← CSC 590 Thesis Seminar

Thesis Executive Summary

I’m grateful to Sumona Mukhopadhyay for giving me this assignment write-up, which I used with slight changes. I have also borrowed some language from assignments (no longer online) from Cliff Shaffer.


In this assignment you are writing an executive summary of your thesis research area, with key supporting references. The “audience” for this executive summary are computing professionals who are not necessarily experts in your specific topic area. For example, other Computer Science graduate students or professors in related areas of expertise, like those will make up your thesis committee.

The summary must be no longer than one single-spaced 10-point-font page, including title lines, keywords, summary body, and bibliography. Use a “Blank Project” on Overleaf as your starting point.

Note: Your submission will be peer reviewed. It will be randomly assigned to two peer reviewers (your classmates) and you will receive feedback from them.

The executive summary must cover these points:

  1. Identify your research area within Computer Science. You should strike a balance between not appearing too general (e.g., “algorithms” or “software engineering”) and not appearing too specific (e.g., “characterising and optimising the serverless workload at a large cloud provider”, which sounds more like a paper title). If you have yet decided on a research area, pick one that you are considering for the purpose of this assignment. Narrow down your research area as far as possible at this stage in your thesis work. (5 points)
  2. A general description of the area, including why it’s important and interesting. (5 points)
  3. A discussion of the major developments in the area, in chronological order. (10 points)
    • This should include interspersed references to the most relevant work in the area, including what you believe to be the seminal work (if such work is readily identifiable). (5 points)

For the references, provide at least five, and no more than eight, highly relevant references from the literature. The references must be cited appropriately in your executive summary and compiled in a bibliography using BibTeX.


As you work on your summary, look for the following:

The goal here is to help you to clarify your thinking, and writing is a great way to do this. You don’t need to have settled on a particular research topic before you start working on this assignment. Instead, working on this assignment should help you get closer to a research topic.

Talk to others while working on this assignment. In particular, if you have an advisor, you’re encouraged to seek their feedback on your thought process. If you don’t have an advisor, think about the graduate class you have taken or are taking that interests you the most, and talk to your instructor. Or, come to my office hours and talk through your ideas with me.