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university of tampere: sis/luo-coms: bachelor and master studies: disciplines: computer science and interactive technology: thesis info:
Faculties of Natural and Communication SciencesUniversity of TampereFaculties of Natural and Communication Sciences
Computer Science and Interactive Technology

A Way to Complete a Thesis and Graduate

On this page we describe the usual course of a M.Sc. thesis project in Computer Sciences at the University of Tampere. The aim is to give an overview of the steps that lead from the beginning of the thesis work to graduation. Remember, however, that what matters is the result (i.e. the quality of the thesis), not the accurate replication of the pattern described below. This is a description of one way to do the thesis. There are fairly common variations, for example, when the thesis is done as a part of a job and the influence of the employer needs to be taken into account.

  1. Prerequisites
  2. Finding and Interesting Topic
  3. Contacting a Possible Supervisor
  4. Literature Review
  5. Planning and Writing
  6. Iterations
  7. A Version that You Believe to be Ready
  8. Submitting the Thesis for Grading
  9. Applying for the Degree Certificate and the Final Meeting
  10. Celebration for the Recently Graduated


1 Prerequisites

It is advisable to take the TKOPA13 Thesis Course (previous name Introduction to Research Methods) during the 3rd or 4th year of studies (1st year of a M.Sc. program). This course teaches research skill that are needed in the thesis project. The Thesis Course includes writing of a smaller thesis (necessary for the B.Sc. degree) that can be used as a part of the M.Sc. thesis. For example, the work done on the course can form a significant part of the literature review that is a required part of a M.Sc. thesis.

The study guide describes the studies needed in each M.Sc. program. In addition, one should consider taking courses that teach skills needed in the thesis project. What these courses are depends on the topic of the thesis.

2 Finding and Interesting Topic

Thesis topics are often found on courses. It is a good idea to take some advanced courses in areas that seem interesting or likely thesis topics. With the background knowledge learned in the courses it is easier to write a non-trivial thesis with real contributions. It is easy to plan for a good selection of courses and prepare oneself for the thesis project if the topic of the thesis is known early on. The later the topic is settled, the less time there usually is for preparatory studies. However, regardless of the phase at which the thesis topic is decided, it is important that the topic is interesting. A personal interest in the questions being solved in the thesis tends to produce a good thesis.

3 Contacting a Possible Supervisor

When you have an idea of the area in which you would like to do your thesis work, or better yet, when you have several topics from which to choose, it is time to find a supervisor. On the thesis pages of Computer Sciences you can find a list of supervisors and a description of their areas of interest and expertise. While this information is mostly in Finnish, you can at least find most of the people involved in master's thesis guidance on this page. You can browse the homepages of the supervisors to find out more about the work that they have done in the past. Some even have a list of proposals for thesis topics. It is also a good idea to see the list of theses in progress. Two theses on the same topic are usually not allowed, or at least the work needs to be coordinated to avoid overlap.

If you are unsure on who to contact to find a supervisor for your thesis, it is advisable to contact the professor who is responsible for your M.Sc. program.

Write down a draft for the list of contents in your thesis. A concrete proposal like this is a good starting point for the discussion with a potential supervisor.

If the first supervisor you contact thinks that there is somebody else who is better suited to guide your thesis project, he or she will direct you to that person. Usually the first meeting between a student and a supervisor deals mostly with the topic and other issues on getting the thesis project started. Each thesis project is unique. It is important to agree on the way that the work should proceed and on the forms that the thesis supervision and guidance will take.

4 Literature Review

You can start reviewing the literature already before finding a supervisor for your thesis. Each thesis must contain a chapter on previous work in the area. It is a good idea to start your thesis work with the literature review. Reading about the topic area helps in forming an overview that can help to focus your own work on interesting questions to which the answer is not yet known. At the very least it is good idea to search the collections of the university library, and the electronic databases available through them as well as spend a lot of time working with search engines on the Internet. The ACM digital library can be accessed within the UTA network. Unfortunately (at least in November 2006) full access to the IEEE digital library is not available. You have to visit the library of the Tampere University of Technology to get full access. Other computer science oriented databases can also be very useful.

You should save all interesting references and files that you find on digital sources. It is important to do this in an organized manner or otherwise you will end up with a thousand files in one big unorganized pile. You should keep a directory of references. This can be done manually with cards, as web pages with links, or as word processor files. Searching without saving the interesting results can turn out to be a waste of time.

