In your thesis paper, you are supposed to perform scientific research in the field of Medical Engineering. If you are not yet familiar with the concept of scientific work, you can acquire these skills in the following courses
- “Nailing your Thesis” (offered at our Faculty of Engineering, please refer to www.campo.fau.de)
- Online course “Scientific Writing” available on the VHB platform (www.vhb.org)
Many labs also offer regular colloquium meetings for students to discuss problems and advances regarding their thesis projects. If you are in need of practical tips and support with your writing in German or English, FAU’s Writing Center is there to help you.
For the Master’s Thesis, the following applies:
When should I start looking for a topic for my final thesis?
Finding/Issuing the topic
You can find a topic by searching the websites of the different labs (all of them have a “research” and/or “thesis” section) and contacting the responsible persons. You can also consult the “job offer” section of this website, the facebook group “Medical Engineering Erlangen” or check the bulletin boards in the Faculty of Engineering. Moreover, if you are interested in non-advertised subjects, you can look into the reasearch topics of the scientific members of a lab (mostly PhD students) and do some reading on the subject (i.e. their publications). When you have identified a topic you would like to work on you can contact the responsible scientist directly and inquire if it is possible to work on a subject of their research field. In some cases, they might even invite you have personal chat with them to discuss the projects they currently offer.
Important: Do not send generic emails (or even worse: emails created by chatGPT) to a random series of supervisors. You will not find a thesis topic this way, as people will know that you didn’t do any research on your own and did not make an effort. Instead, you should show in your email that you have a good understanding of what the topic is about, that you have some experience with the subject (e.g. corresponding lectures or projects) and why you are motivated to work on this specific task. You should also transmit through your communication style that you are reliable and well-organized. If you have a good grade average, it can help to submit a current Campo overview together with your application for a thesis topic. If you cannot prove good grades, it is avisable to apply without a grade overview.
Make sure to keep your email communication with potential supervisors as specific and concise as possible.
Please note: Only professors and junior professors can officially supervise your Master’s thesis. Companies cannot issue thesis topics (see below)!
Is it also possible to write a thesis in cooperation with an external partner (company, research institute, university abroad)?
Experience shows that almost all FAU professors will reject supervising thesis topics proposed by a company/foreign university they don’t know or haven’t had own projects with in the past. This is due to the fact that research topics proposed by companies or other universities oftentimes don’t meet academic standards and/or have little in common with the FAU lab’s research foci. Please keep in mind that the company’s interest is merely economic and that it doesn’t care about you receiving a good education or a good thesis grade! The latter might also apply to a university at which you are not enrolled.
Your best chance to pursue a thesis project in cooperation with an industrial partner or a foreign university is to inquire at an FAU lab involved in our Medical Engineering program which already maintains research cooperations with companies or universities abroad (more information can be found on the respective lab’s website). This way, you know that the person on the other side is trustworthy and that the joint supervision between them and the FAU professor will run smoothly.
The other way round, i.e. agreeing to a project with an external partner and then trying to find a supervising professor at FAU is hardly ever successful and therefore not recommended. In the rare case the FAU professor agrees, the above-mentioned regulations for the thesis also apply without exception. It is the student´s responsibility to coordinate and communicate the requirements between the issuing university teacher and the external partner. For more information please consult the information sheet for issuance and procedure of “external” Bachelor’s and Master’s Theses and dissertations.
How closely related to Medical Engineering must the topic be?
In addition to this supervisor from the technical sciences/engineering, it is mandatory that you have a medical supervisor (staff member of the university hospital or a similar institution, i.e. member of a different clinic/radiology centre, or a licensed physician; in any case the supervisor must hold an academic title). The medical supervisor is not involved in grading your thesis. He/she should read through your thesis at least once to make sure that you are not using any medical terms or concepts incorrectly. Please discuss with your medical supervisor early on to which degree he/she wants to be involved in the process of your work – whether you should report on your thesis regularly or whether he/she will only read your final paper before you hand it in.
How can I find a medical supervisor?
Many labs have already supervised numerous theses for Medical Engineering before you and therefore already have an established contact who usually takes care of the medical supervision. Therefore, please ask at your supervising lab first whether they can arrange the medical supervision for you. If this is not the case and you are working on a concrete medical-application-related topic, it is worthwhile to do some online research at the Faculty of Medicine and at the university hospital to find out to which physicians your topic could be of interest and to contact these persons. Please describe in your email what the medical support consists of (see tab above) and that it is not very time-consuming. A medical professional from your private environment (with a medical degree) can also provide supervision, since this person is not involved in the evaluation of your work, but should only support you with regard to the medical correctness of the contents of your work.
Registration of the thesis
You can register your Master’s thesis as soon as you
- have completed your conditional subjects (if applicable)
- have completed the mandatory modules marked as such in your module catalog
- have completed at least 75 ECTS credits in your study program
- and have found a topic and supervisors.
You must register your thesis paper at the Examinations Office through your supervising lab using the German registration form for thesis papers (a non-official translation in English is available for your support but not intended for communication with FAU). You submit a copy of the German form at the Examinations Office and keep the original as it is needed for the final registration at the time of submission (see below).
