Requirements specific to the MS Thesis program are given below. These requirements are in addition to the general MS in CS Requirements. Requirements specific to the MS Thesis program do not apply to the MS Project program.

MS Committee and Program of Study

With the help of the advisor, Thesis Option students select faculty members to serve as 2nd and 3rd members on the student's MS committee. The student will then complete the "Committee" milestone and invite committee members in the Graduate Progress system.

The advisor and the student select courses for their program of study and complete the "Program of Study" milestone on Graduate Progress. The Program of Study will consist of 8 graduate-level courses.

The thesis option requires 24 credits and the project option requires 30 credits subject to the requirements below:

  • Take at least one course from three of the breadth groups listed below.
  • All courses must be at the 400-level or above, including at least 4 500- or 600-level CS courses and no more than 3 400-level CS courses (excluding CS 404, 405, 493R).
  • Graduate Studies does not accept online courses to count towards the Program of Study.
  • Up to 4 500- or 600-level courses, that are relevant to your CS research, may come from outside the CS department.
  • Only one CS 697R may be used. A CS 697R proposal form must be completed, signed and turned into the Graduate Academic Advisor by the first day of classes in the semester/term you intend to take the course.
  • Complete any background courses specified in admission letter. This might include CS 240 or CS 312, or both
  • For the thesis option, complete an additional 6 hours or more of CS 699R. Note that the CS 699R credits are Pass/Fail. Students are given a temporary grade of T until they successfully defend their thesis, at which point all of the T's are changed to P's. Students can take as many as they want in a semester, but they only need 6 total, and 2 of those need to be taken while defending their thesis. Students may consider using 2 credits if they plan to work in a research lab in Spring/Summer terms.

Thesis Proposal

Students must pass their thesis proposal presentation by the end of the 4th semester after admittance. Spring and Summer terms together count as one semester.

Once a thesis topic has been firmly established, the student should submit a thesis proposal. The thesis proposal consists of two components – the thesis proposal document and the thesis proposal presentation. First, the student prepares the written thesis proposal document, as described below. Once the student’s first two committee members have approved the document, the student gives the proposal to the third committee member and schedules the time for the formal presentation of the thesis proposal. No completed thesis can be defended without first having the proposal presented and approved.

Completing the thesis proposal involves two parts: the written proposal and the proposal presentation.

Part 1: The written proposal

The thesis proposal document should be submitted to the committee as soon as possible and must be defended by the end of the 4th semester after the student begins the program. The thesis cannot be defended before the thesis proposal has been presented and approved.

The document must be 4 to 5 single-spaced pages, not including the bibliography.

Part 2: Thesis proposal presentation

The proposal presentation is a 12-15 minute oral presentation in a public meeting involving the thesis committee and others who may wish to attend. There will be time for questions and the committee will meet in private to reach a decision on the proposal. The timeline for scheduling the presentation is given below.

In the presentation, a simple restatement of the proposal document is not what is wanted. The central ideas of the document should be presented, but this should be augmented by examples and explanations. Ideally, the presentation will have been practiced in front of an audience that can help the student improve the presentation. Part of what should be learned is how to make good presentations.

Before scheduling the presentation

  • Create and write up the proposal under the supervision of your advisor.
  • Get verbal agreement from your advisor and committee members that the proposal is now in final form.
  • Arrange for a date, time, and place to present your proposal. Make sure all three members of your committee can attend. Your faculty advisor or the Graduate Academic Advisor can help you schedule a room. Reserve one hour for the proposal; your presentation should not extend beyond 15 minutes, but additional time will be needed for questions from the audience and your committee.
  • Fill out the top part of the Thesis Proposal Scheduling Form and get committee signatures on the bottom part. (Email the form to the Graduate Academic Advisor.)

At least one week prior to the proposal presentation

  • Give the completed Dissertation Proposal Scheduling Form, as well as a copy of the abstract (formatted in Word), to the Graduate Academic Advisor (

Day of proposal presentation

  • The presentation meeting begins with a 12-15 minute oral presentation of the thesis proposal.
  • The student answers committee member's questions on such areas as method, significance, organization, and literature search.
  • After the presentation, the student and public leave the room while the committee comes to a decision.
  • The committee decision may range from unqualified acceptance to unqualified rejection. Unqualified rejections are extremely rare.
  • If the proposal is not accepted, the student works with the committee to get the proposal into an acceptable form.
  • Signatures of the members of your committee will be recorded in the "Prospectus Milestone" of Graduate Progress.
  • Update class standing on your graduate profile on the CS website from "MS" to "MS Proposed."

