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MSc Computer Science Project

Sven Helmer

MSc Computer Science Project p. 1/11

Overview
Introduction How not to do your project Choosing a topic Literature review Working on your project Writing the report Plagiarism

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Introduction
Why do we make you do a project? Main aims of the MSc CS project: offer students the opportunity to develop a systematic understanding and critical awareness of a problem area plan and execute a major piece of programming work critically present existing approaches, place their own approach in the wider area, and evaluate their contribution gain experience in communicating complex ideas/concepts and approaches/techniques to others by writing a comprehensive, self-contained report

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Organizational Matters
Two important documents have to be submitted: Project proposal Due: last day of spring term About 2000-3000 words in length, providing essential background research for carrying out project Project report Due: two weeks before the start of the autumn term About 10,000 words in length, explaining what you did in the project More details about these documents in just a moment. . .

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Submission of Proposal
The proposal can be handed in as a hardcopy or submitted electronically An electronic copy needs to be submitted to the program administrator (for plagiarism detection) Plain text, Word, postscript, PDF, HTML, or RTF formats are accepted A lled-in project proposal form (can be obtained from the project tutor) needs to be sent to the program administrator or project tutor If you need the installation of particular software on Department machines, please note so on the form If youre not sure about your software requirements, please contact someone from the systems group

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Submission of Report
You submit two copies of the printed report to the project administrator The submission date will be recorded, late submissions can affect the projects grade There is no provision for formal extensions, however, you can include a letter explaining the reasons for the late submission (which the exam board may take into account) providing sufcient written evidence, you can defer your project to the following year (this has to be done before the submission deadline) If you are working on a non-Department computer, you are responsible for back-ups

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Submission of Report(2)
You also submit an electronic copy of the report to the program administrator Plain text, Word, postscript, PDF, HTML, or RTF formats are accepted The le name should begin with PROJ_ followed by your surname and an initial (e.g. PROJ_SmithJ.doc) This document will be run past the JISC plagiarism detection service

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Assessment
The proposal and the report are assessed by your supervisor and a second (occasionally third) marker The overall mark for the project is made up like this: 20% for the proposal 80% for the report

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Assessment(2)
The proposal is judged according to the following criteria: Background research Presentation of the problem Plan for developing the solution Presentation of the Proposal Any other aspect (optional)

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Assessment(3)
The report is judged according to the following criteria: Specication and Design Implementation Testing, results, analysis, and evaluation Presentation of report, documentation Any other aspect (optional)

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Assessment of Proposal/Report
Lets have a closer look at what the examiners will be looking for For each criterion, we specify what is needed for a pass mark what is needed for a distinction mark anything going well beyond a pass, but not quite reaching a distinction will be deemed a merit

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Background Res., Problem Presentation


To obtain a pass mark: The proposal species a suitable problem and discusses its requirements It also reviews potential approaches and evaluates them To obtain a distinction mark: A suitable problem is specied and clearly outlined, this includes its context and the technical/user requirements The student shows a clear understanding of the researched material Potential approaches are reviewed and critically evaluated, highlighting strengths and weaknesses of each

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Plan for Solution Development


To obtain a pass mark: A suitable development/research method is chosen The project is broken down into manageable chunks To obtain a distinction mark: An appropriate development/research method is chosen and its suitability is well-justied The project is broken down into subtasks that are logically coherent In the case of unknowns (e.g. open research questions) fallback plans are laid out

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Presentation (Proposal and Report)


To obtain a pass mark: The proposal/report are coherent in style and structure They clearly communicated the students contribution

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Presentation (Proposal and Report)(2)


To obtain a distinction mark: Complex issues are explained clearly and concisely The content is well-organized and structured in a way that demonstrates the links between the concepts The proposal/report shows that the student clearly understands the researched material The solution and any other claims made by the students are well-justied The author uses various resources and cites relevant resources using an appropriate consistent referencing style The proposal/report is of professional quality and contains very few, ideally no, typographic errors.

