Guidelines for thesis proposal
A thesis should make a convincing scholarly case that the project
is rigorous and innovative in theory and conception, methodology and
material content, and that it can produce new, relevant and
independently verifiable insights.
If you can outline these points clearly in a proposal, then you will be
able to focus on a research topic and finish it rapidly. A secondary
purpose of the proposal is to train you in the art of proposal writing.
Any future career in computer science, whether it will be in industry
or academia will require these skills in some form.
It should be noted that even the best laid out research plans may
not work out as intended, and that the best completed theses sometimes
bear only little resemblance to the thesis planned during the proposal.
Therefore, when evaluating a thesis proposal, it is essential to
realize that the thesis proposal serves two purposes:
It shows that you have a clear picture on the process and
structure of research as it's practiced by the discipline and in the
computer science community.
More specifically it shows if you can present a clear and
reasonable thesis idea, if you can clearly relate it to other relevant
literature, if you can justify its significance, if you can describe a
method for investigating it, and if you can decompose it into a
sequence of steps that lead toward a reasonable conclusion.
If this is true then the thesis proposal is a success regardless of
whether you modify or even scrap the actual idea down the line and
start off in a different direction. What a successful thesis proposal
demonstrates is that, regardless of the idea you pursue, you know the
steps involved in turning it into a thesis.
Procedure for thesis proposal
The student distributes the thesis proposal two (2) weeks before
the actual presentation of the thesis proposal.
The thesis proposal seminar consists of (i) a presentation made
by the student at a CUGS event, for doctoral students and faculty in
CUGS, followed by (ii) a discussion session with questions from the
audience. Three people (faculty member and two students) are appointed
to start and lead the the discussions initially; these should meet
before the actual thesis proposal to discuss their outline.
Structure of the thesis proposal
The thesis proposal should address the following issues, and it is
recommended that it is structured accordingly:
A background to the area of study. A summary
of previous work and results is important to demonstrate the
significance of the problem to be addressed in the thesis. It is an
opportunity to show what is known and unknown in the chosen area of
research. It is essential to recognize which parts of the background
material are fundamental to the proposed thesis research. All previous
work should be appropriately cited in the text.
Thesis statement + A detailed problem description.
A thesis statement, i.e., in a couple of sentences, state
your thesis, and this can take the form of a hypothesis, research
question, project statement, or goal statement. The thesis statement
should capture the essence of your intended project
A detailed problem description that colours the thesis
statement and also helps to set boundaries of the problem, ensuring
Relevance, i.e., motivating the need and
importance for solving the problem. Why is it worth knowing? What are
the major implications?
Related work A comparison to related work to
demonstrate both research originality and the potential increase in
Preliminary/expected results and research contributions
A presentation of any results you already have obtained and
discuss how they fit in the framework of your thesis.
A presentation of what new knowledge the project will
produce that we do not already know?
Methodology What strategy is suggested to
approach the problem. On what basis can we evaluate the validity of the
A detailed description of what you plan to do until
completion of your thesis project
A presentation of important milestones of your project
A timeplan for your project (also including any work you
already have completed.
The thesis proposal may also include a discussion on any particular
challenges that need to be overcome.
The thesis proposal is recommended not to exceed 10 pages (5000
words) in size.
Recommended time between year 1 and 2. Students who have been
awarded a licentiate degree (or passed 60% of the doctoral degree) are
not expected to present a thesis proposal.