Thesis writing msc and bsc thesis guidelines

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Thesis writing
MSc and BSc thesis guidelines
My Name

{ Master's thesis │Bachelor’s thesis}

School of Computing

{Computer Science│Statistics}

January 2014

UNIVERSITY OF EASTERN FINLAND, Faculty of Science and Forestry, {Joensuu│Kuopio}

School of Computing

{Computer Science│Statistics}

Opiskelija, Onni Oskari: Title of Thesis

{Bachelor’s│Master’s} Thesis, 19 p., 1 appendix (2 p.)

Supervisors of the {Bachelor’s│Master’s} Thesis: PhD Liisa Liimatainen and MSc Matii Meikäinen

January 2012

Abstract: Abstract about 150-200 words with line spacing 1, written with fluent English.

Keywords: about 5 keywords in English

CR Categories (ACM Computing Classification System, 1998 version):

ITÄ-SUOMEN YLIOPISTO, Luonnontieteiden ja metsätieteiden tiedekunta, {Joensuu│Kuopio}

Tietojenkäsittelytieteen laitos


Opiskelija, Onni Oskari: Tutkielman nimi

{Kandidaatin tutkielma│Pro gradu –tutkielma}, 19 s., 1 liite (2 s.)

{Kandidaatintutkielman│Pro gradu –tutkielman} ohjaajat: FT Liisa Liimatainen ja Matti Meikäläinen

Tammikuu 2012

Tähän tulee noin 150-200 sanaa pitkä tiivistelmä, jonka tulee mahtua yhdelle sivulle. Tiivistelmän kirjoittamisohjeet löytyvät tutkielman laatimisohjeista.
Tiivistelmässä rivivälinä käytetään 1:stä.

Avainsanat: n. 5 kpl avainsanoja (ks. tutkielman laatimisohje)

ACM-luokat (ACM Computing Classification System, 1998 version): ks. tutkielman laatimisohje

Foreword (17, bold)

This thesis was done at the School of Computing, University of Eastern Finland during the spring 2014.

I want to extend my gratitude to my parents, friends, teachers etc.

List of abbreviations (17, bold)

ACM Association for Computing Machinery

CD-ROM Compact Disc Read-Only Memory; medium for data storing

UEF University of Eastern Finland


Introduction 1

Collection of information 2

Structure of the document 4

Tips for the style of the thesis 6

Language 11

Conclusions 13

References 14

Appendix 1: Checklist (2 pages)


For the Master’s thesis the amount of credit points is 30 ECTS that corresponds in average 780 hours work and for the Bachelor’s thesis the numbers are 6 ETCS and 156 hours. The exact amount may vary according to the student's personal efforts and topic of the thesis. Keep tight contact with the supervisor at all times during the work. The supervisor provides necessary literature references to get the work started. For additional searches of literature, the student must independently look for proper scientific journals, books etc., and use electronic retrievals. When reading the articles, other references therein, and the later work of the author should be browsed.

The main goals in writing the thesis are to learn (1) basic practices of research work in computer science, and (2) learning how to write in the language of science. The latter includes not only the English grammar or appropriate use of literature references, but learning to write scientific text in a reader-friendly way. Even if your research results would be significant, but you fail to convince your readers (audience), the impact of your findings might be lesser than in deserves. Thus, when writing a scientific paper -- or in your case, master's thesis -- keep always the reader in your mind. Specifically, do not write your thesis for the supervisor only, but for a general computer science reader. Your thesis has to be understandable to your fellow students, even if they are not familiar with your particular topic.

You can use LaTex to write your thesis, and use a template to have the basic formatting. Or you can use Ms Word to write the thesis, we have a template with the basic formatting. You can find more information from the web-pages.

Collection of information

It is natural that the topic first seems obscure, and little information is found. After an active search, even too much materials can be found. Then it is necessary to return to the assignment in order to obtain a more precise definition of the task. Make notes of the article contents, and your own ideas while browsing the literature. When enough literature, notes on the articles and your own ideas is gathered - together with theoretic or practical research - it is time to draft the paper. Even one page is enough for that. The reason is to find a basis for communication with the supervisor, and for the final agreement and definition of the goals.

1.1The aims of the thesis

The aims of the thesis work can vary greatly. The work may be e.g. a review on the topic, purely based on literature. Then a logical and comprehensive presentation is essential. At the other end of the range may be a description of original research. When the final assignment is defined, the goals must be clarified.

