Faculty of Science and Engineering
7ET023 MSc Dissertation Handbook
Authors: Members of Department Maths and Computer Science staff at the University of Wolverhampton
Date of last amendment: June 2020
Table of Contents
SECTION 1: SCOPE OF HANDBOOK 2
1.1 What is a dissertation? 2
1.2 Dissertation Aims 3
1.3 Module Description and Learning Outcomes 3
1.4 Deliverables 4
1.5 Assessment Teams 5
1.6 Style of Writing 5
SECTION 2 – Completing Your Dissertation 7
2.1 Dissertation writing 7
2.2 Supervisor meetings 7
2.3 Extensions 7
2.4 Policy on Academic Misconduct 8
2.5 Books 8
SECTION 3 – Assessment Details 9
3.1 Assessment 1 – Dissertation Proposal (15%) 9
3.2 Draft Dissertation 12
3.4 Assessment 2 (Part 2): Dissertation (85%) 15
SECTION 4 – Dissertation Marking Criteria 21
4.1 Generic Dissertation Criteria 21
4.2 Assessment 1 Dissertation Proposal Marking Criteria (15%) 22
4.4 Assessment 2 (Part 2) Dissertation/Artefact Marking Criteria (85%) 26
SECTION 5: Appendices 28
Appendix A – Title Page and Disclaimer Form 28
Appendix C – Dissertation Formatting Guidelines 32
Appendix D – Managing Your Dissertation 34
Appendix E – Do’s and Don’ts Guide for Supervisors and Students. 39
SECTION 1: SCOPE OF HANDBOOK
This handbook is intended to provide the guidelines for the requirements for Informatics MSc Dissertations in the Faculty of Science and Engineering. It will act as the module guide for the MSc Computer Science, MSc Web and Mobile, and MSc Information Technology Management (ITM) Dissertation Module.
This handbook does not attempt to describe the problem-specific activities that you will need to undertake during your dissertation, as these will vary greatly from dissertation to dissertation. Guidance will be provided by your supervisor on problems and issues that are related to the unique context of your individual dissertation. In addition, advice on tasks and issues that are common to a wide range of dissertations can be found in textbooks such as Biggam (2011), while help on areas such as literature searches and referencing can be found on the University of Wolverhampton Learning Centre website
1.1 What is a Dissertation?
The Dissertation is not just another module. It represents the largest individual task that you will undertake on your post-graduate course. It is also a significant factor used by the University when writing references and many employers regard the dissertation as a major indicator of a candidate’s potential.
The dissertation is in many ways the most important part of your course. It is important when selecting and undertaking your dissertation to bear in mind all of the points listed below, as most will be examined or explored during the assessment of your dissertation.
From an educational perspective a dissertation will enable you to (Weaver, 2003):
Bring together the skills and knowledge you have learnt during your studies. Many of the skills you have acquired to date will have been taught in distinct modules over a period of time. However well integrated your programme of study has been, your dissertation is almost certainly the first opportunity you will have had to use a full range of skills and knowledge together. For many students it is only when working on their dissertations that the relationships between what appeared to them to be a disjointed set of skills becomes apparent.
Explore an idea, problem or area of study that is of special interest to you.
Experience the satisfaction of using your previously theoretically based skills to solve or evaluate a real-world problem. It is only during their practical application that the purpose and relevance of some skills will become apparent.
Gain an insight into the complexities of real-world problems, and the adaptation of theory that is necessary to solve them.
Develop skills that have not been, or cannot be, taught effectively during your formal studies. Some skills, such as time management, data collection, project management and dissertation writing are difficult to practice or learn in any situation other than a self-managed dissertation.
From an assessment perspective, dissertations provide an opportunity to examine your competence in the following areas (Weaver, 2003):
Application and adaptation of core tools and techniques to a complex problem, in a situation that is not as artificially constrained as an examination or essay, where solutions are of necessity and free from ambiguity.
Investigation and analysis of the problem, its context, and methods for solving it.
Development and/or evaluation of potential solutions.
Implementation and demonstration of the solution.
Self and time management.
Independent learning and ability to think for yourself.
Evaluation of your solution and the work you undertook to deliver it.
Depth of understanding of the problem context and of the theory applied to its solution.
Your dissertation must address some topic that meets the learning outcomes of the 7ET023 MSc Dissertation Module. The topic should ideally be chosen to complement your other module choices. You should not undertake a dissertation in an area that you do not have the necessary pre-requisite knowledge.
1.2 Dissertation Aims
The module aims to:
Develop knowledge and understanding of a computing topic
Analyse information and ideas and create responses to problems defined within the dissertation area
Demonstrate ability to critically evaluate
Enhance career prospects
Promote professional attitude to undertaking a computing dissertation.
1.3 Module Description and Learning Outcomes
Full details of learning outcomes can be found in the relevant module guides, but in summary the intended learning outcomes of the module are:
7ET023 Description, Learning Outcomes and Assessment Strategy
DESCRIPTION: The MSc Dissertation enables you to undertake an in-depth individual research project in an area directly linked to your subject area and interests. This will ensure that you undertake scholarly work that further develops an aspect of the taught material and thereby contributes to your personal development and training towards professional practice. This module evidences your transformation from undergraduate to masters’ level achievement through the process and production of a recognised research output in your subject area.
Learning Outcomes: At the completion of the module, the student is expected to be able to demonstrate:
Learning Outcome 1
Produce a substantial exemplar of independent professional practice and apply appropriate research methods to the production of this.
Learning Outcome 2
Critically analyse, synthesise and apply information and ideas from both relevant sources of information and your own studies to support decisions appertaining to professional practice and the relevant professional body where appropriate.
Learning Outcome 3
Take responsibility for and organise your own learning through
self-management and independent research at master level.
Advance and extend your subject knowledge and understanding and develop research and practical skills relevant to your subject area.
Learning Outcome 4
Define, organise and report on a project of considerable duration with outcomes that are uncertain at the outset. Achieve this with the professional approach required by the host subject area.
Assessment 1: Proposal 15% – Prepare a dissertation proposal
Assessment 2: Portfolio 85% – Prepare a Dissertation with an artefact based on the findings of your research and attend a viva-voce examination to support the understanding of your work.
Key Deliverables and Milestones
The following table lists the key milestones and deliverables for 7ET023. In addition, you will need to meet regularly with your supervisor throughout the duration of your dissertation.
Milestones and deliverables
|Assessment 1: Submit Proposal + Ethical Approval Form to indicate if ethical approval will be needed (see 7ET023 MSc Dissertation CANVAS Folder Ethical approval) – 15%||See Dissertation Schedule|
Submit Draft Dissertation
|See Dissertation Schedule|
Assessment 2: Complete research project with an appropriate deliverable and attend a Viva-voce / Presentation to defend the work. 85% for the Dissertation and artefacts as agreed with your supervisor. The Viva-voce / Presentation is Pass/Fail (if your written work passes, but you fail the viva-voce, you have not passed the assessment)
|See Dissertation Schedule|
Deadlines for the above deliverables will be set and these must be adhered to – a separate handout with dates will be issued. Templates will be provided for different elements giving clear guidelines as to what is expected.
A re-negotiated deadline for submission of the dissertation will not normally be allowed. In exceptional cases it needs to be agreed by the Supervisor and / or the Dissertations Co-ordinator/Module Leader, and such a request must be made not less than one month before the original deadline. Exceptional circumstances can be done officially using e:Vision, requesting extension or mitigation. Be advised that this has to be done 48 hours in advance of a deadline, and carries a burden of proof.
1.5 Assessment Teams
Each student will be allocated a supervisor and a reader. The role of the supervisor is to act as your guide and mentor throughout your dissertation. The role of the reader is to determine whether the proposal, and Dissertation are acceptable, and then assess the final submission and viva-voce/presentation.
If you have any problems with your dissertation, talk them through with your dissertation supervisor in the first instance. If you are still unhappy see the dissertation co-ordinator/module leader.
Sometimes you may come across a problem that your supervisor is not qualified to advise (e.g. interpretation of data). In these circumstances the supervisor should direct you to the dissertation co-ordinator/module leader who will arrange for a person qualified to advise you.
1.6 Dissertation Supervision
It is your responsibility to contact your supervisor and arrange meetings at the appropriate times to discuss issues and report on your progress, and to ensure you understand what is required in terms of submission and assessment. The contact may be by scheduled meeting, telephone or e-mail. A log of meetings should be kept.
The supervisor is not expected to give detailed or technical help (e.g. using case tools) but to give general direction, to ensure the academic dimension and to log your progress. You should ensure through your supervisor that the dissertation continues to conform to the plan and progress identified in the proposal.
