Master's Project Guidelines

Created by: Ass. Prof. Dr. Alvaro Hacar & Dr. Anahí Caldú-Primo; Last modification: 19/10/2022


The new structure of the Master’s Thesis Projects has been implemented at the Department of Astrophysics from the beginning of SS/2021. For more information take a look at the following links:


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

1. Duration

2. Evaluation & grades

3. Call for projects (CfP)

4. Selection & pre-registration

5. Registration

6. Monitoring

7. Forschungsseminar & exposé

8. Master thesis

9. Defence

10. Master’s day (optional)

11. End-of-project

12. Code of Conduct (CoC)

13. Transition period for MPs started before SS/2021

14. Timeline & milestones

15. Roles & duties

16. Acronyms


1. Duration 

Each MP will have a recommended maximum duration of 9 months  (equivalent to 26 ECTS + 4 ECTS as part of the Forschungsseminar + 4 ECTS for the Defence). Longer projects are only advised 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. 11.2). Master 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. 


2. Evaluation & grades

In addition to the research work, each MP will include:

  • Participation in the Forschungsseminar + submission of exposé (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. 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 defence. Projects extending beyond the designated time limit without proper justification (see above) could result in a lower grade.

The final grade of the MP is calculated by the SSC via i3v and uses the grades of both the Master's thesis and defence. The Master's thesis grade is provided by the main project supervisor. Nonetheless, the (optional) participation of a second reader (e.g. co-supervisor) is highly recommended. After submission, additional quality checks will be carried out by the MPC and SPL, including plagiarism. The examination committee, consisting of two examiners and a chair, is suggested by the student and approved (or rejected) by the SPL. This committee will  evaluate the public defence, which includes an oral presentation of the master's work and an examination of the selected additional Master’s topics (Sect. 9).


3. Call for projects (CfP)

Professors and postdocs can propose stand-alone MP as the main and only supervisors. Postdocs may also be co-supervisors. Project topics can be offered any time by the corresponding main supervisor after the approval of the SPL. Both candidate and supervisor(s) will be responsible for notifying the SPL and MPC as soon as the project starts. 

To increase their visibility and advertise the different MP topics available, there will be two Calls for projects (CfP) at the beginning of the Winter and Summer semesters. All potential supervisors will be requested to submit their projects in advance including a detailed description of the goals, milestones, and requirements for each project (see below).

Each project announcement must include (max. 2 pages; see template at the Moodle page):

  • Title
  • Expected duration (e.g. 9 months) & starting date
  • Supervisor(s) & contact information
  • Project description & goals
  • Working plan & milestones (including final thesis)
  • Requirements / special skills (optional)
  • References (optional)


All available projects will be announced in an internal database at the beginning of each academic semester. All candidates are suggested to contact the potential supervisor(s) to get additional information about their projects. This information and web pages will be coordinated and maintained by the MPC. Both candidates and supervisors are recommended to submit their projects within the designated CfPs. In all cases, supervisor(s) and candidates are encouraged to comply with all the additional guidelines included in this document.


4. Selection & pre-registration

Each supervisor(s) is responsible for the selection of candidates within the designated times following their own selection criteria. The supervisor(s) must communicate the decision to the MPC using the pre-registration form on our Moodle page within the next 2 weeks after the selection of the candidate for organization purposes and in order to keep the list of ongoing and available projects up-to-date. 


5. Registration

According to the Studienrecht, Sect. 14, pars 1-3 (, MPs must be register before the candidate starts working on the project(!). 

The student is responsible for registering the corresponding MP by sending the RF + RRGSP to the SSC at the beginning of the project. Any MP should be registered at least 4 months before its evaluation. Non-registered projects will not be eligible for evaluation. For updated information please check the SSC webpage.

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 Learning Agreement (LA) during the kick-off meeting between the candidate, supervisor, and MPC (Sect.6.1)
  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. Inform the MPC of the date of registration at SSC using our Master's Project Moodle page (ask MPS for info about self-enrolment on this page) 

 (#) Note that the LA might be requested by the SPL in order to sign the RF.


6. Monitoring

The MPC will monitor the progress of the MP by both candidate and supervisor(s) in a series of meetings during the execution of the MP (see below). Additional measures (e.g. follow-up meetings & reports) are expected under special circumstances (e.g. misconduct) in coordination with the SPL.


6.1. Kick-off meeting

As part of the registration process, the MPC will meet the selected candidate and the supervisor(s) to clarify 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. After this meeting, all participants will complete a Learning Agreement including signatures from the candidate, the supervisor(s), and the MPC. The LA will include the final research plan and timeline agreed upon by the candidate and supervisor(s) (e.g. similar to the one included in the CfP). The MPC is responsible for sending copies of this LA to all parties.


6.2. Checkpoint

Around 4-5 months (i.e. ~50% completion) after the beginning of the project, the MPC will coordinate a joint meeting between the candidate and supervisor(s). The goal of this meeting is to (re-)evaluate the feasibility and execution of the MP at this stage (execution plans, final goals, and timescales). If necessary, the MPC is responsible for following up on any personal issues between the student and the supervisor(s) and communicating them to the SPL for further evaluation.


