Guidelines for DTAI thesis students

Contact person:  Tim Op De Beeck

Importance of these guidelines

This page concerns all Master in Computer Science and Master in Applied Informatics students who are completing their master's thesis with the DTAI group.

All tasks in the overview below are mandatory! If you fail to complete these tasks, this will be accounted for when grading your thesis and you are taking a serious risk of failing.

Bis-students can consult with their promotor to obtain exemptions for some of the tasks below. Obtaining an exemption requires the prior explicit approval of your promotor. The two intermediate reports are always mandatory: exemptions are never possible for them.

Overview and Calendar

The calendar below gives a chronological overview of the tasks that you are expected to complete during the academic year. More information about these tasks can be found on this page.

This year we will use the Toledo platform to follow up on these tasks. In your course overview, you should find an item called DTAI thesis. This contains a Wiki page which should be used to upload all presentations, reports and texts. It is the responsibility of every student to maintain his or her page and make sure that the promotor and daily advisor(s) can access all the required information. If you have questions or problems using this page, please contact Tim Op De Beeck.

Most dates in the calendar below are preliminary and will be updated throughout the academic year. You will be reminded about them through Toledo.

  • October 2: info session for new master's thesis students (Celestijnenlaan 200A Auditorium 00.225) – mandatory DTAI seminar – (slides)
  • October 23-27: 1st intermediate presentation
  • November 4: 1st intermediate report
  • December 18-22: 2nd intermediate presentation
  • December 23: intermediate text
  • March 6: seminar on how to make a scientific poster – mandatory DTAI seminar
  • March 13: 2nd intermediate report
  • March 27-31: 3rd intermediate presentation
  • April: You will receive an e-mail from the CW secretariat to send the final title and language of your thesis. Discuss this with your supervisor.
  • May 4: poster
  • May 10: present poster at poster market
  • two weeks before handing in: ask promotor/daily advisor for green light to hand in
  • beginning of June: hand in final text + scientific article
  • end of June: thesis defence (scheduled by CS secretary)

Furthermore, during both semesters there will be a number of DTAI and departmental seminars. In addition to the two mandatory seminars, you must attend at least six other seminars.

Departmental and faculty guidelines

Next to the DTAI-specific guidelines, there are a number of departmental and faculty guidelines regarding master's theses.

  • Departmental info (organized per program, only Dutch)
  • Faculty info for Master in Computer Science (Dutch, English) and for Master in Applied Informatics (Dutch)
    • KU Leuven has very strict rules concerning plagiarism, see the links above.
  • The above links also contain useful information for advisors!

DTAI-specific guidelines

Below we give a detailed overview of the DTAI-specific guidelines.

1) During the academic year

a) Seminars

Every student has to follow at least eight seminars.

  • Two DTAI seminars are mandatory and specifically targeted at DTAI students: an info session at the beginning of the academic year and a seminar about making a scientific poster (see calendar above).
  • The other six seminars can be chosen freely from the DTAI and departmental seminars. You will be notified by e-mail when such seminars take place. The scheduled DTAI seminars can be found here.
  • For at least eight seminars, including the two mandatory ones, a brief report with feedback should be sent through this form, containing a concise answer on the following questions:
    • Where you able to follow the seminar easily? Was it given at the right level?
    • What was positive?
    • What could be improved?
b) Intermediate reports

You should report every week to your daily advisor(s) and promotor the number of hours spent on the thesis. This will help you to estimate how your thesis is progressing and it also helps supervisors monitor your progress. Talk to your supervisors how to organize this (e.g., through the time sheet on Toledo).

Furthermore, you should hand in two intermediate reports on the progress of your master's thesis.

  • Your report should follow the template of this empty example. A more detailed example can be found here. If you work with Latex, use this tex file (all templates in Dutch).
  • The report should not be longer than two pages.
  • Add the report to the Wiki page on Toledo.
c) Intermediate presentations

You should give three intermediate presentations about your master's thesis.

