CS Masters Program Guidelines and Timeline

This page contains an outline of the basic guidelines that are enforced by the Computer Science Computational Science Master program director and faculty.

How much Research?

According to the Computational Science Master’s Program general information, you are required to earn 18 credits from electives and research. Each department offers research credits under different forms, and your advisor will guide you. If you plan to take research credits from the CS department, you may take CS 595 Graduate Research (1-10 credits). Since the minimum number of credits for electives is 8, you may take maximum 10 credits for research.

If you plan not to do research at all, you may take all 18 credits from electives. Under special circumstances, you may take as electives Individual Study. This is especially recommended if you prefer to do more specialized research. Therefore, you can choose the amount of research you prefer: between 0 – 10 research credits.

Participation at Conferences

You are strongly encouraged to participate in conferences and workshops and to submit research papers for presentation and publication. A good start is SOURCE and the CCSC Northwestern Regional Conference.

Thesis or Master’s Project?

A thesis is a written study prepared by the student that demonstrates her or his ability to conduct original, independent research. In contrast, typically, projects are more application oriented. Successful theses and master’s projects will be considered for awards. Jointly written theses or master’s projects are not permitted.

In helping to make this choice and for future reference, consider the following information about How to Write a Master's Thesis in Computer Science by William D. Shoaff, Department of Computer Sciences, Florida Institute of Technology, Melbourne, Florida 32901.

The requirements for the two options (thesis and master’s project) will be described in the following:

Thesis Option Requirements

To be accepted, the minimum requirements for the thesis option are: i) the thesis should contain publishable results; and ii) the student should make a SOURCE or another comparable scientific venue presentation.

The first 2 credits of CS 700 consist of a research proposal written by the student and a one hour presentation based on this document. The research proposal should be a maximum of 10 pages in length (12 point, double spaced) and be composed of an introduction (including a brief survey of related work), objectives of proposed research, description of the approach, expected outcomes, and a projected time line. The document is to be submitted to the thesis committee members at least one week before the scheduled presentation and must be approved by the committee as a condition of receiving credit. The student must successfully complete these credits by the end of their second quarter in the graduate program. If the student has a situation that does not allow them to complete these credits by the end of their second quarter in the program, he/she must meet with the graduate advisor and committee to work out an appropriate course of action.

Each candidate must prepare a written thesis that documents the methods, analysis, and results of the research they carried out during their graduate study. In addition, each candidate must pass a final oral examination. The review covering the student’s thesis and coursework consists of a seminar open to the public followed by queries from the thesis committee. Read the CWU Thesis and Project Report General Regulations.

The last 3 credits of CS 700 are the final oral examination on the student's thesis and are taken in the quarter the student defends. Candidates must pass the final oral examination on their thesis and coursework that is administered by the candidate’s graduate committee. At the appointed time, the student will defend her or his work before the committee. The presentation is open to the public and is followed by queries from the graduate committee.

Approval of a thesis is a two-stage process. First, after the oral presentation, if successfully defended, it must receive the written approval of all committee members. Second, it must be reviewed and approved by the graduate office. If approved by the thesis committee, a thesis approval page and the thesis grade report must be signed by all members of the committee after required corrections, if any, are made. Once the graduate student has prepared the thesis in the format required by the graduate office, and has double checked to ensure that all style and format rules have been observed, he or she should submit the thesis for review to the graduate office.

Candidates must also pass the final oral examination on their thesis project and coursework that is administered by the candidate’s graduate thesis committee. At the appointed time, the student will defend her or his work before the committee. The presentation is open to the public and is followed by queries from the thesis committee. The thesis defense grade will be assigned as either satisfactory or unsatisfactory.

Master’s Project Option Requirements

To be accepted, the minimum requirement for a master’s project is a SOURCE or another comparable scientific venue presentation.

The first 2 credits of CS 700 consist of a project proposal written by the student and a one hour presentation based on this document. . The project proposal should be a maximum of 10 pages in length (12 point, double spaced) and be composed of an introduction (including a brief survey of related work), objectives of the project, and a comprehensive survey of the project. The document is to be submitted to the master’s project committee members at least one week before the scheduled presentation and must be approved by the committee as a condition of receiving credit. The student must successfully complete these credits by the end of their second quarter in the graduate program. If the student has a situation that does not allow them to complete these credits by the end of their second quarter in the program, he/she must meet with the graduate advisor and committee to work out an appropriate course of action.

Each candidate must prepare a final written report that documents the master’s project they carried out during their graduate study. The written report for the project is less through than for the thesis. The student is still expected to produce a significant document with proper referencing, and is expected to defend the obtained results. The report has to be prepared and submitted to the master’s project committee members following procedures specified by the CWU Thesis and Project Report General Regulations.

The last 3 credits of CS 700 are the final oral examination on the written project: candidates must pass the final oral examination on their project and coursework that is administered by the candidate’s graduate committee. At the appointed time, the student will defend her or his work before the committee. The presentation is open to the public and is followed by queries from the graduate committee.

The departmental standards for the Master's Project are:

  1. The project must have a substantial computer science component, including algorithmic and programming components.
  2. The project must have an experimental section, with benchmarking and performance analysis.
  3. The presentation must include a demonstration of the product.
  4. It is highly recommended that the project relates to scientific and high performance computing.
  5. The project must use the Latex/Word templates provided by the CS department.

If successfully defended, the master’s project must receive the written approval of all committee members: an approval page and the grade report should be signed by all members of the committee after required corrections, if any, are made. The project defense grade will be assigned as either satisfactory or unsatisfactory.

