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How to Write a Master's Thesis: A Guide to Planning Your Thesis, Pursuing It, and Avoiding Pitfalls


Part 1: Initial Considerations

Who needs to write a master’s thesis.

Thesis writing is one of the more daunting challenges of higher education. That being said, not all master's students have to write a thesis. For example, fields that place a stronger emphasis on applied knowledge, such as nursing, business, and education, tend to have projects and exams to test students on the skills and abilities associated with those fields. Conversely, in disciplines that require in-depth research or highly polished creative abilities, students are usually expected to prove their understanding and independence with a thesis.

What's Your Goal?

Do you want to write a thesis? The process is a long one, often spanning years. It's best to know exactly what you want before you begin. Many people are motivated by career goals. For example, hiring managers may see a master's degree as proof that the candidate is an expert within their field and can lead, motivate, and demonstrate initiative for themselves and others. Others dream of earning their doctorate, and they see a master's degree as a stepping stone toward their Ph.D .

plan masters thesis

No matter what your desired goal is, you should have one before you start your thesis. With your goal in mind, your work will have a purpose, which will allow you to measure your progress more easily.

Major Types of Theses

Once you've carefully researched or even enrolled in a master's program—a feat that involves its own planning and resources —you should know if you are expected to produce a quantitative (which occurs in many math and science programs), qualitative (which occurs in many humanities programs), or creative (which occurs in many creative writing, music, or fine arts programs) thesis.

Time and Energy Considerations

Advanced degrees are notoriously time and energy consuming. If you have a job, thesis writing will become your second job. If you have a family, they will need to know that your thesis will take a great deal of your attention, energy, and focus.

plan masters thesis

Your studies should not consume you, but they also should not take a back seat to everything else. You will be expected to attend classes, conduct research, source relevant literature, and schedule meetings with various people as you pursue your master's, so it's important to let those you care about know what's going on.

As a general note, most master's programs expect students to finish within a two-year period but are willing to grant extra time if requested, especially if that time is needed to deal with unexpected life events (more on those later).

Part 2: Form an Initial Thesis Question, and Find a Supervisor

When to begin forming your initial thesis question.

Some fields, such as history, may require you to have already formed your thesis question and to have used it to create a statement of intent (outlining the nature of your research) prior to applying to a master’s program. Others may require this information only after you've been accepted. Most of the time, you will be expected to come up with your topic yourself. However, in some disciplines, your supervisor may assign a general research topic to you.

Overall, requirements vary immensely from program to program, so it's best to confirm the exact requirements of your specific program.

What to Say to Your Supervisor

You will have a supervisor during your master's studies. Have you identified who that person will be? If yes, have you introduced yourself via email or phone and obtained information on the processes and procedures that are in place for your master's program? Once you've established contact, request an in-person meeting with him or her, and take a page of questions along with you. Your questions might include:

  • Is there a research subject you can recommend in my field?
  • I would like to pursue [target research subject] for my thesis. Can you help me narrow my focus?
  • Can you give me an example of a properly formatted thesis proposal for my program?

Don't Be Afraid to Ask for Help (to a Degree)

Procedures and expectations vary from program to program, and your supervisor is there to help remove doubt and provide encouragement so you can follow the right path when you embark on writing your thesis. Since your supervisor has almost certainly worked with other graduate students (and was one at some point), take advantage of their experience, and ask questions to put your mind at ease about how to write a master’s thesis.

That being said, do not rely too heavily on your supervisor. As a graduate student, you are also expected to be able to work independently. Proving your independent initiative and capacity is part of what will earn you your master's degree.

Part 3: Revise Your Thesis

Read everything you can get your hands on.

Whether you have a question or need to create one, your next step is simple and applies to all kinds of theses: read.

plan masters thesis

Seek Out Knowledge or Research Gaps

Read everything you can that relates to the question or the field you are studying. The only way you will be able to determine where you can go is to see where everyone else has been. After you have read some published material, you will start to spot gaps in current research or notice things that could be developed further with an alternative approach. Things that are known but not understood or understood but not explained clearly or consistently are great potential thesis subjects. Addressing something already known from a new perspective or with a different style could also be a potentially valuable project. Whichever way you choose to do it, keep in mind that your project should make a valuable contribution to your field.

plan masters thesis

Talk with Experts in Your Field (and Don't Be Afraid to Revise Your Thesis)

To help narrow down your thesis topic, talk to your supervisor. Your supervisor will have an idea of what is current in your field and what can be left alone because others are already working on it. Additionally, the school you are attending will have programs and faculty with particular areas of interest within your chosen field.

On a similar note, don't be surprised if your thesis question changes as you study. Other students and researchers are out there, and as they publish, what you are working on can change. You might also discover that your question is too vague, not substantial enough, or even no longer relevant. Do not lose heart! Take what you know and adjust the question to address these concerns as they arise. The freedom to adapt is part of the power you hold as a graduate student.

Part 4: Select a Proposal Committee

What proposal committees are and why they're useful.

When you have a solid question or set of questions, draft a proposal.

plan masters thesis

You'll need an original stance and a clear justification for asking, and answering, your thesis question. To ensure this, a committee will review your thesis proposal. Thankfully, that committee will consist of people assigned by your supervisor or department head or handpicked by you. These people will be experts who understand your field of study and will do everything in their power to ensure that you are pursuing something worthwhile. And yes, it is okay to put your supervisor on your committee. Some programs even require that your supervisor be on your committee.

Just remember that the committee will expect you to schedule meetings with them, present your proposal, respond to any questions they might have for you, and ultimately present your findings and thesis when all the work is done. Choose those who are willing to support you, give constructive feedback, and help address issues with your proposal. And don't forget to give your proposal a good, thorough edit and proofread before you present it.

How to Prepare for Committee Meetings

Be ready for committee meetings with synopses of your material for committee members, answers for expected questions, and a calm attitude. To prepare for those meetings, sit in on proposal and thesis defenses so you can watch how other graduate students handle them and see what your committee might ask of you. You can even hold rehearsals with friends and fellow students acting as your committee to help you build confidence for your presentation.

plan masters thesis

Part 5: Write Your Thesis

What to do once your proposal is approved.

After you have written your thesis proposal and received feedback from your committee, the fun part starts: doing the work. This is where you will take your proposal and carry it out. If you drafted a qualitative or quantitative proposal, your experimentation or will begin here. If you wrote a creative proposal, you will now start working on your material. Your proposal should be strong enough to give you direction when you perform your experiments, conduct interviews, or craft your work. Take note that you will have to check in with your supervisor from time to time to give progress updates.

plan masters thesis

Thesis Writing: It's Important to Pace Yourself and Take Breaks

Do not expect the work to go quickly. You will need to pace yourself and make sure you record your progress meticulously. You can always discard information you don't need, but you cannot go back and grab a crucial fact that you can't quite remember. When in doubt, write it down. When drawing from a source, always create a citation for the information to save your future self time and stress. In the same sense, you may also find journaling to be a helpful process.

Additionally, take breaks and allow yourself to step away from your thesis, even if you're having fun (and especially if you're not). Ideally, your proposal should have milestones in it— points where you can stop and assess what you've already completed and what's left to do. When you reach a milestone, celebrate. Take a day off and relax. Better yet, give yourself a week's vacation! The rest will help you regain your focus and ensure that you function at your best.

How to Become More Comfortable with Presenting Your Work

Once you start reaching your milestones, you should be able to start sharing what you have. Just about everyone in a graduate program has experience giving a presentation at the front of the class, attending a seminar, or watching an interview. If you haven't (or even if you have), look for conferences and clubs that will give you the opportunity to learn about presenting your work and become comfortable with the idea of public speaking. The more you practice talking about what you are studying, the more comfortable you'll be with the information, which will make your committee defenses and other official meetings easier.

Published authors can be called upon to present at conferences, and if your thesis is strong, you may receive an email or a phone call asking if you would share your findings onstage.

Presenting at conferences is also a great way to boost your CV and network within your field. Make presenting part of your education, and it will become something you look forward to instead of fear.

What to Do If Your Relationship with Your Supervisor Sours

A small aside: If it isn't already obvious, you will be communicating extensively with others as you pursue your thesis. That also means that others will need to communicate with you, and if you've been noticing things getting quiet, you will need to be the one to speak up. Your supervisor should speak to you at least once a term and preferably once a week in the more active parts of your research and writing. If you give written work to your supervisor, you should have feedback within three weeks.

If your supervisor does not provide feedback, frequently misses appointments, or is consistently discouraging of your work, contact your graduate program advisor and ask for a new supervisor. The relationship with your supervisor is crucial to your success, especially if she or he is on your committee, and while your supervisor does not have to be friendly, there should at least be professional respect between you.

What to Do If a Crisis Strikes

If something happens in your life that disrupts everything (e.g., emotional strain, the birth of a child, or the death of a family member), ask for help. You are a human being, and personal lives can and do change without warning. Do not wait until you are falling apart before asking for help, either. Learn what resources exist for crises before you have one, so you can head off trauma before it hits. That being said, if you get blindsided, don't refuse help. Seek it out, and take the time you need to recover. Your degree is supposed to help you become a stronger and smarter person, not break you.

Part 6: Polish and Defend Your Master's Thesis

How to write a master’s thesis: the final stages.

After your work is done and everything is written down, you will have to give your thesis a good, thorough polishing. This is where you will have to organize the information, draft it into a paper format with an abstract, and abbreviate things to help meet your word-count limit. This is also where your final editing and proofreading passes will occur, after which you will face your final hurdle: presenting your thesis defense to your committee. If they approve your thesis, then congratulations! You are now a master of your chosen field.

Conclusion and Parting Thoughts

Remember that you do not (and should not) have to learn how to write a master’s thesis on your own. Thesis writing is collaborative, as is practically any kind of research.

plan masters thesis

While you will be expected to develop your thesis using your own initiative, pursue it with your own ambition, and complete it with your own abilities, you will also be expected to use all available resources to do so. The purpose of a master's thesis is to help you develop your own independent abilities, ensuring that you can drive your own career forward without constantly looking to others to provide direction. Leaders get master's degrees. That's why many business professionals in leadership roles have graduate degree initials after their last names. If you already have the skills necessary to motivate yourself, lead others, and drive change, you may only need your master's as an acknowledgement of your abilities. If you do not, but you apply yourself carefully and thoroughly to the pursuit of your thesis, you should come away from your studies with those skills in place.

A final thought regarding collaboration: all theses have a section for acknowledgements. Be sure to say thank you to those who helped you become a master. One day, someone might be doing the same for you.

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How to Write a Master's Thesis

Last Updated: June 1, 2023 Fact Checked

This article was co-authored by Christopher Taylor, PhD . Christopher Taylor is an Adjunct Assistant Professor of English at Austin Community College in Texas. He received his PhD in English Literature and Medieval Studies from the University of Texas at Austin in 2014. This article has been fact-checked, ensuring the accuracy of any cited facts and confirming the authority of its sources. This article has been viewed 601,027 times.

Students learning how to write a Master's Thesis will first learn that a central thesis question must be presented and subsequently answered. A Master's Thesis will be the most prominent piece of your graduate work up to this point, and a pertinent thesis question that forms the spine of this work elevates it from the prosaic to the significant.

Choosing a Topic

Step 1 Think about the objectives of writing a thesis.

  • To get a degree - topic should be difficult enough, but manageable too.
  • To enjoy the work - topic that you are truly interested in, something that you will not grow bored of after a short period of time.
  • To get a job afterward - if you know what specifically you want to do after your studies and/or for which company, it might be useful to choose a topic, that will help with this goal.
  • To be useful - thesis might actually be useful to help to make the world a little better place.
  • Try thinking about your favorite subject of study - it may be a particular author, theory, time period, etc. Imagine how you might further the study of that subject.
  • You might consider skimming through papers you wrote for your graduate courses and see if there is any apparent topic that you tend to gravitate towards.
  • Consult with faculty members, favorite professors. They might have some good suggestions to write about. Generally, you'll be required to meet with your thesis advisor at least once before you start working.
  • Consider consulting with industry partners. Your favorite company might have some work to do which might be done as a master's thesis. This might also help you get a job within the company afterward and maybe even some money for the thesis.
  • If you want to help the world to be a better place, you might want to consult with your local non-profits and charities or check the Internet for possible thesis topics to write about.
  • 3 Choose the right topic. From the possible topics generated in the previous step, find the one which best fits the objectives from the first step, especially the objectives most important to you. Make sure that you have a clear, specific, and organized plan on how to write a master's thesis which you will be able to then defend.

Step 4 Choose your thesis question.

