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Department ofComputer Science

Requirements for the Master of Science Program

All students in the Master of Science program are required to complete 33 semester credit hours as outlined in the Graduate Catalog. Note that the CS Department's requirement extends WPI’s requirement of “a minimum of 30 credit hours”. In their first semester, all admitted students must complete a Plan of Study form and submit it to the Graduate Secretary.

Students may select a Coursework option or Thesis option for completion of their degree requirements. The thesis option provides the opportunity to study one area of Computer Science in depth, collaborating closely with a Computer Science faculty member.

Typically strong students with a solid Computer Science background benefit most from a thesis. Students with a weaker background may need to take enough courses to build up a solid Computer Science background, and may benefit from the coursework option.

The CS Department and WPI provide funding for full-time graduate study towards an MS degree in the form of:

  • Research Assistantships (RA)
  • Teaching Assistantships (TA)
  • Fellowships

A recipient of this funding is required to pursue the thesis option.

Every MS student must complete the MS Breadth Requirement, regardless of which option they have selected.

Coursework Option

The coursework option is described in the Graduate Catalog.

Directed Research credits (CS598) can count towards the coursework option, but MS Thesis credits (CS599) cannot. If thesis credits are self-contained and have a discernible outcome, such as a report or a completed software project, then, with advisor approval, they can be converted to directed research credits.

Thesis Option

The thesis option is described in the Graduate Catalog.

The principal component of this option is a thesis consisting of a research or development project, consisting of at least 9 thesis credits, which must be completed and presented to the department's faculty. However, only 9 of the thesis credits may be applied towards the degree requirements.

There are four stages toward the completion of a thesis.

  1. Exploratory: Students should consider possible thesis topics by discussing them with Computer Science faculty members. Students are encouraged to attend the department's research group meetings and colloquia in order to familiarize themselves with faculty research interests. In addition they should contact faculty directly to discuss possible thesis topics. At this stage, a student is not officially committed to the thesis option.
  2. Proposal: With the guidance and approval of a thesis advisor -- a full-time Computer Science faculty member, or a faculty member who has a Collaborative Appointment with the Computer Science Department -- the student submits a thesis proposal to the Department for acceptance.

    Upon acceptance of the proposal, the Department will 1) appoint the thesis advisor as the student's official academic advisor.   (Web: The Process for Handling WPI CS MS Thesis Proposals) and 2) choose a thesis Reader. The thesis advisor, reader and any co-advisor are all considered to be thesis examiners. In general, the examiners remain the same throughout the student's registration as a thesis student.

    A thesis proposal must be accepted by the Department before the student is able to receive grades for more than three thesis credits. Failure to submit a satisfactory proposal in time for such acceptance may result in a grade of F being assigned to the existing thesis credits.

    Proposals will only be considered at regularly scheduled CS Department meetings. These are scheduled at regular times during the academic year. Proposals must be submitted at least one week prior to a department meeting to allow faculty members time to read the proposal. It is recommended that MS thesis proposals be no more than five pages in length.
  3. Presentation to Faculty: A formal presentation of the thesis must be made by the student to the faculty and students of the Department, and any other interested members of the WPI community. The presentation describes, in a general but accurate way, the entire scope of the thesis, and serves to communicate the results of the thesis to the department.

    Presentations are scheduled by the Computer Science Department Graduate Committee only after all the examiners have certified that enough work has been completed. Examiners normally will not make such certification unless enough written work has been submitted to enable them to be sure that the entire content of the thesis is known. Usually this requirement means that a rough draft must have been completed.
  4. Final Approval: All examiners must approve the form and content of the final version of the thesis. For a Master's thesis the title page is signed by the Advisor(s), the Reader, and by the Department Head.

    This is a Computer Science Department extension to WPI's Regulations for Preparation of Theses and Dissertations. It must conform to the WPI Regulations for Preparation of Theses and Dissertations. When it has been approved, you must submit your thesis electronically.

    A thesis must be approved within four years of the proposal acceptance. If the student is not able to finish within this four-year period, then the student must petition the Graduate Committee and a new proposal may be required.

The thesis advisor is the only examiner who assigns a grade for the thesis credits. The reader's role is meant to be purely that of an examiner, assuring the quality of the thesis work. Generally the student does not turn to a reader for advice unless the reader has offered such help.

In the event of a disagreement between the examiners, an additional examiner will be required and his/her opinion will be binding. This additional examiner will be the Department Chairman, or if he/she is already involved, a member of the Department chosen by the Computer Science Graduate Committee.

Students can find relevant deadlines in the current Graduate Catalog. In particular, the examiners must be given reasonable time to examine any written work submitted to them. This requirement means that the student must allow at least 10 days for each examiner to review any submitted written material. During the summer and holidays, the examiners may require more time.

Due to campus-wide rules the student is required to be continuously registered with the university each academic semester while working on the thesis.

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