Computer Science

Masters’ Student Handbook



Contents        1

People (2018-2019)        3

Program Support        3

Applying for a Master’s in Computer Science        4

Graduate students in the Department of Computer Science can take advantage of:        4

Application and Admission Requirements        4

Application Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)        5

Q: What is the minimum TOEFL or IELTS score for international students?        5

Q. What is the minimum GRE score?        5

Q. What is the minimum GPA?        5

Q: What is the application procedure? Is there a checklist?        5

Q. How can I submit an assistantship application?        5

Q. Are there tracks or specializations in the MS CS program?        5

Q. My baccalaureate degree is not in computer science. May I apply for MS CS?        5

Q. What are the tuition rates and fees?        5

Helpful Links        5

Before Starting (Student Post-Admission Process)        7

Before arriving on campus        7

After arriving to campus        8

Getting Started        9

The Thesis/Project Process        10

Finish Line: What to do during the final semester before graduation?        12

Timeline Overview of Process        14

General Policies        15

Change of Advisor        15

Harassment and Discrimination        15

Transfer courses        15

College Teaching Certificate        15

Practicum / Internship        16

Expectations        17

Safety        17

Diversity and Inclusion        17

Academic Integrity        17

The Unexpected        18

Resources        19

CS Administration Office        19

Website        19

Google Group        19

Other Resources        19

Graduate Assistantship        20

Assistantship Initial Paperwork        20

Assistantship Termination or Reduction        20

Vacation        20

Leave of Absence for Graduate Assistants        21

Use of Employee Email Accounts        21

Appendix        22

Appendix A: Masters Thesis/Project Proposal        22

People (2018-2019)

Program Support


Dr. Jerry Alan Fails - Graduate Coordinator

jerryfails@boisestate.edu | (208) 426-5783

Dr. Jerry Alan Fails is an associate professor in the Computer Science Department at Boise State University in Boise, Idaho. His primary area of research is Human-Computer Interaction (HCI), with a focus on technologies that support children’s creativity, mobility, and collaboration and promote activity and exploration of the world around them. He has been actively designing technologies with and for children utilizing and further developing participatory design methods since 2003. He has been on a member of the Graduate Committee since 2016 and the Graduate Coordinator since early 2017.

Dr. Amit Jain - Department Chair

ajain@boisestate.edu | (208) 426-3711

Amit Jain is the Chair of the Computer Science Department at Boise State University. He is the lead for the IDoCode project that aims to embed high quality computer science in Idaho high schools, arguably the best thing that we can do for the talent pipeline. The IDoCode project is funded by a $1 million grant from the National Science Foundation.  He serves on the statewide Governor's working group that has designed Computer Science standards for Idaho K-12 schools. He is also a co-lead on the CS Professionals Hatchery project, a $2 million dollar project funded by the National Science Foundation to server as an national exemplar on how to revolutionize the undergraduate CS experience. He has received over $6 million in grants and awards over the last five years from various state-level, national-level organizations and industry. He has also served as the Chief Scientist for Balihoo, a local startup.


Jordan Morales - Department Manager (CS Admin Office)

jordanmorales@boisestate.edu | (208) 426-5759

Jordan received his Bachelors in Business Administration from Boise State and as the office manager supervises the administrative efforts in the CS admin office which to many students is the first point of contact for information or help. The office enjoys these opportunities to help and get to know all of our outstanding students.

Applying for a Master’s in Computer Science

Graduate students in the Department of Computer Science can take advantage of:

Application and Admission Requirements

Applicants must have either a baccalaureate degree in computer science, or a baccalaureate degree in a related field plus coursework and/or professional experience in computer science, with a cumulative undergraduate GPA of 3.0 or higher.

Applicants must meet the stated requirements for consideration to the program. Admission to the program is competitive -- not all applicants meeting the requirements will be admitted.

Applicants whose computer science background is deemed insufficient may be granted admission with provisional status with requirements that the student must satisfy within the time specified in the admission letter to be granted regular status. Time spent in provisional status counts towards the limit allowed for completion of the degree.