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Specication and Design


To obtain a pass mark: Before starting the implementation, a specication and design of the system/software is laid out To obtain a distinction mark: The specication and design of the system/software shows a clear understanding of what needs to be done to meet the requirements is well-rounded, i.e. the components t together in a coherent way

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Implementation
To obtain a pass mark: The key stages of the implementation are explained To obtain a distinction mark: The key stages of the implementation are clearly explained The implementation is done to a high standard

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Testing, Results, Analysis, Evaluation


To obtain a pass mark: The report attempts to provide a clear and justied reection upon the contributions and its limitations It discusses how the software meets the specied requirements A running version of the software is demonstrated to the supervisor (and/or an executable/source code on CD/DVD is turned in with the report)

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Testing, Results, Analysis, Evaluation(2)


To obtain a distinction mark: The solution demonstrates real insight into the problem/research question There is a clear and justied reection upon the contributions and its limitations The key results are accurately analyzed and their relevance is explained It discusses how the software meets the specied requirements and is shown to be reliable A running version of the software is demonstrated (as above)

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Overall Assessment
Work that meets some, but not all, of the criteria for distinction may be considered for a merit: This may be a respectable, if only partially successful attempt at a challenging project Or a less ambitious project carried out, and written up, to a high standard The examiners grade the project independently and then meet to arrive at an agreed grade Students may be called upon to make a presentation of their project to a subcommittee of the exam board to demonstrate their grasp of the material

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Feedback
After the exam board in mid-November, youll receive a letter from the Department telling you the result You will also receive a copy of the examiners comments on your project An ofcial transcript of your results is sent out in January or February by the College One copy of your report stays with the Department, you can collect the other copy

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Important Contacts
Project tutor: Roger Mitton Program administrator: Thomas Epineau Program director: Szabolcs Mikulas (Potential) project supervisor

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How Not to Do the Project


If youre looking for a surere way to fail your project, here are some suggestions. . . Based on a guide by Stefan Zimmermann from the University of Wrzburg

How Not to Do the Project p. 23/11

The Planning Stage


The topic of your project is of minor interest (you work on this for only a couple of months) Long-term planning concerning supervision is unnecessary Supervisors are happy to take you on if you show up at the last minute and havent the faintest idea what to do If you dont nd a supervisor at very short notice, someone will have to allocate one, dont they?

How Not to Do the Project p. 24/11

Starting Your Project


Take it easy! Contemplate what you actually want to do for several weeks Ideal places to do this are: shopping malls, cafes, clubs, gyms, cinemas, . . . Never talk to friends or your fellow students about their or your project, this will only muddy your crystal-clear ideas

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Your Supervisor
The best way to deal with your supervisor is to ignore him or her Most of your supervisors comments and suggestions will be worthless anyway Sometimes its impossible to avoid supervisors: from time to time they ask you about the progress youre making Dont put any effort into giving an overview, try to appear completely aimless Your supervisor will feel obliged to help you out. . . . . . and will be pleasantly surprised that your nal report isnt as bad as anticipated

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Background/Literature Research
At some point youll probably have to look up what your chosen topic is all about So, take a stroll through the College Library However, remember the following points: If it isnt present in the College Library, its not worth to be read Under no circumstances refer to original sources (why ignore a nice two-sentence summary in a textbook?) Sometimes you can get around a visit to the library, just google everything up or use Wikipedia (all internet sources are completely reliable, arent they?)

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Background/Literature Research(2)
Browsing articles/books to get an overview should be avoided, read everything very thoroughly However, dont jot down brief summaries or important points, youll be able to remember everything (the project lasts just a few months) Only refer to a very limited number of sources (this demonstrates that you have a clear concept) Dont cite different authors having conicting views Someone might expect you to evaluate these views Thats quite tedious, as you have to put some effort into thinking about this

How Not to Do the Project p. 28/11

Motivational Issues
If you have problems motivating yourself to work on the project: dont be too hard on yourself Before starting work on a given day, check if you need to do your laundry clean your at (no project is so important that you shouldnt vacuum three times a day) rearrange the furniture or repaint your at to create a nice working environment

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Motivational Issues(2)
Breaks are very important! Make sure that a tv-set, phone, and refrigerator are readily available When working at a computer, always stay online Its very important to keep up with new developments, for example: current stock quotes results of football matches who was kicked off X-Factor

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Motivational Issues(3)
Dont neglect your private life Keep logged into Skype, ICQ, or other instant messaging systems all the time Constantly update your facebook entry Dont forget to do lots of partying with all your friends

