INFSCI 2099: M.S. Thesis

By appointment with the instructor
Instructor: Marek J. Druzdzel


Every student in the MSIS program has the option of working on a Master of Science Thesis (M.S. Thesis in short). This work is conducted under the direction of a faculty advisor. Upon completion of this work, the student has to successfully defend a written thesis in a public defense attended by a thesis committee composed of the advisor and two other faculty members. A successful completion of the thesis work earns three credits towards the MSIS degree. Of course, a successful completion of a thesis can be rewarding in many other ways, for example by the opportunity to present the work at a scientific conference, by publishing it in a scientific journal, or by laying the groundwork for a successful Ph.D. dissertation. The option of doing thesis work is strongly recommended for students who wish to establish a research record or pursue a Ph.D. degree, but is open to any student in the MSIS program.

"Should I do thesis work or not?"

This question is asked by most entering students, certainly those whom I have advised in choosing the program for their studies. Unfortunately, only a small fraction of them decides to do thesis work. I respect each individual decision and I am far from judging whether in each individual case it was the best decision possible. As a researcher working in the area of decision making under uncertainty, however, I am too familiar with problems that a human decision maker typically faces and the suboptimality of decisions that result. I would like to make sure that whatever decision is made, it is well informed. I would like to refer the reader to a short essay Why Would I Want to Work on a M.S. Thesis? addressed to the incoming MSIS students that reviews the reasons for and against choosing to work on a thesis.

Time frame

Students should think about working on a thesis as soon as they start their studies in Information Science. I usually see the first semester as the time when the student learns the environment: the department, the faculty, and their research interests and makes the initial contacts with the faculty. It is advisable to have established the first contact with the prospective faculty advisor by the end of the first semester. Please, note that the faculty with whom you might want to work on a thesis does not need to be your initial faculty advisor -- you may at any time elect to change advisors. The first semester may be the optimal time to do that. The second and third semester of studies are typically spent on reading relevant literature supplied by the advisor or traced individually during library searches, taking courses that will be helpful in working on the thesis, and doing the preparatory work. This is when the student usually takes an Independent Study course with the advisor. Independent study conducted at this stage should ideally be a preparation for or a part of the thesis work. The fourth, final semester is spent on completing the thesis work.

Working on a thesis with me

Students interested in working on a M.S. Thesis with me should contact me personally (EMail, phone, or office hours). Before doing so, please, make sure that the general area of my research corresponds to your interests. If you do not know what my research interests are, the best way to learn is to look at my World Wide Web pages, starting from my home page. Be sure to look at my list of publications and explore the WWW pages of the Decision Systems Laboratory (DSL), which is my research group. The following page lists examples of M.S. Thesis topics pursued with the Decision Systems Laboratory. I strongly suggest that you consider taking one of my courses, Decision Analysis and Decision Support Systems (INFSCI 2130 / ISSP 2240) or Research Design (INFSCI 2100 / ISSP 2250) to get acquainted with the general area of my work and to let your skills and capabilities be known. The syllabus for the Decision Analysis and Decision Support Systems course contains general information on what decision making under uncertainty is about. If you have questions, please feel free to visit me during my office hours (or get in touch with me for a different meeting time) and I will be glad to talk with you.

Marek Druzdzel's teaching page
Marek Druzdzel's home page / Last update: 28 October 2006