  • During the first intermediate presentation you discuss the problem statement of your master's thesis together with your promotor and daily advisors. The goal of this presentation is to check if there is a concrete problem statement and a plan to tackle it. Your presentation lasts a maximum of 10 minutes and you should use no more than 5 slides. 
  • During the second intermediate presentation you discuss the context, motivation, obtained results and planning of your thesis. In contrast to the first presentation, fellow students will attend your presentation as well, so it is important to be clear about the context. Talk to your daily advisor and/or promotor about the content of your presentation. It should last a maximum of 15 minutes and afterwards there will be 5 minutes to discuss questions. If you want to use a DTAI laptop, contact the DTAI contact person (Tim Op De Beeck) at least two days in advance and bring your presentation on USB stick in PDF format.
  • The third intermediate presentation has the same structure and length as the second presentation, but is only attended by your promotor and daily advisor. 
  • Add the slides of each presentation to the Wiki page on Toledo.
d) Intermediate text

Before Christmas, you should hand in a first part of your text, from which it should be clear that you understood the broad context of your thesis, went through the relevant literature, thought of a good problem statement and that you have a clear plan for the rest of your thesis.

The intermediate text contains:

  1. An introduction that explains the subject to the reader and gives an answer to the following questions:
    • What is the research question / problem of the thesis?
    • Why is it relevant?
    • What did others do to solve this problem and why is this not enough?
    • What do you do differently / what is new / what are the contributions of this work?
  2. Background
  3. Overview of related work
  4. Problem statement
  5. Planning (brief)

Parts 1-4 of the intermediate text should be used a much as possible for the final text.

Students who are not planning to defend their thesis in June can contact their promotor to set another submission deadline for the intermediate text.

e) Scientific article
This task is only applicable to Master in Computer Science students and does not apply to Master in Applied Informatics students and has changed w.r.t. previous years.
Ask your supervisor whether you have to write a scientific article about your master’s thesis.  This will be decided on the basis of the topic of the thesis.
If you have to write a scientific article, the following are standard guidelines (to be discussed with your promotor):
  • Write the article in English and use the IEEE latex style (use the "Templates for Transactions").
  • The length of this article is 6 pages according to this style, unless you agreed on a different length with your promotor.
  • The article should present a problem statement, an overview of scientific literature (background), a description of your research, and results, among other things. Again, the intermediate text should form a basis for the article's components such as the problem statement and literature study.
  • Add the text to the Wiki page on Toledo.
  • For further guidelines about this article you should contact your promotor and/or daily advisor.

Add the article as an appendix to every copy of your master's thesis. The article shouldn't be handed in separately.

f) Poster

This task is only mandatory for Master in Computer Science students and does not apply to Master in Applied Informatics students.

You should make a poster about your master's thesis.

  • Before you begin:
    • There will be a DTAI seminar about making posters in March (see calendar above).
    • As an inspiration you can have a look at the posters of previous years.
  • When making your poster:
    • The poster should give a high-level overview of the work you have performed.
    • Make the poster in Dutch or English.
    • Technical guidelines:
      • Make the poster in A1 format. Making the poster in a different format and then transforming it to A1 sometimes gives problems, which should be avoided!
      • Take into account the content-wise and technical advice on the ICTS website.
      • When you are done, export your poster to PDF.
      • Before you upload your poster, check whether 1) it looks OK in PDF, 2) your PDF is in A1 format (in Acrobat Reader you can find this under File -> Properties -> tab Description -> Page Size, this should be A1 or 594mm x 841mm).
  • You hand in your poster by putting it on the Wiki page of your thesis by the given deadline (see above). Additionally you send your poster to Tim Op De Beeck . Then we will print your poster.
  • About one week after submitting the posters, there will be a DTAI poster market. During this poster market you will present your poster in the hall of the department to your fellow students and DTAI members.

Of course the quality of the scientific article and the poster will be considered when grading your thesis.

2) When completing your master's thesis (text + defence)

a) June or September?