Start the application for MS in Computer Science by clicking the button below. You will be taken to a page which lists the needed  steps and will prompt you for the appropriate information. Completed applications will be reviewed by the Computer Science Graduate Committee.


Application Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

Q: What is the minimum TOEFL or IELTS score for international students?

A: See Boise State University requirements.  Meeting this minimum requirement does not guarantee admission.

Q. What is the minimum GRE score?

A. 300 (Quantitative 150). Meeting this minimum requirement does not guarantee admission. All applications will be reviewed in their entirety, if the GRE score is below the minimum, provisional admission is possible with strong evidence of success in other parts of the application.

Q. What is the minimum GPA?

A: 3.0. Meeting this minimum requirement does not guarantee admission.

Q: What is the application procedure? Is there a checklist?

A: See Boise State University’s Graduate College checklist.

Q. How can I submit an assistantship application?

A. When submitting your application online, you can specify whether or not you would like to apply for graduate assistantship. There is no additional form for assistantship application. For priority consideration for assistantship funding, applications must be submitted by January 15th for fall admission or October 15th for the spring admission.

Other funding opportunities can be found on the graduate school website.

Q. Are there tracks or specializations in the MS CS program?

A. There are no tracks or specializations; students are able to choose any subset of courses in consultation with their advisor. You may view individual faculty pages and/or a list of faculty sorted by research areas.

Q. My baccalaureate degree is not in computer science. May I apply for MS CS?

A. Regular admission typically requires the equivalent of a minor in computer science which includes introductory programming courses, data structures and discrete mathematics among other courses. The Graduate Committee may grant applicants provisional admission, that requires students to take certain undergraduate computer science courses, depending on their background. These courses would typically be completed within the first two semesters.

Q. What are the tuition rates and fees?

A: See Boise State University Financial Services Tuition Information.

Helpful Links

Before Starting (Student Post-Admission Process)

To provide a smooth transition into the Graduate Program the student should take time to do the following:

Before arriving on campus

The following points are applicable to all students. If you have an assistantship please do these items and the items on p.X.

Students should plan on arriving at least one week before the first day of classes of the designated semester. If a student and their advisor determine an earlier start date, the student should notify the program coordinator as soon as possible.

After arriving to campus

After students complete  their employment documents at Human Resources, they should take their Student ID # and valid photo ID to the BroncoCard office in the Student Union Building to obtain their BroncoCard. Be sure to request a proxy BroncoCard. The BroncoCard gives card reader access to select laboratories and study areas. Students will use their BroncoCards to access the Recreation Center, purchase meal plans, and can also, optionally, make cashless purchases on campus with Bronco Bucks. Find out more about obtaining the BroncoCard 

Parking on University Drive and other city-maintained streets is permitted without a Boise State parking permit. Signs posted on city-maintained streets describe any restrictions. Otherwise, parking on campus requires a Boise State parking permit. Students can purchase a parking permit and find out more about transportation options online.

