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 Computing Science 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 INFOMTIMCS for more info.
The COSC Thesis Project is split into a 15 EC project proposal phase (INFOMCOSC1) and a 25 EC thesis phase (INFOMCOSC2). 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 COSC 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 COSC programme teaching staff monitor and guide the student.
When can a thesis be started?
The thesis can be started when the student meets all the following criteria:
- 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 thesis process. Further exceptions can be given by the COSC 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).
The student has obtained at least 67.5 EC.
The student has completed 25 colloquium attendances.
The student has completed 1 colloquium presentation, or has 1 colloquium presentation scheduled within the first month of the start of their thesis project.
Further, it is strongly recommended that the thesis topic is in line with the student’s chosen study path within the master program.
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 Ioanna Lykourentzou (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). Holidays, courses, or other activities (such as working on the thesis part-time) may lead to a thesis project that takes slightly longer.
- Phase 1. The minimum duration of Part 1 is 10-11 weeks.
- Phase 2. The minimum duration of Part 2 is 17-18 weeks.
Both the above assume full-time work and no absences. In planning your thesis project, please make sure to add extra and appropriate time for absences (e.g., supervisor or student holidays, courses, or other activities). Please also add to Phase 2 two extra weeks for grading. Increase the duration appropriately if you are going to work on the thesis part-time.
What to do in case of a delay?
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).
To get an overview of what a Computing Science thesis looks like, you can consult previous theses online.
After completing your thesis project, you will:
- have advanced knowledge about a specific subject within COSC
- be able to position their findings on a specific subject within the broader field of COSC
- be able to independently perform a critical literature study
- be able to formulate a research question of interest to COSC 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 COSC
- be able to report their research findings in the form of a scientific thesis
- be able to report their 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.
Please note: It is advisable to start looking for a thesis in the education block before the block you would like to start your thesis, i.e., two months in advance.
1. Find a project and supervisors
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 COSC projects.
- Jobteaser also has interesting external internships for COSC 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: Ioanna Lykourentzou). If you are 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. It is therefore 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). Make clear arrangements and ensure you have a clear understanding with your first supervisor concerning: planning, deadlines, extra work, holidays, supervision meetings and so forth. In planning the timing of your thesis project, keep in mind the minimum duration of phase 1 (at least 10-11 weeks full-time) and phase 2 (at least 17-18 weeks full-time), and add appropriate extra time for holidays, absences, or part-time work on the project. Please see below what to do in case 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
- Discuss with your supervisor concerning the Ethics and Privacy of your thesis project, as described in the Ethics and Privacy Quick Scan, found here: Ethics and Privacy - Research Institute of Information and Computing Sciences - Utrecht University (uu.nl).
- Read the Word version of the Quick Scan. Do this early, as some participants/data/topics raise more ethical and privacy concerns than others. Consider beforehand the possible issues and adapt your research questions and research designs if needed, in agreement with your supervisor.
- Once you and your supervisor are satisfied with the outcome, submit the Quick Scan using the Qualtrics version, also found in the aforementioned Ethics and Privacy website. You and your supervisor will receive the ethics and privacy scan outcome report by email and as a PDF. Please attach the anonymized Quick Scan report to your Osiris application form (see step 5 below).
In case no issues have been found, or if your supervisor already has an ethical approval for their line of research in which the master thesis will take place, then the project can start from an ethics and privacy perspective. In case issues are found, please send the PDF with the scan result to the program coordinator (also serving as the program’s ethics & privacy moderator): firstname.lastname@example.org, using the email title: “Ethics & Privacy scan issue”.
Keep the Quick Scan report. Later during your thesis project you will use it to add sentences about the Quick Scan to the thesis and Part 1 method section (see examples in the “Guidance" section of the aforementioned Ethics and Privacy website)
Please note that this step is compulsory for thesis projects in this program for any student starting after October 1st, 2022.
4. Work placement agreement (WPA)
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 together 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, also upload the signed Work Placement Agreement (WPA) with your application form in OSIRIS.
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.
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 before discussing it with your supervisor, or to fill it out together, to make sure you obtain all of the information required.
You cannot register yourself in OSIRIS for the relevant research project courses (INFOMCOSC1 and INFOMCOSC2). You will be automatically registered for part 1 of the project upon approval of the Research Project Application Form.
The phase comprises 15 EC and its minimum duration is 10 weeks of full-time work. Phase 1 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 (for example 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.
Make sure to attach the anonymized Quick Scan report as an Annex to Part 1 of your thesis, as described in the “Set up” tab above.
The second part comprises 25 EC and its minimum duration is 17-18 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 the: name of the student, name of the supervisors, student number, date, name of the program (master Computing Science, Utrecht University);
- an abstract;
- an introduction and a conclusion;
- a brief discussion of the relevance of the thesis topic to the field of COSC;
- 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 (as agreed with the supervisors), it is time to wrap up the project and graduate.
- Set date and time for graduation presentation. Both supervisors should agree on the date and time of the presentation.
- Arrange a (virtual) room for defense. The public defense 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 fellow students or friends (for example) can also attend online. You can make a Teams meeting yourself and send an e-mail to the secretariat (email@example.com) to arrange for a suitable room for your presentation. Please make sure to include the time, date, name of the thesis, supervisors, and the number of expected attendees.
- Inform the COSC coordinator (firstname.lastname@example.org) about the details of your defense (title, abstract, date, time, room and/or Teams link).
- Thesis defense. 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 shortly after your presentation.
- Upload thesis to Osiris Student:
After the defense, 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. As soon as 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. Do you wish to graduate by the end of the month? Then please ensure that you have completed all elements of your degree before the 15th of the month, so all your credits are registered in OSIRIS on time. 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 appendix 2 of the Education and Examination Regulations.
In case your project is 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 supporting your request.