All MSc students are required to successfully complete a project as a part of their course, and write this up as a dissertation. This is a major component of your degree, being worth 60 credits. The dissertation is a Summer module, but some components do need to be carried out within the Spring term. Briefly, you should have fixed the topic of your project and found a supervisor by the end of the first week of the Summer term, and the project should be completed early in September.
This handbook is similar in many places to the handbooks for other MSc courses in Computer Science, but also includes key differences specific to the MSc in Interactive Systems Design.The formal description of the module provides a certain level of information - this handbook provides more detail, guidance and further resources. However, if after having read these notes you still have problems then please e-mail Dave Kirk for further guidance.
You must have chosen your dissertation and found a supervisor by this date at the latest. Supervisors will be able to sign you up using the online system we have if they are from CS, if they are from engineering then they need to let me know and I will do the signing up on the system. Before April you should have talked to Supervisors, had an initial meeting and worked through some ideas of what it is that you will be doing. I would strongly advise that you put together a full proposal for your project to be informally discussed, with your supervisor, by the end of the Spring Semester (Friday 17th June).
If you have not found a supervisor by this date, you will be allocated a supervisor from the list below. You will then be required to meet with your allocated supervisor and agree a topic by Wednesday 11th May , 2011.
Monday 5th September, 2011 (Presentation = 10% of Mark)
You will give a 15 minute presentation (and watch the presentations of other students on the course).
You must submit two paper copies of your dissertation at the
School Office by 4pm. If you meet this deadline, the School will bind the copies for
you without charge. If you do not meet this deadline, for whatever reason, you
must get two copies of your dissertation loose-bound (e.g. thermal or spiral bound) at your own expense and submit
them to the School Office by the deadline you have agreed.
You must also submit an electronic copy of your dissertation (in PDF format) by the 5pm on Wednesday 7th September 2011.
Submission details will be confirmed closer to the time.
One of the most commonly asked questions is what type of dissertation is acceptable? This question is addressed in the staff presentation on the 26th Feb.
For Interactive Systems Design the project must deal with a computer-based interactive system (or class of systems) and be "human centred", i.e. rooted in the human perspective. It should link to and extend on at least some of the material and methods that you have covered in your core module(s).
This means that your project will comprise one or both of the following:
More information on the marking of the dissertation is given below.
Selected titles, abstracts (and in some cases PDFs) of past dissertations are available for reference: ISD_Dissertations_past.html
It is your responsibility to make every effort to find a suitable topic and a supervisor of the project. This is a major element of your postgraduate study, and you must achieve a pass grade in order to be awarded a degree. It is the supervisor's responsibility to approve the topic and the plan of work. It is most important that you choose an area you are happy to work in, and in which you are confident of your abilities. However, there are no hard and fast criteria for choosing a project.
Ideally, we would like you to come up with the basic idea, though it is likely to be modified after discussion with a member of staff. Once you have done so, you should approach a potential supervisor to discuss the details and ask them if they would be willing to supervise it. Many students find it hard to identify suitable projects, but the following thoughts might help you.
You should consider all of the modules that you have taken so far, and identify the modules and the specific parts of the modules that you found to be the most interesting. This should give you some ideas about likely subject areas. Look at the supervisors' ideas pages that are maintained by members of staff, and see what areas look interesting. Some staff post specific ideas for projects, others post more general areas that are fertile for research. You might decide to undertake a project which mirrors your interests. You might also want to consider whether a given topic will increase your job opportunities. You might want to make use of past experience in choosing a subject area - some students undertake projects based on specialist knowledge that they acquired whilst studying for their first degree.
It is an extremely good idea to find a project that interests you, because you will be spending a lot of time on it, and ultimately this will be an important item on your CV!
For ISD (unlike IT and MIT) you can be supervised by a member of staff from Computer Science or from M3.
Main supervisors and project ideas from Computer Science:
Most people are supervised by one of the lecturers listed above. However, you are not restricted to these people - if they are agreeable then, with the agreement of your project module convener, any member of academic staff in the University can supervise you.
If you approach a potential supervisor other than one on this list then please remember that they are under no obligation to agree to supervise you - so be polite, and accept a no gracefully! All supervisors on this list have a quota of students - when any individual supervisor has agreed to that quota then you will have to go elsewhere.
It is best to find a supervisor whose own interests are similar to the work involved in your dissertation - that way they will be best placed to advise you based on past experience. Of course this is not always possible, especially when a member of staff already has a full set of projects, but one of the other staff can supervise your project if necessary. Before you approach any supervisor then make sure you are aware of their interests (check out their personal web site).
When you approach a potential supervisor you should either have a clear idea of what project that you want to do, or else you should be willing to take on a project in their research area that they suggest. There is little point in going to someone with a vague idea like "I want to look at e-commerce", because if it is outside their personal area of expertise they probably won't have the in-depth knowledge of the subject area that is needed to refine your idea into a workable project.
