Master Thesis Guidelines

This page is intended to answer some questions you may have about the Master thesis for the MSc UZH ETH in Quantitative Finance. This site is solely for information purposes and has no legal validity. Please check the Study regulations / Studienordnung for further information.

Purpose of the Master Thesis

We want to appraise your ability

  • to identify and analyze a problem on your own; and
  • to apply the tools, techniques and concepts you have learned in the courses with little or even no guidance.

Nature of the Master Thesis

You have a lot of flexibility in your choice of project:
  • One possible choice is to write a 'clinical paper' such as those published regularly in the Journal of Financial Economics. A clinical paper is an extended case study, which uses rather more empirical finance techniques than do the more classical, Harvard-type case studies.
  • Another possible choice is to conduct an empirical study on a sample of companies, rather than the single company that is the focus of a clinical paper.
  • Yet another choice is to write a theory paper like those published in Mathematical Finance or Finance and Stochastics.
  • Whatever the choice you make, you should guard against writing a simple survey of the literature. Such surveys do not fulfil the requirements for the Master thesis.
Experience shows that a Master thesis is in general not ready for a publication because it is (and should be) more detailed than a published paper. Therefore, if you aim for a publication, plan on investing substantial time after handing in your Master thesis.

Role of the supervisor

The Master thesis supervisor has an important, but limited role. He or she is to ensure that the topic you have agreed on is both acceptable and feasible in the limited time, and that the method of analysis you have chosen is appropriate and correct. Once this is done, you are essentially on your own until you hand in the Master thesis for grading.

The thesis supervisor is not expected to read a first draft of the report. However, arrange for meetings with your supervisor to report briefly about your progress so that he/she can give you some suggestions and bring you on the right track again if necessary.

Choice of topics

Any field of (mathematical) finance is acceptable, insurance related topics included. Examples of possible topics are mergers and acquisitions, distribution policy, financing policy, investment policy, restructuring activity, real options valuation, derivatives pricing, hedging, fixed-income valuation, interest rate contingent claims valuation, credit-sensitive contingent claims valuation, operational risk modelling, model risk issues, securitization, numerical methods for option valuation, time series modelling, capital allocation, performance measurement, risk measurement, and many more.

Finding a supervisor and a topic

Any professor from the Faculty of Business, Economics and Informatics at the University of Zurich and any professor from the Department of Mathematics of ETH Zurich can be your thesis supervisor. Since we encourage a strong cooperation with the financial industry, consider also the following thoughts:

  • Your thesis is officially supervised by a local professor, but a practitioner comes up with the precise topic and gives you the needed guidance.
  • You already have contacts to the financial industry (because you received a tuition fee grant, for example) and you use these contacts to negotiate for an interesting project and guidance.
  • You are eager to work on a practical project, but you currently lack the industry contacts. In this case, ask one of the lecturers or the Director of the MSc UZH ETH in Quantitative Finance program for contact persons.
  • You might want to combine the Master thesis with a part-time internship in the financial industry.

In any case, make sure your thesis supervisor is really interested in the topic you plan to work on.

Suggested length and form

The Master thesis should be about 20-60 pages long, although you should be aware that it is in fact quality and not quantity that matters. In essence, you should tell us as much as - and no more than - we need to understand what the problem is and what we can learn from it or how you have solved it.

Your Master thesis should be typed and printed in reasonable quality. You should familiarise yourself with the necessary text processing or typesetting software you plan to use before you start to work on your Master thesis. If you plan on writing a mathematically-orientated thesis (i.e., lots of formulas), the free TeX/LaTeX typesetting software is a good option, but requires a substantial initial time investment. The thesis has to be written in English. Exact proofreading is required and use of a spelling checker recommended.

Master Thesis in groups

Group work is not permitted.


The period allowed for completion of the Master thesis is six months and starts with the formal issuance of the topic. The oral presentation of the Master thesis has to be done within 4 weeks after the submission of the thesis. If your Master thesis is the last module before the completion of your studies please look at the Dean's office information on graduation.

Master Thesis Presentation

The Master thesis presentation has to be done within 4 weeks after the submission of the Master thesis and consists of a 30 minutes presentation followed by questions. This presentation is open to public and will be officially announced.


The Master thesis is graded. The supervising professor will assess the work submitted including the public presentation and will inform the student in writing of the grade awarded.

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