Theses at Department Theoretical Computational Linguistics

How do you find a thesis topic and how do you prepare for it. From finding a topic to registration and submission, everything is discussed.


This website explains how you could find a thesis topic and how do you prepare for it. It discusses everything from finding a topic until registration and submission.

This document holds for theses in which Roman Klinger or Sebastian Padó act as reviewers. The proposed procedure is probably similar for other supervisors, but might differ slightly.

Topic Selection

The first question when you prepare for writing a Master's or Bachelor's thesis is the topic selection. To come up with ideas for your thesis, we propose the following sources:

  • Seminars and lectures you attended in specialized areas. Perhaps you can come up with ideas for research questions which were raised in a paper that was discussed in class? Or your teacher mentioned a topic which might be promising? You see an interesting application of a method or want to improve a method?
  • We have a list of open topics at Ilias. This might be outdated for some topics, but the general ideas might help you to see what current topics of interest are and what typical topics of our research group can be.
  • Look at our research interests, check out our recent publications. Is there something that sounds interesting? Could you come up with an idea that is related to one of our approaches? (See also at personal webpages of Sebastian Padó and Roman Klinger.)
  • In general, have a look at our group website and our lists of projects and publications there.

Theses in collaboration with companies or external institutes

If you work in a company or an institute outside of University of Stuttgart and there might be the possiblity to write a thesis in collaboration with them, we are in principle willing to support this. However, we ask for the following procedure:

  • At IMS, we find it very important that BSc/MSc theses have a clear scientific perspective: they typically investigate a substantial, relevant, current research question and present empirical experiments about that thesis on a non-trivial dataset. Implementation plays only the role of a tool in this process. This may not be easy to square with companies' interests, which are typically more focussed on practical developments or improvements.
  • As a result, the process of defining a thesis typically takes substantially longer than for an internal thesis. Please make concrete steps at least 2 months, better 3 months, before the thesis should start. 
  • The first step should be that you ask a person at the institute or company to contact us with regard to the thesis topic and the potential suitability as a thesis.

Finalization of Thesis Topic Definition: Writing a proposal

After you found interesting topics (or an external partner agreed with one of us to collaborate) get in touch with your supervisor in our group. Get an appointment and discuss the thesis topic.

The next step is now to write a research proposal. Do not start to work on this before a first meeting with your supervisor!

The proposal is a short document (typically 3–5) pages which helps in different aspects:

  • You familiarize yourself with the topic.
  • The supervisor and you make sure that you both understand the topic in the same way.
  • The goals are well-defined.

Such proposal typically consists of the following subsections:

  1. Introduction and Motivation
    Explain the general background of your topic. What is the application, what is the task, what is the challenge you focus on. Why is this a relevant research topic and area.
  2. Previous and Related Work
    Introduce relevant papers regarding the task and application, previous attempts to solve the task or similar tasks. From this section, it needs to become clear what the current state of research is. This leads then to...
  3. Goals and Objective
    Based on the introduction and motivation, in which you explained the challenge your work on and the previous work, it should now be clear what the research gap is, the small area you want to fill with novel knowledge. This section is comparably short and clearly states what you plan to achieve. This is typically formulated as a research hypothesis or a goal what should be possible after your completed your thesis that has not been possible before. This section can also include the artefacts your generate in your thesis (programs, resources, corpora, etc.).
  4. Material and Methods, Approach
    Now the task is clear, the current state of research is introduced, and the goals are set. In this section (which is often the longest in a proposal), you explain how you build on previous work to address and reach the goal which you motivated at the beginning of the text. This can include things like resource generation, annotation, software design and implementation, problem analysis, implementation of a baseline system, a first prototype, an extended version, performing experiments, analyzing the results.
  5. Time Plan
    The approach section explains how you do your work. This section consists of a table in which the left column defines a date and the right column explains a milestone to reach. Explanations are not needed here, the titles of the milestones should be clear from the approach section.

Typically, a couple of iterations of writing the proposal, getting feedback from your supervisor, refining are needed. When you are done and your supervisor agrees, you register your thesis. This cannot wait long: After the thesis is well-defined, you need to register as soon as possible. You cannot start to work and register later.

For that, you need to get the form for Bachelor' theses or Master's theses and get the confirmation from the examination office that you have enough credit points to get started. You can also directly print this from C@MPUS.

After that, you get the signatures from your supervisor and then go to the responsible person in the "Sekretariat" to perform the registration. She will stamp the document, take a copy and then you go to the examination office again.

During the thesis and when you are done

While you work on your thesis, you will meet your supervisor several times. How often is necessary and makes sense depends on the topic and what you need. When you experience delays or unexpected circumstances, you should talk to your supervisor. They will help you to solve the problem. If you become ill, you should also tell them if it takes longer.

You can extend your thesis submission deadline once, but only if there is a good reason. A good reason is if you were ill. Not a good reason is that programming took longer than expected. If you need to extend, talk to your supervisor.

You are really in trouble?

Writing a thesis is typically an enjoyable experience. You work on an interesting topic intensily, and you actually do something new. However, it can be stressful. If you experience serious issues, you should talk to your supervisor. In cases where this seems not to help, we also recommend to think about talking to the psychological support at Studentenwerk. You can also talk to your program manager or the head of the examination committee. 

This image shows Roman Klinger

Roman Klinger

Prof. Dr.

Adjunct Professor

This image shows Sebastian Padó

Sebastian Padó

Prof. Dr.

Chair of Theoretical Computational Linguistics, Managing Director of the IMS

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