  • Make sure that your question and the answers provided will provide original content to the body of research in existence. A judicious question will also keep research focused, organized, and interesting.
  • Once you've formulated your topic and direction of inquiry, try formulating 5-10 different questions around your intended research. This forces you to think flexibly about your topic and visualize how small changes in wording can change the trajectory of your research.

Step 5 Conduct your research.

  • Usually, your committee chair will be in place before you formally start your thesis. They can help guide you and provide input into your project, so the earlier you can get their commitment, the better.
  • Nothing is more frustrating than your thesis progress being held up by a professor who has too many obligations to make time to meet with you.

Selecting Your Texts

Step 1 Complete a literature review.

  • For example, a novel written by Ernest Hemingway or a scientific journal article in which new results are documented for the first time would both be considered primary sources.

Step 3 Choose your secondary sources.

  • For example, a book written about Ernest Hemingway's novel or a scientific journal article examining the findings of someone else's experiment would both be considered secondary sources.

Step 4 Manage your citations.

  • Use the in-text citation format appropriate to your discipline. [3] X Research source The most common formats are MLA, APA, and Chicago.
  • Create a coordinating works cited or reference entry for each source you cite in the text of your document or in a footnote.
  • Consider using a citation management software such as EndNote, Mendeley, or Zotero. These will enable you to insert and move citations within your word processor program and will automatically populate a works cited or reference page for you.

Planning an Outline

Step 1 Know the requirements for your field/department.

  • Qualitative. This type of thesis involves completing a project that is exploratory, analytical, or creative in some way. Usually, students in the humanities will complete this kind of thesis.
  • Quantitative. This type of thesis involves conducting experiments, measuring data, and recording results. Students in the sciences usually complete this kind of thesis.

Step 2 Nail down your thesis idea.

  • Signature page (with the completed signatures of your advising committee - usually attained at the defense, or after the project is deemed complete )
  • Abstract - this is a short (one paragraph or so) description/summary of the work completed in your thesis
  • Table of Contents (with page numbers)
  • Introduction
  • Body of paper
  • Works Cited or Bibliography
  • Any necessary appendices or endnotes

Moving through the Writing Process

Step 1 Make a schedule.

  • If you do not already have a review of literature written, it’s time to do your research! The review of literature is essentially a summary of all of the existing scholarship about your topic with plenty of direct quotations from the primary and secondary sources that you’re referencing.

Step 8 Contextualize your work.

Finalizing Your Thesis

Step 1 Compare your draft with your university's requirements.

  • Many departments or programs provide a document template for theses and dissertations. If you have one of these, it may be easiest to use such a template from the beginning of your work (rather than copying and pasting your writing into it).

Step 2 Re-read the entire thesis for correctness.

  • Alternatively, ask a trusted colleague or friend to read over your thesis to help you catch any minor grammar/spelling/punctuation errors and typos.

Step 3 Follow all printing guidelines according to your department's policies.

  • Some institutions require you to submit your thesis for a formatting check prior to uploading the document to ProQuest. Be sure to check with your department’s Director of Graduate Studies for specific instructions.
  • Be aware of thesis submission deadlines, which are often well in advance of your graduation date. Late submission of your thesis may force you to push back your graduation date, which may affect your employment or continuing graduate studies.

Masters Thesis Outline

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Expert Q&A

Christopher Taylor, PhD

  • Remember why you are writing a Master's thesis and who will want to read and use the material. You write a Master's thesis for members of your community, so keep in mind that they will have extensive knowledge and experience before reading your work. Don't bore them with unnecessary material. Thanks Helpful 2 Not Helpful 0
  • Choosing the perfect question before starting research will prevent frustration and save time. Rigorous effort on finding the perfect question is probably the most important task when learning how to write a Master's thesis. Thanks Helpful 2 Not Helpful 0
  • Consult other people who have completed a Master's thesis and obtained a Master's degree. It can be a long, grueling process, and having the support and advice of someone who has already done it can be very valuable. Thanks Helpful 1 Not Helpful 0

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About This Article

Christopher Taylor, PhD

To write a master's thesis, make it a goal to write 500 words every day, which will help you meet your deadline without having to rush at the last minute. It's also helpful if you work in 25-minute increments and take a 5-minute break in between, which will make your work sessions less overwhelming. Also, figure out a writing time that works best for you, whether it's in the morning or at night, and stick with it so you're more productive. For more help writing your master's thesis, like how to make an outline, keep reading! Did this summary help you? Yes No

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Your thesis is the central claim in your essay—your main insight or idea about your source or topic. Your thesis should appear early in an academic essay, followed by a logically constructed argument that supports this central claim. A strong thesis is arguable, which means a thoughtful reader could disagree with it and therefore needs your careful analysis of the evidence to understand how you arrived at this claim. You arrive at your thesis by examining and analyzing the evidence available to you, which might be text or other types of source material.

A thesis will generally respond to an analytical question or pose a solution to a problem that you have framed for your readers (and for yourself). When you frame that question or problem for your readers, you are telling them what is at stake in your argument—why your question matters and why they should care about the answer . If you can explain to your readers why a question or problem is worth addressing, then they will understand why it’s worth reading an essay that develops your thesis—and you will understand why it’s worth writing that essay.

A strong thesis will be arguable rather than descriptive , and it will be the right scope for the essay you are writing. If your thesis is descriptive, then you will not need to convince your readers of anything—you will be naming or summarizing something your readers can already see for themselves. If your thesis is too narrow, you won’t be able to explore your topic in enough depth to say something interesting about it. If your thesis is too broad, you may not be able to support it with evidence from the available sources.

When you are writing an essay for a course assignment, you should make sure you understand what type of claim you are being asked to make. Many of your assignments will be asking you to make analytical claims , which are based on interpretation of facts, data, or sources.

Some of your assignments may ask you to make normative claims. Normative claims are claims of value or evaluation rather than fact—claims about how things should be rather than how they are. A normative claim makes the case for the importance of something, the action that should be taken, or the way the world should be. When you are asked to write a policy memo, a proposal, or an essay based on your own opinion, you will be making normative claims.

Here are some examples of possible thesis statements for a student's analysis of the article “The Case Against Perfection” by Professor Michael Sandel.  

Descriptive thesis (not arguable)  

While Sandel argues that pursuing perfection through genetic engineering would decrease our sense of humility, he claims that the sense of solidarity we would lose is also important.

This thesis summarizes several points in Sandel’s argument, but it does not make a claim about how we should understand his argument. A reader who read Sandel’s argument would not also need to read an essay based on this descriptive thesis.  

Broad thesis (arguable, but difficult to support with evidence)  

Michael Sandel’s arguments about genetic engineering do not take into consideration all the relevant issues.

This is an arguable claim because it would be possible to argue against it by saying that Michael Sandel’s arguments do take all of the relevant issues into consideration. But the claim is too broad. Because the thesis does not specify which “issues” it is focused on—or why it matters if they are considered—readers won’t know what the rest of the essay will argue, and the writer won’t know what to focus on. If there is a particular issue that Sandel does not address, then a more specific version of the thesis would include that issue—hand an explanation of why it is important.  

Arguable thesis with analytical claim  

While Sandel argues persuasively that our instinct to “remake” (54) ourselves into something ever more perfect is a problem, his belief that we can always draw a line between what is medically necessary and what makes us simply “better than well” (51) is less convincing.

This is an arguable analytical claim. To argue for this claim, the essay writer will need to show how evidence from the article itself points to this interpretation. It’s also a reasonable scope for a thesis because it can be supported with evidence available in the text and is neither too broad nor too narrow.  

Arguable thesis with normative claim  

Given Sandel’s argument against genetic enhancement, we should not allow parents to decide on using Human Growth Hormone for their children.

This thesis tells us what we should do about a particular issue discussed in Sandel’s article, but it does not tell us how we should understand Sandel’s argument.  

Questions to ask about your thesis  

  • Is the thesis truly arguable? Does it speak to a genuine dilemma in the source, or would most readers automatically agree with it?  
  • Is the thesis too obvious? Again, would most or all readers agree with it without needing to see your argument?  
  • Is the thesis complex enough to require a whole essay's worth of argument?  
  • Is the thesis supportable with evidence from the text rather than with generalizations or outside research?  
  • Would anyone want to read a paper in which this thesis was developed? That is, can you explain what this paper is adding to our understanding of a problem, question, or topic?
  • Tips for Reading an Assignment Prompt
  • Asking Analytical Questions
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  • How to Write a Thesis Statement | 4 Steps & Examples

How to Write a Thesis Statement | 4 Steps & Examples

Published on January 11, 2019 by Shona McCombes . Revised on August 15, 2023 by Eoghan Ryan.

A thesis statement is a sentence that sums up the central point of your paper or essay . It usually comes near the end of your introduction .

Your thesis will look a bit different depending on the type of essay you’re writing. But the thesis statement should always clearly state the main idea you want to get across. Everything else in your essay should relate back to this idea.

You can write your thesis statement by following four simple steps:

  • Start with a question
  • Write your initial answer
  • Develop your answer
  • Refine your thesis statement

Table of contents

What is a thesis statement, placement of the thesis statement, step 1: start with a question, step 2: write your initial answer, step 3: develop your answer, step 4: refine your thesis statement, types of thesis statements, other interesting articles, frequently asked questions about thesis statements.

A thesis statement summarizes the central points of your essay. It is a signpost telling the reader what the essay will argue and why.

The best thesis statements are:

  • Concise: A good thesis statement is short and sweet—don’t use more words than necessary. State your point clearly and directly in one or two sentences.
  • Contentious: Your thesis shouldn’t be a simple statement of fact that everyone already knows. A good thesis statement is a claim that requires further evidence or analysis to back it up.
  • Coherent: Everything mentioned in your thesis statement must be supported and explained in the rest of your paper.

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The thesis statement generally appears at the end of your essay introduction or research paper introduction .

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You should come up with an initial thesis, sometimes called a working thesis , early in the writing process . As soon as you’ve decided on your essay topic , you need to work out what you want to say about it—a clear thesis will give your essay direction and structure.

You might already have a question in your assignment, but if not, try to come up with your own. What would you like to find out or decide about your topic?

For example, you might ask:

After some initial research, you can formulate a tentative answer to this question. At this stage it can be simple, and it should guide the research process and writing process .

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plan masters thesis

Now you need to consider why this is your answer and how you will convince your reader to agree with you. As you read more about your topic and begin writing, your answer should get more detailed.

In your essay about the internet and education, the thesis states your position and sketches out the key arguments you’ll use to support it.

The negatives of internet use are outweighed by its many benefits for education because it facilitates easier access to information.

In your essay about braille, the thesis statement summarizes the key historical development that you’ll explain.

The invention of braille in the 19th century transformed the lives of blind people, allowing them to participate more actively in public life.

A strong thesis statement should tell the reader:

  • Why you hold this position
  • What they’ll learn from your essay
  • The key points of your argument or narrative

The final thesis statement doesn’t just state your position, but summarizes your overall argument or the entire topic you’re going to explain. To strengthen a weak thesis statement, it can help to consider the broader context of your topic.

These examples are more specific and show that you’ll explore your topic in depth.

Your thesis statement should match the goals of your essay, which vary depending on the type of essay you’re writing:

  • In an argumentative essay , your thesis statement should take a strong position. Your aim in the essay is to convince your reader of this thesis based on evidence and logical reasoning.
  • In an expository essay , you’ll aim to explain the facts of a topic or process. Your thesis statement doesn’t have to include a strong opinion in this case, but it should clearly state the central point you want to make, and mention the key elements you’ll explain.

If you want to know more about AI tools , college essays , or fallacies make sure to check out some of our other articles with explanations and examples or go directly to our tools!

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A thesis statement is a sentence that sums up the central point of your paper or essay . Everything else you write should relate to this key idea.

The thesis statement is essential in any academic essay or research paper for two main reasons:

  • It gives your writing direction and focus.
  • It gives the reader a concise summary of your main point.

Without a clear thesis statement, an essay can end up rambling and unfocused, leaving your reader unsure of exactly what you want to say.

Follow these four steps to come up with a thesis statement :

  • Ask a question about your topic .
  • Write your initial answer.
  • Develop your answer by including reasons.
  • Refine your answer, adding more detail and nuance.

The thesis statement should be placed at the end of your essay introduction .