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Project Report
Your project enters its crucial phase about 48 hours before the submission deadline: You have to write up your report! Write a brief introductory part and try to come up with something for the main part and conclusion that is somehow related to the topic Then its time for some layouting: use as many different fonts and colors as you can This demonstrates that you are able to use the full functionality of your word processing software Someone reading the report will enjoy this immensely

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Project Report(2)
During the last night before the submission deadline you can nish the reference section (you only have very few references anyway) type in a table of contents let a friend read a rst print-out One proofreader is completely sufcient The person does not have to know how to write academic texts (in any event, its too late to consider really important feedback) Sometimes pesky supervisors will try to give you feedback on a report draft: ignore them, they havent understood your project

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Project Report(3)
Write long and complicated sentences containing lots of important sounding words This shows your language skills and that you know the jargon Never read your sentences aloud Your atmates might think youre crazy Something thats very difcult to read out loud, might still be easy to understand

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Project Report(4)
Argue very vaguely, using words such as quite, almost, seemingly As a consequence, no-one can accuse you of making false claims Use connecting words and phrases sparingly: youre writing an academic text, a reader should put some effort into following your line of argument Never show the big picture, bombard a reader with lots of unimportant details instead; eventually he or shell get it

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Project Report(5)
Some nal remarks on report writing: Remember all the badly written math books you had to read? Now is the time to inict this kind of misery upon others Nobody ever got good marks for having fun, so dont give the impression that you had fun while doing your project

How Not to Do the Project p. 36/11

Wrapping It Up
After having handed in your project and receiving feedback on it, you should complain loudly about the unfair mark you got: call several times a day to make your point try to negotiate a better mark make it clear to everyone that the markers (and the externals) were just too stupid to understand the true nature of your project

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Choosing a Topic
Most of the following points have been taken from: D. Dalcher and L. Brodie, Successful IT Projects, Thomson, 2007 A few lucky students know right from the outset what they want to work on If you are not among them: dont panic, most of the other students are in a similar situation An ideal project is one which interests you will look nice on your CV has not been done in this form before

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Finding a Topic
There are several different ways to nd a suitable topic Projects are much more free-form than the other form of assessments, so there is no one size ts all approach Choose the path you are most comfortable with and feel free to mix and match the following approaches

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Fleshing Out an Idea


Maybe you already have a tentative idea for a project, but are not quite sure about it? Its best to talk to the project tutor or a potential supervisor about it They are able to judge if the idea is feasible and/or needs a bit of modication They can also give advice on the scope of the project: Some ideas are overly-ambitious (you only have a few months to work on the project) Some ideas are mainly weak, simplistic bookwork

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Applying Outside Experience


Have you had any experience outside of the MSc course? Maybe you have some workplace experience, have done some vacation work or volunteer work? All this can help in coming up with an idea A few words of caution: If you need outside support, make sure it will be available If there might be Intellectual Property issues, discuss this beforehand

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Contact a Member of Staff


Have an informal chat with a member of staff: This can be a lecturer whose module you have enjoyed doing Possible project ideas in this area can crop up during this chat Have a look at the research interests of staff (published on their web pages) Contact a person whose research overlaps with your interests Even though no concrete project ideas may be published, they might still have a suggestion for a possible project

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Contact a Member of Staff (2)


There are two web pages to help students with nding a supervisor The rst one gives an overview of the research interests of members of staff
http://vili.dcs.bbk.ac.uk/intranet/r/doc/staff-interests.html

The second one gives an overview of who is supervising whom


http://vili.dcs.bbk.ac.uk/intranet/r/doc/studentprojects.php

Important: if your name does not appear here, you ofcially do not have a supervisor yet!

