Wednesday, 16 April 2008

Master work

This post is designed to extend the earlier started discussion about PhD works as a master degree is an entry level for the doctor study :).

One of the major questions that students and reviewers appear to struggle with is the difference between a bachelor and a master works: what are requirements failing to meet which the work will be graded as "no more than BS"? I am going to give an answer basing on practices of Tallinn University of Technology / Departments of Informatics:

- A bachelor student should demonstrate in his work an ability to use acquired knowledge showing what he got from university.
- A work meeting the "master" level should contain a certain level of analysis done by the student - understand the system, formulate advices how it can be developed further, formulate an opinion on the system stating advantages and disadvantages of it, conduct a comparative study of the system etc.

Master works are divided into two categories:
- applied (engineering)
- scientific

The scientific one is a starting point for a doctor work, since the master one should be further developed there on a higher, PhD level.

The engineering one usually requires sufficiently less and that is why such works sometimes are considered to be too weak i.e. with a conclusion that the work is nothing more than a BS one. Notice that any engineering work normally deals with some kind already existing application or ideas of further development of a real system. That is why it is so important to fulfill all requirements and particularly write why you decided for one or another alternative instead of just describing it. It is very advisable to include into the work a preliminary analysis of alternatives conducting a comparative study.

Regarding the work formating: Normally the work should contain no more and no less than 50-60 pages, font - 12pt with 1.5 line spacing. A paragraphs' depth should be no more than 3 levels.

Your work should generally contain the following chapters
1. An introduction into the area of the work, a description of problems to be solved in this work.
2. An overview of alternatives, existing methods to deal the earlier stated problem. This is done on detailed, professional level (while the introduction contains history, high level descriptions etc.)
3. Conduct the analysis (i.e. the main analytical content of the paper)
4. Conclusion

Considering the requirement to have no more than 3 sub-chapters we could come up with the following calculation: 55 pages divide by (4 chapters * 3 sub chapter [depth only 2]) equals to 5 pages per chapter, which is very very limited amount of pages.

- If you have a lot of ideas - you should train yourself to express within the required scope (number of pages)
- If you have very few ideas to publish - well the required number of pages is not too big, so you don't need a lot to fill just 60 pages :)

Finally, the master work should be written during a semester right before completing the master study.

PS: Each country obviously could have own, specific requirements. For example, Estonia requires:
- If your work is written in English then it should contain a summary (1 page) in Estonian
- If your work is written in Estonian then it should contain a summary (1 page) in English

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