You must submit a full draft of your Dissertation to your supervisor at least four weeks before the final submission. This is to allow your supervisor to make comments on the draft, in order to ensure that the Dissertation is logically coherent, appropriately presented and methodologically sound. Your supervisor needs time to mark the work, and you will need time to make corrections. It is important that the postgraduate aspects, namely development of your arguments and evaluation of your outcomes, are adequately represented.
1.7 Style of Writing
The Dissertation should be aimed at a professional, computer-literate reader or one of your peer groups who will not necessarily know much about the subject area of your dissertation. The dissertation is a formal document and your style of writing should be formal. Avoid emotive language (e.g. fabulous, great, super), contractions (e.g. don’t instead of do not).
You should mainly write in third person passive style. In the Critical Evaluation Chapter it is acceptable to write in first person active (if you wish) or continue in third person passive style. An example to illustrate the third person passive style as opposed to first person active is given below. Both paragraphs have the same meaning.
Third person passive – Binding data were analysed by the method of Scatchard (1949). This was chosen primarily because it was the method used in published reports on auxin binding. The use of the same method will facilitate comparisons.
First person active – I analysed the binding data by the method of Scatchard (1949). I chose this method primarily because it was the method used in published reports on auxin binding. The use of the same method will facilitate comparisons.
Use short words rather than long. Give clear definitions of words that have a special meaning or are new in the field. Words are meant to inform the reader and not impress them.
Keep sentences short, but not excessively so. Long sentences can be difficult to structure in order to convey a clear meaning. Clarity is the overriding consideration. Proofreading and possibly reading by a third-party is a very good idea.
Paragraphs should discuss single topics.
Care should be taken over spelling, punctuation and grammar. If you are preparing your own Dissertation use a spelling checker, but do not rely on it. A word may be spelt correctly but may be the “wrong” word (e.g. they’re, there and their).
If you take any text verbatim from other sources you must put quotes around them. All references to other work must be acknowledged in the text whether quoted or paraphrased.
You should not think the more you write the better your mark. The inclusion of several pages of material, for example, describing a standard design methodology is more likely to lead to a loss of marks not a gain. All material in the main body of the Dissertation must be directly relevant, for example it would be all right to explain why you used one design methodology rather than another based on your own particular requirements/context. Padding should be avoided, as it detracts from your overall argument and it is unnecessary to include pages of elementary material or background material that does not focus on the specific problem you are addressing.
At Masters Level the quality of evaluation and criticism is crucial to a good Dissertation. Also the English and presentation are expected to be flawless. ALWAYS use spell and grammar check before submission, but this is not enough – read your document, every word, from beginning to end, for best results – you will soon identify problems that you do not want to be marked on.
SECTION 2 – Completing Your Dissertation
2.1 Dissertation writing
The Dissertation is the major element accounting for your final grade. It is the vehicle for demonstrating the skills and abilities you have exercised during the dissertation. It is insufficient simply to achieve the aims, you must also communicate in a written form what you have achieved and the process you have gone through. This includes providing a justification for the approach taken, by considering the alternatives that were not pursued. A further essential requirement is that you can evaluate your work in terms of its strengths and weaknesses and relate them where appropriate to the issues identified in the literature review. You must also reflect upon the process by which the objectives were achieved and what you have learnt about dissertation work.
The Dissertation must be written in academic style and follow strict guidelines on formatting and layout (see Section 3).
The lectures in previous modules will provide guidelines on how to go about writing a dissertation, what is meant by academic style, what critical evaluation consists of in the context of the dissertation and the formatting requirements.
2.2 Supervisor meetings
You should have regular contact with your supervisor. Meetings are likely to be frequent at the beginning, as you will probably need more guidance and support when you are preparing the proposal and ethical approval documentation.
At the beginning of the meeting you should give a brief account of your progress and then the discussion should be under the following headings:
tasks undertaken since your last meeting
tasks you plan to work on before your next meeting
any issues you have encountered or are at risk of encountering
During your meeting you should review the dissertation plan with your supervisor which was included in the proposal. Also discuss any problems you are having and check any external communications you would like to make. It is your responsibility to schedule and attend these meetings, keeping the appropriate project management documentation.
There will be NO extensions given to the final deadline for the dissertation other than in the most exceptional circumstances. Requests due to workload on other modules or at work are unacceptable as coping with these is part of the project management skill that is being assessed. If the circumstances are truly exceptional, extensions may be granted informally by the module leader with the agreement of your supervisor or formally Registry via e:Vision, but such dissertations may not be presented to an examination board until the resit board. Missing intermediate deadlines without prior approval of the module leader will result in a reduction |(cap) in your dissertation management grade.
2.4 Policy on Academic Misconduct
University of Wolverhampton – Policy for tackling Academic Misconduct:
Any copying of other people’s work, in either your final Dissertation, or in any artefact or software written as part of the dissertation is against University rules and will lead to failure of the dissertation and possibly other disciplinary action. It is legitimate and encouraged to use other people’s ideas for research purposes but credit must be given to them via proper referencing. It is not legitimate to contract out, or otherwise copy an artefact that has been done previously by yourself, or anyone else.
Guidelines for the required method of referencing can be found on the University Learning Centre’s webpage:
For a summary, it is sensible to summarise and paraphrase such material in your own words. This will demonstrate that you have understood what you have read. Direct quotations should normally be short, must be put in quotation marks, and fully referenced.
Each dissertation is individual so there are no set books for the module; however, the following books are useful for general dissertation advice and are available from the Learning Centre.
Biggam, J. (2011) Succeeding with your master’s dissertation – A step-by-step handbook, 2nd ed. Maidenhead: Open University Press.
Oates, B.J. (2006) Researching information systems and computing. London: Sage Publications Ltd.
Sharp, J.A. (2002) The management of a student research dissertation, 3rd ed. Aldershot: Gower.
Wallace, M. (2011) Critical reading and writing for postgraduates. Sage Study Skills Series. London: Sage Publications Ltd.
Wisker, G. (2008) The postgraduate research handbook, 2nd ed. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan.
SECTION 3 – Assessment Details
This section contains all the details regarding requirements for the assessment of this module. Briefly it contains the following:
The Dissertation proposal guidelines and template
The Draft Dissertation guidelines
Artefact guidelines for different Courses
The Dissertation Viva Voce/Presentation guidelines
Please refer to Section 4 of this document Marking Criteria, (also see the Templates Folder 7ET023 MSc Dissertation on CANVAS).
3.1 Assessment 1 – Dissertation Proposal (15%)
Assessment 1 is worth 15% of the total grade for this module and is an individual piece of work.
During the first few weeks of the module you will need to provide further information on your proposed subject area, in order for its suitability to be assessed and verified. This part of the assessment will be conducted with your supervisor and may result in some refinements and adjustments to your topic. The vehicle for submitting assessments is via CANVAS.
The ultimate purpose of the Dissertation Proposal is to provide information so that your supervisor can make sure that you have:
Chosen a topic which is broadly acceptable as a dissertation in the award being undertaken.
Made sure that the chosen area will meet the learning outcomes specified in the module guide.
Chosen a subject which will be appropriate given the programme of studies taken at Masters level.
Determined the overall aim – which is a statement of its overall purpose (e.g. to design and develop a management information system for company A).
Formalised your Research Questions – formalise an overall research question, followed by three sub-questions which you need to do in order to meet your overall aim (e.g. investigate different approaches which can be used to design system specification).
Specified the deliverables.
Declared the ethical issues involved with the dissertation
You should discuss your work prior to handing it in, seek advice and receive feedback from your supervisor, and then act upon the feedback given. This will improve your chances of passing this piece of work. Once your supervisor agrees that the Proposal is suitable in terms of content, and that the dissertation described is appropriate in requirements and scope, your dissertation will be approved and you will be awarded a pass mark. If the module leader is not satisfied with the Proposal you will be asked to make changes and resubmit it.
Ethical considerations – ALL Dissertations need to consider the ethical aspects of what is being studied and the data being collected. If you are in any doubt about what should be included please talk to your supervisor in the first instance and then the Dissertation Module Leader. An ethical approval form must be completed and submitted with the proposal to identify if ethical approval is required (see the Ethical Approval form and procedure on CANVAS). This is needed for All Dissertations regardless of whether you intend to interview anyone or carry out a survey using questionnaires.
If you do not submit an Ethical Approval Form with your proposal, it will not be acceptable for a grade. If it is submitted but late, the proposal will attract a capped mark of 50%.
A copy of the form should be submitted with your Proposal and also emailed to the MSc Dissertation Module Leader.
Your Proposal, when submitted should not exceed 10 sides of A4, must follow the format and order below – anything else will not be acceptable. Please use this guideline, taking into consideration that you are studying for a MASTERS Degree – you will need to gain mastery in an area of specialisation, which you will do during the course of your dissertation work. Your proposal should reflect this level of complexity.