It is important to start working on the literature review early enough. The thesis work often involves a lot of reading. Most people cannot read all day and remain focused on what they are looking for in the text. Because of this it may be better to reserve a few hours every day for the thesis work while taking courses. It is easier to develop fresh findings and mature reasoning for the thesis in an unhurried manner. While it should be (and usually is) possible to complete a thesis project in four months of full time work, it is often much more enjoyable to work half-time for eight months or one third of each day for 12 months.

5 Planning and Writing

It is time to start this phase when there is enough background material to write about.

If the thesis project contains a constructive and/or empirical part, it is a good idea to start planning them early on. However, it is possible to write the chapter(s) on previous work without implementing or testing your own ideas. Later new references or connections between references and your own work tend to turn up. This is the nature of the thesis project. There is no point in waiting until you have a complete understanding of everything related before starting the writing. Because new publications appear all the time and one's understanding is never complete, it is impossible to finish a thesis with that strategy.

It is advisable to use the template with the Instructions for Thesis Writers. However, it is also possible not to follow the instructions if you think that it is necessary. The book by Prof. Järvinen (Järvinen Pertti, 2004. On research methods, Opinpajan kirja, Tampere.) has traditionally been used as a guide to research methods in Computer Sciences. Different methods lead to different theses. It may be a good idea to identify your thesis project among the methods described in the book and see if there are useful instructions for the work and the structure of the thesis in the book.

6 Iterations

Writing a thesis is an iterative process. Writing is followed by a critical review which is followed by revisions, another review, and so on. Round by round the text gets better. You can agree on intermediate goals with your supervisor. When a goal is reached, or when you have made significant changes in the text, it is a good idea to contact the supervisor and ask if he or she can read the text and give you feedback. Note, however, that it is important to make sure that the text that you ask others to read is always in good shape. If there are many mistakes in grammar and vocabulary, the supervisor cannot concentrate on the content and you are less likely to get useful feedback in a timely manner. In other words, it is in your own interests to make sure that your text is good enough so that the supervisor can read it effortlessly.

Apart from significant advances, there is another situation in which the supervisor should be contacted. Namely, if you are stuck and do not know how to continue.

7 A Version that You Believe to be Ready

When you think that the thesis is finished, the project is in a good shape. Before sending the final version for grading, it is a good idea to ask the supervisor to read it. The supervisor will tell you if there are parts that could be improved. If, however, you both think that the work is finished, it is time to move to the next phase.

If you have not done it already, it is time to agree on who is the second examiner on the thesis. The supervisor is usually the first examiner. If the second examiner agrees, he or she can also read a preliminary version and give suggestions before the final version is submitted for grading.

8 Submitting the Thesis for Grading

When the thesis has been submitted for grading, it can no longer be changed. The thesis is submitted through the electronic service maintained by the library ( ) The library publishes some information on all theses in its thesis database. In addition the whole thesis will be available on the net if you give the permission to publish it.

After the thesis has been submitted for grading, the supervisor and the second examiner will read it and grade it. They will write a statement that will be given to you before the head of the school approves the thesis. You must tell the Amanuensis responsible for study matters (, whether you approve the grade or not.

In order for the thesis to be accepted, you must also pass a maturity test that is based on the thesis. The test involves writing a short essay that shows that you know the subject area of the thesis and that your language skills are mature enough. For more information see the degree structure page.

9 Applying for the Degree Certificate and the Final Meeting

When the thesis has been approved, and all other studies have been finished and entered into the registry, you can apply for a degree certificate. The application form can be found on the web pages of the School of Information Sciences, or a paper copy can be fetched from the office of the school.

In order for the degree to be awarded, there must be markings on the study modules in the registry. You can ask for these to be entered once all studies have been finished. For each module you must contact the teaching unit that is responsible for it. The requests for the studies in Computer Science and Interactive Technology should be directed to the Amanuensis responsible for study matters (

If possible, it is a good idea to fetch your copy of the thesis statement from your supervisor in person. He or she can explain the points that affected grading and you can discuss the thesis project, the results, and possible further research. However, you can also ask for the statement to be mailed to you.

10 Celebration for the Recently Graduated

Once you have your degree, you are, of course, free to celebrate by whichever means you deem appropriate. In addition the university organizes a semi-annual celebration for the recently graduated. You will receive an invitation to the celebration following your graduation.

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