masters thesis

HST Master's Degree Thesis Guidelines


1. Title page
2. Submitting a Thesis proposal
3. Joint proposal
1. When to start on your thesis
2. Thesis time allowance
3. Choice of a thesis topic
4. Thesis supervisor
1. Typing of thesis
2. Abstract of thesis required
3. Number of thesis copies 
4. Copyright of thesis
5. Publication of thesis
The proposal should contain a title page, similar to the sample below and consisting of the following items:
  • The heading should contain "Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge, Massachusetts, Harvard- MIT Program in Health Science and Technology."
  • The degree(s) for which the thesis research is intended.
  • The tentative title of the thesis, limited, if possible, to eight words or less.
  • Your name, mailing address, and signature.
  • The date of submission of the proposal and the expected date of completion of the thesis.
  • The laboratory in which the research will be done.
  • Abstract of the proposal (see below).
  • A signed supervision agreement as shown on the attached sample. If the thesis is done off-campus, the off-campus supervisor should also sign the thesis proposal. (If a change in supervisor becomes necessary, notify the Office of Academic Administration.)

Submitting A Thesis Proposal

The proposal should reflect the guidance of the thesis supervisor. There is no minimum length for the proposal. It should contain sufficient detail to clearly define and justify the research problem, and the proposed research plan. Preliminary results may be included if available. 
When, in the view of the thesis supervisor, the proposal is acceptable, a copy should be submitted to the HST Academic Office, for the records. Approval of the thesis proposal is not required by the HST Graduate Committee; rather research may be started once the research supervisor approves the proposal.
The proposal package should include the following:
  • Thesis proposal (see above link), signed by the student.
  • A thesis proposal abstract that serves as a concise and accurate description of the proposed work when separated from the thesis proposal. .
The abstract should include: 1) a condensed description of the background and significance, explaining why the work is important, 2) the specific aims of the proposal, and 3) a summary of the methods to be used to accomplish the specific aims. Headings within the abstract (Background, Specific Aims, and Methods) are optional. The recommended maximum length is 300 words.
  • A signed supervision agreement from the thesis supervisor (can be included on proposal title page. See sample above.).
The staff of the Writing Program in the Department of Humanities, MIT is available to give assistance with thesis proposals. They provide seminars, workshops and individual help with such matters as organization, style and grammar
Choice of a Thesis Topic
The initial and most important step is the selection of a thesis subject. Your should endeavor to find one which
  • is of such direct and intense interest to you that your enthusiasm is not likely to drop with time and adversity. However, you should realize that there is a variety of possible subjects that are eminently suitable. It is a mistake to spend too much time trying to find 'the optimum thesis topic';
  • gives you a maximum opportunity to learn--not only about the particular subject being investigated, but more importantly, about the proper methods to use in technical investigation;
  • is not so remote from your field of special training that acquiring the necessary background will lead to an excessive delay;
  • adds, however modestly, to professional knowledge in the field.
As you begin searching for such a thesis subject, it may prove useful to pursue the following steps.
  • Question your HST Faculty Advisor about the well-established programs of research being carried out in the community. Your advisor can tell you about the broad nature of these programs, and can direct you to the appropriate persons in each project for further information.
  • Consult with those members of the faculty and staff whose interests lie in the field in which you wish to work. This will be most effective after you have developed some definite ideas of what you wish to do. Defining an appropriate topic is an important educational part of the thesis experience.
  • Attend colloquia and seminars held by HST and by other departments and laboratories. Graduate students are always welcome at such meetings.
  • Review the graduate theses of recent years available online via the MIT Libraries. You will often find in such theses definite suggestions made by the writers for continuance of the work. 
Note: You should look at all graduate theses, not just Master theses. Although the scope of the two theses differ, the general area is what you need to determine.
Typing of Thesis
Refer to "Specifications for Thesis Preparation" prepared by the Director of MIT Libraries at http://libraries.mit.edu/archives/thesis-specs/. This document should be consulted before final preparation is begun.
Abstract of Thesis Required