Title Page: Student name, number, Module Code and Name, Course Name, Assessment 1 – Dissertation Proposal (Draft / Final)
Dissertation Title: The title should clearly explain what the dissertation is about
Introduction: Brief introduction as to what the dissertation is all about
Background: This section should focus on the background to your dissertation as to how it came about and what you intend to do. Why do you want to research this area? Give your rationale or your reasons for undertaking this study. In this section summarise current literature in your proposed area of research to determine the relevance and value of your research.
Aim: What are you hoping to achieve?
Research Questions: There should be an overall research question based on your aim. This should have 3 sub-research questions which you will be researching in order to answer your main research question. Focus on what you will do to meet the overall question. You should give a brief account for each question as to: the subject area to be researched, what you are hoping to achieve, how it contributes to the overall research question and give the most appropriate research methods for achieving them.
Deliverables: What will you produce as a result of doing the research, for example, a dissertation report; a solution; a framework; software; etc.
Indicative Reading List: This should be a listing of the work you have read to help you determine your research questions – this should be not less than fifteen references, properly referenced using the Harvard Referencing Method (aim for 15 to 20 valid sources).
Evaluation: How you will evaluate the results of your research.
Dissertation Plan: This should be a detailed schedule of how you plan to carry out your research within the time available. It is expected that it will change, but it needs to be carefully thought through and presented – two sentences are not likely to be adequate. A Gantt chart or other project planning tools may be more appropriate, showing start and finish dates with all the interim activities and the milestones. You will see this document evolve through the process, and may end up with several versions. Please include these as an appendix to the Dissertation.
Hardware/Software needed: It may be that this is PC and regular office Software, but should you require anything unusual, do put it down.
Supervisor (if known):
Client – External contact (external to the School): If there is then do not contact them until ethical approval has been granted, ALL dissertations require an external agreement form to be filled in (see Ethical Approval form in the Ethical Considerations Folder 7ET023 MSc Dissertation INFORMATICS on CANVAS)
Ethical Approval Form Completed: This must be completed for all dissertations and discussed with your supervisor and a soft copy forwarded to the Module Leader. See Ethical Approval form and procedure on CANVAS
A Note on Ethical Approval – If, during your study, you decide to do a survey, questionnaire, or in any way involve human subjects in your study, but do not gain ethical approval for this, that data will be disregarded for a mark. Generally, these methods do not produce by themselves the correct type of artefact for our purposes – discuss the options with your supervisor before deciding to undertake this type of research.
The Ethical Approval Process:
Determine your study with your supervisor
When you submit your proposal, include the Ethical Approval form
If your study does not involve any Ethical issues, you will be allowed to progress
If your study will need to involve human subjects, this will need to go to the School Ethics Committee
You will need to provide a set of questions that you intend to ask with your proposal and ethics form
You will need to be able to discuss what data you will collect, why you will collect it, how you will protect it, and how it helps you to answer your research question.
If the proposal at this point needs the review of sensitive issues, this will go to the Faculty Ethics Committee
Ethics Committees meet about once a month. You cannot proceed or ask questions of test subjects until the approval has been agreed. If you do, the data will be disregarded.
When the approval process is complete, you will be informed of the Ethics Committee decision, and of any changes or considerations you may need to make. Once these are addressed, you can begin your study.
If you are not prepared to work within this framework, your study should not include human subjects.
3.2 Portfolio of Evidence (85%)
You are required to submit a draft of you Dissertation to your supervisor for comments and feedback four weeks prior to submission. By this time most of the research work on the dissertation should be complete. The emphasis of the draft should be on content rather than format, so it is important to focus on getting information across to your supervisor and not on perfecting its presentation. All sections must be included.
If you have yet to complete a specific task associated with a particular section of your Dissertation, you may need to include an outline of that section instead of a first draft (as agreed with your supervisor). However, you should attempt to complete in full as many sections/chapters as possible, as the draft represents the last occasion on which you should expect to receive detailed feedback on your proposed dissertation contents.
No specific mark is given for the draft; however you will receive general comments on its content, structure, style, etc. Taking note of these comments will obviously lead to a better final Dissertation. Failure to submit a draft is not marked, but it may influence other aspects of project marking, such as project management.
The draft needs to be submitted electronically via the CANVAS Topic or you can give your supervisor.
3.3 Assessment 2: Dissertation and Artefact
Assessment 2 is worth 85% of the total grade for this module and is an individual piece of work. The Dissertation should be a maximum of 8,000 words excluding the artefact, abstract, appendices and references.
The Dissertation must be entirely your own work and must be original in so far as it applies established techniques in new settings, a new application or other artefact, or devises new methods to solve problems.
The Dissertation provides all of the evidence upon which your artefact is based and is the document in which your literature review, findings, analysis, evaluation and any supporting appropriate data appear in full.
If your work is commercially sensitive, you should discuss the issue with the dissertation co-ordinator/module leader.
The final Dissertation should be submitted electronically via the MSc Dissertation CANVAS Topic (there is no requirement for a printed copy). It must comply with the guidelines given and the details laid out in this handbook.
The research questions should act as the central focus for the whole Dissertation. These questions will be evident in your findings and conclusions. The questions drive what you want to learn and find out, keeping the research process in focus. Initially it should direct the literature search, helping you decide what to investigate. You may find you want to refine the questions as you proceed, since the initial question might have been too broad or narrow in scope. The deliverables will demonstrate what you have learnt and test the questions posed, whilst the conclusion will summarise the outcomes achieved and lessons learnt.
The Dissertation will include a literature review chapter. This chapter should report the results of your background reading. It might look at other approaches that have already been tried to your problem. For state-of-the-art dissertations it will obviously extend over several chapters. It should not be an article-by-article account of who’s done what or of competing technical products and certainly not an account of your visits to various libraries! It should be one seamless narrative introduction to the subject area, possibly starting with the certainties, generalities and working towards those more recent parts of the subject area where there is less agreement, aimed at someone in your peer group. The reason, and the only reason, for mentioning anything in the literature review is that it allows the reader to understand all the decisions you subsequently make in choosing a specific developmental methodology, formal notation, evaluation procedure, software tool, statistical analysis etc. Anything else can be left out – it distracts the reader and wastes their time.
There should also be chapters that involve a theoretical discussion and critical evaluation of the dissertation. The critical evaluation should include not only the product, but also the process you went through in your dissertation work. Another significant factor in determining the grade for this section is the degree of challenge encountered and how it has been tackled.
Further guidance on the layout, contents and format of the Dissertation is given in Appendix C of this handbook.
The Dissertation should contain as a minimum the following areas:
Acknowledgement – It is conventional to acknowledge help given by individuals and organisations that have provided assistance with your dissertation, as well as any dedications you may wish to make. These should be placed on a page of their own.
Disclaimer Declaration – Check for the current wording. This should assert that you claim to be the sole author of the work and that it is submitted as a requirement of the Master of Science. See Appendix A for details. By submitting the dissertation you are legally confirming the statements in copyright declaration.
Contents Page – On a new page you should list the contents of the Dissertation and their page numbers. The contents start with chapter one. Each chapter should be given a meaningful name and it is this name that appears in the table of contents. There is no need to put page numbers of sub-sections (i.e. parts of the chapter) in the contents.
List of Figures – List the figure numbers with titles of the figures and page numbers, e.g. Figure 2.0 System Dynamics Model……..16.
List of Tables – List the table numbers with the titles of the tables and page numbers.
Chapter One – Introduction – This chapter should always consist solely of an introduction to your dissertation stating what you are going to do. It can be used to provide background information.
How the problem arose.
The work of previous dissertations, research papers, etc you are building on.
The solution of a problem for your employer/ a company
The introduction should also state the aim, objectives and research questions of your dissertation and also the approach you intend to adopt. Also include sections on deliverables, the scope and limitations of the dissertation.
It should also show the intended reader the framework of the Dissertation. The purpose of each chapter and its main features should be stated. The evaluation and discussion of results should await the main body of the Dissertation.
If your dissertation has changed from the original proposal you can explain the reasons.
Chapter 2 – Research Methodology – State clearly which methods were selected and why? How these were applied and how the literature influenced you to do the research this way. You need to justify the choices made.
Chapter 3 – Literature Review – This should focus on what others say about your subject area: (review the literature – discuss, comments, present arguments and justifications, etc.). Look for similarities and contradictions from different sources – discuss why points of view differ, what you think the reasons are for diverse statements, explanations, etc.
You may decide to integrate the Literature Review into the body of your Dissertation, in order to be able to refer to relevant material in context. If you do so, you should indicate this clearly in your introduction. You should consult your supervisor for advice on the best approach.
MAIN BODY OF DISSERTATION (i.e. several chapters/sections)
The number and nature of the chapters will vary from dissertation to dissertation.