Do not wait too long before you register your thesis! Many labs/supervisors will give you the opportunity to look into the thesis topic and do some preparatory reading before you officially register the thesis project. However, this preliminary period should not last longer than 1-2 months, after that you must register your thesis. If you fail to do so and work on an unregistered thesis for too long, you will get into serious trouble.
Duration of the thesis project
Important: If you get ill during your thesis project, make sure to get a medical certificate. When you submit it to our Examinations Office the time for the thesis project will be on hold during that period.
Submission of the written thesis, thesis presentation and grade registration
Tips for writing the thesis
- Final research papers in engineering range from concrete technical applications to more theoretical topics. In any case they should demonstrate that their author has the ability to work on a chosen task independently, scientifically and methodologically within a limited period of time.
- Establish a working plan.
- First, make a detailed plan, in which you consider the opening hours of the workplaces you go to, as well as the availability of your supervisor. It is also important not to over-charge and set clear short-term deadlines.
- Be aware of your time management: in order to control the time factor, it is essential to plan the thesis by formulating realistic goals. You should create a concrete plan which has to be discussed with the supervisor as well. It is certainly helpful to schedule certain time buffers and check from time to time if the schedule works for you. Disturbances and distractions should be avoided as well as unclear goals or overloading your schedule.
- It may be helpful to consult with fellow students who are either working within a similar time frame or on a related topic.
- Break your thesis into defined stages: collection of ideas, project phase, data analysis, writing and polishing.
- According to experience, the greatest level of stress comes towards the end of your project. Plan as few other activities as possible around this time, so that you can meet your submission deadline.
- Collaboration with your thesis supervisor: Remember to work independently and taking into account the deadlines so that your supervisor can rely on you. Let your supervisor always know what the status of your work is. Let him/her know early on if you are struggling with a certain task. Although your supervisors cannot do the work for you they can help you with useful hints on how to solve your problem.
- Once you have chosen your topic, you can start to research the resource material to get an overview of the current status of your topic. You must consider which concrete questions you would like to answer in your thesis and which methods you will apply. Once you have those questions, the university library database or academic search engines are extremely helpful.
- Set a clear deadline in your working plan for completing your initial research.
- By using an electronic organization system (e.g. Citavi, the RRZE offers courses) for organizing your sources, you can gain the best overview of the material you have read. Please ask your supervisor which citation style you should use. In any case it is crucial that you stick to one citation system. It is important that your organize your sources (articles, quotes, etc.) as you go through the writing process.
- In order not feel overwhelmed by too many tasks, a good outline is crucial. Your outline should be clear, well-structured and comprehensible for the reader and supervisor. A good outline is an important foundation for good advising. On the basis of your outline, you can discuss your specific questions, the structure, and length of your thesis with your supervisor.
- Remember to always write down your acquired knowledge/results!
- Cite correctly.
- One of the hardest tasks when writing your thesis is correct citation. You must indicate the source of every idea that is not your own and every fact on which you have based your argument.
- A literal quote (direct quote) must be referenced.
- Paraphrases (indirect quotes) also have to be referenced.
- A list of all citations (direct and indirect quotation), tables and graphs must be included in the source of your bibliography.
- Recommendation: Indicate all citations and enter their sources in your bibliography or reference list as you draft your thesis.
- Save your data when you stop writing at the end of day or when you finish a task. Always back up your data on various storage media!
- Always keep your initial questions in mind during the writing phase. It can easily happen that you get off the track.
- Format your thesis according to the requirements of your supervising lab. Many labs will provide you with a template.
- Allow sufficient time for proofreading. At best, look for someone (friends, family, fellow students, etc.) who is willing to take a close look at your work.
- Check that all references as well as the format and form of the work are correct. LaTeX is definitely more helpful than Word in this respect. Alternatively, you can also find courses offered by the RRZE for scientific work.
- Remember that your work must be submitted to your supervisor in time, usually in one hardcopy version and definitively in one digital version (PDF document) on a storage device. Please consult with your supervisor early on if they want you to submit a hardcopy version or not.
Beware of plagiarism!
If you use the work of others (text, images, code etc.) in your thesis without meticulously referencing the sources and citing correctly (see tips above) you are committing plagiarism, i.e. the worst kind of misbehavior that exists in the scientific community. You supervisors will use software tools to check your final thesis for plagiarism. If they find out that you have plagiarized your thesis counts as failed (grade 5,0). You will receive one last chance to write a new thesis (with a different topic) in the subsequent semester. If you are caught plagiarizing again, you have to leave the program without a degree.
Declaration of Originality
Your thesis paper must contain this Declaration of Originality, which has to be signed by you. With this, you declare to comply with the rules of good academic practice explained under “Beware of plagiarism!”
What is the master's seminar?
The so-called “master’s seminar” that appears in your Campo account once you have registered your thesis is just another term for your thesis presentation. Many labs will ask their master’s thesis students to present their thesis results in the context of a research seminar or colloquium which takes place at their lab on a regular basis. Other supervisors/labs may follow other traditions and make an individual appointment with you for the thesis presentation.
Tips for the thesis presentation
Prof. Andreas Maier has published a comprehensive video on how to give a good scientific presentation. Please find it here.