This page contains the most important information about doing your thesis in the HCI lab. It describes our structured process of helping you write a strong thesis within the time frame foreseen in your study program. Our experience is that this structure is a good guide for students to ask the right questions, stay on track, focus on the tasks that are most relevant in a given phase of thesis work, etc. However, this is not a rigid structure — there may be many good reasons to make adjustments –, and in every individual thesis, we find a workflow and process that matches the specific topic and student’s needs. All throughout the thesis, you have the opportunity to regularly meet your advisor, typically once a week, and get detailed feedback and advise.
What must be done?
The student seminar (12 CP, 2-3 months) allows you to get started with your thesis research by getting to know the state of the art, identifying the questions you want to work on, and working out a plan for your thesis. Next, you start the actual thesis (BSc: 15 CP, 3 months; MSc: 30 CP, 6 months) in which you execute the research and write the thesis report.
Framing and Context
During the first weeks of your Bachelor or Master seminar, you should address the following questions:
- What is the context of this project?
- What is the selected approach?
- Why is it important?
- Why is this task hard? Is this project more than an engineering effort? If not, why is the challenge interesting?
- How does your intended contribution relate to the state of the art?
Making a plan
Once you have a defined objective you should, with the help of your advisor, define a plan how to achieve it. For that, consider the following questions:
- What are the steps needed to achieve the expected contribution?
- What would be the alternatives? Why did you choose this particular one?
- What are the risks? what are the strategies to mitigate those risks?
- How are you going to validate your outcomes?
Validating the Seminar
At the end of your seminar (after 2-3 months), you will give seminar presentation of your thesis proposal. This includes:
- Project framing
- Related work
- Expected contribution and originality
- A detailed plan on how to achieve the goals, and how to mitigate the risks
NOTE: The duration of this talk is 20-30 minutes, with an additional 15 minutes for questions and discussion. This talk will represent 50% of the seminar grade.
In addition, you will write a document presenting your thesis proposal. You can use this document later as a first version of the introduction and related work chapter of your future thesis. To help you structure this document, you can use the thesis template provided below.
- The introduction section includes the motivation, context, challenges, goal, expected contribution and originality or your work
- The related work section presents the related scientific work and must include a discussion of how your work is different and how it extends the literature
This document will represent 50% of the seminar grade.
Writing the thesis
You can find the HCI lab thesis template here: thesis_template.zip.
You can directly upload this template on Overleaf to create a new project and thus facilitate sharing your thesis with others.
Writing a good research document is challenging and time-demanding. We recommend starting to write as soon as possible in the process and keep writing from time to time to get used to writing. To improve your writing skills, the following documents provide interesting guidelines:
- “An HCI research paper writing guide formatted as an HCI paper” by Jacob O. Wobbrock (http://faculty.washington.edu/wobbrock/pubs/Wobbrock-2015.pdf)
- “How to write a great research paper” by Simon Peyton Jones (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WP-FkUaOcOM)
- “Write good papers” by Daniel Lemire (https://lemire.me/blog/rules-to-write-a-good-research-paper/)
Structure of the document
The final deliverable of your thesis is a manuscript of around 40-60 pages for a Bachelor’s thesis and 60-80 pages for a Master’s thesis.
This document should cover:
Introduction – why is your work important?
- Motivation, Context
- Scientific contributions
- Structure of the thesis
Related work – place your contribution in perspective (go from general to specific, back to general)
- The field in general
- How did researchers tackle the challenge at hand in the past
- What are the trade-offs of the different alternatives and why did you choose a particular one
- How does your contribution relate to prior work
- Also includes technical state of the art, i.e. available technologies and technologies used in this work
Main chapters (e.g., Concept, Implementation, Discussion) – your scientific contribution
- What did you do to push the state of the art?
- Go into details, don’t lose the bigger picture
- Recommended: Build up (from technical to applications)
Most importantly: make sure to not only report what you have done (this would be a technical manual or whitepaper) but also explain why you have done it (this is a scientific thesis), e.g.:.
- Why you have chosen specific technologies and not others?
- Why have you realized the interface in this specific way?
- Why did you opt for this way of evaluation?
- An overview of the project
- What did you learn from the project that could benefit others?
- Limitations of your work
- Future work
- What can you do that you could not before?