Getting Started

The Thesis/Project Process

  1. Select Topic & Work on Research: Students must define and refine the topic of their  thesis or project  (in their first semester) with their advisor. Students should work on their research topic throughout their studies.
  2. Form a Committee: The student’s thesis or project will be advised and evaluated by a committee. Students should work with with their advisor to select and invite an additional two or three  faculty members to participate on the committee. The norm is three members (including the advisor) and the maximum is four members. Typically the members of this committee are faculty within the Department of Computer Science. However, there can be one committee member that is from outside the Department of Computer Science (from another academic department on campus or industry). When the student and advisor have decided on the committee, the student should discuss this with them to make sure that they agree to serve on the committee. Fill out the “Appointment of Supervisory Committee” form (available from the Graduate College website: http://graduatecollege.boisestate.edu/forms) and submit to Graduate College. A complete directory of faculty and staff can be found on the Computer Science website.
  3. Apply for Admission to Candidacy: The student needs to apply for Admission to Candidacy to the Graduate College. This must be done nine months before the student intends to graduate. The deadline is stated in the Academic Calendar for the semester the student intends to graduate, not in the Academic Calendar for the semester during which the student submits this form. This also means that the student must complete their thesis/project proposal before this deadline. Academic calendars can be found at https://registrar.boisestate.edu/boise-state-academic-calendars/. The Application for Admission to Candidacy form can be found on the website for Graduate College (https://graduatecollege.boisestate.edu/forms/). Part of the candidacy form is to plan out the rest of the your program of study which the student should make in consultation with their advisor. It then becomes a “contract” for the student to follow. Any changes need to be done via a graduate Academic Adjustment form (https://graduatecollege.boisestate.edu/forms/).
  4. Propose Thesis/Project: The student must write a thesis or project proposal working closely with their advisor. Proposal defense should be publicly announced. The student then presents this proposal to their committee in a formal presentation. This must be done at least one semester before the semester that the student intends to graduate. After proposal, Proposal Acceptance Form must be completed by the student and signed by all members of committee plus the Graduate Coordinator and then turned in to the CS Admin Office for department record. Detailed instructions for the proposal can be found in Appendix A of this handbook.
  5. Write the Thesis/Project Report: The student then writes the thesis or project report and presents it to their supervisory committee (refer to the Finish Line below for details and pay attention to deadlines). It must be written using a template provided by the Graduate College at http://graduatecollege.boisestate.edu/thesisdissertation/template/. If the student uses the Microsoft Word template on a Mac, we recommend ensuring use of the most recent version of Office, which is available to students for free. Instructions and samples can be found at http://coen.boisestate.edu/cs/students/graduate-students/thesisproject/

Finish Line: What to do during the final semester before graduation?

  1. Advisor Approval: The student verifies with their advisor that they are ready to graduate!
  2. Timeline: The student checks the Academic Calendar to find out the last date for thesis defense in their graduating semester (usually by the end of the 9th week). Projects can be defended until the finals week, but we strongly recommend an earlier date to have time to complete changes asked for by the student’s committee.
  3. Schedule Defense: 
  1. The student contacts their committee and sets a date for their defense. They will need to schedule about one and half hours of time. The defense consists of a presentation that is open to the public. Presentations vary in length between 30-50 minutes. After the presentation, there is a public question and answer period, followed by a closed question and answer period by the committee.
  2. To schedule a room for the defense and get the defense advertised by the department and graduate college, the student must fill out the CS Graduate Defense Form for CS Admin Office staff. Admin staff will schedule and confirm a room, then produce a flyer advertising the defense to be posted in the department and emailed out to all CS grad students and faculty. Admin staff will also create a calendar item for the defense on the CS Events Calendar.
  1. Apply for Graduation: The student then applies for graduation via My.BoiseState.
  2. Deliver Thesis to Committee: The student gives a printed copy of their thesis/project report to each member of their committee at least two weeks before the defense date. Some committee members may want even more lead time. The student should check with their  committee well in advance.
  3. Defend thesis:
  1. On the day of the defense, the student brings one copy of the Defense Committee Approval. This form is available from the Graduate College website: https://graduatecollege.boisestate.edu/forms/
  2. After the defense, the student incorporates any changes suggested by the committee. The student has the committee chair approve the final version by signing the Defense Committee Approval page. A student who fails the defense may be permitted to try again but failure a second time will result in dismissal from the MS program.
  3. The student brings physical copies of the Defense Committee Approval page and Final Reading Approval page, as well as the Access Agreement for a Thesis or Dissertation form to the Graduate College office as soon as possible before submitting the document electronically via ScholarWorks. Then the student submits a review copy electronically through ScholarWorks. See the website http://graduatecollege.boisestate.edu/thesisdissertation/scholarworks for more details. All forms are available at: https://graduatecollege.boisestate.edu/forms/.
  1. Present project:
  1. Project reports are not reviewed or approved by the Graduate College. However, project reports can be uploaded into ScholarWorks, pending approval of the committee chair, and require the signed ScholarWorks Authorization for a Selected Graduate Project (http://graduatecollege.boisestate.edu/forms).

