CMM MS Thesis Information

CMM MS Thesis Information

The writing of a Graduate Thesis is a personal process that is different from most writing experiences.  Unlike most school papers, the process of writing a thesis is iterative and involves substantial back and forth with your Thesis Committee.  The following recommended deadlines are important so that there is sufficient time to create a document worthy of being called a Masters Thesis.  If you have any questions, please contact your Thesis Advisor well in advance.  This is not a process that can be done quickly.

  1. Students need to take 5 units of “Thesis” (CMM 910).  These 5 units do not need to be in the same semester.  The final units should be taken in the semester in which you intend to defend your thesis.
  2. By the beginning of the semester during which you intend to defend your thesis you should have formed a Thesis Committee.  This committee must be approved by the Graduate College.
  3. It is your responsibility to find, and communicate to your committee members, the University's deadlines for completion of degree requirements.
  4. Early in the semester during which you intend to defend your thesis, your committee should be given a summary or outline of your proposed thesis.
  5. At least 7 weeks before your thesis defense date, your thesis draft should be turned in to your committee members.
  6. 5 weeks before your defense date, your thesis committee will return the edited thesis draft to you.
  7. 2 weeks before your defense date, your final thesis draft should be turned in to all members of your Thesis Committee.
  8. Your thesis defense will involve the following;
  • At the Defense, you will start by making a presentation, with slides, that gives an overview of your thesis topic; this should be approximately 15 minutes.
  • The committee will then ask you questions about your thesis as well as  material from your courses that is particularly relevant to your thesis; this portion will last up to 60 minutes.
  • The committee will then ask you to step out of the room while they discuss and vote; about 5 minutes.
  • The committee will then bring you back in and tell you their decision.
  • The committee may still ask you to make additional changes to your thesis following the defense, but only if something is really unclear.

The Graduate College has requirements for the Master's Thesis.  They can be found at this link.

Leave enough time between your Defense and the end of the semester to make any additional required changes to your Thesis document.

Once your thesis has been approved by your committee, give a PDF of your final thesis to David Elliott for the program archive.

About Writing

Writing is hard work that takes a lot of thought and time.

Reference:  We strongly suggest that you read the following excellent paper on scientific writing:  Gopen, G. D. and Swan, J. A. (1990). The science of scientific writing. Am. Scientist  78:550-558. 

Some basic guidelines selected from the above paper are:

  1. In general, provide context for your reader before asking that reader to consider anything new.  That means, place appropriate “old information” (material already stated somewhere earlier in document) in the first sentence of any paragraph and then build on that information.
  2. Follow a grammatical subject as soon as possible with its verb.
  3. Place at the end of the paragraph, in the stress position, the “new information” you want the reader to remember.
  4. In general, try to ensure that the relative emphases of the substance coincide with the relative expectations for emphasis raised by the structure.

The structure above will look like:

Familiar information- verb- new information.  Do this over and over to build a train of thought linked together in a series of understandable steps.

Keep your language as simple as you can and be accurate. It makes for easier reading.  Always think of the reader.  What is the main point of a sentence or paragraph or section?  Each one should have a single point. Have you conveyed that clearly?  Do not write to impress but to inform or persuade.

Avoid jargon.  All fields have their own set of important words but make sure that these are clearly defined and/or explained early in the document.  Always define abbreviations.  

Make a clear presentation of your ideas that any smart person could follow and understand without additional knowledge.  Remember that your reader is unlikely to be an expert in the field that you are writing about.

Most writing takes several substantive revisions. A good editor to help you find the problems is invaluable.