Masters Thesis

The difference between screwing around and science is writing it down. -- Adam Savage

Before Writing

  • Discuss your MS topic with your advisor.
  • Iterate on the topic until your advisor approves of the topic, scope, and plan.
  • Identify review and submission deadlines with your advisor.
  • In collaboration with your advisor, identify a second reader.
  • Send a polite email to the second reader asking if they would be willing and proposing a review timeline.
  • Create a GitHub repository where you will keep your thesis document.
  • A UIUC MS thesis LaTeX template can be found at:
  • Create a Zotero folder in paper-dev to hold your references (YYYY-lastname-ms).
  • Review the graduate college format guidelines
  • Be aware of various resources like the thesis deposit checklist.

Rules of the MS Thesis

There are many rules. From the grad handbook:

The thesis should be a creative work of potential use to the nuclear, plasma, and radiological engineering community. The scope should permit completion within a reasonable time frame. The thesis must be deposited with the Graduate College Thesis Office. Publication is encouraged.

Review Process

The review process includes a series of major approvals:

  1. Basic grammatical review & approval (e.g. by undergrad)
  2. Approval by your advisor
  3. Approval by the second reader
  4. Approval by the department head
  5. Approval by the graduate college

Review Deadlines

It is best to work backward from the final deadline aiming to give at least two weeks to your second reader and to the department head.

Stage       Days Before Deposit       Duration
Iterative Edits with Huff       varies       varies
Submit final full draft to Huff       56       2 weeks
Handle Final Huff Comments       42       4 days
Submit to 2nd Reader       38       2 weeks
Handle 2nd Reader Comments       24       4 days
Submit to Department Head       20       2 weeks
Final Edits       6       2 days
Graduate College Review       2       2 days
Deposit Deadline       0       0

Fall Example

An ideal fall, with a deposit deadline of December 11 might (ideally) look like this.

Stage       Start Date       End Date
Iterative Edits with Huff       09/15       10/16
Submit final full draft to Huff       10/16       10/30
Handle Final Huff Comments       10/30       11/03
Submit to 2nd Reader       11/03       11/17
Handle 2nd Reader Comments       11/17       11/21
Submit to Department Head       11/21       12/05
Final Edits       12/05       12/09
Graduate College Review       12/09       12/11
Deposit Deadline       12/11       12/11

Spring Example

An ideal spring, with a deposit deadline of April 26 might (ideally) look like this.

Stage       Start Date       End Date
Iterative Edits with Huff       varies       varies
Submit final full draft to Huff       2/28       2 weeks
Handle Final Huff Comments       3/03       4 days
Submit to 2nd Reader       3/17       2 weeks
Handle 2nd Reader Comments       3/31       4 days
Submit to Department Head       4/04       2 weeks
Final Edits       4/20       2 days
Graduate College Review       4/24       2 days
Deposit Deadline       4/26       4/26

Writing and Advisor Review

The process can be either whole or piecemeal. In Prof. Huff’s experience, it is best to enable chapter-by-chapter review of your thesis by your advisor. A great way to do this with Prof. Huff is the following workflow:

  • Note the ms-thesis-template in the arfc github org.
  • Create a GitHub respository in your own GitHub user space (ideally, usetemplate).
  • Work on this document in your repository. Feel free to use feature branches and merge into master, or just commit directly to master as you go.
  • You need to give Prof. Huff collaborator permission on this repository to allow issue assignment.
  • At some point, you decide that a part of your masters thesis is ready for Prof. Huff’s review (e.g. the literature review chapter)
  • (optional) Tag the repository at that state. (e.g. ch1-draft-1)
  • Create an issue like “Huff Review Chapter 1” and assign Prof. Huff to that issue. Note the repository tag in the issue description and include a built pdf in the issue.
  • Prof. Huff will, within a week or two, conduct a review on the pdf.
  • When Prof. Huff has completed the review, she will close the issue you assigned to her and will open one or more NEW issues, assigned to you, detailing the changes which must be made.
  • Respond to the review issues via discussion on the github issue and ideally submit a PR that handles those issues. Prof. Huff can review your solutions to those issues by reviewing pull requests, and/or by evaluating your progress in later stages of review. But, all PRs and issues should have a built pdf linked in their description.

When Prof. Huff approves of the thesis, you should email the thesis to your second reader with Prof. Huff CC’d.

Review by the second reader

Both the thesis advisor and the second reader should be given at least two weeks, or up to a month with the document.

After Writing

  • Add yourself to the degree list.
  • Get the TDA form from Kristie.
  • Get Prof. Huff, the 2nd reader, and the NPRE department head to sign the TDA form.
  • File your thesis with the graduate school.
  • Complete any other degree-related beurocracy.
  • Add the thesis to ideals.
  • Add the thesis to Zotero