I'm currently working on my CS masters thesis. The timeline is set up to 5 months with developing the software and writing the thesis itself. My supervisors and me had a nice idea that would (if it were implemented successfully) be a great contribution to a currently running research project of one of the supervisors.

I started out with checking whether the first of the two main problems of the thesis would work at all (I implemented that part of the software, it worked and so we were fine with that). After that, we felt confident to finally and officially register the thesis, so that eventually, with that day, those 5 months of officialy working on it started.

Today, 2.5 months later, I'm stuck with the second part of the problem. Since starting to work on that two months ago this one great problem was cut down into many smaller ones of which a few are solved, others aren't.

Those few unsolved problems are a major issue now. On the whole, our "great idea" with which we started works under the condition that those few unsolved problems would some day work, but currently I feel

  • that some of the unsolved problems can't be worked out in the remaining time
  • few of them I might not be able to solve at all - literature on them is very rare or non existend; I suppose we're the first people to try to accomplish that fuctionality with these tools

In conclusion I currently don't believe that the whole "great idea" we initially had can be put into software within the time horizon of my thesis (or at all).

The questions now are:

  1. I think I need 6 weeks (more likely 8 weeks) for writing the text of the thesis, so my time is running and I fear I cannot finally and certainly find out which of the remaining problems can be solved; What to do (and write) in that case in my thesis?

  2. I think my supervisors expected this whole thing to work out, being implement in code. I fear I'll not satisfy that expectation. What to do about them telling me I could have done better, worked more, harder?

  • 4
    I think my supervisors expected this whole thing to work out How come? You did not tell them what you said in this question? Why did you not keep them posted? They are your supervisors. They should have known it the minute when you knew. Go to them today and let them tell you what to do.
    – Nobody
    Feb 16, 2017 at 14:19
  • 5
    My Master's Thesis was 100 pages of "here's what I tried and it didn't work for these reasons". My committee loved it. Research isn't always about finding what does work -- telling others about what doesn't work is equally important.
    – Kathy
    Feb 16, 2017 at 14:56

2 Answers 2


First of all, you can relax about the fact that you won't solve everything. In research, it's the default case that you will solve some of the problems, and leave plenty of others as future work. (There's a great inspirational comic about this truth.)

  1. As a criterion for selecting the remaining problems you want to work on, I recommend to select the ones that will help you to a tell good overall story in your thesis. For example, it's better to deliever a program that works in certain cases and under certain assumptions, rather than a program that never works, but could possibly work if certain remaining problems would be solved.

  2. Make sure to have the facts on your side. For example, prepare a table with the specific tasks you solved/tried to solve, the time you spent trying to solve them, and the specific issues that made the tasks hard to solve.


Whenever you find a subject that it is considered A GREAT contribution to the area (and you find yourself in the middle of a huge problem that might need to be solved) ... ask yourself the following question: why this problem was not addressed before? Perhaps previous seniores researches with more experience than you faced that very same questions and, even so, it still lacks a resolution.

Is this problem marked on surveys from this subject as an open research opportunity? Did someone try to do this before (even remotely) ? Why didn't they succeed? I think you already kind of answer this questions to yourself when you stated that there is no time to solve your problem.

When I did my master's I faced a problem similar to you.. you need to narrow down the comprehensiveness of your thesis... focus on a particular subject inside of this huge contribution you would expected to give.. Only this way you have a chance to do a work your are proud of..

Be clear to your advisor about what is going on.. then you two should decided together how your going to proceed (cut of a slice of your good pie to present as a mater thesis and perhaps bake the rest of the cake on a PhD proposal ou research assistant position - what about that?).. I am afraid you reached a state of anxiety because you know you can't handle the hugeness of your work and in order to delivery something good, you need to get ride of these feeling.

Hope my advise helps.. good luck and have in mind that you are not the only one who is going (or went) through this


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