Guidelines for the Master-Projekt

 Table of Content for the Master's Project (MP) Guidelines:


1. Motivation

2. Akronyms

3. Duration

4. Evaluation and Grades

5. Preparatory Seminar

6. Monitoring

7. Research Seminar

8. Master's thesis

9. Defense

10. Completion, Extension and Delays

11. Code of Conduct (CoC)

12. Timeline and Milestones

13. Roles and Duties


1. Motivation

A Master’s Project (MP) is a fundamental part of our Astronomy Curriculum carried out towards the end of the Master’s Degree. By joining one of the groups at the Department and under the supervision of our staff, a MP offers our students a first hand experience on active research in an academic (and/or industry) work environment. 


2. Akronyms

MP: „Master's Project“

MPC: Master’s Project Coordinator


SPL: Studienprogrammleitung

SSC: Studies-Service-Center

RF: Registration Form

RRGSP: Regulations relating to good scientific practice

LA: Learning agreement


3. Duration

Each MP will have a recommended maximum duration of 12 months (equivalent to 26 ECTS, which include 4 ECTS of the Preparatory seminar + 4 ECTS of the Research seminar + 4 ECTS for the Defense). Longer projects are only foreseen in special cases (e.g. students with a full-time job outside astronomy). Further extensions to this period could also be granted under exceptional circumstances (see Sect. 10). Master’s projects are advised to be conducted within the academic year.


Master’s students are strongly recommended to have completed a minimum of 60 ECTS of their Master’s studies before starting their MP. From these, 12 ECTS should be in the same research area in which they are planning to carry out their MP.


4. Evaluation and Grades

In addition to research work, each MP will include:

  • Participation in the Preparatory seminar (topic/supervisor selection + Exposé + kick-off meeting + Master’s thesis registration) (Sect. 5)
  • Participation in the Research seminar (Sect. 7)
  • Preparation and submission of a final report (aka Master’s thesis) (Sect. 8)
  • Master's Defense (Sect. 9)

The evaluation procedure will follow those regulations included in the official Astronomy Curriculum. Each of the bullet points above is graded independently. Projects will be graded according to (a) the quality of the work carried out by the student during the MP, (b) the Master's Thesis (aka final report), and (c) the thesis defense. After submission, additional checks will be carried, including plagiarism.


The final grade of the MP is calculated by the SSC via i3v and uses the grades of both the Master's thesis and defense. The Master's thesis grade is provided by the main supervisor. The examination committee (Sect. 9) will evaluate the defense, which includes an oral presentation of the Master's project, an examination on the project and the astronomical topic within which it is framed, and an examination of an additional Master’s topic which has been selected by the student (Sect. 9).


5. Preparatory Seminar

The Preparatory Seminar (4 ECTS) is a compulsory seminar in the Master’s curriculum Astronomy 2023. Students registered in the Master’s Curriculum Astronomie 2016 can take this seminar as an elective course. This course is offered every semester. 

5.1 Election of topic/supervisor + Introductory day

Professors and postdocs can propose stand-alone MP as main and only supervisors. Postdocs may also be co-supervisors (and additional form has to be filled in at SSC).

The University rules for official co-supervision are very strict. A Professor at the University can never be a co-supervisor. If a co-supervision is done with an external professor, the internal co-supervisor has to be a postdoc as well. PhD students cannot be official co-supervisors. Co-supervisions that fall in these cases cannot be officially recognized, but they can be acknowledged in the thesis.

At the beginning of the preparatory seminar potential supervisors will present the projects available. Supervisors aiming to start new MSc projects during the upcoming semester must announce and present them in the Introductory Day of the Preparatory Seminar. Additionally, at any point students can check for possible projects on this list. Students will have a couple of weeks time to talk to potential supervisors and together with them decide which project/supervisor they will work with. 

5.2 Exposé

Students will do a literature review on the topic to be able to write an Exposé about their project. The Exposé (aka thesis abstract) should have a maximum length of 2 pages and should describe the context, goals, strategy, and expected outcome of the Master's thesis. It should be submitted to the lecturer(s) in charge of the Preparatory Seminar (which is/are also the Master’s Coordinator(s)) in the time-frame established during the seminar. 