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Look at Previous Projects


There are lists of the topics of previous projects available Copies of selected project reports are available in the library This can give you an idea what to do, e.g. by expanding or extending a previous topic

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Look at Published Project Descriptions


On the project tutors web page youll nd possible project topics Usually the project topics are not set in stone: If you dont nd an exact match, talk to the potential supervisor, asking if you could work on a variation of the topic If the topic is for a different course, ask if the scope of the project could be changed to make it t with your course

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Have a Look at the Press


Sometimes you can nd interesting articles in newspapers or the computer press After having a rst idea you can follow the route for tentative ideas discussed earlier

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General Suggestions
Discuss project ideas with the project tutor or potential supervisors as soon as possible This gives you plenty of time to investigate different options and decide on the best option for you Avoids having to make a snap decision and just doing what comes along

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Three Stages
There are three stages in coming up with a project idea Determine your personal set of interests Develop the idea by thinking the problem through in more detail See what has been done before Last step is optional, the projects on the MSc CS course dont have to be novel ideas If you are aiming for a very high mark (i.e. distinction), adding some novelty may contribute to making a project sufciently challenging

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Stage 1
Asking yourself the following questions can help in guring out your interests: What was your favorite module? Was it your favorite because it was easy or because it was interesting? Was there a module that didnt go far enough? You would have liked to learn more about it? What pair of modules interested you in combination? Was there a gap between them that you would like to ll? What topics could cover this gap?

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Stage 2
Try to dene your project as a question/problem rather than as a topic Lets say youre interested in client-server systems What really interests you in this area? (answers such as it seems important dont count) Do some background research in this area by reading a textbook, some papers, etc. While doing so, try to come up with some questions, e.g. How do servers synchronize concurrent accesses to the same data by different clients? How do servers manage unreliable clients? How do multiple servers coordinate accesses?

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Stage 2(2)
At the beginning, the main problem you will have is vagueness It is a good idea to put some effort into making your idea more concrete The clearer you are, the easier it will be to write your project proposal And remember: you are not expected to solve the problems of the world A limited objective carried through systematically, in depth, is better than one that covers a wide area supercially

Choosing a Topic p. 51/11

Writing Your Project Proposal


Having done a good job in stage 2 will also help you in writing your project proposal The purpose of the project proposal is to demonstrate that you have put some thought into choosing your topic and you know what you are talking about It is not a full-edged project report, but should cover the areas shown on the next slide

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Writing Your Project Proposal(2)


Your project proposal should consist of the following parts: 1. A brief description of the topic and where it ts into the eld 2. An account of the current work/applied technology in this area 3. The identication of the question you would like to answer/the practical problem you would like to solve 4. A suggested means of answering this question/solving the problem This does not mean that you have to have all the answers at this stage This is more about how you plan to nd/develop the solutions

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Writing Your Project Proposal(2)


Bullet point 3. from the last slide denes the aim of your project Bullet point 4. is about the objectives that support the aim Often these two points are too vague and imprecise You can use the SMART method to make them more concrete

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SMART
SMART is an acronym standing for: Specic: be as specic as possible Measurable: try to establish measurable indicators of progress Assignable: even though youre working on your own, formulate objectives as if you assign them to someone else for completion Realistic: state what can realistically be achieved within the budgeted time (and resources) Time-related: set milestones for the objectives

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SMART(2)
The last two points may cause the greatest difculty Your supervisor can give you some help in establishing the scope of the project Students tend to wildly underestimate the amount of time needed Leave yourself an ample margin of time to deal with this It is perfectly acceptable to review the scope of a project as you progress and make adjustments It is a good idea to prioritize the objectives: start with the core, you can always add additional functionality if you have some spare time

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Writing Style
Your proposal should be well-structured and written in an understandable way As many of the aspects of good writing are also relevant for the nal project report, they will be covered later on

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Literature Review
In order to hand in a proper project proposal, you need to do some background research Usually this involves having a look at existing systems, ideas, algorithms, and approaches The hardest part is getting started Once you have identied a couple of sources, theyll point you to other sources Here well discuss how and where to start your search

Literature Review p. 58/11

Search Engines
Web search engines like Google are a good way to nd lots of online resources However, not all of these resources are reliable, so this can only be a starting point You might also have to try out different combinations of search terms before nding the right terminology There is a special service called Google Scholar for academic texts: http://scholar.google.co.uk

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Web Sites
Many web sites of (research) projects and organizations provide lists of publications Often you can download technical reports white papers description/documentation So after discovering a web site it might be worth exploring it