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Guide for Thesis Research

  • Introduction to the Thesis Process
  • Project Planning
  • Literature Review
  • Theoretical Frameworks
  • Research Methodology
  • GC Honors Program Theses
  • Thesis Submission Instructions This link opens in a new window
  • Accessing Guilford Theses from 1898 to 2020 This link opens in a new window

Web Resources

  • Developing a Thesis - Harvard College Writing Center
  • How to Write Your Thesis - Columbia University
  • Navigating the Dissertation - University of Southern California

Mapping Out Your Thesis Project

Good project planning will help you make the most out of your thesis experience. Here are some pointers:

  • What are the specific requirements for theses in your department?
  • What type of sources will you need?
  • How much information will you need?
  • What kind of data will you need to collect?
  • Start your thesis project with enough time.
  • Establish a working schedule.
  • Establish benchmarks.
  • ​Anticipate difficulties in the research process.
  • Give yourself leeway to refine or alter your topic as needed.
  • Be willing to try different strategies as you conduct your research.
  • Databases you have consulted
  • Search queries you have used
  • Relevant sources you have located
  • Have you found sufficient quality information?
  • Have you answered your research questions?
  • Can you develop and support a coherent argument with the sources that you have?
  • Do you have enough to fulfill your thesis requirements?
  • Give yourself time to analyze your sources. Consider how they tie together and help support the points you wish to make.
  • Give yourself time to craft your written product. Make sure it effectively communicates the research you have done and the ideas you wish to express.
  • Show drafts of your written product to others. Ask for their honest feedback, and take it into account.
  • Be very clear about what you wish to say and how you will support it.
  • Anticipate possible questions you might get.
  • Rehearse as much as possible.
  • Enjoy the experience!  
  • << Previous: Introduction to the Thesis Process
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  • Last Updated: Jul 8, 2021 6:01 PM
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  • Graduate School

How to Write a Master's Thesis Proposal

How to Write a Master's Thesis Proposal

How to write a master’s thesis proposal is one of the most-asked questions by graduate students. A master's thesis proposal involves a copious amount of data collection, particular presentation ethics, and most importantly, it will become the roadmap to your full thesis. Remember, you must convince your committee that your idea is strong and unique, and that you have done enough legwork to begin with the first few drafts of your final thesis. Your proposal should serve as a foundational blueprint on which you will later build your entire project. To have the perfect thesis proposal, you need to have original ideas, solid information, and proper presentation. While it is a good idea to take assistance from thesis writing services , you still need to personally understand the elements that contribute to a master’s thesis proposal worthy of approval. In this blog, we will discuss the process of writing your master’s thesis proposal and give you tips for making your proposal strong. Stay tuned!

>> Want us to help you get accepted? Schedule a free strategy call here . <<

Article Contents 8 min read

How to decide the goals for your master's thesis.

If you are pursuing a master’s or a PhD , you will be undertaking a major research paper or a thesis. Thus, writing a thesis proposal becomes inevitable. Your major objective for pursuing a master’s degree is to improve your knowledge in your field of study. When you start your degree, you delve deeper into different concepts in your discipline and try to search for answers to all kinds of questions. If you come across a question that no one can answer, you can select that question as your research thesis topic.

A master's thesis proposal will have multiple sections depending on your decided layout. These sections will continuously support your argument and try to convince the reader of your core argument. The structure will also help you arrange the various parts of the paper to have a greater impact on the readers. A paper should always begin with you giving a brief summary of the topic and how you have come across it. The introduction is particularly important because it will give the readers a brief idea about the topic of discussion and win their interest in the matter.

After the summary has been given, slowly you need to progress into the body of the thesis proposal which would explain your argument, research methodology, literary texts that have a relation to the topic, and the conclusion of your study. It would be similar to an essay or a literary review consisting of 3 or 4 parts. The bibliography will be placed at the end of the paper so that people can cross-check your sources.

Let's take a look at the sections most master's thesis proposals should cover. Please note that each university has its own guidelines for how to structure and what to include in a master’s thesis proposal. The outline we provide below is general, so please make sure to follow the exact guidelines provided by your school:

Restate your primary argument and give us a glimpse of what you will include in the main master\u2019s thesis. Leave the reader wanting more. Your research proposal should talk about what research chapters you are trying to undertake in your final thesis. You can also mention the proposed time in which you will complete these chapters.  ","label":"Conclusion and proposed chapters","title":"Conclusion and proposed chapters"}]" code="tab1" template="BlogArticle">

A thesis proposal needs to be convincing enough to get approval. If the information is not enough to satisfy the evaluation committee, it would require revision. Hence, you need to select and follow the right methodology to make your argument convincing. When a research proposal is presented, the reader will determine the validity of your argument by judging the strength of your evidence and conclusions. Therefore, even writige:ng a proposal will require extensive research on your part. You should start writing your thesis proposal by working through the following steps.

Interested in a summary of the points covered below? Check out this infographic:

Exploring your topic in detail

You need to delve deeper into your chosen topic to see if your idea is original. In the process of this exploration, you will find tons of materials that will be supportive of your argument. When choosing your research topic and the problem you want to explore, you should always consider your primary research interest (yes, the one which you had mentioned in your research interest statement during grad school applications) for a better master’s thesis. You have a high probability of performing better in an area that you have always liked as compared to any other research area or topic.

Reviewing the literature

You have to include all the sources from where you have formed your argument and mention them in the thesis proposal. If you neglect to mention important source texts, the reader may consider it to be plagiarism. Furthermore, you want to keep track of all your research because it will be easier to provide references if you know the exact source of each piece of information.

Finding opposing arguments for your study

You should also mention any texts that would counter your argument and try to disprove their claims in the thesis. Make sure to use evidence if you try to disprove the counterarguments you face.

Emphasizing the importance of your research

At the end of the thesis proposal, you need to convince the reader why your proposal is important to your chosen field of study, which would ultimately help you in getting your topic approved. Thus, it is essential to outline the importance of your research thoroughly.

Drafting your proposal

After doing proper research, you should go ahead and draft your proposal. Remember you will not get it right in just one draft, it will take at least 50 attempts to come up with a satisfactory proposal. You should proofread your draft several times and even have a fellow student review it for you before sending it further to your research supervisor.

Getting your proposal evaluated by your supervisor

After you have written sufficient drafts, you need to get your proposal evaluated by your research supervisor. This is necessary to meet the graduate research requirements. It will ensure the clarity and correctness of your proposal. For your supervisor to evaluate your proposal, you should complete the research methodology part along with sufficient proposed work.

Since your supervisor will play a crucial role in your master's research thesis, you must choose a supervisor who can be your ultimate guide in writing your master's thesis. They will be your partner and support system during your study and will help you in eliminating obstacles to achieving your goal.

Choosing the ideal supervisor is a pretty daunting task. Here’s how you can go about the process:

You should approach your professor with an open mind and discuss the potential goals of your research. You should hear what they think and then if you both mutually agree, you can choose them as your supervisor for your master\u2019s thesis. "}]">

Length of a Master’s Thesis Proposal

The length of a master’s thesis proposal differs from university to university and depends on the discipline of research as well. Usually, you have to include all the above-mentioned sections, and the length is around 8 pages and can go up to 12-15 pages for subjects such as the liberal arts. Universities might also define the number of words in the guidelines for your master’s thesis proposal and you have to adhere to that word limit.

Are you debating between pursuing a Masters or a PhD? This video has details that can help you decide which is best for you:

How to Format a Research Thesis Proposal Correctly?

Now that you know how to write a thesis proposal, you must make it presentable. Although your school might give your specific instructions, you can keep in mind some of the general advice:

  • You can use some basic font like Times New Roman and keep the font size to 10 or 12 points.
  • The left margin should be 1.5 inches and all other margins should be 1 inch each.
  • You should follow double-spacing for your content.
  • The first line of paragraphs should be indented 0.5 inches and the paragraphs should be left or center aligned.

Tips to Write a Strong Master's Thesis Proposal

When you are writing your master’s thesis proposal, you should keep these tips in mind to write an excellent master’s thesis proposal with all the correct elements to get approval from the evaluating committee:

Select your research objectives wisely

You should be clear on what you wish to learn from your research. Your learning objectives should stem from your research interests. If you are unsure, refer to your grad school career goals statement to review what you wanted out of grad school in the first place. Then, choose your objectives around it.

Write a clear title

The title of your research proposal should be concise and written in a language that can be understood easily by others. The title should be able to give the reader an idea of your intended research and should be interesting.

Jot down your thoughts, arguments, and evidence

You should always start with a rough outline of your arguments because you will not miss any point in this way. Brainstorm what you want to include in the proposal and then expand those points to complete your proposal. You can decide the major headings with the help of the guidelines provided to you.

Focus on the feasibility and importance

You should consider whether your research is feasible with the available resources. Additionally, your proposal should clearly convey the significance of your research in your field.

Use simple language

Since the evaluation committee can have researchers from different subject areas, it is best to write your proposal in a simple language that is understandable by all.

Stick to the guidelines

Your university will be providing the guidelines for writing your research proposal. You should adhere to those guidelines strictly since your proposal will be primarily evaluated on the basis of those.

Have an impactful opening section

It is a no-brainer that the opening statement of your proposal should be powerful enough to grasp the attention of the readers and get them interested in your research topic. You should be able to convey your interest and enthusiasm in the introductory section.

Peer review prior to submission

Apart from working with your research supervisor, it is essential that you ask some classmates and friends to review your proposal. The comments and suggestions that they give will be valuable in helping you to make the language of your proposal clearer.

You have worked hard to get into grad school and even harder on searching your research topic. Thus, you must be careful while building your thesis proposal so that you have maximum chances of acceptance.

If you're curious how your graduate school education will differ from your undergraduate education, take a look at this video so you know what to expect:

Writing the perfect research proposal might be challenging, but keeping to the basics might make your task easier. In a nutshell, you need to be thorough in your study question. You should conduct sufficient research to gather all relevant materials required to support your argument. After collecting all data, make sure to present it systematically to give a clearer understanding and convince the evaluators to approve your proposal. Lastly, remember to submit your proposal well within the deadline set by your university. Your performance at grad school is essential, especially if you need a graduate degree to gain admission to med school and your thesis contributes to that performance. Thus, start with a suitable research problem, draft a strong proposal, and then begin with your thesis after your proposal is approved.

In your master’s thesis proposal, you should include your research topic and the problem statement being addressed in your research, along with a proposed solution. The proposal should explain the importance and limitations of your research.

The length of a master’s thesis proposal is outlined by the university in the instructions for preparing your master’s thesis proposal.

The time taken to write a master’s thesis proposal depends upon the study which you are undertaking and your discipline of research. It will take a minimum time of three months. The ideal time can be around six months. 

You should begin your master’s thesis proposal by writing an introduction to your research topic. You should state your topic clearly and provide some background. Keep notes and rough drafts of your proposal so you can always refer to them when you write the first real draft.

The basic sections that your master’s thesis proposal should cover are the problem statement, research methodology, proposed activities, importance, and the limitations of your research.

A master’s thesis proposal which clearly defines the problem in a straightforward and explains the research methodology in simple words is considered a good thesis proposal.

You can use any classic font for your master’s thesis proposal such as Times New Roman. If you are recommended a specific font in the proposal guidelines by your institution, it would be advisable to stick to that.

The ideal font size for your master’s thesis proposal will be 10 or 12 points.

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Master's Thesis Plan Form

Master’s Thesis Plan Information

Students completing a written thesis as part of their Master’s degree program must submit this form so that their record can accurately reflect their plan and associated requirements. Students pursuing a thesis plan will also register for Master’s thesis hours as appropriate and complete a thesis defense. Work closely with your department to determine the minimum and maximum thesis credit hour requirement for your degree.

The form should be submitted as early as possible in a student’s career, and at the latest should submit it by the deadline to apply to graduate for the semester in which the student plans to earn the degree.  Deadlines  and  thesis information  can be found on the Graduate School’s website. 

Note that students completing an art practices MFA creative thesis, music thesis project, or dance MFA project do not submit a written thesis and need not complete this form.

Endorsements Needed

The graduate program must endorse the form.

Information Needed 

Students will provide their name, CU e-mail address, student ID, and select their program on the landing page.  On the form, the student should read and sign the form indicating that their master’s degree will include the submission of a written thesis.

Submission & Routing Information

Students will receive notification upon submission, and the Master’s thesis plan form will be sent to the graduate program for endorsement.  After review by the Graduate School, the student and program will receive notification. 

Additional instructions here .

Student Information

Enago Academy

How to Plan a Research Thesis

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A very important element of research, particularly for students, is the thesis which constitutes a report of the work performed. A thesis allows the organization of thoughts and results, and also serves to fulfill institutional requirements. Judgments about how good is the work are based on the quality of the thesis, among other things. It is therefore essential to plan the thesis writing well in advance. Some of the essential steps in this process are summarized below.

