School of Engineering and Informatics (for staff and students)

Information for students

Introduction

Students taking degrees in Informatics carry out a substantial individual project in their final year. Each project is supervised by a member of faculty, and assessed via written reports and presentations.

Project Selection

An important part of your final year is your individual project. There are two tasks you must accomplish straightaway (though not necessarily in this order):

  • Find a Technical Supervisor
  • Select a project topic

The first of these tasks is certainly the easier of the two; more information about project supervision is provided below.

Selecting a suitable project topic can seem quite daunting at first. To assist you there is a projects database that contains a number of project suggestions made by members of faculty. Note that these are just suggestions for suitable topics and there is no requirement that you select one of them. In fact, we would encourage you to formulate your own ideas for a project. The suggestions are provided as a guide and to help you understand the scale of the project you should be attempting.

You should use the projects database to view the list of potential Technical Supervisors, request a particular project or suggest your own project to a supervisor of your choice. To log in to the database you need to use your Sussex username and password.

Ideally, you should have selected your Technical Supervisor and project topic by the middle of the first week of the Autumn Term. If you haven't managed to do so by this point, then we will assign a Technical Supervisor for you who can help you develop a project idea.

Project Supervision

Project supervision is provided by both an Academic Supervisor and a Technical Supervisor. Your Technical Supervisor will advise on any technical aspects of completing your chosen project. The expectation is that your Technical Supervisor will meet with you at least every four weeks to discuss project progress. Initially, they will assess whether your project ideas are suitable, and can help you improve them where needed. Another crucial role that supervisors fulfil is to read and comment on draft versions of the reports you intend to submit. Given that your supervisor also examines these reports, it is in your interests to take advantage of this.

Normally, your Technical Supervisor will lecture in the area you have selected for your project. However, because there is a limit on how many projects each member of faculty is expected to supervise, there is no guarantee that you will get the Technical Supervisor of your choice. Do not be disheartened if this happens. All faculty are capable of offering you good advice on your project, no matter what the topic.

The way in which supervisions are organised will vary depending on your supervisor. Meetings will be organised by email. Email is the primary means for supervisors to contact supervisees so it is important that you check your email regularly.

In addition to technical supervision, you are also offered academic supervision and Project Management support. You will find that you are timetabled to attend Project Management Sessions. These offer advice and support on various important, but non-technical topics such as constructing a good project proposal, project planning and time management, writing your assessed reports, and so on.

The Project Management Sessions are delivered by the Academic Supervisors. In contrast to Technical Supervisors, you don’t need to do anything to select an Academic Supervisor. Further information and resources about project supervision and management can be obtained on the Informatics Project Management Canvas site. 

It is not possible to produce a successful project based solely on a period of intense activity immediately before the final deadline, as you may be tempted (ill-advisedly) to do for other modules. You should work consistently and effectively throughout the duration of the project. It is often worthwhile writing drafts of the final report while carrying out the work — it is easier to write up the system design just after you have finished it than to write about it months later.

To keep within the deadlines you will have to make regular progress and remember where your time has gone. To help you to do this you should record your project-related activity in a log. The log is a weekly record of work you have engaged in to meet your objectives. You should start the log right at the beginning of the year, and include records of meetings with your supervisor. You should meet with your supervisor regularly taking your log along to review progress. The complete log should be submitted as an appendix to your final report.

Project timescale

You should submit a number of written documents throughout the project. The deadlines for these and timings of other project activities are listed below:

  • Browse the projects database and consider possible project topics: from end of June in penultimate academic year.
  • Register with supervisor on the projects database: beginning of September.
  • Accepted by supervisor on the projects database: end of the first week of the Autumn term.
  • Project proposal: Thursday Week 3, Autumn term (sent to supervisor).
  • Interim report: Thursday Week 7, Autumn term (submitted online via Canvas).
  • Application for ethical review (if required): end of the Autumn term (see below in the section Interim report Professional considerations).
  • Project presentation poster: submission Thursday Week 7, Spring term (submitted online via Canvas); poster event later in the Spring term.
  • Draft report: 3 weeks before the final report submission deadline (sent to supervisor).
  • Final report: Monday Week 1, Semester 2 assessment period (two copies submitted to the School Office and also online via Canvas).
  • Project presentation short talk: early in the Semester 2 assessment period (as scheduled).

All deadline information in these instructions is for guidance only. For official deadlines consult Sussex Direct.

Please note that two copies of the final report are required.

You will be formally assessed on the interim report, the final report, and the project presentation poster and short talk.

Below are detailed descriptions of each of the documents and assessments:

Project proposal

At the start of your project you will be expected to read any relevant background references and to prepare a short (approximately two A4 sheets) note describing the objectives of your project and how you plan to meet those objectives. The proposal should provide the following information:

  • Your candidate number
  • Your supervisor's name
  • Working title — the working title should be a good indication of what your project is about. The working title will be used in choosing examiners for your project. You can change the title for your final report. If you change the topic, you should change the working title to reflect this and inform the project coordinator of the change. You should only change the topic by agreement with your supervisor.
  • Aims and objectives — aims describe purpose and intention and include a description of your motivations for undertaking this particular topic. Objectives relate to the expected outcomes of the project. You should break these down into 'primary objectives' which you guarantee to achieve and 'extensions' which will only be implemented if time allows. The primary objectives should be clearly specified, but the extensions may be vaguer. Do not be afraid to specify more extensions than you will be able to implement.
  • Relevance — write a short paragraph to explain how this project relates to your degree course.
  • Resources required — it is your responsibility to make sure that the resources you need are available. Do not expect the department to buy things you need. (If you are going to use something not normally supported by the department you will need to obtain approval from your supervisor.)
  • Copy of your personal weekly timetable indicating lectures, tutorials and periods of the week you intend to devote to your project.
  • Detailed bibliography of background reading.
  • List of other students doing related projects (if applicable).
  • Interim log, indicating meetings with supervisor and material consulted so far.

This proposal is not formally assessed and should be sent directly to your supervisor.

Interim report

By the end of Week 7, Autumn term (which will normally mean Thursday of that week, but for the official deadline check Sussex Direct), you are required to submit an interim report on your project. This report is formally assessed and should be submitted online via the Final Year Project Canvas site. Interim reports are usually 3000-5000 words in length. The word count would depend on a number of factors including the number of diagrams, amount of detailed design work required, etc, so please check with your supervisor what would be appropriate in your case. The report is effectively an expansion of the project proposal and should include:

  • Introduction — This specifies the objectives of the project and the needs of your intended users that are achievable in terms of time available and your experience. It should introduce both the problem area (remember your reader may not know anything about the particular problem you have chosen) and give an overview of the rest of the report.
  • Professional considerations — Ethical standards governing the conduct of computing professionals in the UK are set out in the Code of Conduct published by BCS - The Chartered Institute for IT, and all students are expected to familiarize themselves with these. A project consisting of basic research on a scientific topic may be little affected by ethical issues, although even in such cases some of the points in Sections 1 and 2 of the Code of Conduct and the Interpretation of the BCS Code of Conduct are likely to be relevant. Topics with potential practical application will normally have wider ethical implications, and for these you should pay particular attention to points 2(c) (on awareness of technological procedures and standards) and 2(d) (on knowledge, understanding and complying with legislation). You should include in this section of your interim report a description of ethical issues that you will need to take account of while you are working on your project; in your final report you should discuss how you addressed these issues.

     

    If your project involves human participants (e.g. for usability testing of the system you intend to develop), personal data or other significant risks then you will need to apply for ethical review. This professional considerations section should include an explicit discussion of the need for ethical approval (or otherwise); read the Ethical Review Guidance for UG and PGT Projects [PDF 123.63KB], the Ethical Compliance Form for UG and PGT Projects [DOCX 41.71KB], and discuss research ethics with your project supervisor before you write this section. If ethical approval will be needed then you must submit an application before the end of the Autumn term. Further information on ethical review is available on the School's research governance web pages. For the majority of projects, the interim report should include an electronic copy of either the signed ethical compliance form or the ethical review application form (together with approval certificate if already obtained). If your project has more complicated ethical considerations, then your interim report should contain a detailed plan and timetable for obtaining ethical approval.
  • Requirements analysis — Your aim is to design a system that will meet the needs of or be directed towards some target group of users. This section will describe the needs of those users, to what extent they are met by existing solutions and how an ideal system might meet them more exactly. In this section, you should feel free to describe the solutions that you do not expect to have time to completely develop or implement. You should expect to include this section with only minor modifications in the final report.
  • Project plan — This consists of a breakdown of the work to be done into phases, tasks and other activities with estimates of time to complete the work. It will specify interdependencies of tasks, critical work elements and schedule. You should indicate the work you have done so far and that you intend to do in the second term. One of the tasks should be writing the draft report.
  • Log — Interim log, indicating meetings with your supervisor and reflecting the phases of the plan completed so far. The complete log may be given as an appendix to your final report.
  • Proposal document — Include this document as an appendix. It is not assessed but necessary for audit purposes.