After a thesis has been completed, its further value is largely dependent on the extent to which it is read and found useful by others. It is important to supply a well-written abstract which outlines the scope and achievements of the thesis so that prospective readers can determine whether or not they should read any further. An incidental advantage is gained because the abstract will in many cases enable the library staff to catalogue the work more fully and more accurately. Accordingly, the Committee on Graduate School Policy requires that each thesis contain an abstract--preferably one typewritten page (single-spaced), but in no case more than two such pages--in which is given a description of the problem and of the procedure used in the investigation, together with a brief statement of the results found of the conclusions reached. Other material may be included in the summary if you find it pertinent. Your objective is to inform another engineer or scientist, who is not necessarily a specialist in your field, what you worked on, how you did it, and what one may expect to learn about the problem by reading further.
Number of Thesis Copies Required
HST requires that three copies of each Master's thesis be submitted to the Academic Office, that is, two copies for the MIT library on acid-free paper and 1 .pdf copy for HST, for a total of 3. In addition, many of the laboratories in which the thesis research is done also require a copy for their libraries, and in most cases the supervisor wants a copy. 
Classified Theses
Faculty rules require that copies of all graduate theses shall be deposited in the Institute Library where they are available to the public. Consequently, no student is permitted to embark on a thesis which might be classified as "Confidential" or "Secret" for reasons of national security, or "company confidential" for proprietary reasons.
Inventions and Inellectual Property Requirements
Student who receive support from sponsored research or MIT-funded projects or who make significant use of MIT-administered funds and facilities are required to sign the MIT Invention and Copyright Agreement. MIT's policy in regard to intellectual property rights (patents, copyrights, etc.) is described in the Guide to the Ownership, Distribution and Commercial Development of MIT Technology which is available from the Technology Licensing Office. Students holding fellowships (e.g. NSF Fellows) which impose requirements regarding patents and copyrights should consult with Mr. Domingo Altarejos in the HST Academic Office before signing a patent agreement.
Copyright of Thesis
The thesis should carry a statement of copyright ownership on the title page. Ownership of the copyright shall reside with the student except when the thesis research is performed in whole or in part, with wages, salary, stipend or grant support, from funds administered by the Institute or if the thesis research is performed in whole or in part utilizing equipment or facilities provided by the Institute under conditions that impose copyright restrictions, in which case the Institute will retain ownership of all copyrights. If you have been a Research Assistant during your thesis research, the Institute will own the copyright. In most other cases, including students who do thesis research at a cooperating company, the student retains ownership. If a student assigns ownership of the copyright, the student's name should appear on the title page as copyright owner. A notice of the transfer of ownership may be included on a following page. If you have any question as to copyright ownership, consult the Institute's Technology Licensing Office, but please keep the HST Academic Office informed. Note that a copyright refers to the document and not to the ideas contained therein.
When copyright ownership rests with the student, the author must, as a condition of a degree award, grant permission to the Institute to reproduce and distribute publicly copies of the thesis. A statement to this effect must appear on the title page.
When copyright resides with the Institute, any further publication, in whole or in part, shall be made only by authorization of the Institute's Technology Licensing Office. This authorization may be requested by letter or by using a form available in the HST Office of Academic Administration.
Publication of Thesis
Publication of part or all of the thesis in professional journals is encouraged. When copyright resides with the Institute, permission to publish must be obtained as described in the preceding section. If copyright belongs to the student, publication should be discussed with the thesis supervisor. 
The publication of the thesis, or any portion thereof, should include the following acknowledgements:
This paper is based on a thesis submitted in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree of (degree name) from the Harvard-MIT Program in Health Science and Technology at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in (month, year).
If the work was supported by a project, fellowship, grant, etc., acknowledgement of the sponsorship should be included.