  • The first phase of the process involves locating a suitable research advisor and institution, determining overlap of interest, and then formulating the research plan.
  • Attempt to anticipate all the tasks which will be involved and potential problems that you may encounter in consultation with your research advisor .
  • Devise a thesis proposal, which is a short description of why and how the research is expected to be completed, and define the eventual goal.
  • Before you embark on the actual work, perform a thorough search of existing literature, which will help you put the proposed research in better perspective.
  • Construct or learn to use suitable apparatus and acquire a working knowledge of experimental and/or theoretical frameworks before you attack the research problem.
  • Once you begin the research, maintain detailed and clear notes at every stage so that these can be consulted when you begin writing the thesis.
  • On completion of the work, appropriate conclusions should be drawn from the work which can be put in the discussions section of the thesis.
  • The layout and format of the thesis should be decided before commencing writing. An outline of the front matter, body, and concluding portions should be first prepared.
  • Once the details are written, the thesis should be reviewed by not just the research advisor but also peers and other experts in the field. The quality of the writing can be improved using professional help .
  • The final and critical part is the thesis defense-thoroughly revise every detail in the thesis and be prepared to field queries related to any aspect.

A well-planned and -written thesis can be crucial to recognition by peers and also career advancement.

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How to Write a Research Proposal for a Master's Dissertation

Unsure how to start your research proposal as part of your dissertation read below our top tips from banking and finance student, nelly, on how to structure your proposal and make sure it's a strong, formative foundation to build your dissertation..

It's understandable if the proposal part of your dissertation feels like a waste of time. Why not just get started on the dissertation itself? Isn't 'proposal' a just fancy word for a plan?

It's important to see your Master's research proposal not only as a requirement, but a way of formalising your ideas and mapping out the direction and purpose of your dissertation. A strong, carefully prepared proposal is instrumental in writing a good dissertation.

How to structure a research proposal for a Master's dissertation

  • Motivation: introduce your research question and give an overview of the topic, explain the importance of your research
  • Theory:  draw on existing pieces of research that are relevant to your topic of choice, leading up to your question and identifying how your dissertation will explore new territory
  • Data and methodology: how do you plan to answer the research question? Explain your data sources and methodology
  • Expected results: finally, what will the outcome be? What do you think your data and methodology will find?

Top Tips for Writing a Dissertation Research Proposal 

Choose a dissertation topic well in advance of starting to write it, allow existing research to guide you , make your research questions as specific as possible , collate your bibliography as you go , colour code your notes based on which part of the proposal they apply to , write your motivation after your theory, make sure your data and methodology section is to-the-point, and succinct, link your expectations to existing research.

Discover Postgraduate Study at Newcastle

Published By Nelly on 01/09/2020 | Last Updated 29/11/2023

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How to write a masters thesis in 2 months [Easy steps to start writing]

Writing a master’s thesis is completely possible to write a thesis within two months as long as you stay completely focused on your writing and you do a little bit every single day. I was able to write my thesis (master’s and PhD) in approximately two months – but I did have some of the sections already prepared.

To complete your master’s thesis in two months you should start by creating an outline of the sections and headings of your thesis. Then, worked diligently to fill in the gaps with data and analysis.

It would help if you create a schedule of how many sections you need to complete a day to write up in two months.

Also, it is important that you get your supervisor on board from the earliest opportunity so that they understand the urgency and their responsibility of getting any drafts back to you in a timely fashion.

How long does it take to write a master’s or graduate thesis?

Writing a graduate thesis can be a long and arduous process that can take anywhere from one month to many years.

It is essential to start writing your thesis early in your final year of graduate school, as it requires extensive research, data collection and analysis, in addition to the actual writing.

It is important that you go into the thesis writing portion of your degree with as much of the data analysis done as possible.

When you are writing you want to focus 100% on the production of words on a page.

Depending on the topic and depth of study, it can take anywhere from six weeks to two or three months just to complete the first draft.

This is followed by further revisions and edits before finalizing the dissertation.

My 8 tips on how to write a thesis or dissertation in two months

Writing a thesis or dissertation in two months can be a daunting task, but it is certainly possible. This assumes that you have all of the data analysis done and you are literally just writing up what you have found.

Here are eight tips that can help you finish writing your thesis in 30 days:

  • Start by breaking up the task into manageable chunks and set deadlines for each stage of the process. This will make it easier to stay on track and not become overwhelmed by the whole project.
  • Make sure to give yourself enough time to do a thorough literature review, as this is an important part of any thesis or dissertation. Many people have already completed the literature review in the early stages of their graduate degree. Revisit and use as much of this literature review is possible and add the research from recent years.
  • Write your first draft as quickly as possible; don’t worry too much about grammar and spelling right now, that comes later. It is all about getting the words out onto the page as quickly as possible.
  • Set aside some time every day for writing your thesis; even if it’s only an hour or two, this will help you stay focused and motivated throughout the entire writing process. I used to work in two hour blocks. I was able to squeeze three of these in a day which meant I got a lot of writing done.
  • Don’t forget to use helpful tools like Grammarly to ensure the quality of your work is at its highest level before submitting it for review.
  • Take regular breaks during your writing sessions; this will help you stay fresh and focused on what needs to be done next. I used to take a break every two hours away from my screen and ensure that I refuelled with good food and caffeine.
  • Seek feedback from other PhD students or experts in your field; getting constructive criticism can help you improve the quality of your thesis significantly before submitting. However, do not allow people to sit on the draft for ages. We need a quick turnaround if we are going to complete your thesis in two months.
  • Finally, plan ahead and stick to deadlines; this will help keep you on track with completing your thesis in a month’s time!

If you want to know more about how to finish a masters thesis in two months check out my other video where I show you the unglamorous trues about writing a thesis.

Understanding what you are going into and what is likely to happen is half the battle.

If you want to know more about how long a Masters’s thesis and PhD dissertation is you can check out my other articles:

  • How Long is a Masters Thesis? [Your writing guide]
  • How long is a PhD dissertation? [Data by field]
  • Is writing a masters thesis hard? Tips on how to write a thesis

What are the common structures of a Masters’s thesis?

The common structure of a thesis or dissertation usually includes:

  • the main text,
  • literature review,
  • methodology,
  • results and discussions
  • conclusions

Depending on the school and field of study, there may be additional elements such as appendices.

Generally speaking, the first step in writing a thesis or dissertation is to create a literature review that assesses relevant academic sources related to the topic at hand. This is typically done in the early stages of your research project so you can reuse many parts of your literature review in your thesis. Just make sure you update it with new information.

Then, the methodology section outlines how research was conducted and what methods were used.

The main text presents your findings and conclusions based on your research and the final part of the thesis is to summarise everything you have just written in an abstract.

Each section must be written with clarity and accuracy in order to be accepted by graduate school. However, initially you only have to worry about getting your ideas out onto the page – you can refine them for clarity and accuracy in the editing stage.

Here are all of the sections of a typical master’s thesis and how to write them quickly.

Introduction/literature review

The introduction and literature review are an important part of any academic paper. It outlines the topic, provides background information, and introduces the research question.

The introduction is typically the first section of a paper and should explain the general context and importance of the research being undertaken.

The literature review follows the introduction and provides an overview of relevant previous studies, theories, or debates related to the paper’s research question.

This section may include summaries of key articles or books that have been published on the topic, as well as alternative perspectives and arguments.

A strong literature review will provide a comprehensive summary of prior work while also identifying gaps in knowledge that can be addressed by the current study.

Reuse your literature review from the early stages of your project and update it with more recent publications.

Methodology in a thesis

this is the part of the thesis which details the methods used in researching and writing the paper.

The methodology should include information on how data was collected, analyzed, and interpreted.

I quite often like to start with the methodology because it feels like I am making a lot of progress whilst it being a relatively easy to write.

Feel free to look at other people’s theses that have used the same techniques and follow a similar format that they used. It is common for research groups to share their methodology sections with each other including any schematics required to describe your research process.

You can republish these as long as you reference the appropriate studies and people.

It can also explain why certain methods were chosen over others and provide justification for any assumptions made during the research process.

Results and discussion

Results and discussion provide a platform to present the findings of a research study.

They are essential components of any research paper as they provide an opportunity to analyze and interpret the data collected during the study.

Results typically include descriptive statistics, tables, figures, or graphs that display the main outcomes of the research.

These are what you should place under the headings first.

Create a story with the figures and tables you have already created throughout your research. If you haven’t done them already, create the figures and tables that display your data before writing.

The discussion section should explain how these results relate to prior studies and answer the original research question posed in the introduction.

It should also discuss any limitations or unexpected findings that emerged from the study, as well as potential implications for future research.

Conclusions in a thesis

Conclusions in a thesis are important because they provide readers with a final summary of the main points and themes discussed throughout the thesis.

The conclusion should not introduce any new information, but rather draw on existing evidence to summarize the overall argument presented in the thesis.

It should also reiterate the main points of the paper and include implications for further study or action that could be taken based on the findings.

Conclusions should be written in clear language, using strong arguments and evidence to support their claims.

It is really important to avoid making broad generalizations or unsubstantiated statements in one’s conclusions as this could weaken an otherwise sound argument.

The abstract of a thesis

The abstract of a thesis is a concise summary of the contents of the entire thesis.

And it should be written as one of the last parts of your thesis.

It should give an overview of all the major aspects discussed in the thesis, such as the research question, methodology, findings and conclusions.

The aim of an abstract is to give potential readers a clear idea of what the full dissertation contains without having to read it word for word.

An effective abstract should be concise and self-contained; it should be able to stand alone without needing any explanation or clarification from outside sources.

It should provide enough detail so that readers can determine whether they have an interest in reading the full dissertation.

Writing motivation

If you want to know more about how to increase your writing motivation check out my other video below.

Wrapping up

this article has been through everything you need to know about if you can write a Masters thesis in two months.

It is completely doable as long as you have all of the appropriate data and figures ready and you are committed to writing consistently throughout the two months.

Another really important part of completing your master’s thesis on time is getting buy in from your supervisors so that they return any drafts as quickly as possible.

Work diligently and consistently and in no doubt that you will be able to finish your master’s thesis in two months.

plan masters thesis

Dr Andrew Stapleton has a Masters and PhD in Chemistry from the UK and Australia. He has many years of research experience and has worked as a Postdoctoral Fellow and Associate at a number of Universities. Although having secured funding for his own research, he left academia to help others with his YouTube channel all about the inner workings of academia and how to make it work for you.

Thank you for visiting Academia Insider.

We are here to help you navigate Academia as painlessly as possible. We are supported by our readers and by visiting you are helping us earn a small amount through ads and affiliate revenue - Thank you!

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M.S. Degree - Plan I (Thesis)

This master’s program in electrical and computer engineering gives the student an opportunity to perform in-depth research and thesis writing.

The Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering prepares graduate students to do meaningful research and acquire skills and insights vital to solving some of the world’s most complex technological problems. Many of our graduates go on to leadership and technology management roles in industry.

Graduate program highlights include:

  • A challenging and stimulating environment
  • Depth of resources
  • Highly interdisciplinary culture
  • Generous financial support.

Degree Requirements

  • General Reminders and Information

Students should note that ECE program requirements are more stringent than those stated by Graduate Studies. The ECE program requirements, therefore, take precedence. Plan I requires a minimum of 36 units of graduate and upper division courses (the 100 and 200 series only), at least 15 units of which must be graduate engineering courses (200 series), with 12 out of the 15 units of graduate work in the major field, excluding seminar and research units. No more than 3 graduate seminar units and 9 research units may be used to satisfy the 36-unit requirement. In addition, a thesis is required. The thesis serves as the capstone requirement. All courses listed on the Program of Study must be passed with a “B-“ or higher. A course in which a student receives a “C+” or lower cannot be used to satisfy the unit requirement for the M.S. degree, but will count in determining the grade point average. 

  • Course Requirements

Thirty-six (36) units of upper-division and graduate course work, a thesis, and a minimum of three quarters of academic residence are required.

At least 16 units must be in graduate Electrical and Computer Engineering courses (excluding EEC200, EEC29X seminar series, and EEC299). The balance of the 36-unit requirement may be met with a combination of upper division technical elective courses and 29X and 299 in ECE or other approved program by the ECE Graduate Program Chair. No more than 3 seminar (290-297, excluding 290C) units can be counted. A student should register for the number of 299 research and independent study units that reflects the actual effort and time devoted to thesis work, although no more than 9 units can be counted.

