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Theses Supervised by Joachim Hertzberg

Joachim Hertzberg Professional CV Publications Courses Theses Projects

Open and Running Thesis Topics

[The link to open theses is accessible only from within the University of Osnabrück.]
Please contact me if you are interested!

Further Down this Page ...

  1. FAQ: Format and Size of a Thesis
  2. FAQ: What's in a Thesis Exposé?
  3. About Reproducibility (a non-FAQ, sadly)
  4. Past Theses

To start with something obvious, yet sometimes violated as we had to learn recently, a thesis has to be written according to the ethical principles of good scientific practice. A short paper (in German) about this is available under this link (Gemeinsames Positionspapier das Allgemeinen Fakultätentags, der Fakultätentage und des Deutschen Hochschulverbands, 9.7.2012).

FAQ: Format and Size of a Thesis

Theses differ in breadth, depth, and size, depending on the grade they are for, i.e., Bachelor, Master, Diploma, or Doctoral thesis, but their structure is essentially the same: Unless you have had some prior instruction about how to write a thesis, you should give this matter a bit of thought. There are three things to do here:

And how long should my thesis be?

There is no fixed rule about that ("If a Bachelor thesis has 90 pages, then it's probably an A" – no!). What matters is the contents and the presentation, where writing concisely is a virtue, but writing too scant means you won't be understood.

As a rough guidance, think of the following sizes as defaults:

assuming common-sense formatting. Deviations of these default sizes are welcome if they make sense. For example, if your topic is in image processing, and your thesis contains many images, then it is very likely to be significantly longer. On the other hand, if a bachelor candidate manages to write down the proof that P is unequal to NP in three pages, then he or she will most probably pass.

A point about formatting. You need not use LaTeX. However, if a student/candidate in Informatics delivers a thesis in a layout that is significantly worse than what TeX/LaTeX has been achieving since 40 years now, then s/he needs to explain that to me. (Remember: Science is all about improving on existing results!) This is particularly true for bibliographies that BibTeX would produce for you as a bibliography has to be, without any further effort -- well, provided that you classify correctly the pieces of literature that you cite and that you follow the error and warning messages that BibTeX would deliver you for free.

On Acknowledgements

Some candidates feel that they want to include some words of thanks in their theses. If you do so, then put it between the Abstract and the Table of Contents. You can do it, but you don't have to. And here is a comment.

There are universities these days (after all the doctoral dissertation frauds of 2010/11 and later) who think it appropriate to ban Acknowledgements from theses to avoid the candidates' flattering the professors for better grading. I don't agree with these universities, and I wonder what they think of their professors' mindsets. Adding an appropriate acknowledgement if you feel grateful for something is not flattery, but a question of style. But think about what you acknowledge. If your thesis project has gone well, your supervisors (professors or whatever academic ranks) would normally have invested a lot of time in your work, which we would have had other ways of spending, had it not been for your thesis. However, mind that this is the work for which we get paid and which we have chosen voluntarily; mind further that we normally pose thesis problems that are of intrinsic scientific interest for us in the first place. So, appreciate diligent thesis supervision, but don't be too astonished if you see it happen.

When thinking about what and who to thank for, consider that a thesis is normally the end of some longer period of study. If you have finished it successfully, it is primarily owing to your own work and perseverance, which you have every reason to be proud of. But usually, there are others who have made this possible for you: By financing your study, by donating their time to you, by tolerating your nerviness at exam time, or whatever. Don't forget them in your acknowledgements, if you decide to insert some. But note: A thesis is a public text, so it is no place for getting too personal -- not even in the acknowledgements! And in an academic thesis, all parts have to be truthful. That includes acknowledgements. Acknowledge what is worth acknowledging, and exactly that.


FAQ: What's in a Thesis Exposé?

When I accept to supervise a thesis (be it a Bachelor, Master, or Doctoral Thesis), I will ask the candidate to produce, as the first milestone in the project, an exposé of his or her thesis. Its size and the time available for producing it differ for the three types of theses: For a Bachelor thesis, it should be available about 2-3 weeks after the formal thesis start; for a Master thesis after 1 month; for a Doctoral thesis after 3 months. However, the idea and structure are equal in all three cases.

