you must have discussed the project setup with your intended project supervisor beforehand! We advise you to study the request form previous to discussing it with your supervisor, or fill it out together, to make sure you obtain all of the information required.
After submitting your application form in OSIRIS, your form will be forwarded to your 1st and 2nd Examiner (supervisors), master’s programme coordinator, the Board of Examiners and Student Affairs for checks and approvals. You may be asked for modifications, should they find any problems with the form.
Please note. You cannot register yourself in OSIRIS for the relevant research project courses (INFOMAI1 and INFOMAI2). You will be automatically registered for part 1 of the project upon approval of the Research Project Application Form.
The phase comprises 14 EC (i.e. 10 weeks of full-time work) and is intended for you to do a preliminary study (usually in the form of literature study), and to propose and plan your research. Importantly, this phase will give a go/no-go decision towards Phase-2. You are expected to deliver a research proposal consisting of the following:
- A literature study section, summarizing works that are relevant to your research.
- Well formulated research question(s).
- A plan for the second part of the thesis.
Additionally, depending on the nature of the project, your supervisor may require you to perform some initial research work in Phase-1, either in order to provide a convincing argument towards the prospect and feasibility of your Phase-2, or for efficiency to already do some work of Phase-2, e.g. developing an initial theory or building a first prototype of an algorithm. If such work is required, make an agreement with your supervisor on the scope of this work.
At the end of Phase-1 the supervisor(s) will make a go/no-go decision. This decision, in terms of pass or not pass, will be entered in Osiris. Phase-1 assessment criteria:
- Scientific quality. This concerns the quality of the literature study, the relevance and impact of the research questions, the merit of proposed research method.
- Writing skills. This concerns the quality of your writing, use of English, textual structure, and coherence/consistency of your text.
- Planning. This concerns the clarity and feasibility of the proposed planning.
- The quality of additional work, if such is required.
An example assessment form with more detailed criteria is available. Please use this form only as a discussion piece and do not send in paper or scanned forms.
The second part comprises 30EC (i.e. 21 weeks full-time). You will complete (at least) the following items:
- Perform and complete your research according to your plan (Phase 1).
- Write your thesis that presents your research and its results.
- Present and defend your results and conclusion. You are asked to prepare a presentation about your research that is understandable by fellow students. The defence will be 45 minutes long; 30 minutes for your presentation, and 15 minutes for questions.
Content of the thesis. In addition to the main text describing the research, the master thesis should at least contain:
- a front page, containing: name of the student, name of the supervisors, student number, date, name of the program (master Artificial Intelligence, Utrecht University);
- an abstract;
- an introduction and a conclusion;
- a brief discussion of the relevance of the thesis topic for the field of AI;
- a list of references.
Please discuss the exact requirements for your thesis with your daily supervisor/first examiner at the beginning of your project.
Phase-2 assessment criteria. Your thesis is assessed using the following criteria:
- Project process (30%). This concerns your ability to work independently, to take initiative, to position your work in a broader context, to adapt to new requirements and developments, and to finish the thesis on time.
- Project report (30%). This concerns the ability to clearly formulate problems, to summarize the results, to compare them with related scientific work elsewhere, and to suggest future research lines. This also concerns clear, consistent, and unambiguous use of language in the thesis. The text should give the readers confidence in that you understand the chronology, structure, and logical entities in your own text; and thus know what you write.
- Project results (30%). This concerns the level and importance of your results. Are the results publishable as a scientific paper? The difficulty of the problem that you solve also plays an important role, as well as the amount/extent of the work you carry out. These are aspects that are important: the effectiveness of the chosen approach, completeness and preciseness of the literature study, arguments for the choices made, insight in the limitations of the chosen approach, proper interpretation of the results achieved, level of abstraction, convincing argument, proofs or statistical analysis.
- Project presentation (10%). The ability to orally present your project and its results clearly and concisely.
An example assessment form with more detailed criteria is available. Please use this form only as a discussion piece and do not send in paper or scanned forms.
When approaching the finalization of the thesis (i.e, when the supervisors think so), it is time to wrap up the project and graduate.
- Set date for graduation presentation: both supervisors should agree on the date, including the time.
Arrange (virtual) room for defence: The public defence can take place in Teams. If desired by the candidate and/or the supervisors, you can also defend your thesis in a lecture room on campus, ideally with a livestream or in a hybrid form so that e.g. fellow students or friends can also watch online. You can make a Teams meeting yourself, and send an e-mail to the secretariat (firstname.lastname@example.org) to arrange for a suitable room for your presentation. Please make sure to include the time, date, name of the thesis, supervisor, and the number of expected attendees.
Inform the AI coordinator (email@example.com) about the details of your defence (title, abstract, date, time, room and/or Teams link). The coordinator will announce the defence on Teams and via the mailing list.
Thesis defence: the student gives a presentation of 30 minutes, followed by a question-and-answer session that typically lasts about 15-20 minutes. Your first and second supervisor will decide on your grade and announce this after your presentation.
Upload thesis to Osiris Student:
After the defence, the student must upload the final version of their thesis through Osiris Student > my cases.
Archiving and publishing thesis to Thesis Archive
You will be asked once more to upload the final version of your thesis through OSIRIS Student, yet, this time this is for archiving and publishing purposes. The Case will not be available by default via OSIRIS Student. You will receive an email as soon as the Case in OSIRIS Student is available to you. More information on thesis archiving and publication can be found here.
The Student Desk at Student Affairs keeps track of your study progress in Osiris. When Osiris indicates that you have completed all the required elements of your degree your file is forwarded to the Board of Examiners. These checks only occur around the 15th of each month. Therefore, do you wish to graduate by the end of the month, please ensure you have completed all elements of your degree before the 15th of the month so all your credits are registered in OSIRIS. This also includes the uploads of your final thesis.
The Board of Examiners then checks whether you meet all examination requirements. Following the Board's approval your graduation date will be emailed to you on your UU email account.
Please DO NOT terminate your enrolment in Studielink until the Student Desk has informed you about the decision of the Board of Examiners and you have received your graduation date. For further information, please check the graduation page.
- Please note that the "protocol delay in graduation” applies when a project is delayed. This protocol can be found in the annex of the Education and Examination Regulations (EER).
- When you are delayed, e.g., due to personal circumstances or due to unforeseen circumstances within the project, it is important that you make an appointment with your study advisor in time (before the final deadline of part 1 and/or part 2).
- It is further important that you discuss the delay with your supervisor and set new realistic goals and deadlines (where possible).
- Next, you need to apply through OSIRIS Student > ‘MyCases’ > 'Start Case' > ‘Request to the Board of Examiners GSNS’, and then choose the appropriate request type: “Delay of research or thesis project”. It is important that you upload a statement from the study advisor (hence why the importance to speak to your study advisor as soon as possible when a delay occurs) and a copy of an email in which the supervisors support the request for a deadline extension. You further need to include a proposed new deadline and short statement support your request.