Frequently Asked Questions

Master’s Thesis
Prepared by: Prof. Andrew Ketsdever
Mech and Aero Engineering
Your Most Important Resource
Your Advisor
Your Second Most Important
Thesis and Dissertation Manual
(on left pane near bottom)
• Frequently Asked Questions
– What is a Master’s thesis?
– What is meant by a “contribution”?
– How do I write a Master’s thesis (formatting, etc)?
– What goes in a Master’s thesis?
– How do I do a literature search?
– How do I form a committee (Univ. policy, etc)?
– Who should be on my committee?
– What is a defense and who needs to be there?
– What are the University deadlines?
– What review process is necessary for my thesis?
What is a Master’s Thesis?
• Thesis
– A hypothesis or conjecture that is substantiated or refuted by
the thesis document
– Document submitted in support of candidature for a degree
or professional qualification presenting the author's research
and findings.
• UCCS Degree Requirements
– Plan I (thesis): 30 semester hours (minimum), including 6
hours of thesis credit counted toward the degree
requirements. At least 24 semester hours must be at the
graduate level.
What is meant by a “contribution”?
• Contribution of knowledge
− Original
− Substantial
• Must be both
− Set up by the motivation of the research
• The contribution must be explicit in the thesis
‒ Don’t be coy about it
‒ Tell a technical story that formulates the
motivation, contribution, and approach
Contribution, Contribution, Contribution
• Left a mark behind in a particular field
• Fundamentally changed the way that something is done today
• Introduced a new concept that can be “mined” by others in the
• Solved a problem that has plagued the field for years
• Eliminated a fundamental assumption that has been made in the
• Provided strong empirical evidence that the field has been
• Will continue to influence the field and be cited by others
To punish me for my contempt of authority, Fate has made me an authority myself.
– Albert Einstein
How do I write a Master’s thesis?
• Formatting
– UCCS Thesis and Dissertation Manual (get this from the Graduate School
– Use AIAA paper formatting as a standard (
• Sections (example)
– Title (contribution, approach, results in 7-8 words)
– Abstract (limit to 350 words)
– Body of Text
• Introduction (list contribution, motivation, context)
• Theory
• Experimental / Numerical set up
• Results
• Discussion/Conclusions/Future Work
Don’t get caught up in the sections or formatting – TELL A STORY
Technical Writing
• Why is technical writing important? Duh.
• How do you become a better technical writer?
– Same way you get to Carnegie Hall: Practice
• Writing skills - The technical writer needs to write in a clear and
concise manner and to be able to convey information
appropriately for a variety of audiences. View it as literally
telling a cohesive and comprehensive story.
• Technical skills - The technical skill set of a technical writer must
be appropriate to the subject matter. (This should be no
problem. In principle, you are the expert.)
• Tools skills - Adobe FrameMaker, MS Word, LaTEX, etc.
– Figures, Tables, References will drive you crazy
– Formatting will take a significant amount of time
– Once you’ve settled on a process it is difficult to turn back
How do I start?
• Write the “easy” sections first
– Make an outline
– Start with the literature search
– Review of previous work and your work’s
connections to what has been done
– Write chapters that describe research
More on Sections
Title Page
Copyright Notice
Signature Page
Dedication (Careful! It’s like a tattoo you can’t get rid of.)
Table of Contents
List of Tables
List of Figures (and/or Illustrations, Photographs, Maps, Plates, Special
Materials, etc.)
Body of Text (Introduction, Survey of Previous Work, Theory, Experimental Set
Up, Numerical Model, Results, Conclusions, etc.)
Bibliography / References
Appendices (general thought: if it’s worthy of the thesis, put it in the body. But
there are times when it detracts from the “story”…)
Sample Title Page
More on Formatting
Paper should be plain white acid-free high quality 8 bond 8½” x 11”
All printing should be on one side only for final submission. Print rough
drafts on two-sides or not at all if possible.
The main body of the text should be double-spaced in the final
submitted version. Single space will print on fewer pages for rough
The normal font size is 10-12 points, and should also be used
The left edge margin should be 1½” in order to accommodate binding;
margins on the other three edges should be 1 inch.
The body of the text should be printed with full justification.
Every page of the manuscript is assigned a number, but the numbers
do not appear on the title page, signature page, dedication page, or on
the first page of any major division (i.e., chapter) that is more than one
page long.
• Title page (see sample): All information correct
• Signature page (see sample): Include committee members’
names only, (do not include degrees or certifications)
• Candidate’s name - identical on all pages where it appears
• Title identical and correctly spelled on all applicable pages
• Sections and pages in order as specified in Section III
• Contents page refers accurately to headings and subheadings
of text
• Page numbering is in two parts: Roman and Arabic, as specified
Checklist (cont.)