Irrespective of the nature of the work, it must always contain a review on the background issues of the topic on the basis of relevant literature. This proving of scholarship is essential even when the weight of the work is set on presentation of original research. On the other hand, the grading is affected by the amount of original contribution generated by the author. An important issue is also a critical evaluation of the subject. Framework chapter will describe the general framework for the thesis.

1.2Beginning writing

When the contents have found a form, the writing can begin. When the topic and materials are mastered well enough, the extent of each part of the work can be defined. Now the final text may in some cases be produced in a short period of time.

When writing the thesis, you should bear in mind the points the referees will pay attention to:

  1. Mastering the literature. Does the author show adequate mastering of relevant literature, and is the literature cited appropriately?

  2. Mastering the topic. Does the author show command on the topic and can he/she apply the information correctly? If the subject is not in command by the author, the reader cannot comprehend it either.

  3. Presentation. Is the text outline, formatting, and language trimmed? A bad presentation steals the reader's attention from the subject, and makes it harder to comprehend.

  4. Originality. Does the work consist of the authors own contribution? Is the presentation original and, perhaps, more clear than in the source materials? Is there pertinent critics on the materials referenced? Are there illustrative examples compiled by the author? Does the work contain original observations or scientific results?

Structure of the document

Writing is a creative process that is not easy in all circumstances. You can learn to write acceptable scientific prose. In scientific writing, the structure and style of the text affect readability and comprehensibility of the message. The structure of a scientific paper depends on the subject at hand, and the rules for formatting are specified by the forum of publication.

The structural elements of MSc thesis are in the order following:

  • cover page

  • abstract

  • table of contents

  • the actual text

  • list of references

  • possible appendixes

The abstract may be followed by a classification, e.g. applying the classes from the journal "Computing Reviews", and by a list of key words.

1.3The title of the thesis

When the title of the thesis is chosen, one must consider the way how scientific papers are read. Because of the multitude of journals available, the reader must choose. The first criteria is the title; if the title is uninteresting the paper will not be considered, even though the contents would be interesting. The summary is a brief description of the paper's contribution. The Introduction puts the work in its context, and what topics are dealt with. On the basis of these information, the reader decides whether is worthwhile to continue.

The title should describe the paper contents in a concise and accurate manner. It should, nevertheless, not be verbose.

The objectives, methods, and results are described in a short, compact abstract. The abstract must also reveal, how the results were derived: are they new results generated by the author, or have they been collected from literature. The abstract must be written for a reader somewhat familiar with the topic. The length of the abstract is less than one page and it does not usually contain any references.

The first chapter of the actual text is an introduction with a short review to the background of the work: relevant literature, general objectives of the field, methods applied, and main results obtained. The reader is oriented in the context of the other chapters. The reader of the introduction may have less comprehension on the subject than the reader of the abstract. Basic concepts can sometimes be defined in the introduction, but also later in the text. The introduction shall not become a mere verbose table of contents. Even though the introduction gives a glance on the main results, it must do so in a general way, not by revealing them in detail. The introduction must underline the main issues of the work, and what the author considers original or new.

The last chapter of text may consist of a summary and conclusions. The need for such chapter depends on the nature of the work. In no case it should replicate the introduction. Contrary to the introduction, the summary must presume that the reader is already familiar to work, and make sure the reader has picked the main contributions. The conclusions should include critics on the work, show possible alternative approaches, and topics not dealt with here but worth assessing.

The text is to be divided in chapters, the chapters in sections, and possibly in subsections, all with numbered titles. A hierarchy too deep makes the outline overly complex. The introduction usually needs no such hierarchy. In the beginning of each chapter the reader is oriented in the contents by showing and explaining the division into sections. Correspondingly, each section is preceded by a similar description. Thus, there never appears sequential titles without any text in between.

Tips for the style of the thesis

Readability must be considered while writing. In no situation the author may presume that the reader knows something that is said only later. It is worthwhile to use simple sentences, still trying to avoid monotony and repetition.

Before new issues are introduced, the reader must be prepared. Presentation of main concepts and results must follow an opportunity to 'have a breath' and check if everything was correctly understood. This may happen by inspecting some special situations, logical consequences, or showing simple examples. The reader may also be aided by providing enough redundancy: the same issue might be approached from different directions, i.e. by using both mathematical formalism and natural language.

