Master of Statistics

Master of Statistics

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Practical guidelines

This document outlines the procedures with respect to the master thesis within the Master of Statistics program.

Student administration requires all students interested in starting an individual master thesis project to be properly enrolled. Technical details about the exact procedure can be checked with Ms. Martine Machiels.

Secondly, the examination board will consider study results and in case of questionable results the examination committee has the right to prevent the student to start working on the master thesis. The examination committee will give a student permission to start if, based on the results of year 1, he/she has:

  1. ≤ 2 course results < 10/20;
  2. weighted average of courses of 1st semester ≥ 60%;
  3. taken up at least 54 credits

As a consequence part-time students can only start their thesis project in their final year.

A student properly enrolled and approved by the examination board can start working on his Master thesis. It is the responsibility of the student to make sure all proper steps in this process are followed.

Finding a topic for the Master Thesis

In order to find a topic for the master thesis project students basically have 2 options.

  1. Own proposal

    Students can propose a topic themselves in a clearly outlined proposal (research question, short description of the data, proposed analysis technique, institutions involved…) in collaboration with a contact person at an institute, laboratory or research centre… of their own choice. This should be clearly indicated on the attached form ‘Own proposal for Master Thesis’. This form should reach Ms. Martine Machiels, no later than November 1st and should be accompanied with an approving statement of the external and internal supervisor (approval by e-mail suffices). Such an individual proposal needs to be approved by the chairmen of the Master of Statistics Program (Prof. Geert Molenberghs, Prof. Marc Aerts and Prof. Tomasz Burzykowski).

  2. (Online) list of available topics offered by CenStat and partners

    In order to provide a clear overview of all available projects there will be a ‘book of abstracts’ available online containing a brief description of all projects containing some background information and (if relevant) methodological details. Students can consult this list of project abstracts in order to generate a pre-selection with those topics they are interested in. The projects are proposed by CenStat staff members (internal supervisors) or external supervisors from companies and research organizations with whom CenStat collaborates.

When you engage in a project, please keep in mind that your working attitude and communication style reflects on CenStat’s reputation. We expect you to communicate and work with internal and external supervisors in a professional and highly respectful way. Supervisors will evaluate your professional working attitude when deciding whether or not you are allowed to submit your thesis for defence (see below).

Note that students who only met the minimal requirements to start working on the thesis might be restricted to chose a topic submitted by CenStat staff (not by a company).

Master Thesis Kick-off day

In order to facilitate contact with research centres and industry a ‘Master thesis kick-off day’ will be organized at Hasselt University on November 30, 2016 where all companies and research institutes will be invited. The goal of this half-day event is to allow the students to further explore all available topics and discuss those topics with the external supervisors. In case there is a mutual agreement between the student and the external supervisor the topic can be assigned.

Furthermore, practical arrangements can be made between students and supervisors and at the end of this event an assignment form should be signed by the student, the external supervisor and dr. Sarah Vercruysse as representative of the examination board.

Note that it is the responsibility of the students to make sure they have a topic at the end of this event. Students who did not manage to get a topic by the end of this day should contact dr. Sarah Vercruysse as soon as possible.

Contact with Hasselt University during the project

Apart from an external supervisor or company supervisor at the project location, a CenStat staff member will be assigned as "internal supervisor". In case a staff member of CenStat proposes a master thesis topic he/she will automatically take up the role of internal and external supervisor. The main contribution of the internal supervisor is providing advice on the conduct of the project and the writing format of the report. The supervisor will take part in reading the final report and judging the work of the student. The name of the internal supervisor will be communicated by Ms. Martine Machiels.

By no means, it is the responsibility of the supervisor to make sure the project is successful. Of course the contribution of both the internal and external supervisor will be different but it should be clear that the role of the supervisors is only guidance. In the end the student will be evaluated and not the supervisors nor the company.

Finally, while working on the project, the student should discuss the work (encountered difficulties, solution strategies, progress, results, intermediate reports…) with the external and internal supervisors. The student should NOT contact other teachers or researchers at I-Biostat or elsewhere, unless the internal supervisor suggests doing so. In the latter case it is the internal supervisor who initiates this contact.

The report

The context, questions, methodology, results and interpretation of the individual project have to be described in a written document. This document should have the form of a well-written scientific report in which the student proves the ability to analyse one or more specific real life problems and to discuss the possible solutions in a scientific way. The length of the report may vary but should not exceed 40 pages. If thought necessary, relevant computer output may be appended.

Possible sections in such a report are:

  • Introduction
  • Description of the problem(s)
  • Description of the method(s)
  • Data, results
  • Conclusions, discussion, open problems
  • Literature, etc.

Guidance is provided by the projects ‘Learning from Data’ and ‘Discovering Associations’ and by feedback from courses in the first year of the Master of Statistics program that involve reporting on data analysis problems. You can also consult theses of fellow students in the library. Supervisors will provide feedback on your written report. Please discuss the timing of sending a draft with your supervisors to ensure they have enough time to provide feedback. The term ‘draft’ means that this version will likely improve after input of the supervisors but nevertheless refers to a ‘clean’ version, which you have read, corrected and edited yourself before sending it to your supervisors.

Once the student finalized the report and has received permission of the supervisors to submit the thesis for defence (see below), three final steps need to be taken:

1. The report has to be uploaded via a web-based application. This PDF file will be sent out to the internal supervisor and at least one staff member who will be assigned as an extra reader and will take part in the evaluation process of the master thesis. Make sure this is the final version of the report since this will be the document used for evaluation. (if applicable) an electronic version of the thesis report will be also sent to the library. Notice that during this upload procedure it is the student’s responsibility to carefully double check spelling of all names which will be printed on the covers of the final report. You do not have to provide a cover yourself, a cover page will be generated automatically.