Timeline Overview of Process

Your advisor and supervisory committee determine your program timeline. The MS program is expected to take two years, but this can vary based on student background, research project, and any number of other variables. Sample timelines are described below. All program requirements must be started and completed within a single continuous interval of no more than seven years. (NOTE: Time spent in provisional status counts towards the limit of five years (or up to seven years if an extension is granted) allowed for completion of the degree.) The following table summarizes recommended milestones for full-time MS students admitted with regular status.



Year 1 

Complete a degree plan with your advisor and submit it to the Program Coordinator. Include credits of graduate courses that are being requested to be applied to the Ph.D. program degree requirements  

Complete provisional requirements for regular admission status, if applicable

Submit the Appointment of Supervisory Committee Form.

Complete the majority of coursework

Year 2

Conduct research and prepare thesis or project proposal

Successfully defend the proposal

Supervisory Committee recommends Admission for Candidacy, complete the Application for Admission to Candidacy Form

Conduct thesis research or project and prepare thesis/report

Take and pass the thesis/project defense

Submit final approved thesis/report

General Policies

Change of Advisor

Graduate students are allowed to change their major advisor, however it must be approved by the graduate coordinator. The graduate coordinator should consult with the current and new advisors and the student. The graduate coordinator should help the student understand the implications of changing major advisor including any implications with regards to funding/assistantships. To process this advisor change, the student must complete a Petition for Change of Advisor form and seek the requisite signatures. When a graduate student requests to change major advisor, the student and the new major advisor are responsible for the funding, if needed.

Harassment and Discrimination

If a student ever feels belittled, harassed, or discriminated against in any way by students or faculty, they should report the incident to their advisor or to the graduate coordinator.

Transfer courses

Students can apply up to 10 graduate credits from a regionally accredited university toward the MS program degree requirements. In all cases, the transfer credit must meet Graduate College requirements and be approved by the graduate committee. Transfer credit accepted into the program will be applied on a course-by-course basis towards the degree requirements.

College Teaching Certificate

The Graduate Certificate in College Teaching is designed to enhance teaching effectiveness of graduate teaching assistants and provide marketable skills for graduate students wishing to seek employment in higher education as instructors. The Graduate Certificate in College Teaching is open to current Boise State graduate students or others who have previously earned a graduate degree and who are considering employment in higher education. Through the required coursework, students will demonstrate skill in course design; demonstrate the ability to effectively teach a course including planning lessons/lectures and assessing student learning; and engage in ongoing faculty development through teaching workshops. Students are referred to the Center for Teaching and Learning website for additional information.

Practicum / Internship

Students can take up to three credits of independent study. Students can also take up to three credits of Practicum (industrial internship). These must be approved by the student’s adviser, committee and the graduate program coordinator. To register for internship credit, the student must fill out the online Application for Internship form (available from the Career Center website: https://web.boisestate.edu/internships). To register for independent study, the student completes the ‘Application for Graduate Independent Study’ form (available from the Graduate College website: https://graduatecollege.boisestate.edu/forms/), secures the appropriate signatures, and submits the form to the Graduate College. These applications are accepted up to the last day to add Independent Study or Directed Research credits, as indicated in the Academic Calendar. See next section on how to create a committee.


When students come to Boise State, we agree to offer them time and resources in exchange for their commitment to make their best effort. To ensure that we all know the expectations, the School, College, and University have policies in place with which you should be familiar. These policies are outlined in this handbook, the Boise State University Student Handbook, Boise State University Policies, Student Code of Conduct, Graduate Catalog and Standards and Guidelines for Theses and Dissertations. All students should take the time to read and understand these policies.