If you really can't think of a solid project, then go and talk to a potential supervisor who is expert in an area that you are interested in and ask him or her if they have any specific ideas.
When you have found a supervisor you must get them to have signed up on the database (marks server). If they are in CS they can do this themselves - if they are from another school they need to email Dave Kirk and ask him to do for them. A member of staff will not be your supervisor until this process has been completed.
If you wish to use school equipment (hardware or software) then you must request the equipment that you will require in advance from TSG using the project equipment request form (which must be signed by yourself and your supervisor). You can find detailed information, together with lists of available hardware and software on the project equipment request page.
If you wish to use your own equipment, then you can do so providing that you are independent of the School. School staff cannot support your own personal equipment, and hardware or software purchased for a project can not usually be used outside of the school (there are both good pragmatic and legal reasons for this). For reasons of Health and Safety regulations, as well as security and support, your own equipment can only be connected to school facilities under limited circumstances (e.g. laptop points in the terminal room - refer to TSG for specific guidance). Therefore, if you use your own equipment for development work then you must make arrangements to demonstrate it to your supervisor (eg either on a laptop, or by installing it on a School machine).
Submitted September 2011, in partial fulfilment
the conditions of the award of the degree M.Sc. in Interactive Systems Design
School of Computer Science
University of Nottingham
I hereby declare that this dissertation is all my own work, except as indicated in the text:
I hereby declare that I have all necessary rights and consents to publicly distribute this dissertation
via the University of Nottingham's e-dissertation archive.*
Public access to this dissertation is restricted until: DAY / MONTH / YEAR**
Beneath the abstract you should
list any keywords you think would help someone trying to find your
dissertation (e.g. in a web search). Please be careful to enter
specific keywords relevant to your dissertation, and don't be too
general. We recommend that you include the full version of any acronyms
in your title or abstract and also include synonyms or alternate
spellings. Seperate words or phrases with commas, e.g.
The next page should give a Table of Contents for the dissertation. Include page numbers throughout the dissertation.
References shall be collected at the end of the
Dissertation and shall be given in a standard journal format as described in the Information Services publication IS2010 - "How
to Cite References".
Dissertations shall be typeset and printed on a publication quality
There is a recommended dissertation structure in the Your Dissertation section
In the following the term work refers to the total efforts of the students from the start of the proposed area of study to the final submission of the dissertation. The grading of the work is based primarily upon the dissertation. The term dissertation refers to the final written report of the student.
The work is usually assessed using criteria such as: Amount of effort, diligence, initiative and enthusiasm shown; difficulties experienced and extent to which overcome; the extent of self-organisation and ability demonstrated by the students; the effectiveness, quality, and quantity of work produced and the extent to which the objectives of the work were met. The organization and structure of the work; quality of referencing, appendices, figures, programs and any other supporting documentation where relevant Originality, novelty and innovation displayed in the work and reflected in the dissertation. The quality of the dissertation as a source of clear, concise and interesting information.
To give a better indication of how your work will be marked, draft copies of the marking sheets that will be given to the assessors can be found below.
The following are general characteristics of grades awarded to dissertations by the University. Due to the fact that your dissertations are 60 credits, and you are not allowed to compensate more than 40 credits - the minimum pass mark is 50%, anything less is a fail.
Before writing your dissertation, be sure to read the section below on copying of other work.
It is important to realize that you cannot perform an excellent project, follow it with a poor dissertation and expect to do well. You must remember that others will be involved in the assessment of the project who you have not had weekly meetings with and who do not have access to knowledge not presented in the dissertation. Indeed, in the case of the External Examiner, they will not even know who you are! Thus all they have at their disposal to grade you is the dissertation.
Given this crucial observation you should not leave the writing of your dissertation just to the last few weeks of your project timetable. Also bear in mind that many others will be rushing to produce documentation towards the end of the second semester and that the printing facilities will be at full stretch during the last two or three weeks. The failure of laser printers, machines and the absence of paper at weekends, overnight or indeed at any time during this period will not be a valid excuse for the late delivery of your dissertation. All these occurrences can be guaranteed to occur so you must plan accordingly.
We recommend that you lay out your dissertation in the following way (note points of variation depending on the kind of project you are doing):
- Code listings - a listing of the code you have written for the project. You should NOT include code listings for code you have not written!! If your project involves modifying code previously written by others, then you may include this other code as long as you indicate clearly in the code listing what parts have been written by you.
- User manuals
- Technical documentation
- Raw data - if your dissertation involved data collection then this should usually be included in appendices. This should provide supporting evidence for claims made in the main part of the dissertation (eg copies of a user evaluation questionnaire and some sample responses, an Excel spreadsheet with users' performance values).
