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I'm in a situation where I've probably bitten off more than I can chew. I decided to do my master's thesis on an original (as in, invented by me) machine learning algorithm, which I believe (and my advisor agrees) is interesting and might have something to contribute to the academia.

As a part of the thesis I wanted to implement the algorithm. However, implementing it is turning out to be a major pain. I've been working on the implementation for several months and the end is still nowhere in sight. Due to this, I'd like to change my thesis to be simply a description about the algorithm and comparison of it to existing, similar algorithms.

So my question is, is it feasible to have an original, unproven and untested idea as the main focus of your thesis? This feels iffy to me: master's thesis is supposed to be a sign of academic maturity, but nothing seems more unacademic to me than publishing an untested and unproven idea in the form of thesis, and not even having a working implementation of it.

I'd really appreciate advise, dragging this thesis is really getting the better of me. Thanks.

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    I'd like to change my thesis to be simply a description about the algorithm and comparison of it to existing, similar algorithms. — How will you compare your algorithm to existing ones?
    – Mad Jack
    Apr 24, 2016 at 23:57
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    What does your supervisor say? He should know how to redirect your project, and what is expected of you.
    – Davidmh
    Apr 25, 2016 at 11:08
  • Could you instead take one aspect of you new original idea and modify an existing (implemented) algorithm to apply that aspect? Or could you get help implementing your algorithm so you could get it done in time? I assume you're being judged on the idea and comparison not the implementation.
    – Rup
    Apr 25, 2016 at 11:36

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Write a chapter of your thesis in the shape of a review paper, which is good enough to submit for publication. Submit it. Write another chapter which builds on the review and uses that as an argument for the derivation of a new algorithm. Present the algorithm. In the discussion, highlight the steps needed to implement the algorithm and point out the problems encountered when you tried implementing it yourself. That's a MSc for me.

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If you have made an original contribution to your field and added to what the community knows, that would seem to me to be sufficient for a master's thesis. Many theses at this level do not even reach that level, and students essentially end up writing review papers for their theses. On the other hand, what you have done does not necessarily reach the standards for a particularly good masters-level thesis. If you are planning to continue in a doctoral program, what will matter will not be whether your thesis is adequate, but whether it is strong enough that your thesis supervisor will give you a very strong letter of recommendation. If your advisor feels that you could have implemented the algorithm, but instead you gave up, that will affect the strength of the recommendation they may give you.

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