If questions arise that are not addressed within this handbook or within the policies outlined by Boise State University and the Graduate College, we encourage students to first meet with their major advisor. If still unresolved, they can contact the Program Coordinator for further assistance.


Most students in the master’s program  will not work in labs with extensive safety regulations, but students should  consult with their major advisor and service assignment supervisor to ensure e awareness  and compliance with any applicable regulations or university policies.

Diversity and Inclusion

We understand that students in the program represent a rich variety of backgrounds and perspectives. The program/department is committed to providing an atmosphere for learning that respects diversity. While working together to build this community we ask all members to:

Academic Integrity

Academic integrity is a core value in the department. Cheating, plagiarism, and academic dishonesty in the classroom or in  research endeavors are serious offenses that will be addressed. All forms of academic dishonesty can lead to suspension, or expulsion from the University. The University Academic Integrity Policy can be found on the registrar’s website.

The Unexpected

As you pursue your graduate degree, it is likely you will encounter something, either major or minor, that is not addressed in this handbook. As you encounter these unexpected moments, we encourage you to meet with your advisor, the Graduate Coordinator, or Department Chair as appropriate and as soon as possible. We will work with you to find the solution, experience, or opportunity that best fits your unique situation.


CS Administration Office

The Administration office is located Downtown in the City Center Plaza Building, room CCP 364. You can contact the office via email computerscience@boisestate.edu, or by phone 208-426-5766.


The CS graduate program website: http://coen.boisestate.edu/cs/graduate/ contains resources for students including: program specific forms, emphasis area requirements, and contact information for all participating faculty and staff.

Google Group

Please utilize the csgradstudents-group Google group to stay connected with your fellow graduate students.

Other Resources

IT support, office supplies, and other resources can be obtained through your major advisor’s department. Please ask your advisor who to contact.

Graduate Assistantship

Grants and competitively awarded assistantships can be awarded to MS students. A student receiving an assistantship is compensated for an average of 20 hrs per week (for a total of 1000 hours per year). Effort above and beyond the 20 hours is considered professional and academic development for things such as research, teaching, writing, and coursework.

A Graduate Assistant (GA) is financially supported generally under the mentorship of an advisor. Part of a GA’s professional development includes assisting their advisor with research responsibilities (i.e. a research assistant).  Research responsibilities will vary based on advisor and project.  GAs are also expected to serve the University on average for 10 hrs per week in a capacity such as assisting a course in their area of expertise (i.e. a teaching assistant).  Graduate assistantships are governed by University Policy 7170.

Assistantship Initial Paperwork

Students must complete their employment documents before starting their graduate assistantship. Some items (Federal Form I-9, Employee Information Form) must be completed on or before your first day of employment. Other items (W-4 Tax Form, Direct Deposit, and Compliance Certification) must be completed immediately after the student begins employment. Check the Boise State New Employee website for a complete listing of immediate action items. Please be aware that the hiring process does include a background check.

Note: Tax rates on paychecks will fluctuate throughout the year. During the summer (or anytime one is not enrolled as a student), taxes are withheld at a higher percentage than during periods of student enrollment.

Assistantship Termination or Reduction

To maintain your Graduate Assistantship you must comply with all policies, procedures and timelines outlined in this handbook, your assistantship contract, and the policies of Boise State University and the Graduate College. The program may terminate or reduce a Graduate Assistantship at any time for just cause such as unsatisfactory performance of assigned duties, dereliction of duties, insubordination, unsatisfactory academic performance, unsatisfactory progress toward the degree, a felony conviction, or for any other cause of similar magnitude as determined by the graduate program and the Graduate Dean.


Vacation must be approved by your advisor and work assignment supervisor, if applicable. Make requests for vacation in accordance with the requirements provided to you by your advisor and work assignment supervisor, if applicable.

