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Degree Guidelines

Getting Started

  • Research Advisor: Each student is assigned an initial, temporary advisor with whom they can consult to register for graduate courses in their first semester. Students should talk to other faculty about their various research so as to find that which interests the student. The student should find a permanent advisor within the first semester, but no later than the second semester in the program. Once you have selected an advisor, you should complete the Change of Advisor FormThe student’s advisor is the primary mentor and will be actively engaged in the student’s academic, research, and professional activities. The student’s advisor also provides direction on the student’s academic plan and may provide funding support through grants and fellowships. Frequent interaction between the student and advisor is essential for student success. It is the student’s responsibility to schedule regular meetings and communicate often with their advisor.
  • Thesis vs. Project: Students work with their advisor to choose either the thesis or project option. A thesis is larger in scope, from six to nine credits. A thesis is research where questions are formed and addressed; a project involves developing a technological artifact – often developing software. A project is typically smaller in scope, from three to six credits. Both require the student to write a full report. See the graduate catalog for further discussion on what is a thesis versus what is a project .
  • Course Plan: 
    • Students are required to take Graduate Courses related to Computer Science (21-27 credits). All courses should be selected by the student and approved by their advisor and the graduate coordinator.
    • Students can take up to three credits of independent study. Students can also take up to three credits of Practicum (industrial internship). These must be approved by the student’s advisor, committee, and the graduate program coordinator. See next section on how to create a committee.

The Thesis/Project Process

  • Select Topic & Work on Research: Students must define and refine the topic of their  thesis or project  (in their first semester) with their advisor. Students should work on their research topic throughout their studies.
  • Form a Committee: The student’s thesis or project will be advised and evaluated by a committee. Students should work with with their advisor to select and invite an additional two or three  faculty members to participate on the committee. The norm is three members (including the advisor) and the maximum is four members. Typically the members of this committee are faculty within the Department of Computer Science. However, there can be one committee member that is from outside the Department of Computer Science (from another academic department on campus or industry). When the student and advisor have decided on the committee, the student should discuss this with them to make sure that they agree to serve on the committee. Fill out the “Appointment of Supervisory Committee” form (available from the Graduate College website: and submit to Graduate College. A complete directory of faculty and staff can be found on the Computer Science website.
  • Apply for Admission to Candidacy: The student needs to apply for Admission to Candidacy to the Graduate College. This must be done nine months before the student intends to graduate. The deadline is stated in the Academic Calendar for the semester the student intends to graduate, not in the Academic Calendar for the semester during which the student submits this form. This also means that the student must complete their thesis/project proposal before this deadline. Academic calendars can be found at The Application for Admission to Candidacy form can be found on the website for Graduate College ( Part of the candidacy form is to plan out the rest of the your program of study which the student should make in consultation with their advisor. It then becomes a “contract” for the student to follow. Any changes need to be done via a graduate Academic Adjustment form (
  • Propose Thesis/Project: The student must write a thesis or project proposal working closely with their advisor. Proposal defense should be publicly announced. The student then presents this proposal to their committee in a formal presentation. This must be done at least one semester before the semester that the student intends to graduate. After proposal, Proposal Acceptance Form must be completed by the student and signed by all members of committee plus the Graduate Coordinator and then turned in to the CS Admin Office for department record. Detailed instructions for the proposal can be found in Appendix A of this handbook.
  • Write the Thesis/Project Report: The student then writes the thesis or project report and presents it to their supervisory committee (refer to the Finish Line below for details and pay attention to deadlines). It must be written using a template provided by the Graduate College at If the student uses the Microsoft Word template on a Mac, we recommend ensuring use of the most recent version of Office, which is available to students for free. Instructions and samples can be found at

Finish Line: What to do during the final semester before graduation?

  • Advisor Approval: The student verifies with their advisor that they are ready to graduate!
  • Timeline: The student checks the Academic Calendar to find out the last date for thesis defense in their graduating semester (usually by the end of the 9th week). Projects can be defended until the finals week, but we strongly recommend an earlier date to have time to complete changes asked for by the student’s committee.
  • Schedule Defense:
    • The student contacts their committee and sets a date for their defense. They will need to schedule about one and half hours of time. The defense consists of a presentation that is open to the public. Presentations vary in length between 30-50 minutes. After the presentation, there is a public question and answer period, followed by a closed question and answer period by the committee.
    • To schedule a room for the defense and get the defense advertised by the department and graduate college, the student must fill out the CS Graduate Defense Form for CS Admin Office staff. Admin staff will schedule and confirm a room, then produce a flyer advertising the defense to be posted in the department and emailed out to all CS grad students and faculty. Admin staff will also create a calendar item for the defense on the CS Events Calendar.
  • Apply for Graduation: The student then applies for graduation via My.BoiseState.
  • Deliver Thesis to Committee: The student gives a printed copy of their thesis/project report to each member of their committee at least two weeks before the defense date. Some committee members may want even more lead time. The student should check with their  committee well in advance.
  • Defend thesis:
    • On the day of the defense, the student brings one copy of the Defense Committee Approval. This form is available from the Graduate College website:
    • After the defense, the student incorporates any changes suggested by the committee. The student has the committee chair approve the final version by signing the Defense Committee Approval page. A student who fails the defense may be permitted to try again but failure a second time will result in dismissal from the MS program.
    • The student brings physical copies of the Defense Committee Approval page and Final Reading Approval page, as well as the Access Agreement for a Thesis or Dissertation form to the Graduate College office as soon as possible before submitting the document electronically via ScholarWorks. Then the student submits a review copy electronically through ScholarWorks. See the website for more details. All forms are available at:
  • Present project:
    • Project reports are not reviewed or approved by the Graduate College. However, project reports can be uploaded into ScholarWorks, pending approval of the committee chair, and require the signed ScholarWorks Authorization for a Selected Graduate Project (