Courses required for the ECE undergraduate degree, or the following courses: EEC100, EEC110A/B, EEC130A/B, EEC140A/B, EEC150, EEC151, EEC161, EEC170, EEC172, and EEC180A/B, may not be used to satisfy the requirements of the ECE M.S. degree.

Full-time students must enroll for 12 units per quarter including research, academic and seminar units. Courses may not be taken with the S/U option to fulfill course requirements, unless the course is normally graded as S/U. Once course requirements are completed, students can take additional classes as needed, although the 12 units per quarter are generally fulfilled with a research course (299) and perhaps seminars. Per UC regulations students cannot enroll in more than 12 units of graduate level courses (200) or more than 16 units of combined undergraduate and graduate level (100, 200, 300) courses per quarter.       

  • Special Requirements

All graduate students are required to take EEC290, Seminar in Electrical and Computer Engineering, each quarter that it is offered. An S grade in EEC390, the Teaching of Electrical and Computer Engineering, is required to be eligible to hold a teaching assistantship in ECE, but may not be used to satisfy graduate coursework requirements. International students may need to take LIN25, LIN26, LIN391 or a combination thereof, to meet university language proficiency requirements.

♦    Admission Committee Once the completed application, all supporting materials, and the application fee have been received, the application will be submitted to the admissions committee. The admissions committee consists of the faculty members of ECE’s Graduate Study Committee (GSC) and the GSC admissions chair. Applicants who apply by the space available deadline (but after the general deadline) are not guaranteed to have their application reviewed by the graduate program. Their application will be reviewed only if the graduate program determines that they have additional space available. Based on a review of the entire application, a recommendation is made to accept or decline an applicant’s request for admission. The recommendation to accept or decline an applicant’s request for admission is forwarded to the Dean of Graduate Studies for final approval of admission. Notification of admissions decisions will be sent by Graduate Studies. Applications are accepted from the date the admission system opens (typically in September) through the space available deadline for the next fall-entering class

♦    Course Guidance or Advising Committee The major professor and the ECE Graduate Advisor will assist the student in developing a Program of Study. See the section below on “Advising and Mentoring.” By the third quarter of enrollment the student must file a Program of Study that must be routed through the ECE Graduate Program Coordinator for the ECE Graduate Advisor’s approval.

♦    Thesis Committee for M.S. Plan I When the student advances to candidacy, they will declare an M.S. thesis committee. The ECE Graduate Advisor will nominate the committee based on consultations with the student and the major professor. This committee is chaired by the major professor and made up of at least two other members. The majority of this committee must be members of the ECE graduate program. The responsibility of this committee is to assist in the guidance of the student and to read and approve the thesis. The thesis must be prepared in accordance with Graduate Studies guidelines.

  • Advising and Mentoring

The  major professor  is the primary mentor during the student’s career at UC Davis and will assist with developing the student’s Program of Study. The major professor serves as the chair of the Thesis Committee (for Plan I) or Comprehensive Exam Committee (for Plan II). The student must select a major professor from the members of the ECE Graduate Program as soon as possible, but no later than the beginning of the third quarter of enrollment. Changing a major professor, requires the signatures of the previous and new major professor, acknowledging the change. The ECE Vice Chair for Graduate Studies, also referred to as the Graduate Program Chair, will serve as the interim advisor to new students during the process of selecting a major professor.

The  Graduate Advisor,  who is nominated by the department chair and appointed by the Dean of Graduate Studies, is a resource for information on academic requirements, policies and procedures and registration information until a major professor is selected. The ECE Graduate Advisor is responsible for reviewing programs of study for each student and acting on student petitions.

The  Graduate Program Coordinator  should be the first person consulted on all actions regarding graduate affairs. The Graduate Program Coordinator may advise the student to contact the ECE Graduate Advisor or the Office of Graduate Studies to address particular issues.

  • Advancement to Candidacy

Every student must file an official application for candidacy for the Master of Science degree and pay the candidacy fee after completing half of their course requirements and at least one quarter before completing all degree requirements. This is typically the third quarter. The candidacy for the Master of Science degree form can be found online at: . A completed form includes a list of courses the student will take to complete degree requirements. If changes must be made to the student’s course plan after they have advanced to candidacy, the Graduate Advisor must recommend these changes to Graduate Studies. Students must have the ECE Graduate Advisor and committee chair, if applicable, sign the candidacy form before it can be submitted to Graduate Studies. If the candidacy is approved, the Office of Graduate Studies will send a copy to the appropriate graduate program coordinator and the student. The thesis committee chair will also receive a copy, if applicable. If the Office of Graduate Studies determines that a student is not eligible for advancement, the program and the student will be told the reasons for the application’s deferral. Some reasons for deferring an application include grade point average below 3.0, outstanding “I” grades in required courses or insufficient units.

  • Thesis Requirements

The M.S. thesis must demonstrate the student’s proficiency in research methods and scientific analysis, as well as a thorough knowledge of the state-of-the-art of the student’s chosen field. Original contributions to knowledge are encouraged, but not expected, at the M.S. degree level. Thus, an M.S. thesis may consist of:

♦   An original technical or research contribution of limited scope ♦   A critical evaluation of the state-of-the-art of a current research area ♦   An advanced design project, either analytical or experimental.

Research for the master’s thesis is to be carried out under the supervision of a faculty member of the program. The thesis research must be conducted while the student is enrolled in the program. The thesis is submitted to the thesis committee at least one month before the student plans to make requested revisions. All committee members must approve the thesis and sign the title page before the thesis is submitted to Graduate Studies for final approval. Should the committee determine that the thesis is unacceptable, even with substantial revisions, the program may recommend to the Dean of Graduate Studies that the student be disqualified from the program.

The thesis must be filed in a quarter in which the student is registered or on filing fee. Instructions on preparation of the thesis and a schedule of dates for filing the thesis in final form are available from Graduate Studies ; the dates are also printed in the UC Davis General Catalog and in the Class Schedule and Registration Guide issued each quarter. A student must have a GPA of 3.0 for the M.S. degree to be awarded.

  • Normative Timeline

ECE MS Timeline

  • Sources of Funding

Please see more information on  helpful funding resources .

  • PELP, In Absentia and Filing Fee Status

Information about PELP (Planned Educational Leave), In Absentia (reduced fees when researching out of state) and filing fee status can be found in the graduate student guide: . M.S. students are eligible for filing fee status after completing their coursework (Program of Study) and a working draft of their thesis or comprehensive examination report. In order to be approved for filing fee status, a student must submit the filing fee request along with signatures of all three members of the Thesis Committee or Comprehensive Examination Committee stating they have received an acceptable working draft of the thesis or comprehensive examination report. This application must be routed through the ECE Graduate Program Coordinator for the ECE Graduate Advisor’s approval and then must be filed with Graduate Studies. Filing fee is available for one quarter only, but extensions may be approved on a case-by-case basis. In the event that filing fee status expires, the student must file a readmission application.

Projects Offered 

  • Area of Research: Computer Engineering

Project:   FPGA Security

Sponsors: Professor Houman Homayoun

Description: : FPGA security is a rapidly evolving field, especially as more FPGAs are found in critical cloud infrastructures. Recently, malicious sensors have been proposed that can be discretely integrated within an FPGA fabric, and can expose data to an attacker. For this project the student will evaluate and develop defensive strategies which re-purpose these malicious circuits into security primitives that can be used to hide sensitive data. Requirements: Basic circuit knowledge; experience with any hardware description language; experience programming and debugging FPGAs

Project:   Cloud Security

Description: Machine learning-based algorithms have been proved to be able to improve the scheduling quality of cluster schedulers. For this project, students will learn to interact with cluster schedulers and construct performance datasets, develop machine learning-based algorithms to perform performance prediction and optimize behaviors of cluster schedulers. Students will gain experience in machine learning as well as cluster computing. Requirements: Knowledge in basic machine learning, basic Python and C++ programming.

Project:   Detection of firmware vulnerabilities that can lead to fault injection attacks

Description: Hardware attack like fault injection is one of the major threats on embedded devices. Though they are hardware based attacks, sometimes the attack exploitation succeeds because of the implementation vulnerabilities in the hardware. This project aims to identify the scenarios and patterns of flaws in the firmware that can lead to such exploitations and design a framework to auto identify them during assessment. Requirements: Understanding of Embedded systems, firmware development, C/C++, Python, IoT, Experience using hardware tools like oscilloscope, multimeters, etc.; basic circuit understanding

Project:   Secure firmware update for resource constrained embedded systems

Description: Embedded systems are the core of the IoT (Internet of things) ecosystem. Resource constrained embedded devices encounter a plethora of challenges when it comes to secure design. Firmware is the brain of these devices, for some vendors it’s their IP. There are several scenarios and ongoing research to find firmware vulnerabilities whose exploitation could significantly affect both the system performance and financial impact on vendors.  This project aims to go in-depth of current methods for secure firmware updates in IoT devices, the vulnerabilities associated with them and corresponding solutions. Requirements: Understanding of Embedded systems, firmware development, C/C++, Python, IoT

Project:   Machine learning security and privacy on FPGAs

Description: Inference results from machine learning models are critical and sensitive. In this project, students will work on extracting power traces to deduce the labels from users' machine learning models. To achieve this attack, the machine learning models will be implemented in FPGA platforms, mostly sequence related and time-series related machine learning models. Requirements: Basic machine learning knowledge; knowledge in FPGA

Project:   ASIC implementation of Compute-In-memory circuits with emerging Non-volatile memories

Description: Recent trends show an increasing interest in research of non-volatile memories for various applications. As Von Neuman architectures gives rise to memory bottleneck, new compute-in-memory architectures have shown potential. In this project, we will explore emerging non-volatile memories and work on implementing a compute-in-memory module for an ASIC. A modified ASIC flow will be developed through the course of this project to integrate NVMs onto the ASIC design flow.    Requirements: Basic knowledge of ASIC design CMOS and emerging memories. Familiarity with Python, C/C++, Verilog/VHDL, HSPICE would help. 

Project:  GPU Solvers for Flow Computation

Sponsors: Professor John Owens and Postdoc Serban Porumbescu

Description: We are working with the US Army Corps of Engineers to develop a GPU implementation of their "HEC-RAS" river analysis system, the leading system for flow computation. The current implementation of this package is on CPUs and we would like to bring it to GPUs. The core computation is modeling hydraulic flow on unstructured grids, and the research problems are both algorithmic and systems ones. The ideal student will be interested in writing high-quality open-source software in collaboration with fellow graduate students as well as domain experts from government, in the context of a large and active group that is interested in problems across many domains of parallel computing. It is likely that this position will be funded. It is expected that an interested student will pursue a thesis that will result in publication in a high-quality venue. This position should be equally interesting for new PhD students.

Requirements: Desirable: Expertise in numerical computation and/or parallel computing. Highly desirable: C++ expertise, and even more desirable, CUDA experience. Good communicator and collaborator.

Project:  "Gunrock" GPU Graph Analytics Framework 

Description: : John Owens’ research group focuses on GPU computing and has a large open-source project on parallel graph analytics called Gunrock. We have a large number of small projects within Gunrock and believe it would be straightforward to assemble a MS thesis or MS project within Gunrock depending on the interests of the student. We have projects within the core of Gunrock (mostly CUDA/C++-oriented), in writing and improving Gunrock applications (primarily C++), and in interfacing and tuning Gunrock (more likely Python).

Requirements: Gunrock is written in C++ and we have Python-related projects as well. Experience with (in order) CUDA C, C++, and/or Python is highly desirable. Strong (text) writing skills. Experience with parallel computing would be terrific but is not required. We need talented students who can learn quickly, communicate well, and work well both in a group and independently.

Project:   Trusted Execution Environments for High-Performance Computing

Sponsors: Professor Venkatesh Akella, Professor Jason Lowe-Power, and Professor Sean Peisert

Description: : In partnership with the Computational Research Division at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (Berkeley Lab), we are developing trusted execution environments (TEEs) for high-performance computing (HPC) systems such as those operated by the U.S. Department of Energy Office of Science’s Advanced Scientific Computing Research (ASCR) program, including the National Energy Research Supercomputing Center (NERSC) at Berkeley Lab.  Current commercial TEEs such as Intel SGX and AMD’s SEV are inadequate for HPC a variety of reasons.  Our solution involves a RISC-V based approach, along with development and modifications to the security monitor and operating system elements, as well as implementation and experimentation in gem5 simulations or in FPGA clusters.  Potential work could be on multiple levels of the stack from programming FPGAs to developing hardware modifications to kernel elements. Research problems include both security and performance elements, as well as tradeoffs between the two.  The ideal student will be interested in writing high-quality open-source software in collaboration with fellow graduate students, as well as researchers and HPC operators from the Berkeley Lab. This position may be funded. It is expected that interested students will pursue a thesis that will result in publication in a high-quality venue. This position should be equally interesting for PhD students.