- What would be the required steps that had to be removed from the scope?
NOTE: You should reserve around 6 weeks for the writing, and ideally, you will be writing it in parallel to your research rather than writing the full document at the end.
These evaluation criteria can vary depending on the topic of the thesis and are mere suggestions of important points to address.
- Is the topic of the thesis properly tackled?
- Is the scientific method sound?
- Is the amount of work reported substantial?
- Is the selection of related work applicable and comprehensive?
- Is the current work correctly grounded in the previous literature?
- Is the amount and variability of previous work reported satisfactory?
- How novel is the concept?
- How is it grounded in previous work and how does it extend it?
- How efficient and complete is the implementation based on the overall concept studied in the thesis?
- Did the implementation follow conventional design methods (e.g., user-centered design)?
- Is the structure of the implementation understandable and correctly documented?
- Is the implementation extensible?
- Are the research questions framed correctly and intelligibly?
- Is the type of evaluation clearly stated and justified?
- Is the research method described in detail and presented with regards to previous work?
- Are the statistical analyses adequate?
- Are the results appropriately presented in the thesis?
- Are the results appropriately discussed, specifically with respect to the presented hypotheses/questions?
Content of the manuscript
- Does the abstract properly describe the contributions of the thesis?
- Is the thesis structured correctly and comprehensively?
- Is the motivation of the thesis clear?
- Is there a discussion of the limitations and future work of the work presented?
- Is the language used appropriate and without spelling mistakes?
- Does the thesis follow an internal consistency (e.g., special terms are always written in the same form)?
- Is the thesis presented clearly and are the means of presentation appropriate (e.g., short sentences, images are used were reasonable, images are easy to understand, etc.)?
- Are all figures referenced and table properly formatted?
Documenting your work
It’s important to keep track of your work for 1) have all the resources to report it in your manuscript, and 2) be able to share it with others to build on it. We recommend taking pictures regularly of the prototypes you build, keep notes of meetings with dates to be able to trace back your thoughts and keep various versions of your work to be able to compare them later on.
When coding, a version control software like git is a powerful tool that you should use extensively. Ask for advice in the lab about good usages.
Finding and Organizing Related Work
During the seminar and the thesis, you will read a considerable amount of papers. Searching for articles can be done in various ways. A good starting point is to use Google Scholar or the ACM Digital Library.
To avoid reading the papers multiple times, it is recommended to keep track of all references and take notes. Free applications such as Zotero or Mendeley facilitate managing references and keeping notes for each of them. We highly recommend using such a tool, as it can drastically enhance your efficiency when reviewing the literature.
Our team focuses on a variety of different topics that are always evolving. To give you a broad idea of these topics, here are previous theses from our past students:
- Thierry Bock: Modeling 3D-printed Haptic Guidance Structures for Human-Computer Interaction
- Sven Ehses: Design and Configuration Tool For Laser-cutting Stretchable Conductors
- Julian Haluska: 3D-Printed Volumetric Deformation Sensors for Human-Computer Interaction
- Lena Hegemann: Single-handed Gesture Input Using Finger-to-Finger Touch and Hand pose
- Alice Oberacker: Design And Implementation Of On-Skin Sensors Using Conductive Inkjet Printing
- Ba Thinh Tran: BodyScan – A Computation Tool for Designing Customized On-Body Sensors
- Rukmini Manoz Banda: Design and Fabrication of Multi-Touch Sensors and Electro-Tactile Actuators for On-Skin Interaction
- Niza Bozkurt: Interacting With Five Fingernail Displays Using Hand Postures
- Xi Chen: A Framework for Mixed Reality Augmented with Haptic Feeback
- Chaitin Anil Kumar: Taxonomy and Evaluation of Input-Output Modalities for Epidermal Electronics
- Vikram Mehta: An Empirical Study of How People Use Skin as an Input Surface for Mobile and Wearable Computing
- Fereshte Mohebbi: MeBand: Differential Sensing Gesture Recognition System
- Alejandro Quintanar Helgueros: Handy: Robust, Real-Time Gesture Recognition Pipeline
- John Tiab: Design and Evaluation Techniques for Cuttable Multi-touch Sensor Sheets
- Michael Wessely: Fabrication and Control of Flexible Thin-Film Touch-Displays