Graduate Programs

Thesis Research

Objectives of Thesis Research

A student who chooses the thesis option of the program leading to the degree of Master of Science with a major in industrial and systems engineering must satisfactorily complete six hours of credit in ISYE 699A, Master’s Thesis. If a student completes more than six hours in this course, the additional hours are not counted toward the 31 hours required for graduation under the thesis option.

The purpose of a master’s thesis is to train the graduate student, under the guidance of a faculty adviser, to conduct independent research. The responsibility for generating the topic of research, performing the work, writing the thesis and defending it is that of the student. The role of the adviser is to suggest ideas, guide, motivate and support the student, evaluate the work and correct errors. A certain degree of originality and significance of contribution are necessary requirements of a master’s thesis.

Typical Thesis Objectives

  • Predict the performance of a system under given controllable factors and environmental conditions, for example, to investigate the effect of the location or design of a computer keyboard on the likelihood that the operator will develop “carpal tunnel syndrome.”
  • Optimize the performance of a system, as measured by one or more criteria, by determining the appropriate values of controllable factors; for example, to determine the cutting conditions of a certain tool-part combination that will strike a balance between minimizing surface roughness and maximizing tool life.
  • Design a system that will perform one or more functions under given conditions, for example, a protocol for a distributive control system of a computer-integrated manufacturing cell, or an algorithm for scheduling a set of jobs on multiple machines.
  • Design a methodology or algorithm for solving a problem which has a broad range of industrial and systems engineering applications, for instance, application of parallel computation to solve the traveling salesman problem.
  • Evaluate alternative system designs, methodologies or algorithms.
  • Establish theorems or theories which expand the body of knowledge in industrial and systems engineering and furnish a basis for the development of methodologies or algorithms.

Components of a thesis

  • A clear statement of the objectives of research and its scope, and a precise definition of the criteria for measuring the attainment of these objectives.


  • The background of the problem tackled and a justification of the need for the proposed research.
  • A survey of the literature on the subject.
  • A description of the model used, with clear definitions of the variables and their notation, and an explanation of the relationships among these variables. Any theoretical analysis of the model must be clearly presented.
  • If experimentation is called for, the following elements must be clearly explained: design of experiments, analysis of results, and interpretation. Complete description of experimental conditions and accurate recording and reporting of observations is of prime importance.
  • Conclusions and recommendations which establish that a contribution has been made.
  • Acknowledgment of the contributions of others.
  • Complete citations of referenced material.
  • Any appendices or exhibits. Lengthy tables or theorem proofs may be best included in an appendix to not interrupt the flow of presentation in the text.

Characteristics of a good thesis

  • It represents an original contribution to the field of industrial and systems engineering. The key here is originality and applicability to industrial and systems engineering problems.
  • It differentiates between what is common knowledge, what is quoted from other authors, and what is contributed by the researcher.

Thesis Research Guidelines

  • A student must select a thesis adviser as soon as possible and decide on an area of research for the thesis. The student must also register for the appropriate number of credit hours for the thesis, ISYE 699A, in the semester(s) during which work on the thesis is in progress.
  • After deciding on a particular research topic, the student must prepare a formal thesis proposal detailing the research problem to be solved, the proposed approach, and the potential contributions of the research. The proposal must also include a list of tasks and the corresponding estimated completion dates. The student must review the existing literature thoroughly on the chosen research area before preparing the proposal. The proposal must be submitted to the thesis adviser for initial approval.
  • After the thesis adviser has approved the proposal, the student must form a thesis committee consisting of the thesis adviser and at least two other faculty members with expertise related to the thesis topic. A majority of the committee members should be from the Department of Industrial and Systems Engineering. A majority must also be members of the graduate faculty.
  • The student must submit the proposal to the committee members and present it in a meeting of the committee for formal approval. The thesis proposal along with the cover sheet containing the approval of the committee members must be submitted to the department. The fully approved proposal will stand as an official contract between the student and the thesis committee, and will help the student avoid having to make drastic changes after the thesis has been completed. If a need arises for a major change in thesis direction, the student must prepare a new proposal to be subject to the same process of approval.
  • While working on the thesis, the student must regularly schedule appointments with the thesis adviser and report the progress of the thesis. If the student encounters any major hurdles to the research while working on the thesis, he/she must request a meeting of the committee members and discuss the possible remedies to overcome the hurdles. Any changes made to the previously approved proposal must be amended and approved by the committee.
  • After completing the written report of the thesis, the student must obtain an initial approval of the report from the thesis adviser. Then the student must make copies of the report and distribute them to the committee members. The committee members must be given at least two weeks to read the report. The student is also required to follow the thesis format requirements of the Graduate School.
  • To graduate in a particular semester, the student must schedule the thesis defense at least two weeks before the deadline for submission to the Graduate School in that semester. This will give the student adequate time to make the necessary changes suggested during the defense and resubmit the thesis report to the committee members for final approval.
  • During the thesis defense, the student will be asked to give a presentation on the thesis research. The student will then be questioned on the work. After this, the thesis committee will evaluate the work in a closed meeting and decide whether to approve the thesis or require any changes or additional work.


  • After the student has implemented the suggested changes, if any, and resubmitted the thesis to the committee for final approval, the committee will decide on a satisfactory/unsatisfactory grade for the thesis. If it is found to be satisfactory, the student must submit three copies of the thesis to the Graduate School, including an original.
  • The result of the thesis or graduate project examination is reported to the Graduate School on a “Report on Master’s or Specialist’s Examination.” A portion of the research required by ISYE 699A may be performed in off-campus facilities if approved by the student’s graduate committee. Approval of the thesis itself must be documented on the form “Approval of Thesis, Dissertation, or Documentation,” and of the final version on “Submission of Final Version of Thesis/Dissertation/ Documentation to the Graduate School.”
  • If the student wishes to replace either the thesis adviser or a member of the thesis committee, the student must submit a formal petition to the committee stating the reasons for requesting the change and how it will help the student’s progress. The petition, along with the recommendations of the existing and proposed committees, must be submitted to the department chair for final decision. Any change in the adviser or the committee must not violate the professional rights of the former adviser, members of the committee, or the student.