5.3 Kick-off-Meeting/Learning Agreement

During the kick-off meeting the MPC will meet the selected candidate and the supervisor(s) to clarify or discuss all details about the corresponding research project (goals, expectations, etc). Special attention will be paid to discussing the candidate’s working plan (time available, duration, workload…) in order to define a realistic deadline for the execution of the project according to the candidate’s situation. The supervisor(s) must prepare a draft of the LA, upload it via Moodle, and circulate it among the participants before the kick-off meeting. After including all suggestions discussed in the kick-off meeting, all participants will complete the final LA including signatures from the candidate, the supervisor(s), and the MPC. The LA will include the final research plan and time-line agreed upon by the candidate and supervisor(s). The MPC is responsible for sending copies of this LA to all parties.

5.4 Official Master's project registration

Once the Learning Agreement has been signed, the student will register the Master’s project in the Studies Service Center.

The full registration process is as follows:

  1. Online pre-registration via Moodle (Sect. 4) including the name and contact information of the candidate and supervisor(s), and the start and planned end dates of the project.
  2. Signing of the LA during the kick-off meeting between the candidate, supervisor, and MPC
  3.   Completion of the RF including signatures of the student, supervisor(s), SEL, plus SPL.
  4. Completion of the RRGSP
  5.  Submission of the RF + RRGSP to the SSC 



6. Monitoring

The MPC will monitor the progress of the MP by both candidate and supervisor(s) as part of the Preparatory Seminar and of the Research Seminar. Additional measures (e.g. follow-up meetings & reports) are expected under special circumstances (e.g. misconduct) in coordination with the SPL.

6.1 Person-of-trust (PoT)

Confidential issues can be discussed with the MPC, SPL and/or the designated Person-of-Trust by the student (see also Sect. 13).


7. Research Seminar

The Research Seminar (4 ECTS) is a compulsory seminar in the Master’s Curriculum Astronomy 2023. It is equivalent to the Forschungsseminar of the Master’s Curriculum Astronomie 2016. This course is offered each semester. For students enrolled in the Master’s Curriculum Astronomy 2023 it is a prerequisite to have passed the Preparatory Seminar to be able to attend the Research Seminar (this includes having officially registered their project in SSC).


During the semester the student and the supervisor will meet regularly to advance in the MP. Towards the end of the semester the student will present the progress on the project (which in the best-case scenario would be practically a practice talk for the defense). 

7.1 Master’s Day (optional)

The MPC will organize a public event at the IfA (e.g. during an Institute’s Seminar/PhD seminar) by the end of each academic semester. This “Master’s day” will be open to all members of the Institute and aims to give visibility to the Master's projects presented in the last months. All Master's students are invited to present their work in a series of short talks followed by a social celebration.


8. Master's thesis submission

In the SSC webpage there is a complete guide of the process to finalize the Master’s program, including the plagiarism check, a short introduction and guideline for your Master’s thesis formal appearance, and all the submission details.

By the end of their MP, all candidates must elaborate a manuscript including the results of their research work. This manuscript should include a description of the current state-of-the-art of the topic, the techniques and the analysis implemented during the execution of the project, and the main results obtained as part of this work. Within the recommended duration of ~12 months of the project, supervisor(s) are encouraged to reserve some time in the project for the writing process (typically the last 2-3 months of the project) and provide regular support and constructive feedback to the candidates during the elaboration of this manuscript. 

The Center for Teaching and Learning (CTL) offers Writing Mentorship courses, in case the student faces difficulties with this task.

Once the final version of the thesis has been submitted to the SSC, the SPL will carry out the corresponding plagiarism checks within 2 weeks. The supervisor(s) are responsible for submitting their grade and report within next 2 months after the reception of the thesis.


9. Defense

The candidate and/or supervisor(s) are responsible for contacting the MPC and SPL at least a month in advance in preparation for the defense. Candidates are encouraged to coordinate this activity within the academic semesters. 

Master's candidates will hold a public defense (4 ECTS) in front of a committee suggested by the candidate and approved by the SPL.