A thesis is a one-person research project, and think of the exposé as a project plan. It needs to answer the questions: What is the goal of the project? Where does it start from? Why bother? What is the plan to run it in time? In terms of a research project and a thesis exposé, this leads, more sternly, to the sections

Have you ever seen in a supermarket a bottle with the label saying "Bottle"? A can called "Can"? Yet, many students decide to call their theses exposé "Exposé". That makes no sense -- "Exposé" could be or appear in the subtitle, but the title should be the working(!) title of your planned thesis. Working title means it may well change in wording and/or detail while you are working on the subject for your thesis later until thesis submission, but it should reflect clearly the main goal and/or contribution of the planned thesis. Please don't forget to put your name on the exposé as the author!
Describe the goal of your work. This may concern an analytical result (e.g., proving that P=/=NP), or an empirical one (e.g., examine the performance of the HAYAI algorithm on gravel paths), or a constructive one (e.g., a new algorithm for stereo matching of images taken in complete darkness), or – most frequently for an Informatics thesis – a combination of the three (e.g., a new 3D scan matching algorithm running in O(log log n) and its evaluation in a botanical garden). Normally, the title of the thesis would reflect the goal.
Scientific and/or technological background
Give a sketch of the state of the art that your thesis sets out to improve. In an exposé, the sketch has to be very short and to the point, mentioning exactly the top most relevant papers. For a university thesis, the background includes stating which local equipment and results you will use, if any (e.g., a Kurt3D robot running the HAYAI algorithm).
If you have absolutely no idea where to start in order to reach your goal, you will probably not make it in time for thesis submission. State here where you will start working. In many cases (typically in Bachelor theses, often in Master theses), a particular approach is enforced as part of the thesis topic that you get.
Expected scientific and/or technological contribution
State briefly in what respect you expect your result to be significant. It should somehow improve on the state of the art, or provide new empirical data, or lead to a result that was never there before.
Work program
Break down your thesis project into smaller steps and make a schedule what you plan to do in which order and in what time. Plan in the order of weeks and months rather than days. If possible and useful, formulate milestones, i.e., important intermediate results. Plan the immediate future in more detail than the distant one. Don't plan for doing all the technical work first, and writing everything down from scratch in the last three weeks: That will almost never work out! Plan to interleave the reading/thinking/programming/experimenting and the writing.

The size and detail of the exposé varies with the type of thesis, according to the calibre of the problem and the available project time. For a Bachelor thesis, think of 1-2 pages; for a Master thesis 2-3 pages; for a doctoral dissertation 5-6 pages.

The author of the exposé is the candidate, i.e., you! Why?: Your thesis supervisors have normally an idea of the thesis topic that they give to you. Your formulation in the exposé shall make sure that you have the same understanding of what you are supposed to work on. Moreover, much of the exposé text may in fact go into your final thesis: a typical introduction shares much of the material with your exposé, and you should have written that yourself.

Be prepared, however, to adjust your topic while working on it! In fact, this is the norm rather than the exception, which leads to the final remark about the exposé: This is a plan for your thesis work, and, like all plans in life, is subject to revision in detail! Don't hesitate to change details of what your exposé says, if it turns out to be necessary. However, do hesitate to change significantly the topic and approach of your thesis that you have described in your exposé – before you do that, consult your instructors!


Reproducibility (a much too unfrequently asked question!)

A valid scientific experiment has to be reproducible. In Informatics, this norm is frequently violated, and even more often, nobody seems to care about reproducing some particular experiment. But that does not invalidate the norm.

For a good or even excellent thesis, this means: If your thesis goals include empirical and/or constructive elements, then your results need to be reproducible for others -- these may be your advisors, and, even better, anybody who reads your thesis and wants to check your results or wants to examine your examples by himself or herself. So, if you write a program or a set of modules as a part of your thesis work, please do make sure that they run at least on our lab computers and that there is somebody of the staff who knows where the software is and how it can be used. Even better, write a little(!) simple(!) interface (which may or may not be graphical) that allows at least your experiments or test runs to be repeated, or, optimally, that gives everybody a chance to do their own experiments or test runs with their own test data. Frequently, bachelor or master candidates, when facing texts from the literature, complain that the reported results cannot be checked or easily varied; and then, the same candidates would often deliver their own results in exactly the same manner that they found so irritating about others' work. That is inconsistent, isn't it? And, what is worse: It is no sound science!


Past Theses

List of academic theses under my principal or major supervision. Quite a number of them have led to joint publications in the past. Please look at my publications under the names of the authors of the past theses.

Doctoral dissertations

If you like: My previous Doc students in the Mathematics Genealogy

Diploma/Master theses

Online material for theses of U. Osnabrück may be available over the KBS Theses page.

Bachelor theses

Joachim Hertzberg Professional CV Publications Courses Theses Projects

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