Chapter a …n: Subject related (several – focus on your research questions). Chapter Heading should reflect what would be included in that chapter (indicates to the reader the subject contents) – refer to your research questions and formulate appropriate chapter headings. Some of these may contain subsections on your data collections, analysis of data, findings, presentation and discussion, etc.
Chapter X: Critical Evaluation
Product – All dissertations must have as their aim the production of a product. Acceptable products are applications, reviews, models or concrete solutions to a business problem that will be described within the Dissertation. The level of completeness of the product will depend upon the difficulty of the task. A more routine task will need to be more complete than a demanding task to achieve the same grade.
Process – Additionally an important part of the dissertation is the process you go through to produce the product. This will include the stages of your investigation and the consideration of various ways in which you might produce the product including a justification for the approach you adopt. This process will be described in the Dissertation.
The essence of criticism is placing your own work within the context of others. Acknowledging the deficiencies of the work of others and your own is essential. Merely describing your own work and results no matter how innovative is not enough THERE MUST be a CRITICAL EVALUATION.
Critical Self Evaluation
When writing a critical evaluation you should ask yourself the following questions:
What was I trying to achieve?
Why did I choose to do it that way?
What were the consequences of my actions for myself, the client or other people involved?
How did I feel about the dissertation process while it was happening?
How did the client feel about it?
How do I know how the client felt about it?
What personal factors influenced my decision making?
What other factors influenced my decision making?
What sources of knowledge, including literature search, did/should have influenced my decision making?
Could I have dealt better with the situation?
What other methods could I have used?
What might have been the consequences of those choices?
How do I feel about this dissertation now?
How have I made sense of this experience in the light of past experiences and future practice?
Has this experience of doing a dissertation changed my way of working?
Chapter Y: Conclusions – At some point it may be worthwhile identifying ideas for future developments. There should be one chapter (the last) devoted to the conclusions of the dissertation. The conclusion should not introduce any new ideas. It should summarise the discussion/evaluation in the main body of the Dissertation. It can be used to establish links between your work and the findings of others. It may also suggest how the work may be developed further. Focus on the following points:
what has been achieved
what has been discovered
emphasise the main points
point out any limitations
make recommendations for further work
References – Alphabetical listing of references for all sources cited in the Dissertation. Use the Harvard system of referencing.
Bibliography – This is a further list of references that you have read and found to be of assistance in your dissertation. This section should contain books that have been used extensively as part of your dissertation but have not been explicitly quoted or paraphrased in the Dissertation. The bibliography can also be used to direct the reader to useful extra reading.
Appendix A should always be used for giving an outline of your project management of the dissertation. It should include your original time plan from your proposal, also the actual time plan so a comparison can be made. If your dissertation has changed in its aims, objectives, or scope, you should give an explanation as to why this was necessary. If the scope has been restricted due to personal problems then a statement to this effect will suffice. It is easiest to document these changes by including and commenting on the original proposal (see appendix D of this handbook).
Appendix B should be a copy of your proposal; this should be the final, approved version.
Appendix C should be the Ethical Approval Form and the External Agreement Form (may include letter of approval from the organisation involved) + Interview questions if used, or questionnaire if used + letter to participants stating anonymity and withdrawal clause.
Other Appendices – Other appendices should be used to house subsidiary material that does not fit into the main body of the Dissertation (e.g. pages of detailed results from a survey dissertation). If the size of the appendices is large (i.e. greater than 50 pages) they should be submitted as a separate document called “Technical Documentation”. If reference is made to any of the information in the main Dissertation simply put “see technical documentation held by Prof. A. N. Other”.
3.5 Attending Viva-Voce / Presentation (pass / fail)
You will make a presentation for about 20 minutes to your tutors; your fellow students may or may not be present. In your presentation, give a brief outline of your dissertation. Discuss the outcomes and comment on how you managed to overcome any issues which may have arisen.
This will be followed by questions from the academics where they may be looking for clarification, or question you on why you selected a certain approach and why you did not consider other ways of solving problems. You will have to justify and explain why you adopted a certain methodology, and why it was useful. You may be asked to reflect on your outcomes, and discuss what you might do differently if you could start again.
This is a requirement to pass the Dissertation. This will be face-to-face, on campus. You should make all plans and travel arrangements to coincide with this requirement.
SECTION 4 – Dissertation Marking Criteria
The assessment and the marking for the dissertation depend on the following criteria:
4.1 Generic Dissertation Criteria
From September 2013 the University has operated a percentage based scheme for MSc grades, with the pass mark beginning at 50%. The percentage figures shown on the table below indicate the weightings for each area.
University Performance Descriptors – Level 7
The pass rate at Masters Level = 50% L7 (Masters Level)
This work is outstanding and is of a standard which could be considered for future publication in a professional journal. The work demonstrates engagement in a focused academic debate which presents a range of evidence underpinning a deep understanding of all the issues studied and a totally justified position. The work demonstrates a high level of originality with challenges to current theory and/or practice and specific, focused examples of contestability. There is evidence of a high level of synthesis of theoretical exemplars, underpinning principles and practical interpretation.
No obvious errors in referencing or grammar or syntax as appropriate.
The work is of an excellent standard and has the potential for future publication in a professional context. The work demonstrates engagement in an academic debate which presents clear evidence of a considered understanding of the professional issues studied, the approach adopted and the position taken. The work enhances current theory and/or practice and displays a range of examples of contestability. There is evidence of clear synthesis of theoretical issues and practice. A critical analysis of theoretical models and/or practical applications has resulted in a distinct level of originality.
Very few errors in referencing or grammar or syntax as appropriate.
There is evidence of analysis and critique of concepts, models of key authors, rival theories, and major debates together with some evidence of synthesis. The work fully considers the complexity of the context in which it is situated and the impinging external factors; it takes cognisance of differing perspectives and interpretations and recognises dilemmas. Ideas are presented in a succinct manner and conclusions are well reasoned. The work shows an ability to critique the underlying assumptions upon which current views are based and to challenge received opinion.
Few errors in referencing or grammar or syntax as appropriate.
The work demonstrates a capacity to express views based on sound argument and solid evidence in an articulate and concise way, and, where relevant, to put forward and make use of criteria for the judgement of theories and issues. There is evidence of effective engagement in a critical dialogue relating to professional practice, a clearly presented overview of an area of concern, and a comparative review of key authors, rival theories and major debates. The work demonstrates a willingness to question and to explore issues and to synthesise theoretical perspectives and practical application within a given professional context.
Some small repeated errors in referencing or grammar or syntax as appropriate
The structure and focus are evident and relevant to the assignment task. There is evidence of engagement with pertinent issues. Key authors and major debates are clearly presented and there is evidence of suitable basic reading. The work explores and analyses issues, but is not strong on presenting synthesis or evaluations. The work is mainly descriptive, but has achieved all the learning outcomes. Some repeated errors in referencing or grammar or syntax as appropriate.
Whilst some of the characteristics of a pass have been demonstrated, the work does not address each of the outcomes for the specified assessment task. There may be little evidence of an ability to apply the principles of the module to a wider context. The work may be an overly descriptive account demonstrating only minimal interpretation, and very limited evidence of analysis, synthesis or evaluation. No counterarguments or alternative frames of reference are generated or considered. There is evidence of sufficient grasp of the module’s learning outcomes to suggest that the participant will be able to retrieve the module on resubmission.
The work has failed to address the outcomes of the module. There are fundamental misconceptions of the basis of the module. The work is mainly descriptive and shows little or no understanding of relevant theory.
There is insufficient evidence to suggest that the author will be able to retrieve the assignment without retaking the module.
This work shows little or no understanding of relevant theory. There is little reference to appropriate literature and no evidence of independent thought or criticality. Overall the work is unduly descriptive and presents only a superficial grasp of the essential issues.
This work is not coherent and shows severe faults in referencing or grammar or syntax as appropriate. It includes unsubstantiated statements or assertions. It is unstructured and extremely badly presented. It is totally descriptive and lacks any attempt at analysis.
No real attempt to address assignment brief or learning outcomes.
7ET023 MSc Project Marking Criteria
Computer Science/Computing/ Informatics/ MSc Mobile and Wireless systems
The MSc Project module has TWO components: A proposal (15%) and a written dissertation with artefact (85%) You will also be required to attend a viva, which is pass/fail, but a pass is required to pass the module.
Generic Project Criteria
Outstanding, exceptional, extends/improves course material/publishable
Ranges from: competent, professional, integrates course material
to: adequate, uses course material adequately and appropriately
Borderline, patchy understanding of course material
Little understanding of course material, unable to justify opinions. Overall poor quality
The percentage figures shown on the table below indicate the weightings for each area within component 1.
School of Mathematics and Computer Science
MSc Project Assessment Form v2.0
7ET023: MSc Computer Science/ITM/ Web and Mobile/IT
Supervisor Assessment Form
Dissertation Module code:
2nd assessor mark
Turnitin score =
If the supervisor’s and second marker’s dissertation mark differ by more than 10%, or there is pass mark from one and fail from the other, then a third marker must determine the definitive mark.