Course of Study & Graduate Committee

Your advisor, in consultation with the graduate coordinator, works with you in designing a program of study. Once agreed upon, you have to prepare the official Course of Study form obtained from the graduate office, which is then endorsed by the graduate coordinator, along with your advisor.

Before the end of your second quarter in the program, and before completing 25 quarter credits leading to the master’s degree, you have to file the Course of Study form. However, this form may be required prior for financial aid purposes. Upon receipt in the graduate office, the course of study is reviewed to ensure that it meets the minimum requirements of the institution. The official course of study reflects the credit required to meet requirements for the master’s degree.

An approved course of study must be on file with the graduate office before the graduate committee and a Graduate Committee and Option Approval form will be considered for approval.

Before the end of your second quarter in the program, in consultation with the advisor, you have to assemble a three-member thesis/master’s project graduate committee. Make sure that they agree to be in your committee. Interdisciplinary membership in this committee is strongly recommended. At least one member of the committee must be from the Computer Science Department. All members of the committee must have a graduate faculty status (regular, associate, special, or retired). In addition, the committee chair has to be a regular member of the graduate faculty. Faculty from other universities and experts from the industry may act as committee members after their application for special graduate faculty status is approved.

You must submit the Graduate Committee and Option Approval form to the graduate office. If approved, the committee becomes the student’s official advisory committee.

Graduate Advisor

You have to select a thesis/master’s project advisor. Make sure that the faculty member agrees to become your advisor. The Advisor will be the chair of your graduate committee and must be a regular member of the graduate faculty.

Graduate Advisor Responsibilities

The Graduate Advisor is the Thesis/Master’s Project Committee Chair of the master’s student. The advisor guides the student, at individual level, throughout the graduate program. The advisor and Department Chair / Master’s Program Director will negotiate a workload appropriate to the amount of graduate supervision being done.

The advisor activity will be reflected in the advisor’s workload by the research credits taken by the student. This includes:

  • discussing the strategy of the program
  • choosing the requisite courses
  • establishing an achievable time-plan for program completion
  • helping the student to file the Course of Study form and the Graduate Committee and Option Approval form
  • working with the student to develop a feasible and relevant research project
  • helping the student to establish contacts with other scholars or industry experts

In addition to committing to the time and work necessitated by the master’s program, the advisor must evaluate the student’s timely progress through the program and keep in regular contact with the student, even when the student is not taking courses or working directly with the advisor.

The advisor must inform the Master’s Program Director or the Dean of Graduate Studies of any problems that arise in a timely manner, so that solutions may be sought.

The advisor will be the instructor of record for the students CS – Thesis/Project course. During this course, the advisor will guide the student to:

  • write a proposal
  • begin conducting the agreed-upon research
  • write a detailed time-plan for completing the thesis or project
  • complete necessary paperwork and obtain permits

The role of the thesis/master’s project members

The thesis committee's primary role is that of a review panel when all is going well, and as a neutral arbiter between student and advisor when it isn't. Committee membership is considered in the workload of the faculty.

The committee members have the following formal obligations toward the student:

  • They meet with the student when they submit their proposal, to provide comments, criticism and ideas in order to strengthen the proposal and to help identify areas of concern related to the project. They may also meet independently with the advisor to have a candid discussion of said student. This is usually about the project, but can include issues such as mentorship concerns.
  • They then meet at the thesis/master’s project defense, evaluate the student, and make the determination as to whether or not they have successfully completed their program.

There is no other formal obligation on the part of the committee. As individuals, however, committee members may be consulted with on various topics, such as career strategies, suggestions for future research directions.

Program Timeline

The below timeline may be adjusted as needed, by your advisor and upon consultation with the graduation program director.

 Year   Quarter   Milestone 
One Fall
  • Begin to think about your thesis/master’s project topic and the advisor. Meet with faculty. The CS 599S seminar is a good class to begin formulating potential topics for your thesis/master’s project. Find out which elective courses will be offered and plan to enroll in some of them (min 8 credits).
Winter
  • By the end of January: Decide about who your thesis/master’s project advisor will be and focus on a topic. Start preparing the thesis/master’s project proposal. With your advisor, form the thesis/master’s project graduate committee.
  • Submit the Course of Study form to the Graduate Office.
  • By the end of winter quarter, complete your thesis/master’s project proposal presentation (CS 700, two credits, proposal and presentation).
Spring
  • Revise your proposal as indicated by your thesis/master’s project committee in response to the comments on your oral presentation.
  • After your thesis/master’s project proposal is approved by all committee members, submit the Graduate Committee and Option Approval form.
Two Summer and Fall Quarters
  • Meet with your advisor on a regular basis and work on the thesis/master’s project.
Winter Quarter
  • Meet with your advisor on a regular basis and work on the thesis/master’s project.
  • Complete a folder check from the Graduate Office. This must be completed one quarter before graduation.
Spring
  • Complete your thesis/master’s project draft and submit it to advisor. The first draft must be submitted at least 2 months before your planned oral exam/defense.
  • Submit your thesis/master’s project Sample Brief for Defense/Examination Review form to the graduate office at least 2 weeks before your scheduled oral exam/defense. The Thesis Permit is due 3 weeks prior to the oral exam/defense.
  • Conduct successful oral exam/defense. The oral exam can be no later than 2 weeks before the end of the quarter in which you intend to graduate.
  • Revise your thesis/master’s project as indicated by your committee. Almost all students will have revisions to make after their oral defense! Keep this in mind when scheduling.
  • For thesis option, submit three final copies of your thesis by the deadline date of degree completion to the graduate office.
  • For the master’s project option, submit one final copy of the project by the deadline date of degree completion to the Computer Science Department.