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Libraries
You can also have a look at whats present in the College library You could look for an (introductory) textbook about the area you are interested in The library also provides online resources (http://www.bbk.ac.uk/lib/) This includes their whole catalog and access to electronic versions of journals The College also has subscriptions to libraries of professional bodies, e.g. the ACM Digital Library (http://www.acm.org/)

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Other Online Resources


There are other resources available online where professionals discuss certain topics Some examples are mailing lists newsgroups discussion forums

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Your Supervisor
Your supervisor might be able to point you to some sources give you some suggestions on what to read rst Obviously, your supervisor will not do the literature research for you, but can help you in getting started So dont expect complete reading lists

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Some Further Suggestions


You dont have to read complete articles or books Have a look at the abstract or summary rst Browse the article/book if it seems to be interesting Dont overdo the literature research There is a huge number of publications out there, nobody expects you to read them all (this could take years) At some point you have to decide on what you want to do and write up your proposal

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Working on Your Project


An MSc project is the work of an individual student and everyone has a different style It is difcult to provide you with a cookbook recipe for working on your project However, you should be on the lookout for some common pitfalls

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Common Pitfalls
Choosing/starting the project too late Submit your project proposal on time and start the project as soon as you can The longer you leave it, the harder it is to get motivated (especially if everyone else seems to be making good progress)

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Common Pitfalls(2)
Allowing too little time for writing the report You should try to keep notes as you go along (even though you dont know the nal structure of the report yet) This will help in writing up everything Try to get some feedback from your supervisor on an early draft (writing a report is an iterative process)

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Common Pitfalls(3)
Failing to meet your supervisor regularly Try to arrange meetings with your supervisor and show up on time If you are stuck for any reason (and have no meeting scheduled), let your supervisor know immediately Your supervisor can do nothing for you if they are unaware that you are having trouble

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Common Pitfalls(4)
Trying to satisfy an external customer at the expense of your grades This is especially true for work-related projects Do not let outside interests interfere with your project The guidance for your project should come from your supervisor

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Common Pitfalls(5)
Over-/under-ambition Try to be realistic what you can achieve, a good project requires a lot of effort However, it is better to do a smaller job well than it is to fail to do a big job at all Ask your supervisor for guidance on the scoping of the project

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Common Pitfalls(6)
Failing to plan a fallback position Have a plan B if you are not able to complete the planned work in time Try to plan your project in stages, so you have a complete stage to fall back on

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Common Pitfalls(7)
Making ad-hoc decisions Be prepared to justify the (important) decisions you make while working on the project This can be caused by unclear objectives, which make it difcult to justify these decisions

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Common Pitfalls(8)
Inadequate literature review References should cover the relevant theory and/or technology that you use The literature review should demonstrate that you have an understanding of the current state-of-the-art and show how your project ts into it Cite your sources properly (more on this in the section on plagiarism)

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Common Pitfalls(9)
Deliverables by magic Your project report contains a large volume of code and/or analysis/design documentation with no idea of its source Explain the methods by which the work was produced Explain design decisions Include a road map to guide the reader Clarify the context However, dont go overboard: you dont have to justify every single line of code

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Common Pitfalls(10)
Deliverables of unknown quality The work appears sound but there is no evidence of its validity Include summaries of test results Demonstrate an executable to your supervisor

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Common Pitfalls(11)
Deliverables of unknown origin Sometimes a project seems to be of good quality but too extensive to have been done in a few months If work existed before the start of the project, dene what existed and who produced it Nobody expects you to reinvent the wheel, but you have to document where pre-existing work comes from (more details in the section on plagiarism)

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Common Pitfalls(12)
No acknowledgment of sources Similar measures are applied to the report: you have to cite your sources For every part of your report it should be clear if this was the result of your own work or if it has an external source

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Common Pitfalls(13)
Piling up lots of small annoying errors Use a spell-checker and/or do some proofreading Dene terms and acronyms properly

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Common Pitfalls(14)
Perfectionism Dont be too hard on yourself: try to avoid perfecting each and every task A good enough project is better than the promise of unnished perfection Sometimes you just have to get on with it

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Summing It Up
Working on your project will be stressful at times (its not going to be a walk in the park) However, if you experience exorbitant amounts of stress, this is usually as sign of things going wrong If you have any worries about your project, discuss them with your supervisor as soon as possible