Requirements:  Expertise in OS/kernel function, computer architecture, and modification, and/or FGPA programming. Expertise in programming C/C++ and Python, and software-engineering methodologies.  Excellent written and verbal English communication skills.  Looking for motivated and pro-active students who are great collaborators. Link:

Project:   Optimizing Compiler Instruction Scheduling Using GPU-Accelerated Intelligent Search

Sponsors: Prof. John Owens (UC Davis),  Ghassan Shobaki (California State University) Financial support provided by : National Science Foundation (NSF)

Description:   Master’s students are needed to work as Research Assistants (RAs) on an NSF-funded project at California State University, Sacramento (CSUS). Selected Master’s students will not have to transfer to CSUS to work on this project. They can work on the project as UC Davis students, and their theses will be based on their work on this project. Master’s students will be co-advised by UC Davis Professor John Owens. All the work for this project may be done remotely whether the campus is closed or open.  In this project, we use a combination of intelligent search techniques (specifically, Branch-and-Bound and Ant Colony Optimization) to solve a long-standing problem in compiler optimization, and thus generate more efficient code for a wide range of programs running on CPUs and GPUs. The official project abstract may be found at:  

Our most recent publications may be found here:   and  

  A Research Assistant on this project will develop parallel versions of existing intelligent-search algorithms and/or enhance the sequential versions. The algorithms will be first implemented in the LLVM compiler and later in the GCC compiler. The project will involve collaboration with open-source compiler engineers from Apple, IBM, Google, Redhat, as well as the GPU compiler team at AMD. We are looking for students who can understand complex compiler optimization algorithms and successfully implement them in a production compiler.   

Requirements:  The ideal candidate for this position is a junior, senior or Master’s student who is interested in conducting serious research in this area and producing quality publications that will help him/her build a strong career either in academia or in the industry. Undergraduate students who are interested in pursuing a Master’s degree right after graduation are also encouraged to apply. They can do their Master’s at UC Davis, and their theses will be based on their work on this project. Productive students may continue to work on the project after their graduation if they are interested.  Requirements include: Strong analytical and problem solving skills. Strong background in algorithms, especially graph algorithms (see the list of topics below). Strong programming skills in C/C++. Self-motivated and able to work independently with minimum supervision. Having some background in one or more of the following areas is desirable but not required: Code generation and optimization. GPU computing. Artificial intelligence, with emphasis on Branch-and-Bound search and Ant Colony Optimization.  Link:    

Project:  A  hypothetical RISC-V based game console

Sponsors: Professor Christopher Nitta

Description: : Christopher Nitta has developed a simulator for a hypothetical RISC-V based game console (available at ). The simulator is designed as an educational tool to be used in courses such as Operating Systems or Machine Dependent Programming. We are looking to expand the simulator to support auto grading, add new hardware components, and to improve the portability of the project.  

Requirements:  You should have taken EEC 270 or equivalent (graduate course in computer architecture), and have strong C/C++ programming skills. Ideally, we are looking for a single student to continue the project. Link:

  • Area of Research: Photonic and Electronic Devices

Project: Advanced computational imaging for healthcare and climate-resilient agriculture enabled by nanophotonics and AI

Sponsor: Professor Saif Islam. Description:  This MS thesis project will focus on an innovative imaging technology based on nanotechnology-enabled ultra-fast CMOS imaging sensors that operate by slowing down photons, deep learning, AI, and computational imaging. The sensors can make real-time in-situ tissue diagnoses during surgery and identify molecular activity in plant cells for autonomous nutrient monitoring. Requirements:   Understanding of solid-state devices - PN junction, MOS Capacitor, MOSFETs, transistors, sensors, etc. Understanding of electromagnetic theory. Familiarity with TCAD tools and Matlab. 

Lab and simulation:  Both lab work and computer simulation will be necessary. The thesis will involve working closely with other Ph.D. students and postdocs. Link:

Project: Ar-Ion Plasma Surface Treatment of Reticulated Vitreous Carbon (RVC) for Field-Emission Cathodes

Sponsor: Professor Charles Hunt. Description:  Experimental Project assembling a RF Ar plasma system in the Vacuum Microelectronics Lab.  Verification on RVC samples. Requirements:   Comfort working with Vacuum equipment, power supplies and electronic materials.  Requires hands-on use of shop tools. References:  C. E. Hunt and Y. Wang, "Application of vitreous and graphitic large-area carbon surfaces as field-emission cathodes", Applied Surface Science , (2005). Funding for MS students available! Please contact Prof. Hunt.

Project: Advanced Magneto Optic Device Development  

Sponsor: Professor J. Sebastian Gomez-Diaz and II-VI Inc . Description:  The goal of this project is to develop a proof of concept prototype optical device capable of sensing micro-Tesla magnetic fields.      Phase (1) review literature for advantages and disadvantages of existing approaches.  Wavelength range is telecommunications C-band (1.5um), material is II-VI proprietary Thick Film Planar Faraday Rotator Crystals, preferred implementation is a waveguide/fiber optic device.  Preferred (but not required) substrate is Silicon Carbide.     Phase (2) Develop theoretical designs, simulate with numerical software, optimize parameters, converge on the most promising design.    Phase (3) Generate plan to build prototype(s) including resources (materials, chambers, fab time and location, testing, etc.); cost; and approximate timeline.       Phase (4) Build prototype(s), test and determine sensitivity.    Phase (5) Write summary and recommendations for next phase (if promising). The project will be developed in coordination with the Advanced Coating Group of II-VI Inc. located in Santa Rosa, Ca.  Requirements:   Knowledge of electromagnetic waves, waveguides, and optics. Experience with simulation software (Lumerical FDTD), metasurfaces, 2D materials, optical thin films and magneto-optical thick films would be useful but it is not required.   Link:  

Project: MS projects in the Integrated Nanodevices & Nanosystems Laboratory 

Sponsor: Professor Saif Islam  Description: Project opportunities include: 1.- Silicon photodiodes for 100gigabit/sec and beyond data communication. 2.- Computational imaging with photon-trapping photdiodes. 3.- Photon detectors for quantum internet. 4.- Transparent solar cells for window based on UV and IR light absorption. 5.- High resolution time-of-flight (TOF) sensing with ultra-fast photodiodes. 6.- LIDAR: technological challenges and recent developments. 7.- Ionizing air and gases to trap COVID-19 virus and prevent airborne transmission. Financial support available for strong candidates! 8.-Ultra-fast silicon photodiodes for real-time visualization of tumor boundaries during surgery enabled by fluorescent lifetime imaging (FLIm). 9.-Semiconductor transistors/memory for extreme temperature and harsh environment.  10.- Memory and logic based on memristors: Simulations and design.    Link:

Project: MS projects in the Woodall Research Laboratory 

Sponsor:  Professor Jerry Woodall  Description: Project opportunities include: 1.- Compound semiconductor materials and epilayer projects     a. Materials: AlGaAs, GaP, ZnSe/GaAs, HJ alloys     b. Epi tools - LPE for GaP, AlGaAs; MBE for III-V and II-VIxIII-V1-x devices 2.- LPE Devices: AlGaAs "true red" 610nm for high efficiency LEDs for pixelated displays. 3.- MBE Devices based on ZnSe/GaAs     a. ZnSe/GaAs for RGB LEDs, BG 1.4-2.7 eV.     b. ZnSe/GaAS THz HBTs. 4.- Latent heat storage of intermittent solar and wind power     a. Convert intermittent solar/wind power to 24/7 power via latent heat energy storage: 577 C Al-Si eutectit and Si phase change batteries. 5.- Hydrogen Generation via Stored Energy in Aluminum and Water     a. Split water using Al-Ga alloys to make UHP H2 and UHP Al2O3.  Link:

Project:  Tailored NMEMS-plasmonic platform for gas/cancer detection 

Sponsors: Professor J. Sebastian Gomez-Diaz and Texas Instruments    Description: This project deals with the development of a platform that combines NMEMS at RF with tailored metasurfaces at IR to detect specific spectral fingerprints of gases and cancer cells. The project will include (i) development of plasmonic metasurface and characterization with a Fourier Transform Infrared Spectrometer with microscope; (ii) update an existing RF and laser testing set-up; and (iii) development of a testing chamber printed in 3D. The project requires knowledge of electromagnetics and the use of numerical software (Matlab and CST/COMSOL). Once the system is ready, it will be applied to the analysis of gases and biological samples. The project will be developed in coordination with Texas Instruments.    Requirements: Knowledge of electromagnetic waves, RF, and optics. Experience with instrumentation software (Labview/Matlab), metasurfaces and MEMS design would be useful but it is not required.   Link:  

Project:   Reconfigurable Computing with Photonic Interconnects and AI

Sponsors: Professor S. J. Ben Yoo.   Description: This project seeks innovations in scalable high-performance cloud computing systems through a combination of new generation of optical interconnect technologies as well as existing electronic switching architectures. The current project team is planning to conduct computing and networking experiments through a combination of off-the-shelf computing and networking equipment and research-grade optical interconnect and switching devices. The MS student is expected to assist the NGNS researchers with FPGA programming, Ethernet network switches configurations and automation, Linux servers’ configuration, and software-defined networking programming. This project can accommodate two students.   Requirements:   Proficiency in one or more script languages (e.g. Python, Matlab), C/C++, etc. Good knowledge of Linux operating system (e.g. Ubuntu). Familiar with distributed programming and MPI protocol. Familiar with HDL language and FPGA programming platforms (e.g. Xilinx Vivado). Familiar with Ethernet and TCP/IP networks, LAN configuration, and Ethernet switches configuration and routing protocols.   Link:

Project:   AI-Assisted Self-Driving Autonomic Optical Networking

Sponsors: Professor S. J. Ben Yoo.   Description: This position seeks innovations in next-generation autonomous and self-driving optical networking systems leveraging existing and emerging machine learning and AI tools. The current project team is planning to build novel prototype network control plane algorithms and experiments. The MS student will assist the NGNS researchers with conducting computing and networking systems integration, and software-defined networking programming to implement novel and scalable control and management plane architectures and algorithms. In particular, we are looking for someone helping implementing AI-driven resource calculation modules, application interfaces, communication protocol extensions, and network telemetry functions. This project can accommodate two students.   Requirements:   Proficiency in one or more script languages (e.g. Python, Matlab),  Java, C/C++, etc. Familiar with machine learning algorithms (e.g. deep reinforcement learning) and tools (e.g. Tensor Flow or PyTorch).  Familiar with Ethernet and TCP/IP networks, LAN configuration, Ethernet switches configuration and routing protocols, network monitoring tools (e.g., Wireshark). Familiar with software defined networking (SDN) and Open Network Operating System (ONOS®). Link:

Project:   3D Ultrafast Laser Inscription

Sponsors: Professor S. J. Ben Yoo.   Description: This project seeks to design, inscribe, and test arbitrary 3D waveguides for future computing, networking, and imaging applications.  Utilizing the unique ultrafast laser inscription facility, the project team has realized 3D waveguides of arbitrary shapes and forms.  More descriptions are available in this publication: S. J. Ben Yoo, Binbin Guan and Ryan P. Scott, “ Heterogeneous 2D/3D photonic integrated microsystems “,   Microsyst Nanoeng  2,  16030 (2016). Requirements:   Proficiency in one or more script languages (e.g. Python, Matlab),  Java, C/C++, etc. Good knowledge of optics and waves. Overall good skills in laboratory experiments. Familiarity with computer controlled instrumentation is desired but not necessary. Familiarity with computer aided design is desired but not necessary. Link:

  • Area of Research: Information Systems

Project:  V ideo-based quantification of dexterous finger movement kinematics using computer vision and deep learning techniques

Sponsors: Professors  Wilsaan Joiner and Karen Moxon   Description:  This project will apply computer vision and deep learning techniques to analyze the dexterous finger movements of nonhuman primates ( rhesus macaque monkeys). The subjects are recorded while performing a task which involves retrieving food rewards from variously-oriented shallow wells (i.e., the Brinkman Board task). The MS student is expected to assist in streamlining the analysis of the videos and applying DeepLabCut, a deep learning toolset that allows for the markerless tracking of various locations across multiple video frames. The information obtained from movement tracking will then be used to quantify several features of finger movements (separation, extension and preshaping) in order to provide behavioral measures that are sensitive to injury (e.g., spinal cord contusion) and treatments. Importantly, this will provide critical information to evaluate the effectiveness of novel interventions for clinical conditions that affect the motor system.