The default option is to defend your thesis in June. Other options are:

  • Defending in January. This should be applied for in due time with the academic secretary (for Master Computer Science you can find more information on this page).
  • Defending in September (= submitting in August). As soon as you decide not to defend in June, contact the following persons:
    • your promotor and daily advisor(s),
    • Nina Geenen of the CW secretary (he plans the thesis defences and should be notified).
b) General guidelines

Important: have a look at the departmental website with general guidelines about the text and the defence! These guidelines also hold for DTAI master's theses with the exception of the guidelines concerning posters (for example, it is allowed to use your own template).

c) The text

  • The deadline you will find in the calendar on the top of this page.
  • Length of your text: the desired length is 50 to 60 pages, and the maximum length is 70 pages (this is a DTAI-specific guideline).
  • Title of your master's thesis: the title of the master's thesis you have chosen is only a preliminary title. The final title is not necessarily the same. While writing, discuss with your promotor and daily advisor which will be the final title of your master's thesis.
  • Don't forget to add your scientific article and an A4 print of your poster as appendix to every copy of your master's thesis. You should also hand in a digital copy through KU Loket. More information can be found here.
d) About the context for your text

The thesis text is very important. It is the main result of your work, and in most cases the only permanent result. 10 years from now, your code will likely no longer be used, your advisers will likely have left this university, your promotor will likely have forgotten how good your work was. But your text is stored permanently, and will be available to the general public for decades.

For this reason, you should devote much effort to producing an interesting and well-written text that makes clear what you did, why this was useful, what the results of your research are, etc. This will strongly affect your grades. While your promotor and advisers may take your daily work into account, the assessors will evaluate you almost exclusively on the text and the presentation.

Make sure to have sections of the text ready several weeks before the deadline, so that your advisers can proofread them. This is important for the whole text, but even more so for the introduction and conclusions.


The introduction should ensure that the reader knows what the work is about, and what the main contributions and outcomes are. It should answer, briefly but clearly, the following questions:

  • what is the research question or problem you have investigated?
  • why is it interesting?
  • what have others done?
  • why does that not answer the question or solve the problem (in a satisfactory way)?
  • what is it that you do differently?
  • to what extent does this help?
  • what are the main conclusions from this work?

Avoid giving too many details in the introduction. Most of these things will be discussed in more detail later on. For instance, "what others have done" is typically included in a separate chapter "related work " or in the literature study. The introduction provides context of the work but also gives a preview of what will come. It briefly discusses the structure of the remainder of the text, and clarifies what is explained where (for instance, where the main contributions of the thesis are), so that a reader who, for instance, already has a lot of background and wants to skip straight to the description of the main novel elements knows where to find them.

Main chapters
  • Provide the background necessary to be able to read the text. Assume the reader is your average fellow student. What does this student, who did not study your topic in detail, already know? What should he know before he can understand the remainder of this text? The gap between these two must be bridged early in the thesis.
  • Describe the state of the art. What is already known, which problems remain open? A literature study can provide an overview of the current state of the art. Closely related work may be discussed as part of the literature study, or may be described in a separate section.
  • Define your problem very clearly. Provide a formal definition if possible, using mathematical definitions.
  • Define the basic novel ideas underlying your approach. Provide logical or theoretical arguments for this approach: why do you think this is a good idea?
  • Describe the approach itself, in such detail that a reader could also implement this approach if s/he wished to do that.
  • Novel approaches to problems are often evaluated empirically. Describe the evaluation process in such detail that a reader could reproduce the results. Describe in detail the setup of an experiment. Argue why this experiment is useful, and what you could learn from it. Be precise about what you want to measure, or about the hypothesis that you are testing. Discuss and interpret the results in terms of your experimental questions. Summarize the conclusions of the experimental evaluation.
  • Briefly recall what the goal of the work was. Summarize what you have done, summarize the results, and present conclusions. Conclusions include a critical assessment: where the original goals reached? Discuss the limitations of your work. Describe how the work could possibly be extended in the future, mitigating limitations or solving remaining problems.
e) The defence
  • The defence of your master's thesis will take place the during the week before the deliberation. The exact planning is made by the CW secretary.
  • While preparing the defence, follow the aforementioned general guidelines. This also holds for the length of the defence.

De DTAI-professoren,
Bettina Berendt, Hendrik Blockeel, Maurice Bruynooghe, Jesse Davis, Bart Demoen, Marc Denecker, Luc De Raedt, Danny De Schreye, Gerda Janssens, Tom Schrijvers.