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Satisfying the Technical Writing Requirement: Thesis Option

A written thesis is based either on research or on the solution and documentation of a substantial problem in application or system programming. The subject is chosen jointly by the student and the thesis adviser. The student selects a guidance committee of at least three members of the Graduate Faculty. The student must submit a brief written thesis proposal to the committee members during the early stages of thesis work.

The thesis must meet normal standards of scholarly writing and prescribed standards of form (see the Graduate School Handbook, the GSH: Master’s Degree Requirements and the Graduate School document Guide to Theses and Dissertations).

The student must register for at least three hours, but not more than six hours, of COMP 993: Masters Thesis. Registration for COMP 993 can reduce to 24 the number of hours of non-research courses that the student must take (GSH: Master’s Degree Requirements).

A student who elects to write a thesis must make an oral presentation of the thesis to the guidance committee which will be counted as the student’s Final Oral examination. Before this presentation can take place, the adviser and at least one other member of the student’s committee must agree that the thesis is in substantially finished form. The student may elect that the presentation be public. In that event the student gives a 50-minute presentation of the thesis, followed by questions from the committee and then from the audience. If the committee wishes, it may continue to question the student in private. If the student elects a private presentation, it will be of such form and duration as are prescribed by the committee. Public presentations are encouraged as a means of keeping faculty and students informed of current research and development activities, and to give the student experience in public speaking (GSH: Master’s Degree Requirements).

The thesis presentation is technically a Final Oral examination. The student may elect to combine it with the M.S. Oral Comprehensive examination on course work into a single examination, provided that the scheduling requirements for both have been met. This election is independent of whether to present the thesis publicly. Alternately, the student can meet the comprehensive exam requirement by making the Related Work section of their thesis comprehensive and broad.

The student must be registered during the semester(s) in which the M.S. thesis presentation is held and when the M.S. Thesis is presented to and accepted by the Graduate School. Provided that no use of University faculty time and/or facilities is required, a student need not be registered in the semester in which the degree is to awarded, unless the thesis is defended and submitted to the Graduate School during the same semester (GSH: Registration).

Master’s Oral Comprehensive Exam

Scope and Purpose

The Graduate School requires that at the end of the M.S. program of study, each student must pass a comprehensive examination. The student may elect to take either a written or an oral examination. This document describes the Oral M.S. Comprehensive Exam.

The Oral M.S. Comprehensive Examination, normally about two hours in length, is held when course work is completed or final courses are in progress.

The oral examination covers the core courses and all other courses in the student’s approved Program of Study (Form CS03), excluding COMP 911 and research team meetings (Comp 990-yxx, where y>0), up to a maximum of 24 hours of courses if the student elects the thesis option, or 30 hours if the student elects a nonthesis option. To reduce the number of courses to 30 (24) hours, the student may specify one or more non-core courses to be excluded. The relative emphasis upon the several courses is decided by the examining committee, which will inform the student of its decision in writing in advance of the examination.

Preparing for the Exam

The student is responsible for arranging the time and place of the examination. The Student Services Manager may help with these arrangements.

A student who elects to write a thesis and also elects the oral comprehensive exam option is examined by the thesis guidance committee. The exam may take place at the time of the thesis presentation or at another time and place, as determined by the committee. (Sometimes it is more convenient to hold the exam separate from a public thesis presentation.)

A student who elects an option other than the thesis for satisfying the Technical Writing Requirement for the M.S. is examined by an Examining Committee appointed for the purpose.

A student must be registered during the semester when the M.S. Oral is held.


The administration of the exam will be controlled by the exam committee. Normally, the exam lasts two hours counting breaks and committee deliberation time, and the result is communicated to the student immediately after the committee’s deliberation is complete.


If the student passes the exam, that fact is reported to the Graduate School by the department.

If the student fails the exam, he or she may retake it only once (except by petition), after a lapse of at least three months. The student may elect an oral or a written form for the repeat examination(s), independently of the form of the previous exam(s).

If the failure resulted primarily from weakness in a narrow area, the second examination may be designated to cover only that area of weakness. The examining committee will notify the student in writing of the scope of the next examination.