In my MSc thesis implementation section, I have used two tools: Matlab and Python scripting. How should I introduce and mention them in my implementation chapter?

Thank you,

  • For python, see this. – user3697176 Jun 14 '15 at 15:42
  • Thanks. After digging a bit further I came up with this bibTex: – svahidhoss Jun 14 '15 at 18:25
  • @misc{van2015python, title={The Python Language Reference. Python Software Foundation}, author={van Rossum, Guido and others}, year={2015}, howpublished = {Available at \url{python.org}}, note = {Accessed: 2015-03-10} } – svahidhoss Jun 14 '15 at 18:35

It somewhat depends of the publication style that you use for your thesis. For example, APA (6th edition) does not recommend to cite standard office software and programming languages.

Therefore, if you would follow the APA guidelines, you'd just mention Python everywhere you need without citing any sources, however, you'd have to cite the MATLAB software. See the "Computer Software/Downloaded Software" section in APA Style Guide on electronic sources for an example of how to format software references. Applying this style, I came up with the following citation (note it's a hybrid of the two approaches, due to my attempt to accommodate the company's geography):

MATLAB. (2012). MATLAB (Version 8.0) and Statistics Toolbox (Version 8.1) [Software]. Natick, MA: The MathWorks, Inc. Available from http://www.mathworks.com/products/matlab

Please note that citing MATLAB, following some other publication styles, such as Chicago, is discussed in this blog post. If you use LaTeX to create your thesis, this blog post can help.

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  • I forgot to provide an example for the in-text citation, based on my answer. So, in your implementation chapter, you would say something like this: "The system was implemented, using MATLAB (2012), ...". – Aleksandr Blekh Jun 14 '15 at 4:59
  • "does not recommend to cite standard office software and programming languages." - doesn't this decision mainly depend on the target audience? – O. R. Mapper Jun 14 '15 at 7:22
  • @O.R.Mapper: Of course, depending on the audience, you can cite those, but it doesn't fall under the APA Style Guide coverage. Perhaps, other publication style guides take different stance on this. Having said that, considering the prevalence of the standard office software, such as Microsoft Office, it IMHO doesn't make much sense to cite it. However, programming languages might be a different story, again, based on the audience, publication's type and goals as well as individual preferences. – Aleksandr Blekh Jun 14 '15 at 7:33

As opposed to many papers, Bachelor, Master, and PhD theses usually give you a lot of leeway on how much space to use and how much extra material and possibly interesting meta-information to include. Likewise, there is no fixed rule, but rather a minimum and maximum of information that could or should be included. (Even with that in mind, the personal preferences of the advisor, or of whoever grades the thesis, or the specific customs at the university in question, may well override the boundaries described here.)

  • At least, you should mention the most important technologies you used by name (and, as pointed out by Davidmh, their version numbers) to point out for which parts of your work you used them.
  • At most, you should describe in detail why and how you used the respective technologies in each particular case. This can well include a somewhat detailed description of specific features of the technology, if that helps readers to get a better idea of your motivation to choose that particular technology, of possible difficulties that did arise due to using the technology, or in general, to what extent your current implementation based on a technology might be extensible. It should probably not include an extensive description of facts about the technology that are entirely irrelevant to your work, such as (in most cases that I can think of) who originally published the first concept for a technology, or in what year and country the company driving the technology's development was founded.

When choosing what exactly to describe and where to add details, also make sure to consider the target audience you are writing for:

  • Will people of different fields likely read the thesis? If so, you may rather lean towards describing more of the involved technologies, as none of them might be universally known.
  • Is the thesis directed to one particular field? If so, if you want to reduce the amount of text to write for some reason, start with skipping the details on technologies that are definitely known in the field and concentrate on technologies that are possibly unknown or require further justification.
  • Are future thesis writers possibly going to read your thesis? In universities I am acquainted with, this is typically the case, which is one of the reasons why I always suggest to my students that they do not forget to add some meta-information (e.g. some information about the technologies and particular tools used for creating the very thesis document, if there was anything remarkable about them).

Lastly, in my opinion, pointing to some further information about the technology (e.g. the official website) at its first mention is always the best choice, even though not strictly necessary. There is no point in hiding possibly helpful information from the readers if it does not even lead to bloating the text (such a pointer can be inserted as a reference or a footnote).

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  • 1
    Thanks for the through answer; my field is computer eng. still I believe my work can be used by people from other fields, therefore I'll decided to mention both tools. – svahidhoss Jun 14 '15 at 18:38
  • @svahidhoss: Sure, as I implied in my answer, it is entirely optional to skip any such information and you are free to mention everything you used. That's why I would always recommend to mention both technologies, even though it is not strictly speaking necessary. – O. R. Mapper Jun 14 '15 at 18:55

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