Name of Third Marker (if required):
Third marker’s dissertation marks (if required):
If a third marker was required, please explain how the final mark was arrived at:
Proposal is marked by the supervisor only. Hence, just use the supervisor mark in the agreed mark column above.
Final report should be read and marked by the Supervisor and Second Marker independently.
The Presentation should be done by the student to both the Supervisor and Second Marker.
Use Canvas tools to provide feedback to students, these forms have been designed to facilitate the marking process (including moderation) and should NOT be uploaded/shared with students.
Final Report Assessment (85% of marks)
Background research and theory
Knowledge of tools and technologies
Justification and use of chosen methods and tools
Literature survey and use of sources
Description of development process or methodology
Constraints & limitations
Understanding of issues
Evaluation and discussion
Critical appraisal of:
Dissertation results or achievement
Relevant legal, social, ethical and professional issues
Risk management issues
Your professional development
Clarity & Presentation
Citations and references
Overall Proposal Mark (out of 100%)
Viva and Demonstration Assessment (pass/fail)
Resubmission – Student Instruction
Please note the following dissertation resubmission requirements:
Resubmission – Student Instruction
Please note the following dissertation resubmission requirements:
Assessment 1 Dissertation Proposal Marking Criteria (15%)
Name: Student ID: Mark:
70 – 100%
60 – 69%
55 – 59%
50 – 54%
40 – 49%
A working title for the research
Title reflects fully the intent of the research.
Title is a good indication of what the research intends.
Title indicates the intended research.
Title only alludes to the research area.
Title does not reflect the intended research area.
No sensible title submitted
Introduction and background
Introduces the reader to the area of research succinctly and with insight.
Introduces the reader to the area of research succinctly and knowledgeably.
Introduces the reader to the area of research in a sufficient manner.
Introduces the reader to the area of research.
A poor description of the area of research.
A very poor description of the area of research
A Statement of the aim.
Aim is academic, excellently presented shows clarity of purpose. Clearly understands the meaning of Aim.
Aim is academic, well presented but some very minor changes required. Meaning of Aim clearly understood
Aim is somewhat academic and well-presented but some changes required to make it workable. Show some understanding of what Aim is.
Aim is somewhat academic the changes required to make the project workable. Meaning of Aim not fully understood.
Meaning of Aim is misunderstood, the aim is unclear or unworkable in this context
Meaning of Aim is misunderstood and badly written. It is unclear and unrealistic or unworkable in this context.
A clear, measurable, appropriate scope and “doable” within timescale; postgraduate level in all aspects.
Clear measurable appropriate in scope and “doable” within timescale but some very minor changes required.
Research propose is at an acceptable level; but some changes will be required
Research proposed is below optimum level; some significant changes will be required.
Research is either too ambitious or lacks ambition. They need to revisit and scope aims and deliverables.
Either confused, impractical, or well below postgraduate expectation.
Deliverables of the project are clear, well-defined, achievable and well presented.
Deliverables of the project are clear, well-defined, and achievable but some very minor changes required.
Deliverables proposer at acceptable level; but some changes will be required.
Deliverables proposed below an optimum level; some significant changes will be required.
Deliverables proposer unacceptable but recoverable, significant changes will be required.
Deliverables proposer unacceptable. Significant changes will be required.
A reading list for initial research
Reading list is fully inclusive for the subject area and will aid the research.
Reading list is comprehensive for the subject area and will aid research.
Reading list is good for the subject area and will aid research.
Reading list is aimed at this subject area and will aid research.
Reading list is poor for the subject area and will not aid research.
No appropriate Reading list
Ethical and Data Protection Considerations
Ethical considerations are complete, and risks, and mitigations have been identified to protect the users and data for this project.
Ethical considerations have been made, and most risks and mitigations have been identified to protect the users and data for this project.
Ethical considerations have been made, and key risks and mitigations have been identified to protect the users and data for this project.
Some ethical considerations have been made, and some risks and mitigations have been identified to protect the users and data for this project.
Few ethical considerations have been made, and few risks and mitigations have been identified to protect the users and data for this project.
No ethical considerations have been made, and no risks and mitigations have been identified to protect the users and data for this project
The project plan is totally realistic and achievable in the proposed time.
The project plan is mainly realistic and achievable in the proposed time.
The project plan is realistic and achievable in the proposed time.
The project plan is somewhat realistic and possibly achievable in the proposed time.
The project plan is not realistic and may not be achievable in the proposed time.
No project plan included
Ethical Approval Form included
YES NO (if no, the proposal will be entered as a fail grade)
Grades are subject to academic judgement by your supervisor and reader
SECTION 5: Appendices
Appendix A – Project Example Types
Different degrees have different requirements for the MSc Dissertation.
In general, it is required that your topic is directly related to your course of study. For example, an IT Management student cannot undertake a Computer Science type project, and a Computer Science student cannot undertake a topic that does not have some form of software artefact.
At this level, students are to endeavour to meet the final learning outcomes of their course by undertaking a non-trivial study that is unique in context.
The project must produce an artefact.
** Cannot just write a report containing a literature review of the work of others students must produce something **
The artefact is produced as a result of the research
The artefact together with your research will be used to justify your answer to the academic questions
The artefact could be in the form of a:
A number of comparison tables;
A detailed evaluation;
A decision Matrix of decision making tool;
A details analysis of information found;
a set of recommendations;
prototype – utilising the full software development lifecycle
a testable design – database, HCI, System, including required analysis
The following examples of projects are intended to demonstrate a number of different types of acceptable projects for particular subjects of studies. The topics are by no means inclusive, but should indicate a level of complexity, originality and academic rigor that is require of Masters’ level study.
Descriptors for Computer Science MSc projects
A Computer Science Dissertation is required to be a detailed analysis of the literature relevant to the area of study, including current developments, available software, and any associated software processes. It offers the student an opportunity to innovate, as the solution will involve the production of a unique software artefact. This may be taken in the form of the improvement of existing software, or developing and/or improving aspects of the software’s performance, in addition to completely original software ideas.
This will require the student to specify, design, test, deploy and maintain a computer-based artefact, demonstrating the ability to work with technical uncertainty. This may require working with stakeholders to identify functional or other requirements, to assure that the solution developed will be fit for purpose, or will be a functional prototype that can lead to such a solution. This may employ a case study (ies), or a work-based environments.
This is a non-trivial undertaking, demonstrating the students’ abilities and skills in a self-directed fashion to resolve complex technical problems within the area of Computer Science. Students will need to be able to demonstrate their understanding of the core principles within the Computer Science study area, while considering all ethical, legal and social aspects of the work. The work is required to demonstrate breadth and depth of understanding in the application of Computer Science knowledge.
Example – Mathematical Modelling Software
A student will have an academic issue to investigate, and the analysis and design phases of a development life-cycle will be undertaken. Typical projects may involve the design of a mathematical model, investigation into ‘impossibility proofs’, investigations into mathematical solutions, statistical analysis, etc. The artefact produced would take the form of software containing the analysis and design. In order to demonstrate the work discovered, some development may take place in the form of outline solutions.
Question: Is it possible to design an effective mathematical model for House pricing?
Sub-question 1: How are house pricing methods developed and currently used?
Sub-Question 2: Are there current software solutions for house price modelling that are effective?
Sub-question 3: What software would improve the house price model for users?
Artefact: A software prototype demonstrating the use of a house pricing model considering appropriate HCI and usability.
These questions cannot be used – they are for demonstration purposes only.
Descriptors for IT Management MSc projects
An IT Management Dissertation is required to be a detailed analysis of the literature relevant to the area of study, including current developments, available software, and any associated software processes that are of interest or under the purview of IT Managers. It offers the student an opportunity to innovate, as the solution will involve the production of a unique artefact related to the improvement of a significant area of IT Management. This may be taken in the form of the improvement of business process design using suitable techniques and applications, developing and/or improving aspects of IT project management, in addition to the development of IT Management based solutions for organisations. This can be a wide ranging brief, but there must be a direct relationship to IT Management.
This will require the student to specify, design, deploy, and test or recommend IT solutions, demonstrating the ability to work with technical uncertainty in a management context. This may require working with stakeholders to identify requirements, to conduct business analysis assuring that the recommendations made could lead to significant benefits for an organisation, or a decision matrix to assist IT Managers in the decision making process when deploying IT assets. This may employ a case study (ies), or a work-based environments.
This is a non-trivial undertaking, demonstrating the students’ abilities and skills in a self-directed fashion to resolve complex technical and management issues within the area of IT Management. Students will need to be able to demonstrate their understanding of the core principles within the IT Management study area, while considering all ethical, legal and social aspects of the work. The work is required to demonstrate breadth and depth of understanding in the application of IT Management knowledge.