- Examples of test data.
- Electronic material on a floppy disk or CD taped inside the back cover. This might contain executable software, source code, graphics, slides used for your presentation, etc.
Where the appendices are long (e.g. code listings) do not print them out, rather provide them on a CD.
The only requirement is that the dissertation should not exceed the prescribed number of words (see the module catalogue: currently 15,000 words for ISD). The reason for this is to stop the presentation of unstructured and verbose dissertations which are generally repetitive. If you can present all your work clearly in 5,000 words or less then that is fine. However, think carefully about the examiners who have never met you and might not know the application area you are describing. You may know your work backwards, and perhaps your supervisor might have a good idea about what the project involved, but what about some other casual IT literate reader? It is all too easy to assume that everyone else knows what you did whereas in fact they have no idea at all! Poor dissertations are generally notable for what is omitted rather than what has been included.
One final question concerns the inclusion of Appendices. Appendices are excluded from the total word count. It is unlikely that an Appendix will be read in detail by an examiner. The aim of an Appendix is to act as a supporting reference to the main body of the dissertation. Thus you might state in the main dissertation that "A complete and detailed User Manual was produced (see Appendix E)". Appendix E would contain the User Manual. This allows any casual reader to access the User Manual easily to verify the truth of the statement.
If you want to include a very small amount of text in your dissertation by quoting someone who has written or said something relevant to your work, then you are permitted to include this small amount of text, but you must indicate very clearly which past of the text is copied, the name of the author(s) and where it comes from, and you must italicize the quoted text and delimit it with quotation marks. Under no circumstances should quotations comprise more than a very small fraction of the submitted work.
You should also be aware of copyright law - it is illegal to duplicate substantial amounts of text (with or without indication) unless you have the explicit permission of the copyright owner.
Exactly the same goes for copying code or images - you can easily breach both copyright law and University regulations on plagiarism.
Staff can easily detect copied work because usually there are changes in the quality of the work, the written expression, syntax and so on all make it obvious that some parts of the work are not by the claimed student author.
In summary - do not copy text, code or anything else and attempt to pass it off as your own work. For example, never succumb to the temptation to cut & paste text or images from the web into your dissertation. This is plagiarism, it is ILLEGAL as it preaches copyright, and it is CHEATING as it breaches University regulations. It is regarded as a very serious offence and is punishable when caught, and an especially dim view of plagiarism is taken when it occurs in dissertations.
For a tutorial on plagiarism see here.
In the past dissertations gaining a distinction mark have been lodged in the library for reference. As of 2008 we are making such dissertations available publicly through the University of Nottingham's e-dissertation archive.
This can only be done if you have all necessary rights and consents to make your dissertation publicly available. For example, if you have included photographs or images from the web or from other papers or documents that are subject to copyright (and most are) then you need to obtain explicit consent from the original copyright owner. See Copyright Information for more details. If you have included such material in your dissertation without specific consent under an expectation of "educational fair use" or similar then your dissertation cannot be considered for the archive. In this case please do NOT include the declaration about consents in your dissertation cover page.
Similarly, if there is some reason why your dissertation should not be accessible for some period of time, for example if it contains information which is commercially sensitive or might compromise an Intellectual Property claim then please include the corresponding declaration on the dissertation cover page - we can then ensure that it is not released on the e-dissertation archive until after that date.
Please also note that we will not be able to consider your
dissertation for the archive if the PDF that you submit is corrupt or
incomplete. You should make every effort to ensure that this is not the
case, as some supervisors may be intending to mark the electronic
version of your dissertation!
As an integral part of your project you will be required to give a presentation. This will take place in a seminar room or lecture theatre, and you will have access to a data projector and a PC with MS Office installed. You are strongly advised to use MS PowerPoint for your presentations, although an overhead projector, witheboard and VCR will also be available should you want to make use of them. You may use your own self-powered laptops, providing that it has a VGA output to connect to the VGA input of the data project and provided that you know how to force the laptop to send a signal to this output! This is usually a proprietary keystroke, and you cannot expect School staff to spend time working out what this is! Details about available technical facilities are provided on the TSG Project Presentation Page.
It will also be necessary for you to attend and grade the presentations of students in the same session as yours. You will be asked to give grades for the presentations of other students. These grades will be taken into consideration when making up the final mark for the project. Your attendance at these other presentations to grade other students will also be taken into consideration when making up the final grade for your project.
Plan to speak for fifteen minutes and allow five minutes for questions. The chair of the session will impose strict timekeeping. Do not go over the fifteen minute time limit.
Some helpful notes on giving presentations are given in CS Presentation Guide for third year individual projects - this is also highly relevant to M.Sc. students.