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University of Helsinki Department of Computer Science

Department of Computer Science


58110-3 Scientific writing

General information

Status and goals of the course

This course is a compulsory part of the cum laude approbatur module for students majoring in computer science and minoring in CS laudatur studies.

The course will give an introduction in how to give a scientific presentation (thesis, report, article), including exercise in how to find and utilise source material, structuring the presentation, as well as oral and writing skills.

The ability to read scientific texts and to prepare a scientific presentation are skills that are needed outside as well as inside the academic world. This ability comes in useful when managing projects, for example, or in the implementation of a successful new software design.

To end the course, you will write the thesis required for the Bachelor of Science (BSc) degree. The skills and methods taught at this course will be necessary when writing the Master of Science (MSc) thesis (pro gradu), as well. In connection with this course, you will also take the maturity test that is included in Finnish university degrees.

Completing the course

You can complete the course by attending the lectures, writing three written exercises (specifically the thesis) and having them pass, by attending your own groups meetings (presentations, commentary), and by attending the final written exam.

You can not raise the grade awarded from this course later, because it is set primarily according to your BSc thesis, and an accepted thesis cannot be rewritten. Thus, if you need a certain grade, you must aim for it from the beginning of the thesis process.

Prerequisites and status of the course

Required courses are all the compulsory courses and projects at the Computer Science cum laude approbatur level except Software Engineering (581259-4) and Software Engineering Project (581260-4).

It is not recommended that you take this course at the same time as the Software Engineering Project, because both courses have strict deadlines, which furthermore often coincide.


You must register for the course during the previous term (for the autumn course during April and for the spring course during November). The registration is different from other courses. Please see instructions.

Compensating the course

If you have already completed an appropriate university degree that included a written thesis or final essay, you can apply to have the credits transferred to compensate for this course. In such a case, you must append one (1) copy of the written work to your application. The decision is based on how much it resembles the BSc thesis completed at this course (and not e.g. on the grade).

A compensated course is not adequate for BSc degree.


There are six lectures in this course. Below is the list of lecture topics.

Please note that the lectures are given only in Finnish. The same material can be covered by reading the book of Zobel (see below) and by discussing the local style requirements with your advisor (and when necessary, with the lecturer).


  • 1st meeting: Orientation
    • Coming to order: goals and working methods of the course, work aids (such as how to use the library, how to apply for a library card)
    • How does the course help me in my professional development?
    • Self-evaluation as homework
  • 2nd meeting: The nature of a scientific text
    • How are scientific texts used?
    • How do I read a scientific text?
  • 3rd meeting: How a text is born
    • Me as producer of scientific text
    • What do I say?
    • How do I dispose the text?
    • The basics of diagnostics:the passive pox, compulsive hiding, the attribute spouting, the noun pox, the warring compounds...
  • 4th meeting: The writer's shackles
    • Layout and presentation of the thesis
    • On word processing systems and managing source databases
  • 5th meeting: Presentation techniques
    • How do I present lists, citations, images, tables, algorithms, charts,...
    • When do I need a reference to a source?
  • 6th meeting: Oral presentation
    • the difference between oral and written presentations, preparation, technique, common problems


The students are divided into workgroups of 4-6 members. The groups will meet about once a week throughout the term. Each student is, of course, expected to carry out his or her own work independently even when there are no meetings.

It is compulsory to attend the first group meeting! (If it is quite impossible for you to attend the first time, please contact the person in charge of the course and your group instructor beforehand!)

The following exercises (at least) will be completed by every group member:


Gathering the main contents of a scientific article and summarising it in your own words. Can also be based on several central sources. The summary should be 2-4 pages long.


The essay should be about 10 pages long, take the structure of a thesis and follow the rules of written presentations.


You will give a carefully prepared presentation on the subject of your thesis to the other group members. Please pay attention to the structuring of the subject matter for the thesis and to the form of oral presentation. The presentation should be 20-25 minutes long. Often, slides are used as a complement to the presentation, according to the instructions given.