Requirements:  Applicants should have expertise in machine learning, deep learning and computer vision concepts, and ample experience with common programming languages such as C++, Python and Matlab. How to: To apply, please email your CV and interest statement to: [email protected]

Project:   Security of Deep Reinforcement Learning-based Traffic Signal Controllers (TSC)

Sponsors: Professor  Chen-Nee Chuah .   Description:  Next generation of TSCs expected to communicate with traffic environment and learn how to behave in different traffic conditions. For this purpose, we have shown that the traffic signals controlled with deep reinforcement learning (DRL) are effective in terms of traffic flow and air quality. However, adversarial attacks may target such edge controllers. The impact of adversarial attacks to the learning-based TSCs could have serios consequences beyond traffic congestion, such as life threatening traffic accidents. Initial results of this project show that learning based TSCs are vulnerable to adversarial attacks. This project further extends the study to a different level and seeks novel solutions for DRL- TSCs on city level San Francisco downtown network and different learning configurations such as different state, action, and reward definitions.

Requirements:  Expertise in Python programming and machine learning libraries (Numpy, Tensorflow, Matplotlib, Pandas), ability to research on intelligent systems, knowledge about deep reinforcement learning concept and security of machine learning. If interested, please email your resume/CV to [email protected] with [DRL-TSC with AV] in the subject title.

Project:   Optimal Traffic Control with Deep Reinforcement Learning-based Traffic Signal Controllers and Autonomous Vehicles

Sponsors: Professor  Chen-Nee Chuah .   Description:  Deep reinforcement learning (DRL) is a promising machine learning tool that combines artificial neural networks with reinforcement learning algorithms. DRL models have been applied to different control domains including intelligent transportation systems. We have seen very promising results for DRL-based traffic signal controllers (TSC) on city level traffic flow in terms of travel delay and air pollution. In the context of autonomous vehicles (AV), DRL can be applied to control optimization, path planning and navigation. However, it remains an open question as to how these DRL-TSCs and DRL-AVs can co-exist and collaborate effectively. Since AVs are great tools for traffic platooning, it will be interesting to quantify the performance of DRL-TSCs in mixed traffic (with a combination of autonomous and human-driven vehicles).

Requirements:  Expertise in Python programming and machine learning libraries (Numpy, Tensorflow, Matplotlib, Pandas), ability to research on intelligent systems, knowledge about deep reinforcement learning concept. If interested, please email your resume/CV to [email protected] with [DRL-TSC with AV] in the subject title.

Project:   Deep Camera Calibration – Deep Learning for Accurate Camera Calibration in Assembly Automation

Sponsors: Professor  Iman Soltani .   Description:  This project is going to be conducted at LARA (Laboratory for Artificial Intelligence, Robotics and Automation). The overall goal of the project is to develop a deep learning scheme for accurate and streamlined camera calibration that is suitable for precision assembly automation.

Camera calibration is the first and foremost step in any robotics application involving vision. Currently the models used for this purpose are simplified and the calibration process is cumbersome. These simplifications lead to rather inaccurate calibration results that are acceptable for only a subset of applications relying on vision such as mobile robotics in which obstacle avoidance is the main objective. However, applications requiring high precision positioning such as assembly automation cannot rely on vision alone solely due to low accuracy of the vision-based object positioning methods.

This project aims to rely on deep learning to form more complex models of camera 3D to 2D mapping and develop streamlined calibration schemes that can be easily implemented.  Link:

Project:   Learning from Simulation in Assembly Automation and Quality Control

Sponsors: Professor  Iman Soltani .   Description: This project will be conducted at LARA (Laboratory for Artificial Intelligence, Robotics and Automation). The focus of this project is on generalization performance of deep networks trained on simulated training data. The main application under consideration is quality control and assembly automation. As part of this project we aim to train deep networks to detect certain keypoints on an image of a given mechanical component or assembly. The detection of these keypoints will help us estimate the absolute or relative position of the parts in 3D space. This information can be used for assembly quality control or for assembly automation.

However, training deep networks for keypoint detection requires large volumes of training data. Such training data include thousands of images of mechanical parts in which the keypoints of interest are annotated manually by human operators. This process is cumbersome, requiring capture of thousands of images from various perspectives and annotating the corresponding keypoints. This has to be repeated upon product design updates or sometimes after a significant change in the assembly environment e.g. lighting.

To avoid the complications and cost associated with training data generation, we plan to develop a training scheme solely reliant on synthetic training data generation. In this approach component CAD information is used to synthesize realistic images. In this form the keypoints can be annotated automatically. As such, thousands of training images can be generated very quickly.

However, the deep learning schemes develop should benefit from a robust generalization  performance such that their ability do not deteriorate when test samples come from real images of same components.  

The ideal outcome of this project is a deep learning architecture that performs reliably on real images of parts of interest. This network will be trained fully on simulated (synthetic) images of the same parts e.g. generated through a CAD software. Link:

  • Area of Research: RF-to-THz Electronics and Waves

Project: Nonreciprocal phased array antennas

Sponsors: Professor J. Sebastian Gomez-Diaz    Description: This project deals with the analysis, design, fabrication and characterization of nonreciprocal phased-array antennas able to transmit and receive RF signals with different patterns at the same operation frequency with polarization control. The project entails the design of antenna in simulation software (HFSS or CST), the use of nonlinear circuit analysis (ADS), fabrication, and measurement in an anechoic chamber.     Requirements: Knowledge of electromagnetic waves and electronic circuits. Experience with full-wave simulation software (such as HFSS/CST and ADS) would be great but it is not required. It is a project for 1~2 students. Link:  

Project:  THz imaging 

Sponsors: Professor J. Sebastian Gomez-Diaz    Description: This project deals with the development of a imaging system based on time-domain terahertz spectroscopy. The goal is to automatize the system with a 2D positioner, aiming to implement imaging of biological samples from 0.1 to 4.5 THz. The project requires the analysis of THz waves, the implementation of signal processing algorithms, and the development of instrumentation code. Once the system is ready, it will be applied to the analysis of biological healthy/cancer biological samples.    Requirements: Knowledge of electromagnetic waves and Matlab. Experience with instrumentation software (Labview/Matlab) would be useful but it is not required.  Link:  

Project: UC Davis Dark E-field Radio experiment

Sponsor: Professor Tony Taylor 

Description:   The UC Davis Dark E-field Radio experiment is a search for the electromagnetic signature from a low mass dark matter candidate called a dark photon. It involves massively averaging the EM noise inside an RF shielded environment to look for high Q candidate signals 80 dB below the Johnson noise threshold. For the first phase of this project, we are building a 64-million channel real-time FFT over the 30-300 MHz region. However, this will produce terabytes of data that need to be efficiently packaged, compressed, stored, and analyzed on a remote data server. We are looking for someone to design this data analysis tool chain and implement it on experimental data. Requirements: Proficiency with common programming languages such as C++ and Python. Courses in Signals and Systems. Link:    

  • Area of Research: Integrated Circuits and Systems

Project: CMOS Analog IC design

Sponsor: Professor Stephen Lewis

Description: Continue the class project in EEC 210 or do another project related to analog CMOS integrated-circuit design.

Requirements: Receiving a B or higher in EEC 210.


  • Area of Research: Bio Ag and Health Technologies

Project: Development of novel, full-implantable blood pressure monitoring sensor

Sponsor: Professor  Karen Moxon

Description:  The Moxon Neurorobotics Lab is looking for an ECE Master’s student interested in working on a neuroengineering project to support the testing of a novel, full-implantable blood pressure monitoring sensor. The sensor is being developed as part of an on-going DARPA project to design a closed-loop hemodynamics control system for patients with neurological injury who are unable to control their own blood pressure. 

Prototypes are currently being tested in an animal model and the successful candidate will develop computer code to process the data and interpret results, suggest additional experimental testing and aid in report of results to funding agencies. The MS student is expected to assist in streamlining the analysis of the data and help to develop an algorithm as part of the closed-loop control system.

Requirements: Applicants should have ample experience with common programming languages such as C++, Python and Matlab and an interest in neural engineering and computer control system. Applicants should have excellent data analytic skills include data management, process documentation and detailed reporting. Applicants are also expected to be able to create figures to explain results and present results to other members of the team. Funding:  may be available.  How to : To apply, please email your CV and interest statement to: [email protected]

Project: Tactile navigation for individuals with visual impairment 

Sponsor: Prof. Iman Soltani 

Description: This project involves development of hardware and software platforms to guide individuals with visual impairment in dynamic environments through tactile feedback. The hardware aspect includes development of micro actuators and mechanisms that change the topography of a tactile surface. By changing the topography of the surface we aim to provide a map of the surrounding obstacles to the user. This approach is inspired by Braille and  will work very similar to how Braille is used by the blind individuals to read texts, but here instead of a book the users will read their surrounding environment. Through tactile feedback our technology will provide an image of the environment to the blind, helping them navigate their surroundings safely. The software aspect includes sensor fusion and receives all the sensory information available on a smart phone including camera, Lidar, IMU and GPS. 

Requirements: We are currently seeking a masters student with hands-on experience and a passion for designing and building electromechanical systems. Experience with sensor fusion is a plus but is not necessary. Partial financial support in the form of an hourly appointment is available. How to : To apply, please email your CV and interest statement to: [email protected]

Project: Portable Sensor System to Assess the Health Conditions of Individuals working Under Harsh Environments

Sponsor: Professor  Cristina Davis,  Associate Dean for Research, Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering

Description: This project aims to design, prototype, and test an integrated sensor platform that will record physiological data (e.g., heart rate, oxygen saturation, physical activity levels, skin temperature, and galvanic skin response) of athletes and individuals who work in harsh environments. The envisioned lightweight device will consist of several commercially available sensors and a microcontroller for physiological data acquisition and integration. A standalone, portable, and small single-board computer (e.g., Raspberry Pi, or alternative) will complement the device for analyzing the extracted data based on prebuilt machine learning models. The system will report data by bluetooth to a WiFi connection hub.

Requirements: Applicants from computer engineering background should have a solid knowledge in data structures and algorithms. Applicants from an electrical engineering background should have experience on microcontroller coding and circuit designs. Willingness to adapt to several programming languages. Team work may be required. How to : To apply, please email your CV and interest statement to: [email protected]

Project: Thermo-electro-mechanical Testing Platform Development

Sponsor: Professor  Erkin Şeker

Description: Thermal, electrical, and mechanical fields dictate the evolution of nanostructure in thin metal coatings that are used as battery electrodes, catalysts, and biomedical device coatings. The goal of this project is to develop a testing platform that impose time-varying temperature fields, mechanical stresses, and electrical currents to nanoporous gold thin films and in real-time acquiring mechanical stress and electrical resistance changes in the thin films. The student(s) will collaborate with other graduate students working on the materials science aspects of this project.

Requirements: Basic microfabrication and manufacturing process experience, and MATLAB and LabView-based programming and interfacing with sensors/actuators are required.

Project: Electrochemical Biosensor Engineering

Description: Electrochemical sensors are used for detecting environmental contaminants, biomarkers for health monitoring, and pathogens. In such sensor the electrode where the detection event takes place plays a critical role. This project builds upon our group’s experience in engineering nanoporous gold electrodes for nucleic acid detection and aims to continue the development of such sensors with interactions with collaborators at the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory.

Requirements: Basic microfabrication experience, biology, biochemistry, and/or electrochemistry knowledge are desirable.

Project: Microfluidic Device Laboratory Course Development

Description: Microfluidic devices are composed of small channels and flexible membranes that guide fluid flow for studying physical/chemical/biological phenomena as well as creating miniaturized analysis tools on chips. These devices vary much behave like analog electrical circuits. This project aims to create similar course to the existing EEC 146A (Integrated Circuit Fabrication Laboratory) but with a focus on fabricating and characterizing microfluidic devices, with the ultimate goal of it being offered as an upper-level undergrad or grad-level laboratory course.

Requirements: Basic microfabrication (soft lithography) experience and basic fluidic dynamics knowledge are desirable.

Project: CeDP:  Computational Efficiency of Deep Learning in Digital Pathology

Sponsor: Professor  Chen-Nee Chuah

Description: While supervised learning (SL) techniques such as convolutional neural networks achieve promising results in pathology images, the computational complexity is still significantly heavy due to the gigapixel resolution of pathology images. To make deep learning more practical in digital pathology, it is necessary to comprehensively study the tradeoff between performance and complexity. In this project, we will study how to deploy efficient deep learning models on edge devices for pathology image analysis and how to remove unnecessary computation in the recent state-of-the-art deep learning networks. We will also benchmark the complexity of different models on our pathology datasets.

