Master's Thesis in the De­part­ment of Physics

These are instructions for the students of the Physics Department in the University of Jyvaskyla.

Instructions for thesis writing

0. About this page

These are instructions for the students of the Physics Department in the University of Jyvaskyla, in particular for writing Master's thesis (FYSS9490; former code FYSZ450), the Bachelor's thesis (FYSA290) and the report of the Research training (FYSS9470; former code FYSZ470)), but also for smaller written texts such as the written part of the Seminar (FYSZ450) and laboratory exercises (FYSS9460; former code FYSZ460)). For simplicity, we shall use the word Thesis below.


1. The subject and the structure of the text

1.1. Subject

The Thesis is supervised and instructed work. Its subject is discussed with the supervisor. Usually the supervisor will first give a few literature references, after which it is easier for the student to find more material in the library or internet. Often the subject of the Thesis will be sharpened after the preliminary literature search.

1.2. Contents

Usually the Thesis consists of the following parts:

  1. cover page (brief descriptive title)
  2. preface (thanks etc)
  3. abstract (less than one page)
  4. table of contents
  5. introduction (chapter 1, starting page 1)
  6. the main discussion
  7. conclusions (the last chapter)
  8. references
  9. appendices

2. Style

The style of the Thesis is that of a scientific report or textbook of the field. Nowadays it is possible to use the structure "I show..." instead of "We show..." or "It is shown..." The text does not need to be entertaining, but it does not need to be boring either.

An equation is always a part of a sentence and equations should be punctuated as part of the text (read the text aloud to find the correct way). You can find examples of this in the standard textbooks used at the Department (in lecture notes the presentation is often more compact). Complicated equations should be written in the display mode. The numbers of the equations can be given e.g. in the form "(2.3)", which is the number of the third equation of the second chapter.

Each figure and table must have a caption describing its content and has to be mentioned in the main text.

In the introductory chapter one usually gives references to some basic works, textbooks and review articles in the field of research. Everywhere in text, give a reference whenever you present something that is not a result of your own work. Quite often in physics the references are simply numbered as [1]. Another way is to take (part of) the name of the first author and the year of publication such as [Ohanian1998] or [Oha98].

3. Appearence

3.1. Cover page

The cover page contains the name of the Thesis, the name of the author, the description (Master's thesis, Bachelor's thesis, Special assignment,...), the date, the place (department/university) and the name of the supervisor/instructor (if not mentioned elsewhere).

3.2. Reference list

For different types of literature references see textbooks or e.g. the Physical review style guide (you can find this by googling).

3.3. Table of contents

For examples, see textbooks. Page numbers of chapters must be given in the table of contents.

3.4. Other instructions

Usually each main chapter starts a new page. A Master's thesis is printed on A4-sized paper, with line spacing 1 or 1 1/2.

3.5. Binding and publishing

The Master's thesis is usually bound in hard covers (ask Minttu for instructions) after it has been officially accepted. Since 2007 the thesis is published electronically by using the www service provided by the university library.

4. Evaluation

The evaluation of a Master's thesis gives some hints for the finishing process of the work:

  1. selection of references and familiarity
  2. outlining
  3. experimental/theoretical part
  4. discussion and conclusions
  5. independence and originality
  6. presentation and language
  7. finishing

The Bachelor's thesis is not evaluated, but it is accepted based on same criteria. For other written works, the evaluation scales can be found in the official study guide of the department.

5. How to get started?

Arrange regular (e.g. weekly) meetings with your supervisor/instructor. Talk also to MSC and PhD students working in the same field. Confirm that you and your supervisor agree on the aim of your Thesis and the audience it is intended to.

It is a good idea to from the very beginning of your work to start writing brief summaries/documentation on what you have done and what you have read.

To get a feeling of what is required, go to the library and take a look at some accepted Master's theses. In the shelf you'll find theses of different levels/marks.

6. How to get finished?

The Master's thesis is worth 20 or 30 credit points (ECTS) depending on the master's degree programme. This also implies that the work should get finished in finite time (3-5 months full time work). Generally the master's thesis work project (worth 30 ECTS) takes about 5-6 months to complete.

Remember that the Master's thesis (like the Bachelors thesis) is a supervised work and you are entitled to get instruction for the related research and writing. Usually the supervisor reads your text 2-3 times so the first version does not need to be the final one. After your Master's thesis is completed, the examiners (there are two of them) have one month to give their evaluation.

The schedule of finishing the Thesis should be discussed with the supervisor. In case you have a specific deadline for finishing your studies, make sure your supervisor knows it. Feel free to discuss all practical aspects of your work, including the level you aim at, with your supervisor.