Example: Can SME’s improve their IT project outcomes?
A student will have an academic issue to investigate, the analysis and design phases of a potential IT-based solution undertaken. Typical questions could include the suitability of a project management methodology in a given IT environment, or the analysis of business processes could be improved by the use of IT assets in an environment, or the piloting of a new methodology or decision matrix. It is anticipated that the research phases would address a significant number/range of systems to be used in the investigation/comparison. The artefact produced would take the form of a document containing the analysis and design of the potential solutions, comparison tables or other suitable deliverables to demonstrate the outcomes discovered.
Question: Can business benefits be gained by better project management when deploying IT assets in SME’s within the West Midlands?
Sub-question 1: What project management methodologies are widely used in IT Projects within the West Midlands?
Sub-Question 2: What kind of IT project outcomes are currently experienced by IT Managers within SME’s regarding key performance indicators including time, cost, quality, and scope?
Sub-Question 3: What are the options available to improve the outcomes and derive additional benefits by improving IT project outcomes?
Artefact: Recommendations that assist IT Managers with decision making when deploying IT projects in SME’s within the West Midlands.
These questions cannot be used – they are for demonstration purposes only.
Appendix B – Title Page and Disclaimer Form
Please use the title page format on the following page, there is also a copy in the templates folder on CANVAS.
You must also ensure that you sign a copy of the Disclaimer form and include that with ALL your assessments for this module. This is also available on CANVAS in MSc Dissertation INFORMATICS folder.
Faculty of Science and Engineering
Examination Board: Postgraduate Computing
Presented in partial fulfilment of the assessment requirements for the above award.
This work or any part thereof has not previously been presented in any form to the University or to any other institutional body whether for assessment or for other purposes. Save for any acknowledgements, references and/or bibliographies cited in the work, I confirm that the intellectual content of the work is the result of my own efforts and of no other person.
It is acknowledged that the author of any dissertation work shall own the copyright. However, by submitting such copyright work for assessment, the author grants to the University a perpetual royalty-free licence to do all or any of those things referred to in section 16(i) of the Copyright Designs and Patents Act 1988 (viz: to copy work; to issue copies to the public; to perform or show or play the work in public; to broadcast the work or to make an adaptation of the work).
This document must accompany all Dissertation submissions
PLEASE READ THIS VERY CAREFULLY.
The University considers seriously all acts of Academic Misconduct, which by definition are dishonest and in direct opposition to the values of a learning community. Misconduct may result in penalties ranging from the failure of the assessment to exclusion from the University.
Further help and guidance can be obtained from your academic tutor or from our guide on How to avoid Academic Misconduct – available at http://www.wlv.ac.uk/skills
By submitting this document for assessment you are confirming the following statements
I declare that this submission is my own work and has not been copied from someone else or commissioned to another to complete.
Any materials used in this work (whether from published sources, the internet or elsewhere) have been fully acknowledged and referenced and are without fabrication or falsification of data.
I have adhered to relevant ethical guidelines and procedures in the completion of this assignment.
I have not allowed another student to have access to or copy from this work.
This work has not been submitted previously.
By this declaration I confirm my understanding and acceptance that –
1. The University may use this work for submission to the national plagiarism detection facility. This searches the internet and an extensive database of reference material, including other students’ work and available essay sites, to identify any duplication with the work you have submitted. Once your work has been submitted to the detection service it will be stored electronically in a database and compared against work submitted from this and other Universities. The material will be stored in this manner indefinitely.
2. In the case of project module submissions, not subject to third party confidentiality agreements, exemplars may be published by the University Learning Centre.
I have read the above, and declare that this is my work only, and it adheres to the standards above.
Print Name__________________________________ Student ID_______________
I have submitted this digitally and will provide a signed copy prior to marking.
Appendix C – Dissertation Formatting Guidelines
The Dissertation should be printed on plain white paper.
Left margin 30mm.
Right margin 20mm.
Top margin 25mm.
Bottom margin 30mm.
One and a half times spacing using 12pt Times New Roman or Palatino.
The word count for the dissertation is dependent on the type of dissertation, a one that involves a large element of practical work can attract less words than one that is an anylisis and design as such found in in an Information Systems type.
Page numbering should start with Chapter 1. Title page, acknowledgements and contents pages should not be numbered. Pages should be numbered consecutively through the main text including diagrams, etc. Page numbers should be shown centrally at the bottom of the page in the bottom margin. Pagination of appendices should be continuous but distinct from the main text, e.g. A1, A2, A3,…, B1, B2, B3,…. There should be no chapter or dissertation headings at the top of each page. New chapters should start on a new page.
Abbreviations must be used with restraint, and explained where necessary the first time they occur in a document. Thereafter, the abbreviated name may be used as shown below, e.g..
“The body representing the profession is the British Computer Society (BCS). One of the aims of the BCS is the ………”
The text should be organised as a sequence of numbered chapters. Within each chapter the material should be broken down into sub-sections with their own sub-heading.
Try to avoid having a sub-heading near the bottom of a page.
A hierarchical system of numbering of chapters, sub-sections and paragraphs should be used. It is not advisable to extend past three levels of hierarchy e.g.
Headings and titles should be printed in bold characters. Underlining/underscoring should not be used for headings and should be used in the rest of the body of the text with considerable restraint. The start of paragraphs should not be indented differently from the remainder of the paragraph.
Direct quotations from external sources should be indented inside both left and right margins. Quotation marks (“) should be placed around them and the reference to the quotation given. Shorter quotations, say less than three lines, can be embedded in the text.
The Harvard system of referencing should be used. This gives the author and year of publication in the main body of the Dissertation, for example, (Martin, 1969). If more than one publication is referred to in the same year by the same author then (Martin, 1969a) and (Martin, 1969b) etc. would be used. If there is more than one author then (Martin et al., 1969). The reference list at the end of your dissertation should contain full details of the source of the work in alphabetic order by author. The accepted way of setting out the reference for book, article in a journal, and article in a book is:
i) For a book
Martin, J. (1969) Design of real time computer systems, New York: Prentice-Hall.
ii) For an article in a journal.
Hoare, C.A.R. (1969) An axiomatic basis for computer programming, Communications of the ACM, 12(10), pp.576-583.
iii) For an article in a book.
Jelinski, Z. and Moranda, P.B. (1972) Software reliability research, in Frieberger, W. (ed.), Statistical computer performance evaluation, New York: Academic Press, pp.213-249.
The Learning Centre can give guidance on referencing, including that for electronic sources such as the Web. A guide can be found at:
Check however the Learning Centre’s web page for any further changes or updates.
At Masters Level referencing is taken seriously because you are expected to demonstrate to a high degree that your work is based on a full knowledge and evaluation of the work of others in the field.
Tables and figures should be numbered separately but consecutively within chapters e.g. Table 3.1, Table 3.2, Figure 3.1, etc. You will be expected to use the appropriate software packages for preparing diagrams, tables, pictures and other graphics.
Appendices should be started on separate sheets at the back of the dissertation and preceded by a page blank except for the heading “Appendix A” one third of the way down the page.
Title Page – This should appear on a single unnumbered page. An example of the Title Page and disclaimer are in Appendix A of the handbook.
Appendix D – Managing Your Dissertation
In addition to assessing how well you can apply the knowledge you have acquired during the course to a non-trivial task you will also be assessed on the process you go through in accomplishing the task. This process is referred to as “dissertation management” and this will be discussed in Critical Evaluation as part of the process.
The dissertation will be the largest practical assessment undertaken during your degree. As such it will provide you with a new challenge. It will not be possible to achieve the full potential you are capable of by approaching the dissertation in the same way as an assessment on any other module. The size, scope and requirements of the dissertation will be too great.
To assist you in this task an overall framework regarding setting interim milestones and deliverables has been devised. This framework consists of:
Submit Dissertation Proposal
Submit Ethical Approval Documentation
Submit Draft Dissertation
Submit Final Dissertation
Attend Viva-Voce / Presentation
In addition to the standard framework it will be necessary to devise a plan for the unique activities of your particular dissertation. This will involve breaking the overall task down in to a number of subtasks.
All dissertations will involve the subtask of a critical evaluation. Other subtasks will differ from dissertation to dissertation. A typical breakdown for a dissertation that involves the construction of an information system for a client might be:
Planning and establishing requirements.
Conducting a literature search.
Revising requirements and establishing a specification.
Reading results of the literature search and writing the literature review.
Design of a solution for the task.
Evaluate the system and the process by which it was developed.
In addition to identifying subtasks it will be necessary to estimate the time each task will require. It is necessary to develop a plan regarding the order in which subtasks take place and which subtasks can overlap or run in parallel. The plan will also need to take account of the assessment deadlines you have on other modules, as in some weeks you may have less time to work on the dissertation than others.
It is necessary to plan the activities to ensure that the dissertation is completed on time. This means sequencing the tasks and estimating the amount of time each will require. This time needs to be shared out between the activities. It is not expected that you will be able to give accurate estimates at the start. Rather it is required that you keep the actual time taken for each activity under periodic review and if necessary rescheduling later tasks.
Some of the tasks can take place in parallel such as requirements analysis and literature search. Also dissertation writing can well take place in parallel with other tasks by writing them up in draft form immediately after completion.
A further cause for disrupting your schedule is assignments on other modules. If you work in an even paced manner on all assignments there should be no problem. However, if you need to postpone work on the dissertation one week due to work on other modules it will mean doing twice as much work on the dissertation the following week. Inevitably quality will suffer.
Initial Time plan for illustration (this should be produced using Microsoft Project)
Time plans will differ for each dissertation, and will usually include details of lower level tasks, milestones, and dependent activities than are shown above.
Communicating the results and the process you went through to produce them is an essential part of a MSc dissertation. Good work that you have performed can be ruined by a poor Dissertation (i.e. significantly reduced grade). Bad dissertation work cannot be turned in to a good dissertation simply by writing a good Dissertation, however it might present what has been achieved in the best light. Deliberate misrepresentation of the work actually undertaken and results achieved are grounds for failing the dissertation.
ANY DISSERTATION THAT COPIES SUBSTANTIAL AMOUNTS OF MATERIAL FROM BOOKS, ARTICLES, PAPERS, ETC. IS CERTAIN TO BE FAILED.
The Dissertation should give a true and fair account of the work you have carried out. It is unprofessional to: make extravagant claims that are unsupported by evidence, use the work of others without giving them credit or pretend you have done more work than you actually have.
Dawson (2000) gives a number of reasons for citing references throughout your Dissertation in order to:
“Avoid Plagiarism. In other words, you do not present other people’s ideas, thoughts, words, figures, diagrams, results, programs without referencing them, in order to make their work look as if it is your own. Plagiarism can be performed accidentally or deliberately but in both cases it is deemed a serious academic offence.
Identify Context, to place your work in context with other recognised publications. This will strengthen your Dissertation by demonstrating how it builds and extends the work of others and showing how your work resides within a recognised academic field of study.
Support and validate. Support your own argument and validate any statements that you make. If you are making certain claims you will have to support these with either (your own) results or references to other authors. (Markers are not interested in your opinion unless it is supported by evidence).
Identify Sources. Provide people reading your Dissertation with a comprehensive list of related work that they can use to study your topic in more detail or take it further.”
Approaches to writing
Go somewhere quiet to write where you will not be disturbed.
Consider writing by hand or use a word processor once you have the substance of what you wish to say.
Always print out copies of the draft when editing in order to make hand written changes on the print-out rather than correcting at the screen.
It is always advisable to start writing early as the Dissertation will have gone through many iterations before the end product is of a standard that does justice to the work.
Draft the structure of the Dissertation early in terms of Chapter and Section headings.
Write a brief paragraph about what each chapter and section will discuss.
Later each section can be expanded by writing a few sentences for each paragraph that the final section will contain.
Always keep version copies of your drafts.
Always keep two backups of all versions (preferably kept in different locations).
The initial draft will always need rewriting in order to:-
Bring in new material and ideas
Reduce the length of what you have written
Revise old sections to refer to newly drafted material
Alter the structure of what has been written
Respond to suggestions made by supervisor or colleagues
Size is important. It should fall within the boundaries set by the regulations. Too small means you either have not done enough work or more likely that you have not explained what you have done in sufficient detail or analysed what you have done. Too large often reflects unnecessary padding; either you are unable to distil the arguments down to the essence (due to lack of understanding) or you have an excessively verbose style of writing. In either case it will mean the main argument being put forward is obscured and will lead to a reduced grade.
You should not think the more you write the better your mark. The inclusion of several pages of material on, for example, describing a standard design methodology is more likely to lead to a loss of marks not a gain. All material in the main body of the Dissertation must be directly relevant, for example it would be all right to explain why you used one design methodology rather than another based on your own particular requirements/context. Padding should be avoided, as it is annoying for the dissertation markers to read pages of elementary material or background material that does not focus on the specific problem you are addressing.
If you need to contract your writing:
Remove unnecessary, qualifying or repetitive words.
Summarise two or more sentences, perhaps whole paragraphs, in one sentence (you might try using AutoSummarize in Word but be careful that it retains the essential meaning).
Delete references and quotations that are not essential to your discussion.
Replace lengthy descriptions with tables and/or charts where possible.
Remove sections, or perhaps even chapters, where these are not central to your argument.
If you need to expand your writing:
Look for more references on the subject that you are writing about.
Build individual sentences up in to paragraphs by developing the argument.
Add new sections of relevant material.
Integrate appendices into main text.
Take more space to describe the approach you have adopted, why it was chosen and how appropriate it turned out to be.
Appendix E – Do’s and Don’ts Guide for Supervisors and Students
There are a number of publications which consider research supervision, but this often focuses on the postgraduate level and in particular on the research degrees such as MPhil and PhD. There is very little written on the supervision of students undertaking taught programmes at postgraduate level or in specialist areas such as IS.
The literature used for this guide is drawn from across subject disciplines and has also drawn on articles on research supervision where it has seemed appropriate and relevant. It is intended that the range of sources provided will present various ways of considering the issues around supervision and enable practitioners to use the guide as they deem appropriate.
As more students are involved in the process of formal research and of writing a dissertation as part of their University qualifications, the role of supervision is becoming vital to the process. The aim of this resource guide is to signpost supervisors to some specific responsibilities and also to provide a handy guide of hints and tips for successful supervision.
Project Supervision Hints and Tips
The primary function of the MSc Supervisor is to provide overall, general guidance of the project and to provide a critical and rational sounding board for student ideas. This requires clarity of responsibilities for both the supervisor and the student. Both parties must take responsibility for ensuring that satisfactory progress is being achieved throughout the entire duration of the project.
It is therefore important to maintain records of all supervisory input/support by staff and students. This information is particularly significant, for example, where there is a student appeal. Staff and Students need to record meetings with date, time, discussion points and agreed next course of action for the student. This should be completed after each meeting in view of the student. This will enable a colleague and/or the project coordinator to access this information should the need arise. Students should also write up, in an agreed format, the outcomes of any supervisory contact, this can then be used as part of the evaluation process.
A supervisor will be appointed for each student and later in the process a reader will also be appointed who will be involved in the marking. It may also be possible on occasions to engage with another subject expert, although this will be at the discretion of that expert and the initial contact should be made through the supervisor. The subject experts input will be recorded also by the student.
The following is not exhaustive or prescriptive, but identifies key functions expected of the supervisor and student and should be adapted, as appropriate:
Responsibilities of Dissertation Supervisors
The role of supervisors is to guide students towards the production of their dissertation by discussing each part of the process. They will advise on relevant areas of literature, help a student to develop their thoughts on their topic, give guidance on the development of chapters and on the conventions of dissertation writing. They will not act as proof-reader of the student’s work.
The responsibilities of the dissertation supervisor include:
1. Students may expect their supervisors to give advice about the nature of the dissertation (title, viability, methodology, university regulations), literature and other sources (including electronic sources), appropriate techniques and methods (thematic analysis, textual analysis, case study, interview etc.), the planning of the dissertation (organisation into chapters, sections etc.), and the standard of work expected (without prejudging final mark).
2. To discuss the agreed project plan and to give advice on completion dates of successive stages of the work.
3. To encourage students to acquire and maintain familiarity with relevant developments in their subject.
4. To give advice about requisite techniques and arrange for instruction where necessary, and if appropriate to advise students to undertake instruction in written/spoken English;
5. To maintain contact through dissertation meetings in accordance with University policy and in the light of any agreement reached with the student. The frequency and nature of these sessions will vary depending on the characteristics of the topic and the requirements of the discipline.
6. To be accessible to the student at appropriate and reasonable times when advice may be needed.
7. To ensure that the student is made aware if the standard of work is below that expected.
8. To advise the Module Leader and the student, as soon as it is recognised that there is a problem, if in his or her opinion, there is significant likelihood that the student is likely to fail the dissertation. Dissertation supervisors/ are not required to indicate the standard of the work in progress as it is only the final submission which is formally assessed;
9. To give advice on the preparation of the dissertation and advise the student if the standard of English is inadequate.
10. To read a draft section of the student’s dissertation once only. Further readings are at the discretion of the dissertation supervisor. The dissertation supervisor is not however expected to undertake substantial editing or revision of a draft.
Dissertation supervisors/tutors would normally comment on the structure of the dissertation, the balance of the sections and the content of various sections.