The upload procedure can be accessed by logging on to the student intranet and browse to “My Student File” yielding a first screen where one can indicate “English”. Click on “Master Thesis”. The next screen shows all the details about the master thesis (Please check these details and contact Ms. Martine Machiels if any errors occur). These details appear on the cover of the master thesis. Next click on “Instructions upload”. Finally, the next screen shows the publication rights in order to put the report in the library. Please choose between ‘agree’ or ‘disagree’. Once this procedure is finished correctly an e-mail will be sent containing an order form for the printing services. Only after handing in this form and making the payment, the report will be printed and should be delivered to the secretariat (E135) by the student.

2. This PDF file will be checked for plagiarism. If the report of this procedure indicates a concern for plagiarism, the student will be interviewed by the Examination Board and if necessary a sanction (e.g. not allowed to defend the thesis or a modified mark on the final score) will be defined. To avoid plagiarism in your report:
. Do not copy and paste text from websites, articles, master theses, books or other sources.
. Rephrase the information you use from literature and make sure you properly refer to the source.
. If it is impossible to rephrase the text, e.g. when giving a definition, then a correct citation/quotation should be used (e.g. According to Aerts et al., 2012, the definition of a thesis is: “A report to acquire the degree of Master of Statistics” (Aerts et al., 2012, Journal of master theses, 5, p.13)

3. This PDF file will be sent out to the internal supervisor and at least one staff member who will be assigned as an extra reader and will take part in the evaluation process of the master thesis. Make sure to upload your final version of the report since this will be the document used for evaluation.

Evaluation and permission of the supervisors

Both internal and external supervisors will evaluate the quality of the report, as well as your working process. More specifically, both supervisors have to complete an evaluation form and indicate whether they give permission for you to submit the report. This evaluation procedure replaces the formerly used continuation form. Supervisors will receive a reminder by Ms. Martine Machiels to send her the evaluation form 1 week before the deadline to upload your thesis. Students will not receive the evaluation form. It is however the responsibility of the student to ask permission of the supervisors to upload the thesis. A thesis that was uploaded against the advice of the supervisors will not be accepted for defence.

Thesis defence day and final evaluation

The project will have to be defended in public to a jury (15 minutes presentation, 7 minutes questions).  An electronic version of the presentation (PowerPoint, PDF…) has to be sent to 5 working days prior to thesis defense day, mentioning your name and lecture hall you are scheduled to defend. Make sure your presentation is clear, and well structured. We strongly advice you to practice your presentation and reply to questions with fellow students.

The thesis defence day will be organized in separate sessions of ±5 students. The jury of such session will consist of all internal supervisors of the students defending their thesis in this session with a minimum of three teachers. The scoring will be as follows:

  • The report is graded by the supervisor and a second reader appointed within the jury (20 points)
  • The presentation is graded by the members of the jury (20 points)
  • The actual defence with respect to the questions is graded by the members of the jury (20 points)

In case of a failure the student will get one more opportunity in the next academic year with a new project. An exception can be granted by the examination board leading towards the decision that only upgrading and re-defending the current report is needed. Such exception can only be granted upon formal request by the student prior to the defence day. Any information from both the internal or external supervisor can be taken into account by the examination board in order to reach a final decision.

Important deadlines

It is very important to respect the deadlines mentioned below. Failure to meet the deadline is considered a failure for the master thesis.


At the start of the master thesis

  • November 1, 2016: Deadline for proposals of own topic. Use this form.
  • Around September 25, 2016: Announcement of permission to start working on a master thesis project
  • November 30, 2016: Master thesis kick-off day (1 2pm (tbd)-5pm)

At the project kick-off day internal and external supervisors from companies and research organisations will provide information about their project. You are expected to make a selection of the most appealing topics before the kick-off day so you know to which supervisors you want to present yourself as thesis candidate. If you want to make a good impression, you can prepare your motivation to work on the project and questions you would like to ask to the supervisor.

  • February – April: You will be invited by Ms Martine Machiels to sign a master thesis contract which regulates the confidentiality of the data and methods related to your thesis. The content and form of this contract will depend on your project. Please read the contract well before you sign so you know what information you can share and how. Contract violations can have legal consequences.
  • May 5, 2017: start of the project

We will organize two defence sessions: a regular defence session in September and an early defence in July for students who want/need to finish the project early.

The deadlines for the regular defence session in September are:

  • August 28, 2017: Deadline for submission of final PDF and upload reports
  • September 4 and 5, 2017: Oral defence
  • Around September 9: Deliberation
  • Around September 12: Proclamation

If, during the thesis process, you encountered difficulties, which make it impossible to finish the project in time, you should formally submit a request for delay to the examination committee before August 15, 2017. To do so, fill in the Request for Delay Form in which you motivate the reason for delay (e.g. delayed data-access, personal reasons, combination job – studies) and follow the instruction on the form. You are expected to discuss the request for delay with your supervisors before sending the form to the examination committee.   

The deadlines for the early defence session in June are:

  • June 1, 2017: Deadline for registration for early bird defence. You can register by sending an email to Ms Martine Machiels and Dr. Sarah Vercruysse with your supervisors in cc.
  • June 23, 2017: Deadline for submission of final PDF and upload reports
  • June 30, 2017: Oral defence
  • Around July 4, 2017: Deliberation
  • Around July 6, 2017: Proclamation


Guidelines for students

Own project proposal

Evaluation form (to be used by supervisors)