Applying to the BYU Computer Science PhD Program

If you are a current MS student considering applying to the PhD program, please discuss this with the Graduate Academic Advisor ( as soon as possible, no later than the beginning of the semester in which you would like to defend. The application for current students is internal, and the Graduate Academic Advisor can instruct you on how to begin that process.

The Thesis Document

The MS thesis should make a contribution to the field of Computer Science. When completed, other computer scientists working in the same or related areas should find the thesis useful in solving problems they are working on. The thesis should demonstrate creativity and originality. It should require a thorough search of existing literature in the student's area of research and exhibit the use of skills and techniques acquired during the student's Computer Science graduate education. When reasonable, it is recommended that the student make an effort to publish the accomplished research in the Computer Science literature.

Formatting the thesis

See Thesis and Dissertation Formatting requirements.

Thesis Defense

Oral Presentation Audience: CS faculty members who may not be acquainted with the topic.

The presentation should be polished. Ideally, it will have been practiced in front of an audience that can help the student improve the presentation.

Thesis Defense:
The defense of the thesis is open to the public. For the defense, a student must prepare and make a polished presentation, which should last about 25 minutes. After a short introductory overview of the research for the benefit of those not familiar with the work, the presentation should focus on the technical details of the research. At the conclusion of the presentation questions may be asked by the audience and committee relating to the methods and evaluation techniques used to complete the thesis work; when complete the audience will be excused. The committee may ask the student further questions. When the committee is satisfied, the student being examined will be asked to leave the room.
Examination Results:
At this point the examining committee decides on a result. The possible results are:
Pass with qualifications - Revision to thesis or strengthening of course knowledge are examples of why this would be selected.
Recess - Substantial revision of thesis and/or course knowledge preparation. A minimum of one month must pass before a subsequent defense can take place.
Fail - Fail the oral exam and be terminated from the graduate program.

The advisor also serves as the examination chair. The examination chair will conduct a vote and assist the students in getting the appropriate signatures via the Graduate Progress system.

For any questions about these forms, contact the Graduate Academic Advisor.

Thesis Defense Scheduling Instructions

Before Scheduling:

  • Schedule an appointment with the Graduate Academic Advisor ( at the beginning of the semester in which you would like to defend.
  • Create and write up the thesis under the supervision of your advisor.
  • Get verbal agreement from your advisor that the thesis is in final form and give a copy to your second committee member. The second committee member is very likely to suggest changes.
  • Get verbal agreement from your advisor and second committee member that the thesis is now in final form.
  • Apply for graduation.
  • Be registered for at least 2 credit hours (either 2 hours of 699R or a class that is on your program of study)
  • Check your Graduate Progress Report (in myBYU) for any deficient courses. Submit a Program of Study Change Form if necessary.
  • Check and meet Graduation Deadlines- The department deadline to hold a final oral exam is one week prior to the Graduate Studies deadline. Department deadlines supersede university deadlines.

Approximately 1 Month Prior to the Defense:

  • In the "Ready for Defense" milestone in Graduate Progress, submit "Ready for Defense Approval" requests to committee members and upload your thesis.
  • Obtain a copy of the Defense Scheduling Form.
  • Arrange for a date, time, and place to present your defense. Make sure that all three members of your committee can attend and collect their signatures. (Keep in mind that it may take more time than anticipated to gather the necessary signatures due to travel, illness or time off). Electronic signatures are acceptable for this form. The Graduate Academic Advisor can help you schedule a room. Reserve two hours for the defense.

No Later Than 3 Weeks Before the Defense (earlier is better):

  • Submit the completed Defense Scheduling Form to the Graduate Academic Advisor at least 3 weeks before the actual day you defend.
  • Provide a copy of your thesis for your third committee member.
  • After submitting your thesis, the Graduate Academic Advisor will give feedback on any necessary changes to the formatting.

Defense Day or After: