School of Engineering and Informatics (for staff and students)

Dissertation content

Your dissertation is an opportunity to demonstrate your skills and understanding in a substantial piece of work. The project should be in the domain of computer science, ideally synthesising learning from several modules in the MSc and/or developing one subject in depth. It is expected that the project will contain:

• relevant background research, typically drawing on computer science literature and possibly also other generally available products which relate to the topic;

• some problem-solving aspect, usually with an element of programming — although the focus may be theoretical or experimental rather than a large software engineering exercise;

• evaluation of what has been produced, using apropriate tests, experiments, comparisons or analysis.

A reproduction of existing results is an acceptable topic, but should still demonstrate intellectual engagement with the subject through an up-to-date literature review, comparison of alternative designs, extension of the design or test conditions, etc. It is expected that the project can be undertaken using the resources available at the University, including any servers and hardware available through modules or freely available on the internet. Any system requirements not generally available in the lab should be confirmed with your supervisor during the project selection process. It is not expected, or desireable, for projects to require the purchase of specialist software or hardware — or to rely on the student's own purchase of these. For further information, please consult the course convenor, Ian Mackie.

The marking criteria MSc ACS indicate the expected standards.

The only special regulation about the MSc CDM dissertation is that it 'is normally substantially based on a working computer program'. Otherwise, it is like any other Masters dissertation at Sussex (and there are general regulations covering format (eg abstracts, bibliographies, page size), overlap with other assessed work, etc.). 

The expectation is that you will submit a dissertation substantially based on a working computer program in the domain of multimedia. This provides you with a very wide subject base and includes 3D and 2D graphics, animation, image processing, sound processing, web-based applications, tutorial applications, etc.

A good mark could be obtained from production of a large application with extensive functionality such as an interactive modelled 3D environment with working objects which can be interacted with. Or from the implementation of a novel or complex technique such as flocking of animated objects or the realistic modelling of natural effects such as smoke or water. For further information please consult the course convenor, Paul Newbury.

The marking criteria MSc CDM indicate the expected standards.

This dissertation should normally be substantially based on a working computer program, where either the computing methods used or the subject matter of the program should have some relevance to artificial intelligence, intelligent systems, evolutionary and/or adaptive themes. This will be broadly construed and could, for example, include a program to support a study of human information processing / intelligence or adaptive behaviour; some indication of topics that have been considered relevant can be got from titles of previous Masters dissertations (available in the Informatics Resource Centre).

Programs could be using IAS methods for engineering purposes, e.g. for optimisation in some domain. Alternatively the project could be based on scientific study related to AI, evolutionary and/or adaptive matters, in biology, robotics, cognitive science or software agents. Projects with entertainment or pedagogic objectives are also acceptable provided there is clear relevance to or use of relevant methods. In case of any doubt about a specific project proposal, the IAS course convenor should be consulted.

A re-implementation of an existing program concerned with IAS or artificial life subject matter would be a good choice, but the dissertation should include constructive criticisms and suggest improvements. (In particular, a 'rational reconstruction' of a program which was the basis of a PhD thesis, and which took several years to write may sound difficult, but, since much of the design has already been done, it is actually an ideal project.) The credit obtained for such a project would depend on the extent to which the implementation of the original program was described in the literature and the extent to which sensible changes were made by the student.

A full description of the requirements of the dissertation is given in the IAS Dissertation Guidelines [PDF 132.27KB]. For further information please consult the course convenor,  Ian Mackie.

The marking criteria MSc IAS indicate the expected standards.

The dissertation for the MSc ITBM is worth one third of the credits of your degree course, and can be supervised by the Department of Informatics (Informatics), Science Policy Research Unit (SPRU) or by a qualified person from a supporting unit (such as IT Services) or industry (i.e. an industrial project with an academic supervisor). The dissertation is the culminating experience of your MSc course, so it is reasonable to expect that the focus of the dissertation will be based on the areas of study or work associated with IT and E-Commerce.

For detailed guidelines on how to go about choosing your dissertation supervisor, topic, timetable of activities, assessment and marking criteria you should download the ITBM dissertation guidelines [PDF 221.94KB]. For further information please consult the course convenor, Martin White.

The marking criteria MSc ITBM indicate the expected standards.

The MIT dissertation provides an opportunity for students to undertake a significant independent piece of research. The dissertation should be the culminating experience of your MSc MIT course, so it is expected that the focus of the dissertation will be based on the areas of study or work associated with the IT, business or management components of your degree.

Therefore, the dissertation should focus on some aspect of the Management of Information Technology, such as the use of new kinds of IT in business, IT strategy in a particular region or industry sector, complex IT project and system management, or the design of IT systems from a user perspective. The project methodology may be based on business or management case studies, or consist of systematic empirical/ experimental investigation.

The dissertation should demonstrate the ability to apply relevant methods to solve a research problem; it should position the work with respect to the literature in the area of study, describe the work in detail, justify decisions taken, and critically evaluate the conclusions.

If appropriate, the project may be proposed and/or supported by a company or other organisation, who may provide raw data, commercial information and advice.

Primary supervision of your dissertation is provided by a member of academic faculty. This can be a member of either the Department of Informatics (School of Engineering and Informatics) or the Business School). In special cases, the dissertation can be co-supervised by a qualified person from industry (with academic oversight - this means you also need an academic co-supervisor), in which case a qualified person from industry will be specifically contracted for the co-supervision of the dissertation.

As a result of the successful completion of this dissertation you should be able to:

  1. Demonstrate the ability to undertake a substantial and original research project in the Management of Information Technology, undertaking self-directed background research and assessing outcomes using appropriate tools and measures for the investigation.
  2. Undertake the planning of the research project, identifying resources required, estimating effort and forming contingency plans for unexpected outcomes and problems arising.
  3. Communicate a research idea in writing, structuring the presentation of complex ideas and using appropriate language, formal and informal descriptions, and figures to convey concepts, designs and evaluation.
  4. Demonstrate decision-making skills in the choice of alternative methodologies and approaches, using tools and techniques that are appropriate to the problem.
  5. Demonstrate the ability to integrate knowledge from various sources to form a view of a research problem and/or as a basis for developing a solution to a research problem.

For further information please contact the course convenor, Natalia Beloff.

The marking criteria MSc MIT indicate the expected standards.


For all courses, there must be a practical component to the project (for example, a literature survey by itself is not acceptable). Your choice of programming language, design process, evaluation procedure or empirical method must be justified. Your dissertation should present the aims, rationale, background, and method of the project, followed by a description of the main parts of the project at an appropriate level of detail (for example, if you have screen dumps then the majority of these should be in an appendix), followed by conclusions and suggestions for further work.

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
T 01273 (67) 8195

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