Terminology must be used in a concise manner. A lexicon for IT terminology should be used, but with caution, since terms may have multiple meanings. When a term has been introduced, it must be used without any synonyms later in the text.

Selection of symbols must be consistent. A symbol shall not have multiple meanings, or one concept not denoted by different symbols in different context without a specific reason. This applies even to selection of indexes. If i is used as an index in one place, k should not be used in another without a reason. When multiple sources are referenced, the notation must be unified.

Formulas should not list wise follow each other without words making the text readable. The words intended to make reading easier shall not be replaced by the respective mathematical symbols. The symbols and formulas must be understood as parts of the sentence, taking this into account in language structures and punctuation. Theoremas and separate definitions must be formatted as independent entities with no references to other text.

Direct citations or translations from source literature may not be used in papers of our discipline. Even when an issue is presented according to a source, the text referenced must be adapted to one's own writing. The source must be clearly stated.

Use of list notation must be avoided.

  • If that must be applied, texts in a list must have a uniform structure.

  • If e.g. one list element is in imperative, also other elements must follow the form.

  • If a list element is a complete sentence, it starts with a capital letter, and ends with a dot, otherwise it starts lowercase and ends without a dot.


To help practicing to write reader-friendly scientific text, School of Computing provides you a free, semi-automatic SWAN (Scientific Writing AssistaNt) tool that gives feedback on your text. While this tool is mainly targeted for PhD students and researchers, similar principles apply also to writing master's theses and, especially towards the end of your writing process, you are encouraged to use SWAN to get feedback of your text. The developers of SWAN are also constantly interested in feedback to improve the tool itself.


The first occurrence of any (technical, theoretical) term is written with italics. Do not use bold for the terms.


Tables have to fit inside the margins of the text. Table 1 is an example.

Table 1. The title of the table.





After the table we will tell what is presented in the table and what the reader should learn from the table. Table 2 presents the version history of the document.
Table 2. Example – version history.




Initialization of the document

The table 2 shows that the document has not been changed since is was initialized.


Figure 1 shows a thesis writer in action.

Figure 1. The thesis writer.

The same goes on with the figures. We will tell what is depicted in the figure. Figure 1 depicts the thesis worker in action. The thesis work does not differ from other skill based work.

Figure 2. Shooting stars?

The goal setting for the thesis should be realistic (Figure 2).


Some parts of the text can be written as a list. In most of the cases the list is not the best way of representing things. But if do, this is the way:

  • Choose Format – Bullets and Numbering

  • Choose Bulleted Style

And the same for numered:

  1. Choose Format – Bullets and Numbering

  2. Choose Numbered Style

The chapter should not end with a list. The space between the list items is 1,5.


It is possible to use quotations in the thesis text. Usually the direct quotations should be avoided. At least they should be minimized in the text. But if we will use them this is the way to do it.

Short quotations (under three lines) are written in text body in quotes with reference in the end; " … " (Meikäläinen, 2007). Long quotations, over two lines, are indented from both left and right margin. They are also separated from the text body by paragraph brake.

" Long quotations, over two lines, are indented from both left and right margin. They are also separated from the text body by paragraph brake. The quotations are copied from word to word from the original." (Meikäläinen, 2007).

After quotation the text body continues normally.

1.10Software Code

The thesis may contain code. If the code is included in the body text, it has to fit into one page. If the code is longer than one page, it can be included as an appendix.

1: IF Code > 1 age THEN

2: Move to an appendix
4: Include into the text body

The formatting of the code is different from the text body. The code is intented by 0,5 cm. The line spacing is 1,5 and the font is Courier. The code lines may be numbered.


Use of personal pronoun may follow e.g. the rules specified below:

Use "I" when you refer to your own, independent results. Do not address the writing process itself, however, if it has no importance to the end product.

Use "we" when the text implies both to the author and the reader. It is thus natural to write: "In the following we examine ..."

Use of passive voice should be avoided. For example in a descrition of a system's operation, use of passive voice leads to an ambiguous conception of when the text refers to the system, when to the user of the system, and when to the author of the text. Passive voice may replace "we", if a concise manner is maintained.

A fluent course of text must be paid attention to.

A sentence shall never begin with a numeral.


A part of scientific presentation is the use of references. The references give credit to the original presenter of an idea, but on the other hand shows where the reader may find more information. A correct use of references can best be learned by reading scientific articles, and by reasoning why a specific reference exists in the text, and in the location where it is placed. The following paragraphs list some observations on the usage of references, but by no means void the need of an inspection of literature practices.

