← CSC 590 Thesis Seminar

Thesis assessment

I’m grateful to Sumona Mukhopadhyay for giving me this assignment write-up, which I used with slight changes.


Choose an exemplary master’s thesis from a past Cal Poly MS student, then summarise and critique it. Theses from previous Cal Poly students can be obtained at Cal Poly Digital Commons.

Thesis quality assessment


First, summarise the work. Describe the project in your own words. What are its goals, methods, and results? (Don’t just copy the abstract!)

Then, evaluate and rate the thesis based on the following criteria.

For each criterion below, give it a score on the scale below. Descriptions for each criterion and how you should judge them are below. Where specified, provide a 1–2 sentence justification for your score.

Thesis abstract

Here you rate whether the abstract presents the problem and motivation (at a high level), summarizes the main contributions and results.

Problem definition

Here you rate whether the problem(s) addressed by the thesis are well defined. That is, whether the research questions/hypothesis are carved out or not.

To justify your rating, summarize what the problems are. Not being able to summarize the problems is justification for a low score on this criterion.

To critique this aspect of the thesis, indicate whether or not the thesis delivers a good solution to the problems it purports to solve. Justify this critique by citing specific parts of the thesis that make it clear how the problems are in fact solved.

Writing quality

This is a general evaluation of the writing quality. There are a vast number of ways to evaluate writing quality. One of the most important writing qualities for a thesis is clarity of presentation. So for this critique, focus on this aspect of the writing, and justify your critique as follows:

Contribution to the state-of-the-art in the field

Does this thesis advance the state of the art in its specific area? Justify your evaluation by summarizing precisely how it does so, or if it does not, how it falls short.

An important measure to justify a thesis’ contribution to the state of the art is how thoroughly and how “well” it cites related work. Good coverage of related work includes:

Simply citing a laundry-list of related papers is not sufficient.


Is the work presented in the thesis original and/or innovative? Justify your evaluation by summarizing in what ways it is or is not. You should be able to identify one or a few new ideas that the thesis contains. If you cannot do so, then a low score is appropriate for this criterion. Note that ideally, the thesis should itself make a case for its novelty.

Implementation of technical content

The technical depth of a thesis varies based on its type. If it is experimental, then the experiment should be asking a hard and important question, and use rigorous techniques to analyze the experimental results. If it is a project, then it should involve non-trivial specification, design, and implementation techniques to complete. If it is theoretical, then it should use rigorous techniques to prove its results. Justify your evaluation by citing specific parts of the thesis where the technical depth /implementation/simulation (based on the type of thesis) is achieved.

Validation of the work

Validation is a third type-specific evaluation criterion. For an experiment, the thesis should compare its results to the work others in the field, and verify that its results are significant. For a project, the thesis must validate that the implementation works, including with usage studies if appropriate. For theoretical work, the proof must be complete and correct. For a survey, the critical analysis must be cogent, and backed by a substantial number of references to the literature. Justify your evaluation here by citing specific parts of the thesis where the validation appears.

Future Work Quality

Summarize the adequateness and the feasibility of the future work. Future work should not sound like a science fiction movie. It should be attainable and meaningful.

Overall quality of the thesis

Summarize the results of the preceding critiques in one or a few sentences that sum up what you think of the thesis overall.

Impact on your thesis

If you are already working on a thesis project, how is it similar to or different from this one? This can be terms of topic/ methodology/overarching goals/etc. What has changed in your thinking about your project after reading this? If you are still deciding on a thesis topic, reflect on what aspects of this thesis project were expected or unexpected.

Does the thesis give you any ideas about future work or things you might try to incorporate into your own thesis? Describe in 1–2 sentences the goals for your thesis.

Formatting requirements

Use LaTeX to complete this assignment. It’s recommended that you create a free account Overleaf and use that. The second option is far easier.

Start a “Blank” project in Overleaf and use that for your assignments.

Submit the compiled PDF when you are finished.