2

I have got a topic for a thesis that I'm interested in.

It's not a very difficult task and is well covered by the basic theory in the field. I'm not doing anything new and I'm not supposed to either. I'm convinced that a person knowledgeable in the field would consider it trivial.

Working on the task is mostly only software development, although there's also some hardware involved. Of course there's a huge open source software library that covers pretty much everything in the field.

In essence, I'm calling 2 to 3 functions of the library that are specifically made to solve the task that I have. What I spent most of my time on was writing software that makes some hardware talk to each other, deliver data to and from the library, doing some format conversions, etc. None of this is particularly interesting for the actual topic, it's only providing the logistics of using the library. The academically interesting part is already handled by the library.

I didn't do much except applying the provided functionality to solve the problem in the obvious way as I've been told. I don't really know what I should write about in my thesis.

It looks like my supervisor is very interested in seeing the functionality (of the library) "in action" for this particular application. I feel like an unpaid software developer disguised as a thesis student.

How do I come up with content?


from the comments

I'm convinced that a person knowledgeable in the field would consider it trivial. — So then, why would you choose it as your thesis topic?

I choose this topic because it

  • is interesting to me. I like it. I have a positive mindset about it.
  • is a topic that I estimated to be able to handle and it turned out I can.
  • helps me gain more knowledge in its field that I was previously not very knowledgeable about.
  • This is a question you should bring to your advisor. Hopefully they have a good understanding of both the area of your research and what is required from a Master's thesis in your department. – Ric Apr 16 '16 at 22:26
  • I'm convinced that a person knowledgeable in the field would consider it trivial. — So then, why would you choose it as your thesis topic? – JeffE Apr 16 '16 at 23:34
  • @JeffE thank you for your comment, a tumbleweed badge is the last thing I need. I updated my question with an answer to your question. – clueless Apr 17 '16 at 0:04
  • "I feel like an unpaid software developer disguised as a thesis student." You wouldn't be the first, and you sure won't be the last. – Aesin Apr 17 '16 at 0:16
2

How do I come up with content?

The first thing to do is ask yourself why your supervisor instructed you to perform this work in the first place. Unless they wanted to give you completely meaningless work for no reason (unlikely), they are likely interested in whether the system you are building demonstrates some interesting and non-trivial result. For example, perhaps they are interested in how different types of hardware interact with each other using this library. Perhaps they think that this setup might make x protocol go more quickly. Who knows, the point is that you should find out what their motivation was, and then write your thesis as an analysis of the result they were trying to measure.

I feel like an upaid software developer disguised as a thesis student

You're not going to like this, but in my opinion, what you've described does not qualify as a master's thesis. A master's thesis is essentially a doctoral dissertation of (much) smaller scope. It is by definition a research endeavor. What you have described sounds like just a very basic software project that should take no more than a few days to hook up and measure.

I don't blame you for not knowing this, I blame your supervisor for not making this clear. Some of the main motivations for doing a master's thesis are typically to give a master's student experience with research, and to get them published so as to help them in applying to PhD programs or other research positions. In this case, I think you are justified in being confused about what content to discuss in your thesis because it doesn't sound like your supervisor has directed you to do any research whatsoever.

If you were planning on using this thesis as a boost to your career (be it for PhD applications, or in industry), it may be worth sitting down with your supervisor to figure out how to actually get you involved with research. If the supervisor is giving this kind of work to do as a thesis, then in my opinion it means that they're taking advantage of you as free labor rather than doing what they should be doing, which is guiding you as you learn how to perform research.

| improve this answer | |
  • A master's thesis is essentially a doctoral dissertation of (much) smaller scope. this sentence is highly debatable. – virmaior Apr 18 '16 at 0:31
  • @virmaior What about it do you find debatable? How would you define a master's thesis? – 01010110011001 Apr 18 '16 at 0:40
  • From my understanding, a PhD is supposed to extend our knowledge. In chemistry for instance, failed research projects mean no PhD. There is no such expectation from an MS or MA. A good attempt at a research project is often worthy of the degree. Moreover, the timeline and thoroughness of the two are not equal. – virmaior Apr 18 '16 at 1:41
  • Or to supply a reductio, can't the same be said of a honor's thesis "a MA thesis of (much) smaller scope" or an independent study at the university level. Eventually not just the scope but the mode and expectations change. – virmaior Apr 18 '16 at 1:42

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.