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Writing the Report


One of the main deliverables of your project is the project report Why is writing about complex technical issues so important? Large-scale software projects are about building very complex systems This requires a team of specialists and no one person can know all the details Consequently, these systems have to be documented All your creative ideas and technical wizardry are worth much less if you are not able to communicate them

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Aims of Project Report


However, your project report is not simply a project management report or system documentation The main aims of your project report are: To demonstrate that you can produce a document written in a well-structured and intelligent way To show that you can present written arguments backed up by suitable references

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Aims of Project Report(2)


In more detail, it should demonstrate that you can apply the techniques taught in the MSc CS course to the problem you are addressing you are capable of objectively evaluating your own work you can explain your thinking and working processes clearly and concisely to third parties who may not be an expert in the specic area of the project You may assume that a reader has a Computer Science background, though you can relate your project to the wider context of IT

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Why Is This Important?


At least one of the people marking your project will not have followed your project closely (2nd/3rd marker) If you are on the boundary between two different marks, a well-written project report can make a difference The external examiners on the exam board only have your project report by which to judge your project To get good marks for your project, you need to do both: Produce the software Turn in a good report There are projects that have been graded below their potential due to an indifferent or poor write-up

Writing the Report p. 84/11

Physical Appearance
A tidy, well laid-out and consistently formatted document makes for easier reading Use word-processing software Leave margins to allow for binding Use headings for chapters, sections, and subsections consistently Quantity does not automatically guarantee quality Project reports need to be concise, clear and readable The assessment is not about page count or word count

Writing the Report p. 85/11

Report Structure
A good document structure takes into account the purpose of the document (i.e. to report on your project) its target readership (i.e. the examiners) Many reports are too long, too unstructured, and lack purpose You should aim for continuity: order your material in such a way that a reader is able to follow your descriptions completeness: do not leave out signicant parts Find a balance: cover the important things without overwhelming the reader with unnecessary details

Writing the Report p. 86/11

Report Structure(2)
Unlike an essay, a report contains headings and subheadings (to make its structure explicit) Each subheading may be further divided into subsections or subdivisions Usually its a good idea to number each section and subsection To develop and improve the continuity, it helps to pay special attention to the reports structure

Writing the Report p. 87/11

Report Structure(3)
Before starting to write, think about the structure of your report (in outline or even just as subheadings) For each subsection, move from the general to the particular: Try to begin with a more general idea (or a broad picture) Then develop your argument (or focus) towards the more detailed points

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The Main Sections


Here we will discuss an outline of sections typically found in project reports This outline is not set in stone, yours might look a bit different The overall structure depends on the content of your report As long as it supports the continuity of the report, this is ne

Writing the Report p. 89/11

Title Page
The title page should contain (obviously) the title of your project your name MSc Computer Science project report, Department of Computer Science and Information Systems, Birkbeck College, University of London and the year This report is substantially the result of my own work, expressed in my own words, except where explicitly indicated in the text. I give my permission for it to be submitted to the JISC Plagiarism Detection Service. The report may be freely copied and distributed provided the source is explicitly acknowledged.

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Table of Contents
Gives the full headings of all chapters (and the sections within them) with the appropriate page numbers Page numbers should be right-margin aligned

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Abstract
The abstract is a brief synopsis of your work, a bit like an executive summary It should be no longer than about 250 words Its usually a good idea to write this at the end (when everything else is known) Beneath the abstract, put the name of your supervisor

Writing the Report p. 92/11

Optional Sections
Acknowledgments: if there are persons who you would like to thank for their support and help List of Figures/Tables: if you have used lots of gures and tables Abbreviation list: if you have used abbreviations (its also a good idea to spell out the meaning the rst time you use an abbreviation in the text)

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Introduction
Contains a brief outline of the topic as a whole Then state the aim and objectives of the project What was the purpose of the project and what did it set out to investigate? At the end of the introduction, provide a road map for the remainder of the report

Writing the Report p. 94/11

Background/Literature Review
This chapter should focus on the context that you are operating in, e.g. by describing typical applications alternative tools and development approaches and how they have been used in practice alternative systems and what they achieve and do not achieve This should be a synopsis of your project proposal (do not just copy your proposal) Restrict yourself to whats relevant to the specic context of your project (the proposal can have a more general look at the state-of-the-art)