Note that the interim report can be regarded as the first version of the first chapters of your final report. You will not have the interim report attached as a complete document in your final report. Instead, the sections of the interim report will appear — most likely in an updated form — in the final report (see detailed guidelines for the final report below).

Draft report

This document is a working version of the final report. It should be sent to your supervisor by the end of Week 8, Spring Term, in order to allow your supervisor sufficient time to read it and suggest improvements before you need to submit the final report. Bear in mind that your supervisor is only expected to read one draft of your report.

In your own interests, the draft report should be as complete as possible so that your supervisor can give you useful feedback. Your supervisor will be the examiner on other projects, and will tell you what they are looking for from the projects they examine. If your report does not conform to their expectations you will be able to rectify it in time.

This report is not formally assessed and should be sent directly to your supervisor.

Final report

Final reports should be submitted using A4 paper, double sided printing is encouraged, but not compulsory. You are no longer required to bind your report, a stapled copy is adequate and better for the environment. There are staplers available at the School Office that can staple large quantities of paper together. You must submit two identical copies of your report to the School Office. Additionally, you must also submit an electronic version of this report and of your entire source code via the Final Year Project Canvas site. There you will also find detailed instructions about the electronic submission including the formats that are acceptable.

The word limit for the final report (excluding appendices) is 12000 words. The expectation is that most reports will contain approximately 10000 words.

The submitted report should not include a full listing of your program code. Instead all your code, including the usual documentation, must be submitted electronically. The exact format is explained on the Final Year Project Canvas site. Note that you only have 60MB on Canvas for your entire submission. If you do a digital media based project (or any kind of video related project) and think you need more space, please contact your supervisor to arrange an alternative submission method. In any case, each student must submit electronically the following: the final report document and all code (in the sense of program code, e.g. Java, php, C, html) written by the student. Libraries should not be submitted but their use must be acknowledged in the report. There is no need to include code or technical documents that have not been written by you — but you must acknowledge any such material that has been used to complete the project. It may be necessary to include other appendices, but there is an expectation that these will total no more than 20 pages.

The final report should contain the following sections in the order indicated:

  • A cover sheet. This should contain your name, candidate number, your degree course and department, the title of the project, the name of your project supervisor and the calendar year of submission.
  • A signed statement of originality together with an overview of any intellectual property rights agreements that you have made. The statement of originality should be worded as follows. 'This report is submitted as part requirement for the degree of ... at the University of Sussex. It is the product of my own labour except where indicated in the text. The report may be freely copied and distributed provided the source is acknowledged. I hereby give / withhold permission for a copy of this report to be loaned out to students in future years (delete as necessary).'
  • Acknowledgements (optional) — this might include your supervisor(s), other students if part of a related project and any other person or organisation that has assisted in any way in the conduct of the project and its documentation.
  • Summary — a one page resumé of your report.
  • Table of contents (with page numbers).
  • Introduction — this should give the motivation for the project. The aims of the project should at least be stated in the first paragraph, but preferably in the first sentence. The first chapter should also explain the structure of the report.
  • Professional considerations — in your interim report you will have described any ethical issues relevant to your project work, taking the BCS Code of Conduct as a starting point; in this section you should discuss how you addressed these issues. If the interim report noted that human participants would be involved but there was no need to apply for ethical approval then the completed and signed Ethical Compliance Form for UG and PGT Projects [PDF 169.05KB] should be included in an Appendix. If the interim report identified ethical review as being necessary, it should be described here and its approval must be stated (details could be included in an Appendix). For a project that is affected only slightly by ethical issues, it is sufficient to discuss them in the introduction section.
  • Body of report — this should include a requirements analysis and specification of the problem you have tackled. It should also include a description of how you designed, built and evaluated your system. The exact form of this will vary from project to project but it will usually occupy several chapters and will often include sections on implementation and testing (which kinds of testing?). Any software projects should include a discussion of the principles which underlie the program that has been written: the significance of its data structures, the way that its procedures and modules interact etc. A line-by-line description of your code is not the best way of achieving this and is not encouraged.