The defense committee is composed of 3 members: 1 chair plus 2 examiners. The chair is in charge of the defense exam and can be any professor or a habilitated person at the Institute. In case of need, the SPL can chair the defense. The first examiner is usually the (main) thesis supervisor but it could also be another person of the same research area as the main supervisor. The second examiner should be a staff member or researcher with a doctoral degree that has been involved in teaching a compulsory Master’s course. The first and second examiners should evaluate the candidate in two different research areas (from the three knowledge areas described in the curriculum). The candidate should propose the names of the panel members and the SPL needs to approve the composition of the committee.

Once the committee is approved by the SPL, the student should fill in the corresponding form. The student is responsible of finding a time (in coordination with the committee members) and place (in coordination with Administration) for the defense.


The defense consists of two parts: (1) a presentation on the scientific results obtained as part of the MP (20-30min), and (2) a public examination about topics related to the MP and to Master's studies with a total duration of up to 45min.


10. Completion, Extensions, and Delays

Candidates are strongly encouraged to follow the time-line defined in their LA (Sect. 5.3) and complete their MP before the designated project end date (deadline). Extensions to these periods could be granted under special circumstances (illness, maternity/paternity leaves,...). If necessary, the MPC and SPL must be informed in a timely manner. 


11. Code of Conduct (CoC)

All activities associated to the execution of any Master’s Project must comply with the University Code-of-Conduct.


We are working for a  safe environment. Students and supervisors can contact the MPC and/or the SPL to help dealing with any conflict between the parties (harassment, misconduct, absence, lack of proper supervision, etc). The information will be treated confidentially unless the contact person said otherwise. 


12. Timeline and Milestones


The standard timeline and milestones for a regular 12-month long MP are described below. Candidates and supervisor(s) are encouraged to observe these steps and times:





Preparatory Seminar starts



Project search (candidate) + selection (supervisor)



Project starts



Literature review




Kick-off-Meeting (candidate + supervisor(s) + MPC); Create & Sign Learning Agreement (LA)



Project registration (candidate + supervisor + SPL)



Work on the project



Research seminar starts



Work on project


Master’s day (optional)


Submission of the Master's thesis



Project report + thesis grade (supervisor(s))



Plagiarism check (SPL)



Defense (candidate + evaluation comittee)



final grade (SSC + SPL)




13. Rollen und Pflichten


  • Presentation of available projects at the Preparatory Seminar
  • Design and implementation of a coherent and realistic research plan
  • Selection of candidate(s) + registration
  • Direct and regular supervision of the research activities of the Master's student
  • Mentoring and support during the duration of the project
  • Provision of adequate research infrastructure (room, computer, desk, …) (TBD)
  • Compliance of deadlines and requirements
  • Final report & evaluation + Thesis grade (main supervisor)

Master's student / candidate :

  • Execution of the project for a total of 26 ECTS, which include:
    • Participation in the Preparatory seminar (4 ECTS)
    • Participation in the Research seminar (4 ECTS)
  • Registration of the project by sending the RF to the SSC
  • Compliance with the LA and project deadline
  • Execution of the research program + preparation of the Master’s thesis
  • Public presentation + examination during the Thesis defense (4 ECTS)

Master’s Program Coordinator (MPC)

  • Support for the SPL duties
  • Maintenance of webpages with all the project information
  • Organization + coordination of initial kick-off meeting between the candidate and supervisor(s)
  • Sending copies of the Learning Agreement to both candidates and supervisors
  • Communication with all Master's students
  • Organization of the Master’s day celebration
  • Communication with the SPL


 Studienprogrammleitung (SPL):

  • General coordination of the Master’s program
  • Coordination with the MPC
  • Official acceptance and signature of University documents
  • Approval of the Thesis defense (dates, committee, etc…)
  • Officially responsible for solving conflicts
  • Signature of the final Master’s certificate


Person-of-trust (if necessary):

  • Follow up on any confidential problem arising between the candidate, the supervisor(s), and the MPC
  • Protection of the interests and integrity of the candidate

last modification 07.08.2023