Requirements: Expertise in machine learning concepts, Docker, and Python programming inclusive of scikit-learn, Pandas, PyTorch/Tensorflow.

Project: SSL-Pathology: Semi-supervised Learning in Pathology Detection of Alzheimer's Disease

Description: While supervised learning (SL) techniques such as convolutional neural networks achieve promising results in medical images, procuring a sufficiently large dataset with annotations is labor-intensive, especially in gigapixel pathology images. To circumvent the need for large labeled datasets, semi-supervised learning (SSL) can be a potential approach. Amyloid-beta plaques are hallmarks of Alzheimer's disease. A supervised detection model has been established to classify three types of plaques. However, it relies on more than 50,000 annotated images for training the model. In this project, we will adopt SSL to this problem and explore the upper bound of SSL to relieve the reliance on a large labeled dataset.

Project: Computer-Vision Assisted Autism Disorder Spectrum (ADS) Behavior Detection using Videos

Sponsor: Professors Chen-Nee Chuah and Samson Cheung

Description: Early intensive intervention has been shown to be highly promising for young children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) and hence a measure that could identify ASD risk during this period of onset offers the opportunity for intervention before the full set of symptoms is present. In collaboration with the MIND Institute, our team have developed computer vision (CV) and deep learning (DL) based video-based screening tool that utilizes a large library of video clips. The videos are collected under the Video-referenced Infant Rating System for Autism (VIRSA) project and depict a wide range of social-communication ability and relies solely on video in the ratings, with no written descriptions of behavior. We hypothesized that the semantic clarity afforded by video would provide improved early discrimination of infants at highest risk for ASD. In this project, we will expand on our previous efforts to explore (a) optimized models for mobile screening platform, (b) mitigation for bias in AI models, and (c) security and privacy issues associated our CV/DL-based pipeline.

Requirements: Expertise in machine learning and computer vision concepts, Python programming inclusive of scikit-learn, Pandas, PyTorch/Tensorflow

Project: Time-resolved near-infrared spectroscopy for blood oxygenation measurement

Sponsor: Professors Weijian Yang and Soheil Ghiasi 

Description: Blood oxygenation is the fraction of oxygen-saturated hemoglobin relative to total hemoglobin (unsaturated + saturated) in the blood. A healthy individual regulates a very precise and specific balance of oxygen in the blood and there is medical significance to monitor oxygen saturation in patients. Near-infrared (NIR) spectroscopy provides a noninvasive approach to conveniently measure the blood oxygenation. In this project, we will study the various approaches of NIR spectroscopy for such measurements. In particularly, we will investigate and develop a time-resolved NIR spectroscopy system, which could not only provide the measurement results from the typical continuous-wave (CW) systems, but also rich information of the tissues under the measurement probe. We will develop the model, perform simulation, explore the components, build and characterize the prototype and perform in-vitro (and in-vivo) measurements.

Requirements: Electronic circuits, Basic optics, Matlab. It is a project for 2 students.

Project: Target brain stimulation using surface electrodes

Sponsor: Professor Weijian Yang

Description: Delivering electrical field into the brain for stimulation has been shown to be effective to treat depression, stroke, dementia and several other medical conditions. The existing brain electrical stimulation paradigms either rely on electrodes implanted deep into the brain or surface electrodes on the skull. The former approach is highly invasive whereas the latter one lacks a spatial specificity. Recently, a new technology utilizes temporal interference of fields from multiple surface electrode pairs to noninvasively stimulate specific brain regions. In this project, we will optimize the design parameters of such temporal interference system to further increase the spatial specificity of the stimulation region, through finite element method simulation. We will also build a prototype of this electrical stimulation system and test it on rodents.

Requirements: Electronic circuits, Electromagnetic waves, Matlab. It is a project for 1~2 students. no longer supports Internet Explorer.

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Utah State University

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Explore graduate degrees, graduate school catalog, graduate program coordinator, graduate program deadlines, thesis and dissertation, steps to degree completion.

Master's - Plan A Master’s plan A degrees require a thesis and 6-15 thesis credits. Your plan A thesis should contribute to your field by presenting your original research or a new perspective of existing knowledge. You’ll choose the problem or subject to focus on with your major professor by the end of your second semester of graduate study. You should perform thesis research during the semester(s) you are registered for thesis credit and when faculty support is available. Theses must follow USU publication formatting standards. View Degree Plan

Master's - Plan B As a master’s plan B student, you’ll be required to write a final paper or create a work of art. Your program of study must include 2-3 thesis credits. The plan B paper is usually a literature review based on inquiry, systematic research and analytic critique of your findings. Your conclusions should enhance knowledge in your discipline. Although perhaps less intensive or original than a master’s thesis, a plan B paper must follow the standard USU thesis/dissertation format and reflect equivalent scholarship standards. You will defend your plan B paper, but it will not be reviewed by your assistant dean or signed by the dean of graduate studies. Like a thesis, your plan B paper will be submitted to the Merrill-Cazier Library for internal publication. View Degree Plan

Professional - Plan C Some programs offer a professional degree option that does not require a thesis or paper to graduate. View Degree Plan

Doctorate Doctoral degrees requirements vary by degree program. If a dissertation is required, it will represent a culmination of original research in your discipline. At least 12 research credits are required for Ph.D. and Ed.D. degrees. Dissertations must follow USU publication formatting standards. View Degree Plan


  1. Sample Thesis Plan

    plan masters thesis

  2. Stages of the Master's thesis project

    plan masters thesis


    plan masters thesis

  4. What Is a Master's Thesis & How to Write It: Best Tips

    plan masters thesis

  5. 10+ Master Thesis Proposal Examples [ Research, Project, Arts ]

    plan masters thesis

  6. Thesis Proposal Template

    plan masters thesis


  1. Three Minute Thesis

  2. MIC Session From your PhD Masters Thesis to a Start up session

  3. My Masters Thesis Presentation!

  4. From Thesis to a Treatise || Prof. Muzaffar Ali Malla

  5. Introduction Chapter of your PhD thesis

  6. Thesis Statements Mini Lecture


  1. How to Write a Master's Thesis: A Guide to Planning Your Thesis

    How to Write a Master's Thesis: A Guide to Planning Your Thesis, Pursuing It, and Avoiding Pitfalls Share #scribendiinc Written by Anthony Granziol Part 1: Initial Considerations Who Needs to Write a Master's Thesis? Thesis writing is one of the more daunting challenges of higher education.

  2. PDF Guidelines for the Preparation of Your Master's Thesis

    Paper and Printing. The original thesis must be printed on watermarked paper of at least 25 percent cotton and at least 20 pound weight; duplicate copies may be printed on 16 pound paper. Page size must be eight and one-half inches by eleven inches. Except for the original, duplicate copies may be photocopied.

  3. How to Write a Dissertation or Thesis Proposal

    Revised on July 18, 2023. When starting your thesis or dissertation process, one of the first requirements is a research proposal or a prospectus. It describes what or who you want to examine, delving into why, when, where, and how you will do so, stemming from your research question and a relevant topic.

  4. How to Write a Master's Thesis (with Pictures)

    1 Think about the objectives of writing a thesis. You will spend a lot of time working on this project, so it is imperative that you choose wisely. Typical objectives are (ordered from the most common and important to less common): To get a degree - topic should be difficult enough, but manageable too.

  5. What Is a Thesis?

    It relies on your ability to conduct research from start to finish: choosing a relevant topic, crafting a proposal, designing your research, collecting data, developing a robust analysis, drawing strong conclusions, and writing concisely. Thesis template You can also download our full thesis template in the format of your choice below.


    A Thesis Proposal is a document that sets forth what is to be studied as a thesis project, why and in what way. It contains a number of important sections. The purpose of the proposal is to communicate the plan for the work to the faculty of the Division of Emerging Media Studies via the First Reader (principal thesis advisor) and a Second Reader.

  7. Thesis

    Your thesis is the central claim in your essay—your main insight or idea about your source or topic. Your thesis should appear early in an academic essay, followed by a logically constructed argument that supports this central claim.

  8. How to write a thesis proposal in 5 simple steps

    A thesis proposal covers what topics you plan to research and write about as part of your master's thesis. Your proposal should properly define the scope of your research, as well as the questions you intend to explore and the methodology used to answer those questions.

  9. A complete guide to writing a master's thesis

    We'll focus on what to expect at each stage, including creating a working plan, doing your reading, undertaking research, writing your master's thesis, editing it, and leaving time to finish and proofread.

  10. Dissertation & Thesis Outline

    A thesis or dissertation outline is one of the most critical early steps in your writing process. It helps you to lay out and organize your ideas and can provide you with a roadmap for deciding the specifics of your dissertation topic and showcasing its relevance to your field.

  11. How to Write a Thesis Statement

    Step 1: Start with a question Step 2: Write your initial answer Step 3: Develop your answer Step 4: Refine your thesis statement Types of thesis statements Other interesting articles Frequently asked questions about thesis statements What is a thesis statement? A thesis statement summarizes the central points of your essay.

  12. LibGuides: Guide for Thesis Research: Project Planning

    Guide for Thesis Research Mapping Out Your Thesis Project Good project planning will help you make the most out of your thesis experience. Here are some pointers: Make sure you understand the requirements you must fulfill. What are the specific requirements for theses in your department? What type of sources will you need?

  13. How to Write a Master's Thesis Proposal

    Updated: Nov 23, 2023 How to write a master's thesis proposal is one of the most-asked questions by graduate students. A master's thesis proposal involves a copious amount of data collection, particular presentation ethics, and most importantly, it will become the roadmap to your full thesis.

  14. PDF Project Plan for your Bachelor- or Master-thesis

    The project plan should consist of the following points: 1. Topic: What are the questions you want to address? 2. Methods: How do you want to address these questions? 3. Data: Do you have access to the required data? 4. Status of knowledge: What do we know about this topic already? 5. Outline of your thesis.

  15. Master's Thesis Plan Form

    Master's Thesis Plan Information Students completing a written thesis as part of their Master's degree program must submit this form so that their record can accurately reflect their plan and associated requirements. Students pursuing a thesis plan will also register for Master's thesis hours as appropriate and complete a thesis defense.

  16. How to Plan a Research Thesis

    A thesis allows the organization of thoughts and results, and also serves to fulfill institutional requirements. Judgments about how good is the work are based on the quality of the thesis, among other things. It is therefore essential to plan the thesis writing well in advance. Some of the essential steps in this process are summarized below.

  17. PDF Dissertation Planner: step-by-step

    This planner is designed to help you through all the stages of your dissertation, from starting to think about your question through to final submission. At each stage there are useful prompts to help you plan your work and manage your time. Throughout the planner there are also blank spaces that you can use to plan your dissertation.

  18. How to Write a Master's Research Proposal

    The recommended structure of your proposal is: Motivation: introduce your research question and give an overview of the topic, explain the importance of your research. Theory: draw on existing pieces of research that are relevant to your topic of choice, leading up to your question and identifying how your dissertation will explore new territory.

  19. How to write a masters thesis in 2 months [Easy steps to start writing

    Actions. Week 1. Collect all of the data into one place and create a structure with all of the chapters and sections you want to write. Finish up any experiments quickly and make your data as presentable and "thesis ready" as possible. Start putting bullet points under each section so you understand what you want to write in each. Week 2.

  20. M.S. Degree

    M.S. Degree - Plan I (Thesis) Apply Now! This master's program in electrical and computer engineering gives the student an opportunity to perform in-depth research and thesis writing.


    PLAN OF MASTER'S THESIS. 1 The Master's thesis plan Sari Puustinen 2013, updated 2015 by Markku Norvasuo (version 2015 Here are the instructions for the research plan (a seminar paper) which you are going to write and present during the course. A plan (of approximately five to ten pages in length) must be first drawn up for all Master's theses.

  22. Academics

    Master's plan A degrees require a thesis and 6-15 thesis credits. Your plan A thesis should contribute to your field by presenting your original research or a new perspective of existing knowledge. You'll choose the problem or subject to focus on with your major professor by the end of your second semester of graduate study. You should ...

  23. PDF master thesis project plan

    MASTER THESIS PROJECT PLAN Project period: Student: E-mail address: Supervisor: 01.11.2013 - 01.05.2014 Emanuele Rudel [email protected] Dr. Đurica Nikolić 1. PROJECT DESCRIPTION Overview EiffelVision is an object-oriented framework for developing graphical user interfaces in Eiffel.