If the idea borrowed from literature is no longer that one sentence, the reference is placed at the end of the idea (not necessarily the end of the sentence). If the idea is longer, the reference should be placed before the idea - still not in the beginning of the sentence. It should be placed in a natural position together with a statement that such an idea is about to be presented. Especially when all information in a paragraph has a single source, the correct place of the reference is not at the end of the paragraph, but somewhere near the beginning. If the contents of more than one paragraph refers to a same source, the reference is not to be repeated in every paragraph, but the entity should start with only one reference, and an explanation of which part of the text comes from the source.

When the references are identified by the name and year of publication, the reference can be written by two ways. If the name is included in text, only the year is enclosen in parenthesis, e.g. "Aho (1985b) has developed the following...". In other cases, the name(s) are also enclosed in parenthesis, e.g. "We can now calculate the result using the algorithm (Aho, 1985b)...". If there is two authors, both names are often mentioned, but if there is more than two, only the first author is mentioned in the reference, followed by text et al., for example (Denning et al., 1989). Consult the APA manual and with your supervisor for more details on referencing.


Think about the objective of your presentation.

  1. Get familiar with the subject by making notes.

  2. Plan the outline of the paper.

  3. Write using simple, precise prose, following the plan.

  4. When you leave your work for examination, make sure it is in the final form throughout.

In all phases of the work you may ask advise from your supervisor. Keep the supervisor informed on the course of the work.
Once the thesis has been accepted

After the thesis has been accepted and graded, the student must take a maturity examination. This is an essay of about three hand-written pages in English on one of three subjects given. The subjects are from the topic area of your thesis, and there are two aims for the maturity exam: Firstly, to ensure that you have produced and written the materials of your thesis by yourself, and secondly, that you are able to express yourself fluently by writing on the substance area of your thesis. The factual side of the text will be examined by the supervisor of the thesis, and the language and maturity of expression is checked by an English teacher.


Hirsijärvi, S., Remes, R., Sajavaara, P. (2003): Tutki ja kirjoita. Kustannusosakeyhtiö Tammi Oy, Vantaa.

Koponen, T., Hotti, V. (2004): Evaluation Framework for Open Source Software. Proceedings of The 2004 International MultiConference in Computer Science and Computer Engineering, Las Vegas, 91-97.

Liang, Y. D. (2013): Introduction to Java programming: brief version. Pearson, Boston.

Lotus (1996) Symphony Reference Manual. Lotus Development Corporation, USA.

UEF (2012) Study forms. University of Eastern Finland, Faculty of Science and Forestry, (3.1.2014).
Appendix 1: Checklist

  • The text is formatted with line space 1.5. Each chapter (but not section) starts a new page. Use clearly different typing in titles, e.g.:


  • 2.1. Section title

  • 2.1.1. Subsection title

  • A suitable margin width is 3 cm (left) and 2 cm (right), due to binding.

  • If the paragraphs are separated with blank lines, the text starts at left margin, otherwise a new paragraph starts with an indent (about three spaces wide). Extra space should be left around titles, lists, and separate line formulas. In the same way, theorems and independent definitions are separated by space.

  • New terms are emphasized by italics. If the term is not especially defined, its first occurrence is emphasized.

  • Mathematical formulas are written on separate lines if they are too long to be written inline, or if they need reference numbers. The reference numbers in parenthesis are right justified. The formulas must be placed neatly on the page, centered or at constant indent from the left margin.

  • Figures and tables are numbered and must have captions that specify their content. Figures, tables, formulas, definitions and theorems are numbered independently within their class. In short texts a sequential numbering will do, in larger presentations the numbers may be preceded by the number of the chapter. When the numbers are referenced in text, the number is not followed by a dot (Fig. 2), even when a dot were used in the caption, like:

  • Fig. 2. A schematic presentation ...

  • Table of contents occupies its own page after the Abstract. Use indent to illustrate the hierarchy of chapters, sections and subsections. List of references and appendixes are also mentioned in the Table of contents.

  • The page numbers of the Abstract and Table of contents are either not numbered, or numbered using small Roman numerals (i, ii, ...). Page number of Introduction is 1. Page numbering continues over the List of references. Multi-page appendixes are numbered as follows: Appendix 1(1).

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