The dissertation supervisor/tutor will take the opportunity to read through and annotate (with comments), where the student needs to make changes.
Dissertation supervisors/tutors are not responsible for the in-depth checking and criticism of dissertations.
Responsibilities of Students
The prime responsibility for the management of the dissertation lies with the student who must maintain dialogue between him/her self and the supervisor. The responsibility for the work submitted is entirely that of the student. Whatever the circumstances, students may NOT expect their supervisors to provide detailed feedback on drafts of each chapter. Furthermore, it is the responsibility of students to arrange meetings with supervisors (taking account of any periods of holiday or work-related absence over summer) and attend them, discuss with supervisors the type of guidance and comments which they find most helpful, and maintain progress and meet deadlines.
Students should also take the initiative in raising problems and ensure that submitted work is their own (i.e. avoid plagiarism). It is the responsibility of the student to take the initiative throughout the dissertation writing process: raising problems or difficulties, discussing issues arising from feedback, taking appropriate action, and maintaining the progress of work as agreed with the supervisor.
Students should note that they, in consultation with their supervisor are responsible for choosing their dissertation topic, carrying out the research and submitting on time. The role of the dissertation supervisor is to provide guidance and advice; they are not responsible for the quality of the submitted work.
The student will:
1. Manage the relationship with his/her supervisor, keeping in regular contact with him/her.
2. Discuss with the supervisor the type of guidance and comment that s/he finds most helpful.
3. Agree a schedule of meetings with the supervisor for reports/briefing on progress, ensuring the agreed schedule is adhered to and any deadlines met.
4. Take the initiative in discussing any problems with the project work and/or its supervision so that these can be resolved as soon as possible;
5. Keep a diary of work conducted related to the project. This would include: notes on discussions/correspondence with supervisor(s) and any other internal/external specialists; literature read and comments; ideas/designs; copies of data collated; results of data analysis; etc.
6. Submit the dissertation in the specified format, on time and according to the School’s mechanism for handing-in project work and submit for any other assessments as required by course regulations.
The reason why academic journals and conference papers are to be preferred as a source of information is to do with credibility. All academic papers go through the process of being reviewed by fellow professionals who provide some guarantee of accuracy and merit of the work. Popularist magazines do not. They are more prone to error and may present a biased view. The same goes for material published on the WWW. The CANVAS online package “LC evaluating online resources” provides some guidelines to aid evaluation of the merit of articles found on the WWW. For best marks, your own work should have the testability and quality of these academic papers for the best results.
Technical reports can be useful source of information but they will be of variable quality. As they will not have gone through independent peer review it will be your responsibility to assess the merit of the content. Guidelines provided in “LC evaluating online resources” have applicability also to technical reports.
When referring to the work of others in your final dissertation (or any other work submitted for assessment at University) it is essential that you cite the source of the work. This involves writing the name of the authors and year of publication in the main text whenever you refer to the work. At the end of the dissertation you must list full details of the source of the work in a standard form known as the Harvard Referencing system. Details of this referencing system are available on the University Learning Centre’s webpage or by following the CANVAS online teaching package “LC Citation Skills”.
To summarise why a literature review is important
Can be conducted in order to identify clear objectives.
In order to master a topic you must be aware of the issues.
It sets your own project in context i.e. how does your work fit in with previous work
It gives you ideas that influence your own work
It broadens your perspective
It can be used to support your own argument/approach
It may alter your views/approach
It helps improve your own writing style
It hones your critical skills
You learn more about the methods applicable to your topic
It helps you identify literature sources that help you keep abreast of developments in future.
Volume – too much or too little
Variety- you will need a variety of recent sources (usually within the last 5 years)
Relevance- your sources will need to reflect a direct connection to your work
Relative authority- your sources need to have authoritative academic or professional credentials
At the start identify
who the leading figures are
what are the key texts
Focus your search following reference to key texts and leading figures in conjunction with your own topic of research. If you find a good author, search for them as well, because researchers rarely write about a topic only one time.
Project supervisors should be able to guide you
Efficient and effective information retrieval underpins research
The subject-learning librarian (Lynda Holland) can guide you on the information retrieval services currently available.
Online services are:
OPAC – Books in the University library
INSPEC – containing abstracts of journal articles and conference papers in Computing (accessible by CD ROM or internet http://www.bids.ac.uk but you also need a password)
World Wide Web – web sites at Universities, organisations throughout the world.
Directory of computer science journals –
Computer Science Bibliographies – http://liinwww.ira.uka.de/bibliography/index.html
ACM & IEEE digital library (see subject learning librarian for details)
Wording of search criteria is critical.
Always check the format for specifying search criteria for the search engine being used.
Single keyword searches will produce too many references to follow up.
Need to look for singular and plural forms, US and UK spellings, synonyms
Try out search criteria and then modify
too many references narrow search
too few references widen search
INSPEC retrieves abstracts of papers – judge whether paper is worth ordering based on the abstract
ordering full papers via the learning centre cost 50p a paper
BEFORE investing your time reading an article it is important to assess its likely quality.
There is a big difference between newspaper and magazine articles written by journalists and journal and conference papers written by researchers.
Including substandard publications jeopardise your own credibility.
Omitting important work on the topic shows poor researching skills.
Check the reference list at the end of papers that you judge to be of value – this could point to important papers your literature search may have missed.
Important work will have many references. You can use the Science Citation Index to check on all appearances of a paper in reference lists.
Eminence in research comes from publishing in high quality journals.
Who is the author? Is the author’s name given?
Are the author’s qualifications specified?
Have you heard of the author elsewhere (in class, or cited in your course text or in Library material)?
Is the author affiliated with a reputable institution or organisation?
Is the material current?
Is the material reliable and accurate?
Is the information factual, not opinion?
Is the source of the information clearly stated, whether original research material or secondary material borrowed from elsewhere?
How valid is the research that is the source?
Does the material as presented have substance and depth?
Where arguments are given, are they based on strong evidence and good logic?
You must keep track of all sources of material that will be included in your literature review, as they will need to be cited as references.
See the Learning Centre’s webpage: http://www.wlv.ac.uk/lib for guidance on how to reference:
chapters within edited books
Government or Official Publications
a discussion list message
a document on the Internet.
a home page
Reading Academic Papers
Gain an initial grasp of the paper by reading
Abstract, Introduction, Scan Section Headings, first and last paragraphs of each section, first and last sentences of the remaining paragraphs, look at figures and tables and associated text, conclusion
Rarely will you need to read more than 25% of the paper to gain sufficient understanding to determine whether it warrants further consideration.
Re-read the paper critically if you determine that it is highly relevant to your topic of research
Critical reading involves making judgements about the text.
Do not read looking only for information
Criticism involves analysing and evaluating.
Criticism does not mean rubbishing – criticism can be positive as well as negative.
Whether positive or negative you must be able to articulate your judgement.
Central to critical reading is the identification of the argument the author(s) is presenting.
An argument involves putting forward reasons to justify a belief.
An argument has at least two components:
The making of a point
Providing reason(s) and/or evidence for the point to be accepted by others.
Analyse the text
What is the author’s main point?
What is the author’s purpose?
Who is the author’s intended audience?
What evidence does the author use to support the main point?
What are the subsidiary points the author makes to support the main point? Are these supported by evidence?
What is the author’s underlying assumptions or biases?
How has the author organised the text to support the argument?
What is the source of the evidence? Is it primary or secondary?
What methods has the author used to gather primary evidence?
Evaluate the text
Is the argument logical?
Are there any gaps, leaps or inconsistencies in the argument?
Is the text well organised, clear, and easy to read?
Are the author’s facts accurate? (To the best of your knowledge.)
Have important terms been clearly defined?
Is there sufficient evidence in the arguments?
Does the evidence support the main point?
Does the text address opposing or alternative points of view?
What might be the alternative points of view?
How does the text fit in with other knowledge/information you have about the topic?
What questions or observations does the text raise?
What are the strengths/weaknesses of the argument?
The Literature Review
Objective of a literature review is for a particular topic to provide a clear and balanced picture of current leading:
concepts and definitions
Identification and description of matters other researchers have considered important
One of the main reasons for writing a review is to make a proposal for the project you intend to do.
At the end of the review it should be clear how your research addresses issues raised in the review.
It can be used to justify the methods and approach you are going to adopt in your own investigation.
At the end of your investigations you must relate your own findings back to those of others described in the literature review.
Writing the Literature Review
A literature review must not solely consist of a summary of the work of others.
It must show clear structure and organisation of previous work.
Structure is best exhibited by breaking the review in to sections.
The purpose of each section will vary depending on your objectives.
There should always be an introduction explaining the topic being addressed, the scope of the coverage and the structuring used for what follows.
Sections might consist of a breakdown into:
Time Periods to illustrate chronological development
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