Honors Thesis in Computer Science

Students preparing for graduate school usually elect to complete an honors project (see our list of student research projects for examples). Guidelines on this page supplement but do not supersede college criteria. Therefore, students should also consult college eligibility criteria and guidelines for the honors program and honors thesis.

The generally accepted procedure for honors in the Computer Science Department consists of the following:

  1. Proposal Presentation: The first step is to write an honors proposal and to submit it to the CS faculty for approval. This proposal should be 3-5 pages long and may be the product of study or summer research with a faculty member. The proposal should follow this outline:
    1. Introduction: A description of your chosen research area and problem including a summary of what has been done by others in the field.
    2. Plan: What do you plan to do? What method or strategy will you use?
    3. Timeline: Describe tangible milestones in your project and when you plan to complete them. This section should take into account all deadlines specified below.
    4. Preparation: Describe what you have done to prepare yourself to do this work. You should include relevant class projects, independent study, internships, summer research, and coursework.
    5. Bibliography: What you have read?

    As part of the approval process, you will be required to give a 15-minute formal presentation about your problem and plans to the CS department. Following this presentation, you will be expected to answer questions about your area, problem, and plans.
    Deadline: Your proposal must be approved by the beginning of the senior year.

  2. Drafts of introduction, background, method.
    Deadline: End of January, beginning of February. 
  3. First draft of experiments, results and conclusions.
    Deadline: End of March. 
  4. Symposium talk: March/April 
  5. Completed Thesis: Three copies of the semi-final copy of your thesis must be bound and placed in the department office to be read by members of your committee and other interested parties. Readers will make comments that must be addressed in your final copy (see item 8). Overall, what you write should state a hypothesis and try to show that hypothesis to be valid. To do this you need to tell your reader what problem you were trying to solve, what your hypothesis is, what you did to support that hypothesis, and how well you think your work supports it. A suggested outline is shown here, but confer with your research adviser:
    1. Chapter 1: Introduction: Describe your research problem: the area, possible applications, why it is a problem, why it is important, and your hypothesis.
    2. Chapter 2: Background: What have others done in this area? How does their work relate to yours and in what respect is your work different? How did other work shape your approach? Does the relevant work give more importance to your chosen problem? Did that work shape your hypothesis in any way?
    3. Chapter 3: Method: Describe how you support or provide evidence of your hypothesis. What was/is your strategy? What program(s) did you write and how do they fit into this strategy?
    4. Chapter 4: Experiments and Results: Describe your experimental setup, the tests you performed, and the results. Analyze each experiment and, at the end of this chapter, the suite of experiments.
    5. Chapter 5: Conclusion and Future Research: Now what do you conclude about your hypothesis. Is it a good one? Do your results support your hypothesis? Are there important unanswered questions? What are they (future research) and how do they impact your belief in your hypothesis.

    Deadline: One week before the end of April.

  6. Thesis Defense: During reading period.
    A formal presentation and demonstration of your work (15-30 minutes). Answer questions about your work from members of your committee, the CS faculty, and other attendees.
  7. Final version of Thesis
    Deadline: July 1