The basic principles

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The Master Project has two components: a research project and a related MSc thesis. The master project is a very important part of the study. It is not only a sizeable part of your total study, but much more: your first job after graduation is commonly related to your master project; personal preferences and interests within the main subject of your studies can be exercized and deepened; theories and methods are put into practice; missing knowledge can be completed by literature study; writing a significant piece of well-argued scientific text is practiced; one frequently acquires work experience and on-the-job training; and a network of contacts is built that is very useful also later on.

A important point for the master project is that it can be very practical in solving real-life problems in computer science, but it has to also have a scientific character and level. This implies that there always has to be a proper problem statement, research question and research design for your study. The problem statement must be as concrete as possible, so that it is feasible to (a) get results within half a year, and (b) write a thesis based on your work. It's not strictly required, but we prefer that you write your thesis in English (rather than in Dutch or any other language): a thesis in English helps you reach a broader audience, it is a good experience because computer science is a highly international and even global area and industry, and it helps you to learn prepare and publish professional and scientific papers. The subject of your master project is determined by the availability of 'job openings' for graduating students, by your own interests, and of course by current research topics: master projects are usually directly related to running projects at your hosting institute or company, or in the research group that supports your master specialization. The range of possible master projects is very broad. You can do your master project internally at the VU, externally at a company or research institute, at another university, or even abroad.

Internal Master Project

First, it is of course possible to do your master project internally at the VU. Always many interesting research projects are running that you may find suitable. The advantage is that within the VU your MSc research setting is usually quite clear; something that may be a bit more complicated in an external project. Apart from that, the only practical difference with external projects is that there is no external supervisor.

External Master Project

Upon searching for an external master project, or internship as it is also called, you should seek to balance three different viewpoints and interests. First, your own personal interest of doing a good, interesting and fun master project. Second, the interest of the VU, represented by your graduation supervisor, who grants you an academic Master degree and therefore is responsible to safeguard the scientific relevance and level of your work. Third, the company or the institution, which invests time and effort in you (and possibly offers a financial compensation), and understandably wants something in return for that investment. That is why an agreed research proposal is needed at an early stage: it expresses this balance of interests. Even when you mostly work at an external institution or company, and the company supervisor has most daily influence on your work, the supervisor from the VU is ultimately responsible for assessing, quality controlling and grading your MSc work.

Graduation Project Abroad

Finally, there is the possibility to do a graduation project abroad. Such a project requires more preparation time with regard to making agreements concerning the internal and external supervision and the finalization of the project. More information on graduation projects abroad can be obtained from the various IS staff members (listed in the Master study guide) that through their research all have their own contacts and collaborations with universities and companies abroad.