N.B. The dissertations for the M.Sc. in Interactive Systems Design, Computational Finance and Computer Science and Entrepreneurship are administered separately and information in this document does not necessarily apply to those courses.
This Handbook describes these projects in some detail. However, if after having read these notes you still have problems then please e-mail Tim Brailsford for further guidance.
It is important not to loose sight of the fact that their degree is a science degree, and therefore all dissertations must be subject to scientific rigour. The writing must be objective, and any claims that you make must be backed up by hard evidence (i.e. it must not be subjective "opinions"). It is a requirement of the dissertation that it is relevant to your degree. Thus students on the M.Sc. in IT must undertake a dissertation that demonstrates their competence in IT. Such dissertations usually have an element (often a substantial element) of software engineering - such as a large scale programming project.
For students doing the M.Sc. in MIT the dissertation choice is very much more flexible. If you wish you can undertake a dissertation that, although it must focus upon IT issues, might also contain substantial elements of non-technical disciplines (eg sociology, psychology, management, economics etc). Alternatively, it is quite acceptable for an M.Sc. in MIT dissertation to be highly technical, and include a substantial programming component.
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 then 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 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 or hobbies. For example, a football enthusiast might wish to implement a football pools predictor, or a keen musician could implement software to generate sound effects on input guitar signals. You might also want to consider whether a given topic will improve your IT skills and 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!
|Tony P Pridmorefirstname.lastname@example.org||Ideas|
|Milena V Radenkovicemail@example.com||Ideas|
The Brain & Body Centre is offering to jointly supervise a number of projects, and a page of project ideas is available. If you want to do any of these, then we would find a suitable supervisor in Computer Science, as well as your supervisor in the Brain & Body Centre. If you want to discuss details about any of these project ideas, then you should contact Dr. Alain Pitiot. For administration, or to discuss a Computer Science supervisor please contact Tim Brailsford.
Computer Science web projects. The School of Computer Science is currently overhauling it's intranet/extranet/web presence. This presents an opportunity to be involved with this work. A number of project ideas are available, these would be supervised by various members of staff. Contact Dr. Adam Moore if you want to discuss details about any of these. For administration, or to discuss a Computer Science supervisor please contact Tim Brailsford.
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.
The choice of a project is ultimately up to YOU! 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 fill out a dissertation form to "sign on". These forms consist of two parts - one of which is kept by your supervisor, and the other of which is returned to the School office. The form must be signed by both of you before it is returned, and a member of staff will not be your supervisor until this process has been completed.
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). 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).
Production of the Dissertation
Students are required, by University regulations to submit TWO copies of their dissertation hard-bound by a professional book binder. The School requires that you submit ONE soft bound copy. The hard and soft bound copies must be identical in every way except for the binding. The soft bound copy must be handed in on the 5th September, and the hard bound copies on the 19th September. You may, if you wish, submit the hard bound copies on the 5th September, in which case you do not need to submit a soft bound copy - that is purely for the convenience of the school to start the marking process on that date.
The hard bound dissertations should be bound in black and your name and the the full title of the dissertation should be clearly printed on the front. Your name, your degree title and the year should also be clearly printed on the spine.
The title page of the dissertation must have the following layout, and each copy should be signed and dated where indicated:
Submitted September 2008, in partial fulfilment of
the conditions of the award of the degree [M.Sc. in IT or M.Sc in Management of IT]
School of Computer Science
University of Nottingham
I hereby declare that this dissertation is all my own work, except as indicated in the text:
This shall be followed by a one page Abstract which should pr‰cis the contents of the Dissertation. 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 must be typeset and printed on a publication quality printer.
The pages of soft bound dissertations should be firmly fixed together, using a spiral plastic or glue binding. If two hard-bound copies are submitted on the day that the soft-bound copies are due, then the soft-bound copy is not required. Unbound dissertations, or dissertations in loose-leaf folders will not be accepted. If disks or other supplementary material is included with the dissertation, then it should be firmly attached inside the back cover and also clearly labeled. Separate disks will not be accepted.
There is a recommended dissertation structure in the Your Dissertation section below.
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-organization 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.
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 excellent practical work and then follow it up with a poor write-up and expect to do well. You must remember that others will be involved in the assessment of the dissertation 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 written 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 printers, computers 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.
The exact layout of dissertations tends to vary depending upon the nature of the material and the style of the author. It is recommend that you discuss this in detail with your supervisor. However the following might be considered to be a typical layout:
- Code listings - you should include a full listing of all you 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).
- 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.
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.
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 ten minutes and allow five minutes for questions. The chair of the session will impose strict timekeeping. Do not go over the ten minute time limit.
Some helpful notes on giving presentations are given in CSiT Presentation
Guide for third year individual projects - this is also highly
relevant to M.Sc. students.