Project Process

The following process applies to all CSS Division Graduate Students, regardless of degree program (CSSE or CSE) or capstone goals (project or thesis). 

In general, a thesis is a scholarly written document aimed at an academic audience as a contribution to an existing body of knowledge.  A capstone project is aimed at building a connection between academic concepts and the application of those concepts into real-world context.

Before students determine which option to pursue, they should discuss how each option applies to their own individual goals for their degree program with their faculty advisor and the CSS Graduate Advisor.


Step 1: Form a Supervisory Committee

Students who desire to register for their final capstone course must first form a committee of faculty who will supervise and grade their efforts and results of their capstone work.  A supervisory committee will consist of a student’s Faculty Advisor (who will serve as Committee Chair) and at least 2-3 additional faculty members. At least two of the committee members must be faculty whose primary appointment is in the Computing & Software Systems Division. The Chair of the Committee and at least one-half of the total membership must be members of the graduate faculty. For proposals with Chairs outside of the CSS Division, please contact the STEM Graduate Advising Office (located in UW1 360) prior to submission of the request.

Students must submit a signed Request to Form a Supervisory Committee to the CSS Graduate Advisor to obtain an entry code to register for the class.  Included with the signed form should be a brief outline of their proposed capstone goals and associated activities.

The deadline for all committee requests is the seventh week of the quarter PRECEDING the start of a student’s project or thesis coursework. Students should request for specific faculty to staff their Supervisory Committee; however, final staffing assignments of the Supervisory Committee resides with the CSS Division’s Graduate Program Coordinator. Once a supervisory request has been granted, students will receive an email from the CSS Graduate Advisor notifying them of the approved committee and an entry code to register for their capstone course. Students are encouraged to submit their request early, to avoid any registration late fees.

Step 2: File a Thesis or Project Plan

By the end of the second week of the quarter in which a student is registered for their first capstone credits, the student must submit to their Supervisory Committee a detailed project or thesis plan.  The plan should include an updated proposal of the work to be done, a time table listing key milestones and associated deliverables, the quality criteria and specific metrics by which student expects to measure the quality of their result, and the software development lifecycle and processes planned to complete the work.  There are no penalties for deviations in the approved plan or failure to meet the estimates in the timetable or failure to achieve the quality goals.  The plan simply provides a well-defined start for the remainder of the capstone work.  A copy of the approved plan must be submitted by the student to the STEM Graduate Advising Office.

Step 3: Communicate Regular Progress Reports with the Supervisory Committee

Throughout the period of enrollment in the capstone course, students should schedule regular progress report meetings with all the members of their project Supervisory Committee.  Reports should update committee members on the challenges, changes and overall progress of a students work.  At minimum, a student should plan on meeting with their Committee Chair at least three times a quarter, each quarter they are enrolled for capstone credits.

Step 4: Schedule Final Defense

By Friday of the first week a student is registered for their final capstone credits, a student must work with their Supervisory Committee and the CSS Graduate Advisor to schedule a defense of their culminating work.  Students should work closely with their Committee Chair to ensure they are ready for their Final Examination and Defense.  The STEM Graduate Advising Office will coordinate rooms and times for the defense.  All committee members must be present at the time of the defense, or the defense cannot be held.

Step 5: Master’s Degree Request

In the first week of the quarter a student is register for their final degree credits the student must file a Master’s degree request online via  Students should work with the CSS Graduate Advisor and Committee Chair to plan their degree curriculum accordingly, so that their final capstone requirements serve as the culmination of their degree coursework.  Students must be registered for credits during the quarter they want to graduate.

Step 6: Submit Draft of Final Report/Thesis

At least three days before the final defense the student must submit a substantial draft of their project report or thesis to their committee for a preliminary reading.  The purpose of this draft is to demonstrate to the Supervisory Committee that the student has achieved a Masters level competency in computer science and software engineering

Step 7: Final Examination and Defense

The Final Examination and Defense consists of (a) a public student presentation, (b) a public questions and answers session, (c) a closed-door question and answer session between the student and the Supervisory Committee, (d) a brief private discussion among the Supervisory Committee, and (e) the Supervisory Committee announcing to the student the result of the Final Examination and Defense. A typical defense will last one hour.  If a student does not pass the Final Examination and Defense, the Supervisory Committee will work with the student to decide upon the necessary additional work required for obtaining their Master’s degree.  The final examination and defense must take place no later than the third day of the last week of the quarter (final exam week).

Step 8: File your Thesis or Project Report

Project and Thesis students must submit an electronic copy of their final project report or Thesis to their Supervisory Committee Chair AND the STEM Graduate Advising Office by 11:59 pm PST on the final day of the quarter they intend to graduate.  An mechanism will be set up to allow for simple online submission of these documents.  Failure to meet these submission deadlines will delay graduation.

In addition, Thesis students must submit their final thesis document to the UW Graduate School.  Please see the additional document on how to submit your thesis to the UW Graduate School for further information on this important step.  Submission of a thesis to the UW Graduate School is an involved process; thesis students are strongly encouraged to plan this final step well in advance of the deadline.


Have Questions?

For questions on any of this information, or other matters, please contact the STEM Graduate Office.

(425) 352-5490


Project Defense Schedule
       Autumn 2014