Distributed Systems

Thesis and Report Guidelines

(for Bachelor theses, term projects/Onderzoeksstage papers, and Master's theses)

Problem Statement and Plan

Before you start a project, in particular one you came up with yourself, you should have a problem statement (1–2 pages). In this, you should outline the following things:

  • what is the general area you want to work in? why is it important?
  • what is the state of the art, what have people been doing so far (some references)?
  • why do you want to do something different and what? why is that new/cool/better/different/more elegant/more efficient/etc.?
  • what is the problem you want to solve? why does it solve the issues/problems? with the previous approaches/methods/solutions and how does it do that?
  • what is the methodology/steps that you want to use to approach the problem?
  • what is the plan for the timeframe of your project?

Structure of the Thesis or Paper

A usual thesis/paper structure follows the form: introduction, related work, concept, realization, evaluation and results, conclusion and future work. Since these are only guidelines, depending on your topic you may need to differ from these. Most major chapters (or sections in a shorter paper) should have some form of summary: what have you learned?

Related Work

  • cite all the related work properly that you base your own work on
  • discuss why it is relevant and what is similar or different to your own work
  • use images (from other papers) to illustrate the related work, credit the authors with a reference in the image caption
  • give details for each publication (authors, title, year, page numbers, publisher, publisher address (town); for articles volume and number and month; for things other than books, articles, or papers also the type of publication)
  • BibTeX helps for formatting this properly and consistently
  • when you are looking for PDFs of papers:
    • first try the digital libraries we have access to: ACM, Elsevier/ScienceDirect, IEEE Xplore, Wiley InterScience, parts of SpringerLink
    • these work only from the RUG domain, if you are not at the university log into the proxy
    • look for PDFs of the papers on the authors' home pages
    • google for parts or for the full title of the paper, google both with the title put in quotes and without quotes
  • generally, using material that you did not write/create yourself without citation or reference (i.e., plagiarism) is not accepted and will be prosecuted, plagiarism scanners may be used

Concept and Realization

  • these are scientific documents, concentrate on the research issues, what are the problems and how did you solve them?
  • this does not mean to ramble on about this or that bug, but conceptual problems and solutions
  • how does your method/approach differ, how is it better than related techniques?
  • what are the innovative techniques or methods that you have used, what is novel?
  • give details on your technique/method and interesting (new) implementation aspects
  • use illustrations to clarify your concept and realization (e.g., concept sketches, screenshots, pictures of your system in use, etc., as applicable)
  • if you can and if it applies, provide a video (e.g., a screen capture) as well

Language and Style

  • write in a concise and easy to understand way, avoid overly long sentences
  • if your reader does not understand what you try to tell him or her, than it is not the reader's fault but usually yours
  • be consistent, e.g., use the same personal pronouns throughout your document ("I discuss" vs. "we discuss" vs. impersonal "is discussed")
  • use proper expressions, do not use "don't", "ain't", "it's" etc.
  • avoid the use of the future tense when you give an outlook of what you will talk about: "In Section 3 I discuss ..." rather than "In Section 3 I will discuss ..."
  • there should be no sectioning part in your document where there is a header without text (e.g., the header of Section 3.1 should not directly follow the header of Chapter 3, but there should be some explaining text in between)
  • each figure, table, and reference should also be somewhere referenced in the text
  • write in a gender-neutral way, a user is not necessarily male (or female)

spell-check, grammar-check, and proof-read your document before handing it in

  • if possible, let someone else proof-read your document, too

Size of Document

(to be seen more as guidelines rather than strict expectations)

  • Bachelor thesis: approx. 15–20 pages
  • Term project (Onderzoeksstage): approx. 10 pages, paper format, use the TVCG format, see the description on the TVCG page
  • Master's thesis: approx. 55–75 pages

Typesetting your Document

  • again be consistent, make sure that everything is numbered, typeset, and referenced correctly
  • make sure that your document has all necessary parts (page numbers, title, table of contents, text, list of references, lists of tables and figures, appendix; as appropriate)
  • while you are free to chose any system you like, LaTeX may help you to easily achieve this consistency
  • a good LaTeX template for a thesis is classicthesis
  • a LaTeX package to format the title page of your thesis in the style of the University of Groningen

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