The aim of the thesis is to present the subject matter in more depth and from various viewpoints. Special attention should be paid to analysing the subject in a manner typical for a thesis and to how the contents are structured. The thesis should be 20 pages long.

The subjects for the exercises will be linked together as far as possible; a general overview, a more detailed focusing on a specific sector, diversifying the presentation for the thesis.

The (approximate) times allotted for each exercise are the following, the summary: 3 weeks, the essay: 5 weeks, the thesis: 6 weeks. The thesis should preferably be completed during the course. As an exception, the deadline can be extended by application.

The exercises and the thesis should take the recommended form (please see below for the course folder).

The maturity test

The maturity test that is taken at the end of the course will be based on the subject of the thesis. See instructions.

Evaluation of the thesis

When grading the thesis, special attention will be paid to how well you have command of the subject matter, how readable the text is, the following of ethical rules and your presentation technique.

Your command of the subject matter is shown by the text presenting the essential features of the matter in hand, and nothing else. The structure of the thesis should follow the structure of the subject matter in a natural way. The text may also be evaluated according to whether it is merely declaratory and descriptive, or whether it is constructive, including analysis, synthesis and evaluation.

The readability of the text comes from such features as e.g. the description of the matter in hand and how the reader is guided in reading. References should be used to support your arguments, not in chunks following upon each other without linking. You should also pay attention to keeping the text unambiguous and exact.

The ethical rules define such things as the difference between correct reference and citation methods on the one hand, and plagiarism on the other. It is also considered good writing form not to leave out proof or arguments for results or claims.

The presentation technique comprises the exactness of your writing, the use of technical aids in your writing (figures and tables and their titles, a bibliography/source list that fulfils the requirements, and reference methods), as well as correct grammar and spelling.

Normal course grades are used for this course.

  • Work reaching grades 4 and 5 is well structured and easy to read, the subject matter is clearly outlined and there are few errors in the presentation.
  • Work reaching grades 2 and 3 means that the requirements are somewhat lower. The thesis can not contain subject errors. The structuring of the thesis must show a command of the subject. The presentation should be easily readable and carefully revised.
  • Grade 1 means that the thesis may be passed even though the criteria above have not quite been met.
  • If the thesis fails to fulfil the criteria, it is failed. In that case, you will have to retake the whole course.

More detailed information on grading is collected to a table on factors affecting the grades (PDF)

Plagiarism, along with any other deceit, will lead to a failed thesis

You are not required to carry out your own research for the thesis. The main goal of the course is to practise methods for finding information and the technical aspects of writing a scientific text. Other aspects of the research process will be practised in connection with the Master's thesis (pro gradu).

Course material

Guide on Structure and Layout for Theses (at UH-CS)

Course book

Tools to work with

Students attending the course may apply for a plastic key to the department and library privileges at the department library. They are awarded for the academic year when you attend the course. Please contact the person in charge of the course for more information.

Using LaTex and other tools to write the thesis.

Finding information

Dictionaries and glossaries


  • Before handing in your essay or thesis for comments or grading, use a checklist to revise your text. Your personal checklist can contain the mistakes you are in the habit of making, but you can also see the literature for lists of typical mistakes.
  • For language support, please contact the person in charge of this course for furher advise.

Oral presentation

The course team

The course staff (person in charge, group supervisors and instructors) are listed on the course page for each term. You may also access each group's own page from that page.

The team works as follows:

  • Person in charge: practical arrangements, lectures, signing for the completed course, ironing out problems
  • Group supervisor: reads at least the theses, supports the instructor in the choice of subject and grading, sets the subjects for the maturity test, extends deadlines if needed
  • Group instructors: coordinates the group's work, instructs on the contents and structure of the exercises, coordinates subject choices in the group, evaluates the exercises, arranges services (rooms, signatures for permits).

Producers of the course material

This course has been held by Lea Kutvonen, Matti Nykänen, Pekka Kilpeläinen and Matti Mäkelä, among others.