• Appropriate font style and size for college/department
• Required margins (left – 1½ inch, all others – 1 inch)
• Legible print quality
• Correct page numbering, line spacing of text, quotes,
bibliography, and references
• Consistent style and spacing of all headings
• Consistent bibliographic style (see AIAA example)
• Compliance approvals (e.g., IRB, Consent, instruments,
Biohazard, IACUC Approval)
Master’s Candidates
• Two complete copies of the thesis
• Abstract - 350 words maximum
• Completed Approval of Format form
• Check for appropriate fees payable to: “University of Colorado at
Colorado Springs”
How and Why do I do a literature
• Why?
– Insure contribution is unique and important
to the field
– Know the key papers and players in your
– Survey your field in depth, knowing the
seminal and the recent work
– When you read a paper in your field, make
sure to cover all the papers referenced in
that paper as well

Literature Search
• How?
– Library resources
• Search Databases
• Prospector
• Research Consultation
• Library Workshops
– Google Scholar and others
• Electronic resources
Never memorize what you can look up in books. – Albert Einstein
Literature Search
• Do ……
– Add the literature search to your introduction (or
separate section)
– Mention all of the related work in your thesis
– Acknowledge the role that each paper has played
in evolving your field
– Be constructively critical of where the
shortcomings of each paper are, to the extent that
it justifies your approach (no need to be nasty)
– Derive the context of previous work in developing
your particular methodology
• Useful in helping to get across a contribution
How do I form a committee?
• Legal: A thesis advisory committee must be established for
each student pursuing a master’s degree under Plan I (thesis
option). This committee will consist of the thesis advisor, and at
least two other members of the graduate faculty, possibly
including a member from an allied program. Upon the
recommendation of the thesis advisor, the committee is
appointed by the program director (Department Chair) with the
approval of the college/school dean and forwarded to the
Graduate School.
• Yes, there is a form.
• You’ll need to ask potential committee members if they would be
willing to serve.
• Work with your advisor.
The Committee
• Practical: Find faculty in EAS or aligned programs (Bio, Chem,
Phys, etc) that understand your thesis topic.
– Don’t avoid qualified members because they are perceived
to be tough.
– High expectations are good. Who wants an “I don’t care
about your work” attitude?
• Outside (the University) members are also a good resource and
can be added (in addition) to those members listed in the
previous slide.
– Qualifications need to be met by outsiders.
– You will need time to work the approval process.
• Your committee is something you have to live with. Work with
your advisor to form an appropriate one.
What is a defense and who needs to
be there?
• A defense is a public presentation given to
the interested community to review your
thesis, major findings, and conclusions.
• Legal: After the thesis has been accepted by
the student's thesis advisor, a thesis defense
will be administered by the thesis advisory
committee. A majority of the committee must
vote affirmatively for the student to pass.
• The committee should be at the defense (but
arrangements with individual members can
be worked out)
The Enemy is Vague or Your Thesis
Should Not be the Enemy
“When we understand that slide, we’ll have won the war,” - General McChrystal
What are the University deadlines?
• Thesis to Advisor: At least one month prior to planned defense
– Depends on advisor
– Expect revisions
• Thesis to Committee: At least two
weeks prior to planned defense
– Depends on committee
• Last Day for Thesis Defense (MAE): 19 NOVEMBER
– There are a lot of potential graduates. Go early, go often.
– Expect revisions
• Thesis Revisions: Complete by 30 days after defense (by law)
• Thesis Due to Library: Last day of semester in which student
intends to graduate (10 Dec 2010)
Current Research Timeline
Where am I now?
Where do I need to be by sometime Oct or Nov?
Connect the dots backwards
Make a Gantt chart
• Milestones and Deliverables
Stick to the schedule at all cost
• Yes, you might have to work harder
• There are things called nights and weekends (Google them for more info)
Schedule (in general):
Finish research by end of summer
How close do you think you are?
How close does your advisor think you are?
Begin writing in mid-August (actually, there are things you can start writing NOW!)
First version to Advisor by mid- to late-September
Final version to committee by early November
You all can’t defend on the same day (first come, first served – based on advisors assessment)
To Do – Before you leave here
• Write down a tentative thesis title
– Even if your thesis is still a bit muddled
• Write down a first cut at your thesis abstract
– Even if you haven’t done all the work yet
– It’s a start and a commitment
• Write down the road-map of your thesis
– What is the ideal thesis that you would wish for? What
results would it contain? How would you evolve the story
from start to finish?
• All of this will change, but do it NOW so that you have
something to start changing
• Go see your advisor about what you have done. Watch for a
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