     

    You should evaluate your finished product using appropriate methods, backing up your claims with evidence. If reporting user feedback, this will be more convincing if it comes from a wider audience than just a small group of your peers (for example it could be gathered online via forums etc). Evaluation results should be related back to the original requirements. A summary of the evaluation should appear in the Conclusion section.
  • Conclusion — this should include an assessment of the success of the finished product. Have you achieved your objectives? If not, why not? It should also contain suggestions for future extensions, or alternative methodologies that, with hindsight, might have led to a better system.
  • References — these must be given correctly. Full references with page numbers are required. If you consulted a similar project done in previous years you must reference it (using the Name (or Candidate Number) of the author, Title and Year). The references should be cited in the body of your report where appropriate. Webpages you consulted need to be listed as well. You need to add the title/topic of the Webpage and the last time you accessed it, not just the URL.
  • Appendices — you should include your project logs and any additional relevant system or test data as appendices. You may also include any technical material which you estimate as too detailed for the main body of the report. You should make sure that any technical material is appropriately annotated and consistently presented. The source code of your project (including documentation) must be submitted electronically and should not be included in the Appendix. Also, any material that does not fit in the report's Appendix that you nevertheless deem important can be included in the electronic submission. Note, however, that it will be left to the markers' discretion whether they wish to look at such extra material in the electronic submission.

Project presentation

In addition to writing the report, you will be assessed on your ability to present your project. The project presentation takes the form of: (1) a poster which you show at a School-wide poster event; and (2) a short talk to the two markers of your project.

The poster event takes place in the Spring term. Details of the required poster format, submission procedure, and assessment criteria are on the project presentation page.

The short talk is scheduled to take place early in the Semester 2 assessment period. The date will be announced via email by the end of the Spring term (it will not appear on your Sussex Direct timetable). Your talk should last 20 minutes. In the talk, you should give an overview of your project and describe what you achieved. If you have written software you should demonstrate it. Your task is to convince your listeners that your project work is interesting and of high quality. It is an excellent idea to prepare your talk in advance and practice it on a friend or fellow student.

The poster and the short talk are integral parts of the assessment of the project. If you do not submit a poster by the deadline or fail to attend the poster event in your assigned time slot you will forfeit the associated marks. If you do not turn up to your short talk at the scheduled time you will be marked as absent and forfeit the associated marks.

Assessment

Your project work will be examined by your supervisor and a second faculty member, called a second examiner. Marks are divided into the following components, with the weights indicated:

  • Interim report: contributes 10% to the overall mark
  • Presentation: contributes 10% to the overall mark
  • Final report: contributes 80% to the overall mark

You will not be penalised if the final report is not bound. The short talk is conducted as an examination and the normal arrangements for such will apply. Please consult your degree course specification (available online) for the overall weighting of the project within your degree. University rules governing collusion, plagiarism and other forms of misconduct are strictly applied. Please consult the Examination and Assessment Handbook for details and definitions.

The standard University regulations concerning late submission of coursework apply. Therefore, managing your time so as to keep to deadlines is vital. You must anticipate technical problems such as printer breakdowns and corrupted disks. You must anticipate that everyone else may be careless enough to leave their printing and binding until the last moment. This often causes large queues for these services at the University facilities and could cause you to miss the deadline and thus lose valuable marks. Make sure you back your work up regularly. Personal computer problems, theft, or data loss are not accepted as grounds for an exceptional circumstances claim.

The project and your employment prospects

Undertaking a project can be challenging and exciting. It is challenging because a tremendous amount of self-discipline, time and effort needs to be put into it. It is exciting because a successful project rewards with great satisfaction and experiential learning. The project requires the amalgamation of different kinds of skills: problem solving, studying and communication, both written and spoken. It stretches your ability to limits you never thought possible. It gives you something you can talk about knowledgeably and enthusiastically to prospective employers. Projects are a great opportunity for you to demonstrate your creative abilities and independence. The project is an excellent indicator of a student's overall ability to carry out a serious piece of work, and therefore employers are impressed by a well executed project.

Acknowledgements

This document was originally written by Chris Thornton, and subsequently modified by Alan Jeffrey, Phil Husbands, and Julian Rathke. It is now maintained by Bernhard Reus. Some of the material was adapted from notes produced for the University of London Computer Science project assessment.

Background reading

The majority of your background reading and references will be specific to your chosen topic. For general guidance on writing your reports and preparing your presentation talk, please consult the online reading list.

School of Engineering and Informatics (for staff and students)

School Office:
School of Engineering and Informatics, University of Sussex, Chichester 1 Room 002, Falmer, Brighton, BN1 9QJ
enquiries@enginf.sussex.ac.uk
T 01273 (67) 8195

School Office opening hours: Monday - Friday 09.00 - 17.00
School Office location [PDF 1.74MB]