Department of Computer Science | Institute of Theoretical Computer Science

CADMO - Center for Algorithms, Discrete Mathematics and Optimization

Guidelines for Theses

This document is intended for students considering to write a thesis in one of the CADMO groups. It provides information about how to find a topic, about the support that we offer to students, the expectations that we have, the (minor) formalities, and the grading scheme that we use. It also provides a short list of helpful documents which you should read if you write a thesis with us.

Computer Science students who want to write their Master thesis with us: please consult also the general regulations for master theses of the Department of Computer Science (in German only).

In any case, please make sure you have read and understood the ETH regulations on plagiarism.

Topics

The CADMO groups offer a wide range of possible topics for a Bachelor, Diploma, or Master Thesis. There is a list of topics on the web, but these are not exclusive. If you have other ideas or interests, you are welcome to contact a advisor of your choice and talk about possibilities for a tailor-made topic. This makes sense, for example, if you have attended an advanced course, and there was a topic that you really liked and want to study in more detail.

Support

Subject to availability (usually, this is no problem), we can offer you an office space in the CAB building (equipped with desk and computer) to work on your thesis. You don't have to accept this offer, but if you do, this has the advantage that you are close to your advisor, other members of CADMO, and other students that are writing their thesis. Obviously, discussing things, asking questions, and getting answers to them quickly is much easier then.

You can expect a weekly meeting with your advisor, of one up to two hours, depending on the state of your work. Usually, short meetings in between are always possible, and if you work in CAB, they can usually be arranged spontaneously.

In general, we offer a lively and research-oriented environment. The two major platforms for communicating the research performed by members or guests of our workgroups are the Mittagsseminar and the SOS, which usually take place once or twice a week, all year round. You are welcome to join: to listen, or even to give a talk about the work of your thesis (this is mandatory for obtaining a grade of 5.75 or 6 for a Master thesis).

Expectations

The role of your advisor is to guide you through your thesis: give possible directions, suggest ways out of dead ends etc. But the actual work has to be done by you. This should be self- evident, but let us make the point clear explicitly: we expect you to work independently in the sense that you tackle upcoming questions and problems yourself, before contacting your advisor about them. This is not because we're too lazy, but because the process of doing independent work is an indispensible part of any thesis. Also, you are expected to do independent literature search and reading. If all the papers you read in the course of the thesis work and all the references in your thesis were pointed out by your advisor, this is a bad sign. (On-line search is a great tool, but note: There is also a library which offers many older articles and in particular books that are not available on- line.)

You may get stuck, of course, after exhausting your possibilities, and then you are welcome to solicit help.

You are not required to find new theoretical results during your thesis, although this is always a goal that one should strive for. It is even possible to obtain the best grade without having new results, but in that case, other aspects of the thesis must be excellent (for example, the style of presentation, or software that you produced during the thesis).

There are research-oriented topics with the clear goal of finding new results, and there are topics that are more about implementing or summarizing known methods in a novel way. By choosing the topic, you can determine the research level of your thesis yourself.

Although it may seem picky to talk about page numbers (after all, some great research in history only took very few pages to write down), we still have to do it. If you produce a great new result, we're in fact satisfied with whatever number of pages it takes you to write it down properly. But in other cases, we also want to convince ourselves that you are a good craftsperson. And this means to carefully and understandably write down the problem covered by the thesis, the history, and your contribution. In our experience, this requires a certain minimum number of pages; here the following table can serve as a guideline.

Master thesis D-INFK
6 months
30 credit points
50 pages
Master thesis D-MATH
5 months
30 credit points
50 pages
Bachelor thesis D-INFK
no strict time limit; only in exceptional cases more than 4 months
10 credit points
30 pages
Bachelor thesis D-MATH
no strict time limit; only in exceptional cases more than 4 months
8 credit points
30 pages
Research in Computer Science I/II D-INFK
no strict time limit; only in exceptional cases more than 4 months
3/5 credit points
20/30 pages
Semester paper D-MATH
no strict time limit; only in exceptional cases more than 4 months 8 credit points
30 pages
To all advisors of theses: Please keep in mind that 1 credit point corresponds to roughly 30h of work.

Let us also emphasize that writing a lot per se is not a virtue either. So unless you have good reasons, to be discussed with your advisor, do not exceed the lower page limit by more than 50%, i.e., be selective in what you include in your thesis. After all, not everything that can be written down is worth being read. To quote Blaise Pascal: "Je n'ai fait celle-ci plus longue que parceque je n'ai pas eu le loisir de la faire plus courte" ("I have made this letter so long only because I did not have the leisure to make it shorter", also attributed to Mark Twain and others).

Please also note: it is not your advisor's job to repeatedly proofread your thesis. As a rule of thumb, you should expect that he or she will read each chapter of your thesis only twice: once to give feedback, and once after you submitted the final version. You should therefore make sure that the parts you ask your advisor to read are not rough first drafts, but in as good a shape as you can manage on your own. Also, it is usually a good idea to produce solid write-ups of your findings as you go along; dont postpone "writing things down" to the end of your thesis. In this way you can also incorporate feedback on how to improve your write-up that you got from your advisor for one chapter already in preparing the next chapter.

Formalities

There are not many: you should supply the final result of your work (the thesis) in printed form (1 copy) and in electronic form (PDF). The printed copy should be handed in to Andrea Salow (CAB G 19.1) for archiving. Every thesis or semester paper must include with it a completed and signed declaration of originality. This declaration is a component of the written work and must be included in every copy of it. In order to obtain a grade of 5.75 or 6 for a Master thesis, you have to present your work in the Mittagsseminar or the SOS; your advisor will arrange this. Note: if you present your thesis in the Mittagsseminar, your talk should last 30 minutes (like almost everybody else's), not 45 minutes (which is the time for regular student talks).

ETH E-Collection is a publication platform provided by ETH-Bibliothek outside traditional publishing. Master theses can be published there if they are considered worthy of publication. To fulfill this condition, a grade of 6.0 is usually necessary but not sufficient.

Grading

The grade of your thesis is based on the written document you hand in at the end and the performance you demonstrate throughout the thesis work. The grading scheme for all accepted theses is as follows:

Quarter grades (5.25 etc.) are also possible; the above rules extend in the natural way.

Helpful documents