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Method Consideration
Here you explain and justify your choice of method This section has some importance if you apply a certain design methodology in your project However, dont go overboard with the description (you are not writing a textbook on a methodology)

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Results
As most MSc Computer Science projects are practical software development projects, the result will be a program or system A two- or three-step approach is a good way to describe your software You might want to start with an explicit description of the requirements This might be before the section on method consideration (if it inuences your choice) Design section: describe the overall architecture of your software Implementation details: do not provide pages and pages of source code, highlight the most important decisions

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Evaluation
This is a discussion and analysis of the results, there are different ways to achieve this Providing an account of the testing Presenting user evaluation There should be a critical evaluation by the student, emphasizing strong points and weak points lessons learnt design decisions which, looking back, would be made differently ways in which the project could be improved or extended etc.

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Summary and Conclusion


The nal section summarizes the project as a whole outlines the main ndings lists recommendations of the project You can also describe possible future work in the area of your project

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Appendices
Additional relevant material which did not make it into the main sections should appear in an appendix It can also include lengthy items such as program code raw data detailed statistical analysis If you have very lengthy items, you can include a CD or DVD that contains these items Usually, theres no need to print out the complete source code

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References
You have to provide a complete list of all the works mentioned in the text For a book, this normally includes the name(s) of the author(s), the title, the publisher and date of publication For an article, it would include the name(s) of the author(s), the title of the article, the name of the journal, the volume/issue number and date and page numbers Examples: Bloggs F, Advanced Widget Design, Gargoyle Press, 2002 Hardy O and Laurel S, A software approach to ne mess avoidance, Journal of Disaster Studies, Vol 4, 2000, pp 123-134

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Structuring an Argument
A story ows from one section to the next in order to form a cohesive storyline The core of a report is the argument (the storyline) it presents The argument must be clearly dened and well presented Without this, the material becomes a list of unrelated ideas and facts

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Structuring an Argument(2)
Thinking about the structure before starting to write usually makes it easier to write the report Each section of your report should contain information vital to structuring your argument The sections should link together to make a unied storyline You can provide a brief summary (about one or two paragraphs) at the end of each main section Introductory links also help in structuring the ow

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Avoiding Common Pitfalls


Try to avoid the following Starting sentences with In my opinion, I think, or When I did An examiner is not interested in your opinion, but in how you support your argument Using the phrase It is obvious What is obvious to you might not be obvious to someone else If it is really obvious, you can explain it in a few words Broad generalizations All generalizations are untrue

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Plagiarism
Unfortunately, there have been a few cases of plagiarism recently here at the Department This is an important topic, as the penalty for plagiarizing work can be quite severe Plagiarism is using words and ideas from another text without proper acknowledgment The Colleges Policy on Assessment Offences lists examples (http://www.bbk.ac.uk/reg/regs/) and penalties

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Examples
Plagiarism can take many different forms, the policy mentioned above gives examples: copying a whole or substantial parts of a paper from a source text, without proper acknowledgment paraphrasing of anothers piece of work closely, with minor changes but with the essential meaning maintained piecing together sections of the work of others into a new whole procuring a paper from a company or essay bank submitting another students work, with or without that students knowledge submitting a paper written by someone else, and passing it off as ones own

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Trying to Get Away With It


It is not that easy to pass something off as your own work Your report will be run through a plagiarism detection software Most supervisors have seen plagiarized work before and can identify typical giveaways Markers will also be familiar with the main ideas and publications in certain areas

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Using Existing Material


However, nobody expects you to reinvent the wheel You are allowed to use existing work as a basis for your project, provided that you reference this work properly there is enough of your own work in the project You should not quote large chunks of text from another source in that case its better to summarize it in your own words and reference the source

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Using Existing Material(2)


When in doubt, ask your supervisor There is also a self-learning module available on Blackboard: After logging in, go to the Course Catalog at the end of the page Click on Birkbeck Self Enrolled Courses Enroll for the course Avoiding Plagiarism (BBK_ITST009N_2006)

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Summary
There is no silver bullet for doing an MSc project, you have to nd your own way Hopefully this brief guide will help you in avoiding the most blatant mistakes

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