6.3. 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. Forschungsseminar & exposé

All Master's candidates must successfully take part and complete the Forschungsseminar course (4 ECTS) regularly offered as part of the Curriculum. Participants should carry out a public presentation of the current progress of their Master’s research (irrespectively of the stage of the project). In coordination with their supervisor(s), each candidate should submit their exposé to the lecturer(s) responsible for the Forschungsseminar as well as the MPC and SPL before the designated time for their presentation. 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. All participants in the Forschungsseminar must register their MPs at the SSC by the end of this course. Candidates not registering their projects on time wont get a grade for this Forschungsseminar.


8. Master's thesis 

You can download a short introduction and guideline for your master thesis formal appearance in latex.

By the end of their MP, all candidates must elaborate a manuscript including the results of their research work (find the template + explanation at the SSCwebpages: This manuscript should include a description of the current state-of-the-art, 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 ~9 months of the project, supervisor(s) are encouraged to reserve some time in the project for this matter (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 SPL will carry out the corresponding plagiarism checks within 2 weeks. The supervisor(s) (and optimally second reader) are responsible for submitting their grade and report within the next 2 months after the reception of the thesis. Candidates are responsible of contacting the MPC with the date of submission of the final version of their Master’s thesis using our Master's Project Moodle page (ask MPS for info about self-enrolment on this page).


9. Defense

Master's candidates will hold a public defence (4 ECTS) in front of 2 examiners + chair, suggested by the candidate and approved by the SPL. The defence consists of two parts: (1) a presentation of the scientific results obtained as part of the MP (20-30min), and (2) a public examination about topics related to the Master's studies with a total duration of up to 45min. The time and location of the defence will be defined by the SPL upon the proposal from the student (see registration for the Thesis Defence:

SL.P2_Anmeldung_Abschlusspruefung_Diplom-Magister-Masterstudien_2016.pdf). The candidate and supervisor(s) are responsible for contacting the MPC and SPL at least a month in advance in preparation for the defence. Candidates are encouraged to coordinate this activity within the academic semesters. 

The defence committee is composed by 3 members: 1x chair plus 2x examiners. The chair is in charge of the defence exam and must be a professor or a habilitated person at the Institute. The other 2 examiners can be staff members or researchers with a doctoral degree within the field. The candidate should propose the names of the panel members and the vSPL needs to approve the composition of the committee.

Once set, candidates are requested to inform the MPC of the date of their Defense using our Master's Project Moodle page (ask MPS for info about self-enrolment on this page).


10. 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 works in a series of short talks followed by a social celebration.


11. End-of-project


11.1 Final steps

A MP will be considered completed after (a) the submission of the Master's thesis and (b) its public presentation and examination during the Thesis defence. The End-of-Project (EoP) form could be signed during the Defence event after the approval of both the presentation and public examination. The candidate is responsible for uploading his/her thesis to the official database, and sending a PDF copy of the manuscript to the MPC. The supervisor(s) must provide their grades and reports within two months after the reception of the final manuscript. 


11.2 Completion, extensions, and delays

Candidates are strongly encouraged to follow the timeline defined in their LA (Sect.6.1) 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. Unjustified delays may impact the final MP grade (see Sect.2).


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


13. Transition period for MPs started before SS/2021

Those MPs started before SS/2021 will benefit from a transition period of 1 year. All previous MPs should be registered at the beginning of the SS/2021 period indicating the date when each of these projects started. Candidates and supervisors are responsible for communicating the necessary information to the MPC. All MPs benefiting from this transition period are recommended to end by Oct. 1st, 2021 including the submission of the Master's thesis and the corresponding Thesis defence. Their evaluation will follow the same criteria as the new MPs.


14. Timeline & milestones

The standard timeline and milestones for a regular 9-month long MP are described below. Candidates and supervisor(s) are encouraged to observe these steps and times:




Call for projects + website (MPC + SPL)

Project search (candidate) + selection (supervisor)


Project STARTS


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


Project registration (candidate + supervisor + SPL)*


Work on the project


Checkpoint meeting (candidate + supervisor(s) + MPC)


Work on the project + Forschungsseminar & Exposé


Work on the manuscript


Submission of the Master Thesis*


Project report + thesis grade (supervisor(s))


Plagiarism check (SPL)


Defense (candidate + evaluation committee + SPL)*




Final grade (SSC + SPL)


Master’s day (optional)

 (*) candidates are responsible of registering these dates in the Master's Projects Moodle page

14. Roles & duties


  • 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
  • Participation on the Forschungsseminar (4 ECTS)
  • Registration of the project by sending the RF to the SSC
  • Inform the MPC of the dates of (1) registration at the SSC, (2) thesis submission, and (3) Defensio using the Master's Project Moodle page
  • Compliance with the LA and project deadline
  • Execution of the research program + preparation of the Master’s thesis
  • Public presentation + examination during the Thesis defence (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 50% completion check-point meeting + follow-up on any issues 
  • Organization of the Master’s day celebration (TBD)
  • Communication with the SPL

 Studienprogrammleitung (SPL):

  • General coordination of the Master’s program
  • Coordination with the MPC
  • Official acceptance and signature of University documents
  • Organization of the Thesis defence (dates, committee, etc…)
  • Official responsible for solving conflicts
  • The final decision on the Defence grade
  • 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

Second reader (optional):

  • Reading and evaluation of the final Master’s thesis


16. Acronyms

MP: Master's Project

MPC: Master’s Project Coordinator

SPL: Studienprogrammleitung 

SSC: Studies Service Center

CfP: Call for Projects

RF: Registration Form

RRGSP: Regulations relating to good scientific practice

LA: Learning Agreement

EoP: End-of-Project form