Leave of Absence for Graduate Assistants

You must be continually enrolled in the program and making satisfactory progress to maintain your Graduate Assistantship. You may apply to the department for an official leave of absence if you cannot maintain continuous enrollment in any given semester. Official leaves of absence will be reviewed on a case-by-case basis. Your assistantship may be affected by an official leave of absence. Although we cannot guarantee availability, we will attempt to provide you an assistantship upon your return.

Use of Employee Email Accounts

Being on an Assistantship, you are given an employee email account (@boisestate.edu). We strongly advise that you do not use your employee email account as it will only be active while on assistantship and will deactivate during breaks in your assistantship such as possibly winter or summer breaks and immediately upon graduation. Your student email however can be retained during breaks in your assistantship (if applicable) and after graduation. Additionally, we do advise that you setup forwarding on your @boisestate.edu so any emails incorrectly sent there are forwarded to your @u.boisestate.edu student account.


Appendix A: Masters Thesis/Project Proposal

When a thesis topic has been firmly established, the student should submit a thesis/project proposal. It is recommended that the student accomplish this at least one full semester before the thesis is defended, and it should be completed before other work on the thesis or project is started. No completed thesis/project can be defended without first having the proposal presented and approved.

Proposal Document

The thesis/project proposal is a written document that should follow the outline below.

Title Page

Introduction - This introduces the work to be done so it can be reasonably well understood by a faculty member not working in the research area.
Thesis/Project Statement - A concise statement of the thesis/project, e.g., the hypothesis to be tested, the thesis to be defended, the project to be completed, the question to be answered, etc.
Methods - The method to be followed in accomplishing the thesis/project statement, i.e., proposed algorithms, procedures, controls, sample sizes, experiments, and expected results, etc.

Thesis/Project Schedule - A schedule for completion of the thesis.
Bibliography - A fairly complete bibliography of the area of work. It is recommended that the bibliography be annotated.

Artifacts - A description of any artifacts beside the write-up for the project or thesis, i.e., code, user's guide, etc.

Signatures - A standard acceptance page including the date and all members of the committee and the Graduate Coordinator.

Written Proposal Audience: CS faculty members who may not be acquainted with the

Proposal for Paper Thesis: The introduction should provide necessary background and then state a problem and explain why the problem is interesting. The thesis statement should say what the proposed solution is and say why the proposed solution solves the problem. The method section should convince the reader that the problem will be addressed using an appropriate combination of proof, implementation, and experimentation. The annotated bibliography should be complete and appropriate. It
should convince the reader that a thorough literature search has been completed. (An exception to completeness should only be appropriate for theses that are themselves to become survey papers.) The reader should be convinced that the proposed contributions are real.

Proposal for Project: The motivation should provide necessary background and then argue that a significant piece of work (usually a piece of software) is needed. The project statement should concisely describe the work. The method section should describe the requirements and expectations for the finished product and explain what will be done to assure the quality of the work. The annotated bibliography should convince the reader that the student is well acquainted with techniques needed to do the work and with techniques others have used to solve similar problems. The contributions should reflect the importance of the work. It is important to discuss how the work will be disseminated to others.

General Comments: If the document does not meet these standards or similar standards for a traditional thesis, it should not be signed until it does. Feedback and correction is an integral part of a student's education.

Proposal Presentation

Oral Presentation Audience: CS faculty members who may not be acquainted with the

20 minute oral presentation of the proposal must be carefully organized and given to
the members of the thesis/project committee and the invited public. During the proposal
presentation, the student must answer committee member's questions on such areas as
method, significance, organization, and literature search. After the presentation, the
student and public leave the room while the committee comes to a decision on proposal
acceptance. The result will range from unqualified acceptance to unqualified rejection.

General Comments: A simple restatement of the proposal document is not what is
wanted. The central ideas of the document should be presented, but this should be
augmented by examples and explanations. Ideally, the presentation will have been
practiced in front of an audience that can help the student improve the presentation.
Part of what should be learned is how to make good presentations.

Proposal Instructions

Before Scheduling:

1 week to 10 days before:

Proposal day or after: