The Third Year Project is an important part of your degree. For single honours students, it is worth 40 credits, which is one-sixth of your entire degree (note that it actually counts toward one-fifth of your degree result with the 40/60 2nd/3rd year assessment weighting). It is usually worth 20 credits for Joint Honours candidates, although a joint project may be arranged, in which case the project will be worth 40 credits. Digital Business students do a 40-credit project.
This Handbook describes these projects in some detail. However, if after having read these notes you still have problems then please contact your project supervisor first, or failing that, see either of the module convenors Colin Higgins (in Nottingham) or KR Selvaraj (in Kuala Lumpur) for further guidance. You can also find some very useful suggestions that individual lecturers have put together, some of which are listed below:
A good textbook on projects is "The Essence of Computing Projects - A Students Guide" by Christian W. Dawson Pearson EducationISBN 0-13-021972-X
Each report should be handed in no later than 3:30 local time on the due date. Each report should be handed in as described above in the Key Dates. Do NOT hand it in anywhere else except by arrangement with the module convenors otherwise it will not be considered to be officially received and you may be penalised for a late hand-in (NOTE it is not acceptable to hand it in directly to your supervisor).
PDF versions of all reports must be made available at the same time as the written report is submitted.
It is your responsibility to make backups of all your work. If in doubt, back up onto your School H drive as this is archived most nights. If you lose work (code or data or reports) through theft, loss, error or damage you will not be allowed any extra time, nor will we take this into consideration when assessing.
Late submissions of both paper, PDF reports and source code will be penalised
at the standard university guidelines of 5 marks per working day. Paper reports which
are later than the 3:30 deadline will be time and date stamped and marks
deducted. PDF files and source code which are not on time will also start to accrue deducted marks.
Choosing Your Project
The subject-matter of Third-Year projects is very varied, and changes
from year to year, in line with developments in computing. The basic
requirement is that it should involve a problem-solving and/or design
element, and it should exploit major elements of the computer science
that you have studied in your degree. Meeting this requirement is
usually demonstrated by a substantial implementation. (The requirement
is the same for all degrees, i.e. including joint degrees, but the
extent of the project will, of course, be proportionately less for
20-credit projects.) Your supervisor is responsible for vetting your
proposed project to ensure that it will meet the requirements for the
degree you are studying; otherwise, the choice of subject-matter is
primarily your responsibility.
The project is a major element of your final-year studies, and has a significant effect on the degree classification, so it is important that you choose an area that you are happy with. However, there are no hard and fast criteria for choosing a project. Ideally, we, the academic staff, would like you to come up with the idea, but in reality we realise that this can be difficult. Nevertheless if you do have an idea then approach a member of staff who you think might like to supervise the project.
Most students find it hard to identify suitable projects, but the following thoughts might help you.
Consider all the modules you have taken so far. Which ones did you find interesting? Were there any elements that were particularly exciting? If you can narrow down to a small area then approach the lecturer who gave the module and ask if there are any projects possible in that area. Alternatively, you might choose to work with a specific lecturer because you find their approach amenable to your own character. Again, go and see the lecturer to talk about the possibilities.
Alternatively, you might decide to take on a project which mirrors your interests or hobbies. For example, a football enthusiast might implement a football pools predictor, or a keen musician could implement software to generate sound effects on input guitar signals. It is a good idea to take on a project which interests you, because you will be putting in a lot of work on it.
Finally, consider (realistically) what grade you are aiming for with your project. The highest-graded projects tend to be those which have a significant element of original thinking evident. You should consult the Assessment Criteria below to see how your project will be graded.
If your project involves construction of hardware then the design must be checked by TSG to conform with safety regulations prior to construction, as it will be demonstrated in the school on completion. This will generally not require any extra construction time to be spent on making the hardware electrically safe as safety will have been built into the design.
While it is nice to have a project supervisor who knows a lot about the area you want to study, that may not be possible, especially if you want to study an Internet or e-commerce topic (like everyone else!). However, the real benefit of a project supervisor is that they know how to go about approaching a study of this nature, and can provide you with advice on how to find information and how to write your dissertation.
BEFORE YOU APPROACH A POTENTIAL SUPERVISOR... be sure to have either a clear idea of what project you want to do, or else be willing to take on a project that they suggest. There is no point going to a potential supervisor with an idea like "I want to do something about the Internet" because many supervisors may not have the in-depth knowledge of the area to be able to refine your idea. Anyway, the choice of project is really up to YOU - if you really can't think of a definite project in the area you are interested in, ask a potential supervisor about projects they may have ideas for in areas they know more about.
You will be expected to see you supervisor regularly throughout the year, and keep them up to date on your progress on the project. The two of you should decide how often you will meet - it may not be every week, but perhaps fortnightly, as long as the meetings are regular enough that the supervisor can be sure you are progressing well. It can be helpful to give the supervisor drafts of your interim report and dissertation.
When arranging a project and a supervisor, your arrangement becomes
official when your supervisor emails the module convenor to state that
they are supervising your project.
Students should follow the recommended dissertation structure in the Writing your Dissertation section below as a guide - you should aim to submit sections 1-7 and section 10 for your interim report.
This Report shall be brief and should be around 10-15 pages in length.
The Presentation will be scheduled by the module convenor and will take place around the same time as the Report is due.
The Report and Presentation combined shall carry a weighting of 10% of the total marks available. Satisfactory performance in both is required to achieve a satisfactory mark.
You should prepare in advance some sort of walkthrough of your program - a series of inputs and outputs which demonstrate all the various things your program can do - it may help to write yourself a list. In the demonstration you should run through this first and the markers may then ask a few questions and have a go at using the program themselves (if appropriate). In some cases they may ask to see bits of code and have them explained. It is helpful to practise the walk through in advance, possibly with a friend to watch and ask questions if they don't understand anything.
The demonstration shall carry 10% of the total marks available.
Late submissions of paper reports, PDF reports and source code will be penalised at the standard university guidelines of 5 marks per working day or part thereof. Paper reports which are later than the 3:30 deadline will be time and date stamped and marks deducted. PDF files and source code which are not submitted will also start to accrue deducted marks.
Supervisors are often willing to give comments on a dissertation draft, if
given sufficient time. However you should be aware that supervisors are
giving you feedback on how to prepare and present your project work, and
that their comments form a necessary but not sufficient feedback for getting
a good mark.
Since all projects are different it is very difficult to make comparisons
between the various dissertations. Thus to assess the projects, a set of
a set of guidelines has been developed which should help to guide you in
the production of your final dissertation.
Before writing your dissertation, be sure to read the section below on copying of other work.
You should be sure to consult the Assessment Criteria so that you know what will be expected from your project in order to achieve the various grades.
It is important to realise 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 Examiners, 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 (See Important hand-in information below).
Note that no extensions or extenuating circumstances will be allowed in case of information loss from your home computer if you do not weekly back up your work onto a CSIT machine.
It is not an admissible alternative to back up your work to any other place,
including discs or memory sticks, as these are unreliable.
Writing your Dissertation
The best dissertations and reports, whether for a third-year project, a PhD thesis or even in some commercial applications, usually all follow much the same structure, althoiugh there are variations.
Graham Kendall and Dario Landa-Silva have particularly good examples of possible layouts. Another layout might be...
Do not destroy trees unnecessarily with printed code listings. You will be handing in a digital copy of your code which will be collected at the same time as the PDF files of your dissertation.
In general, all good dissertations follow a structure very similar to the ones indicated above.
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.
On top of adhering to this specification for your dissertation, you should endeavour to make your dissertation as professional as possible. Take care over the layout and always use the 3rd person (ie SAY "an experiment was performed" NOT "I performed an experiment").
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 organisation 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 supervisor will grade the work of the student and this will be moderated by a second marker. By default, they will be asked to comment on the following aspects of your dissertation:
The following guidelines outline the typical requirements of specific grades. It is not necessary that a project exhibit all the criteria listed in each grade given below to fall within that grade. The characteristics of each grade are merely representative of that grade. The balance between various aspects of the work will be considered during assessment; thus for example a project with no software component would need to exhibit a corresponding increase in work and coverage in other components. Normally the dissertation should not exceed 20,000 words excluding any appendices or other supporting documentation.
If you want to include a 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 clearly which part of the text is copied, the name of the author(s) and where it comes from.
All quoted or copied text should be in italics and indented.Do not duplicate large amounts of text, either with or without indication, as this constitutes a breach of copyright laws. If you copy substantial amounts of text form another source, even with citations, this is not acceptable. What you should do is to read and understand the materials, and write your own summary in your own words, stating the relevant information and giving a citation.
The same goes for copying code - you could be breaching copyright by duplicating chunks of code.
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. This is plagiarism and is
ILLEGAL as it breaches copyright. Also plagiarism is CHEATING and
punishable as such.
IMPORTANT HAND-IN INFORMATION
This section covers very important details about handing in your final
You must not hand in your report directly to your supervisors. This has happened in the past and it has been assumed that no hand-in was made at all and the students awarded 0 for the report.
Being even a minute late for the hand-in is not an adequate reason for handing in your report to any other place - you should time your hand-in so that you do not miss the deadline. Have your report ready by the beginning of the hand-in session, not the end.
If you do not hand in at the appropriate place and time, then there is no record of you having handed in on time, and the penalties will start to apply.
Extensions will not be granted for equipment failures, as you should be frequently backing up your work, particularly onto the School machines - NOTE that it is not advisable to only back up your work to a memory stick or disc instead of to a School machine as these are unreliable and can be lost.
Note that extensions cannot be granted by your supervisor. They can only be granted by the module convenor, in consultation with the extenuating circumstances officer. Any unofficial arrangement you make with your supervisor regarding extensions will not be considered valid without authority from the module convenor.
So if you need an extension, please contact me in the first place, either by email or in person.
Hints for time planning in the final week: