Dejan Kostić: Master’s Thesis Guidelines and a Writing Checklist, 2016-12-21

This document is the result of my attempts to interpret, deeply understand, and apply the government-prescribed learning objectives for Master’s theses and master-level degrees in Sweden. I developed these thoughts in discussion with Profs. Maguire and Hidell at KTH and some phrases are directly attributable to them.

A Master’s thesis is an independent engineering contribution. This is in contrast with a doctoral dissertation, which is an independent scientific contribution. Thus, the element of innovation and advancement over the state-of-the-art in the field is much smaller. Nevertheless, this means that the student has to demonstrate the ability to independently work on an engineering problem, document his or her choices, and thoroughly evaluate the chosen approach. A more pragmatic way to think about the Master’s thesis is that it is a way of communicating to other engineers in Sweden and anywhere else in the world the importance of a particular approach to solving an important engineering problem. Thus, the student needs to ensure that the following questions are answered in the Master’s thesis:

Did you provide sufficient background for another engineer with a Master’s degree to understand what the problem is?
Did you explain what problem is being solved and why it is relevant/important?
Did you document your literature study (a review of the state-of-the-art in the field) and how this information is relevant for the problem at hand?
Did you thoroughly describe all the design choices that you identified while performing your literature study?
Did you describe why you selected a particular approach among those choices that were available?
Did you describe in enough detail your prototype/algorithm/implementation/ model/… so that another engineer could reproduce your work?
Did you explain which metrics you have used in your evaluation and why you selected these metrics?
Did you thoroughly explain your experimental/simulation/… setup such that another engineer could reproduce your results?
Did you thoroughly evaluate your prototype/algorithm/implementation/ model/system/… (e.g., varying message size, number of users, bandwidth available/used, etc.)?
Did you thoroughly explain why you were seeing the results you were seeing? This is important so that another engineer (perhaps even 10 years from now) can look at this thesis and understand whether the work is relevant for him or her.
Did you apply proper statistical methods to analyze your data? Running one or just a few experiments is generally not enough.
Did you explain the limitations of your approach? There is no need to be defensive, as nearly all work has some limitations, but you should properly document what the limitations are.
Did you explain any ethical considerations and sustainability issues relevant to the work?
Did you ensure that you have proofread the document for typos and grammatical errors? A definitive writing guide is the Chicago Manual of Style (, while Microsoft Word and online tools such as can help you.
Student’s Name: 
Date draft was submitted to examiner: