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

With the help of the advisor, Thesis Option students selects faculty members to serve as 2nd and 3rd members on the student's MS committee. (For Project Option students, the 2nd and 3rd committee members are assigned by the Graduate Coordinator.)

Thesis Proposal

Students must pass their thesis proposal presentation by the end of the 4th semester, or 16 months, after admittance.

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. The Graduate Academic Advisor can help you schedule the CS Conference Room or the Summit 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. (Take the form to the Graduate Academic Advisor to get the signature of the Graduate Coordinator.)

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.
  • After a successful presentation, obtain signatures of all members of your committee on the Thesis Proposal Approval Form.
  • If the proposal is not accepted, the student works with the committee to get the proposal into an acceptable form.
  • Leave a copy of the proposal and the signed approval form with the Graduate Academic Advisor. The Graduate Coordinator will sign the form after it is turned in to the Graduate Academic Advisor.

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.

Style Guidelines

Thesis Format: University guidelines specify the format of the title page, abstract page, acknowledgments page, and signature page (bound copies only). With consultation of the thesis chair, the rest of the thesis should be written in a style and form consistent with the Computer Science literature for your research area.


BYU requires a department to certify the consistency of format, captions, and references for all theses. Format and captions pose few, if any, difficulties, but citations are often inconsistent. (Typically, students copy citations from various places without reworking them into a consistent format.) To ensure consistency--and to avoid having to rework citations at department sign-off time-- follow the instructions in either (1) or (2) below.

  1. Use a top-tier journal (not a conference proceedings) in your research area as a guide. Follow the conventions as specified by the journal or exemplified in the papers.
  2. Be consistent and be as complete as possible:

Use the same style for the same kind of publications throughout--italics, bold, quotes, punctuation, names (full names or initials), numbering, and indentation.
Include all components of a citation--all author or editor names and the title and year; and, as applicable, other components such as journal name, volume, number, pages, month, publisher, city, state or country, and institution for MS theses, PhD dissertations, or technical reports.
Order the bibliography alphabetically by last name of first author.

The actual organization of a traditional thesis is flexible. A typical organization would be as follows.

Chapter 1 - Introduces the thesis problem and motivates its importance.
Chapter 2 - A careful overview of related work, referencing similar research.
Chapter 3 ... n-1 - A progressive presentation of the research effort, typically including chapters on:
foundational material (terms, definitions, etc.)
the actual innovations (algorithms, theorems, models, etc.)
validation and analysis of results (proofs, simulations, complexity analysis, etc.).

Chapter n - Overviews the contributions of the thesis and discusses possible directions for future work.
Appendices - Contains extended results, code fragments, documentation, etc.

Thesis Document—Paper Thesis

Audience: Researchers well acquainted with the topic.

Document: The thesis should be written as a paper for a journal. Except for formatting required by BYU such as double spacing and chapters instead of sections, the thesis should read exactly like a paper that can be submitted for publication. Appendices may include additional material that would not be appropriate for publication, but is pertinent to the student's work. Ideally, the quality of the paper would be similar to papers found in top publications in the research field of the thesis.

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 Graduate Academic Advisor will have given a packet of forms from the Office of Graduate Studies to the student's advisor prior to the presentation. The advisor also serves as the examination chair. The examination chair manages the forms as follows:

Report of Committee Action for Final Oral Examination - Conduct a vote, get signatures, and give the form to the Graduate Academic Advisor.
Committee Member Evaluation of Final Oral Examination - Each member of the examining committee fills out one of these forms regarding the student's potential in a PhD program. Give these forms to the Graduate Academic Advisor.
Approval for Submission of Dissertation, Thesis, or Selected Project - Get appropriate signatures and then give this form to the student.
Grade Change Authorization - All 699R hours must be changed from a T to a P. Have the student fill out the top portions of the form and have it signed by the Graduate Coordinator. In this case, the instructor name must be the Graduate Coordinator, not the chair advisor.

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

Thesis Defense Scheduling Instructions

Before Scheduling:

  • 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 study list)
  • Check your Graduate Progress Report (in myBYU). Submit a Program of Study Change Form if necessary.

Approximately 1 Month Prior to the Defense:

  • Obtain a copy of ADV Form 8c Departmental Scheduling of Final Oral Examination online.
  • 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). The Graduate Academic Advisor can help you schedule the CS Conference Room or the Summit Room. Reserve two hours for the defense. (As you complete these steps, fill out the corresponding parts of form 8c.)

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

  • Email an electronic copy of your thesis (PDF) and your abstract (formatted in Word) to the Graduate Academic Advisor ( Submit the completed ADV Form 8c (with all of the signatures) to the Graduate Academic Advisor. These steps must be finished 3 weeks (or more) before the actual day you defend. If you miss this deadline, you will need to select a new date to defend, that is at least 3 weeks out, and fill out a new ADV Form 8c (including all of the signatures).
  • Provide a copy of your thesis for your third committee member.

No Later Than 2 Weeks Prior to the Defense:

  • After submitting your thesis, the Graduate Coordinator and Graduate Academic Advisor will give feedback on any necessary changes to the formatting and references. If any revisions are necessary, you must make those changes and resubmit your thesis. Once the changes are made, the defense will be scheduled. If the changes are not made at least 2 weeks prior to the defense date, a new defense date will need to be selected and the scheduling process will start over.

Defense Day or After:

  • Finish any required revisions of the thesis.
  • Fill in the ADV Form 10 (received at your defense) and gather the necessary signatures at the defense. Submit this to the Graduate Academic Advisor immediately following the defense.
  • Complete Form 8d Approval for Submission of Dissertation, Thesis, or Selected Project" (received at your defense), and obtain the necessary signatures. Unless technically or legally not possible, students must submit an electronic thesis. Once completed, Form 8d should be submitted by the student to Graduate Studies in the FPH. Students are expected to provide a bound copy of the thesis for their advisor. The thesis need to be bound in a blue cover and sent to 3361 TMCB. When this have been paid for, an electronic copy of the receipt should be forwarded to so that the requirement can be lifted in AIM.