School of Engineering and Informatics (for staff and students)

Marking criteria MSc ACS

Dissertations should demonstrate a mix of skills at masters level. Depending on the project, different skills will have greater weighting in the marking, but no project will be carried by a single one. The criteria for evaluation include:

  • application of or extension of MSc course skills, ideally beyond those taught in that course, or skills beyond those that might reasonably be expected of a computer science undergraduate.
  • engagement with the literature, including appropriate selection of papers and analysis of concepts.A dissertation which applies concepts from one field in another area or combines concepts from two fields may attract greater weighting for the literature aspect.
  • theoretical analysis and development of concepts.
  • quality of programming, proofs and other practical development work.  Organisation, clarity, efficiency, application of advanced methods and novelty are the focus. A large volume of code is not, by itself, sufficient.
  • quality of evaluation, including choice of methods, controls and conditions; rigour of their application, and analysis of data.
  • novelty is not an absolute requirement of an MSc dissertation. However, the work undertaken should engage with recent developments in computer science. Where there is novelty, for instance modification of algorithms or a new approach to a proof, this shall be acknowledged in the marking.
  • good project management will be reflected in the outcomes of the dissertation. However, examiners may wish to note appropriate selection of tools and methods and suitable management of time and risk, particularly where engaging with very new tools or making novel contributions.

General professional standards will be expected:

  • in matters of punctuation, vocabulary choice, standard English grammar, and the conventions of academic discourse (including reference to sources).
  • in presentation of code (for programming projects): Code for programming projects should be submitted as an appendix to the main report.
  • in formal aspects of presentation (word-processing/typing, printing).

Guidelines to students and markers on standards expected at each level

70% - 100%  -  Excellent
Shows very good understanding supported by evidence that the student has gone beyond what was taught by extra study, programming, or creative thought. Work at the top end of this range is of exceptional quality.
Write-up: well-structured, correct references, critical discussion of existing relevant work, neatly presented, interesting and clearly expressed, thorough disinterested critique of what is good and bad about the approach taken, and proposals about how the project work could be developed in the future.
Literature: engagement with current research, including appropriate analysis, comparison, critique and selection and precis of key ideas relating to the student's work.  
Program: code that executes efficiently, incorporates sophisticated programming features, is non-redundant, well-structured, well commented and elegant, addresses the problem effectively for a non-trivial application.
Theoretical analysis: appropriate application of techniques, including classification, proof, complexity analysis etc., to a non-trivial problem.
Evaluation: a substantial evaluation, through appropriate interpretation of analysis, simulation, deployment, functional and non-functional testing, etc., coupled with excellent interpretation and presentation of results.  In more experimental projects results will be repeatable and contain comparison with alternative techniques and/or significant exploration of the parameters of the code/problem.

60% - 69%  -  Good
Very competent in all respects, substantially correct and complete knowledge but not going beyond what was taught.
Literature: engagement with literature, including critique of ideas, well-related to the rest of the project.  Possibly not engaging beyond further reading from course(s).
Program: code that executes, incorporates some complexity, is well-designed and presented and addresses a reasonably non-trivial problem related to the literature.
Theoretical analysis: a clear, if not particularly sophisticated, analysis of the problem.
Evaluation: a good application of appropriate techniques leading to a clear result.

55% - 59%  -  Satisfactory
Competent in most respects.  Minor gaps in knowledge but reasonable understanding of fundamental concepts.
Literature: a presentation of ideas from the literature, given some structure and basic analysis and related to the rest of the project.
Program: code that executes, and addresses a simple problem.
Theoretical analysis: a competent analysis of at least the most significant concepts in the work.
Evaluation: evidence of appropriate testing beyond function testing of code.

50% - 54%  -  Borderline
Significant gaps in knowledge but some understanding of funamental concepts.  Typically this project will be a marginal development or integration of course or textbook ideas, with some evaluation or analysis.

30% - 49%  -  Fail
Inadequate knowledge of the subject.  Work is seriously flawed, displaying major lack of understanding, irrelevance or incoherence.  Code, analysis and evaluation that are not coherent in terms of the problem being addressed or the methods to be employed in doing this.

  • Engagement with the literature, showing understanding of prior work to be applied and/or knowledge gap that the project will address. This might require a combination of tool / evaluation method selection and survey of related work.
  • Description of the planned system. A passable poster will have a clear statement of goals. The level of sophistication in the design (or other technical progress to date) is of interest, which might involve technical complexity in the work or the techniques being proposed to evaluate the work.
  • Quality of the poster design - clear and informative in a poster setting, without being cluttered.
  • Ability of the student to answer questions and justify claims / choices made verbally.

Note that novelty is not an absolute requirement of an MSc dissertation.  However, the work undertaken should engage with recent developments in computer science. Where there is novelty, for instance modification of algorithms or a new approach to a proof, this shall be acknowledged in the marking.

Guidelines to students and markers on standards expected at each level:

85-100%  -  Excellent
All of:
Shows very good understanding supported by evidence that the student has gone beyond what was taught by extra study, programming, or creative thought. Work at the top end of this range is of exceptional quality. A clear statement of goals, set in context of a problem and prior work. Full discussion of existing relevant work, as comparisons, basis or tools. Neatly presented, with clear and polished graphics and clear but brief text. A design which addresses the problem effectively for a non-trivial application; for theoretical analysis: appropriate application of techniques, including classification, proof, complexity analysis etc., to a non-trivial problem. Evaluation plans: appropriate selection of techniques and identification of suitable data to support the evaluation of success of the goals. Possibly includes early results. Verbal discussion will be able to go beyond the poster content, justifying ideas - although allowing for there to be flaws or limitations which are acceptable for MSc level or stage in project.

70% - 84%  -  Very good
As for excellent, but competent rather than top class in some respect.

60% - 69%  -  Good
Very competent in all respects, substantially correct and complete knowledge but not going beyond what was taught.
Literature, design, and/or evaluation plans lacking in sophistication - not really going beyond course material or lacking in complexity.Generally well presented, without requiring the most polished graphics.

55% - 59%  -  Satisfactory
Competent in most respects. Minor gaps in knowledge but reasonable understanding of fundamental concepts.
Literature, design, and/or evaluation plans are coherent but addressing a simple idea.
Possibly lacking in clarity in the presentation or verbal discussion.

50% - 54%  -  Borderline
Significant gaps in knowledge but some understanding of funamental concepts.  Typically this project will be a marginal development or integration of course or textbook ideas, with some evaluation or analysis. Presentation may be weak, e.g. poor English or incomplete figures; discussion may reveal weakness in comprehension.

0% - 49%  -  Fail
Inadequate knowledge of the subject. Work is seriously flawed, displaying major lack of understanding, irrelevance or incoherence.

School of Engineering and Informatics (for staff and students)

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School of Engineering and Informatics, University of Sussex, Chichester 1 Room 002, Falmer, Brighton, BN1 9QJ
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