Honours Project (INF-4-PROJ)

This web page describes those aspects of the Honours Project that are largely unchanged from year to year. It is designed to supplement rather than replace the formal Course Descriptor. For information specific to projects done during a specific academic year - list of project proposals, allocation of students to projects and supervisors, project group meetings, project calendar, etc. - please select one of the following: Most of the following also applies to MInf students: they choose projects from the same pool and participate in the same group meetings, but have different deliverables and the project extends over two years. The structure of the MInf project has changed with effect from 2013-2014; this does not affect students who started projects before September 2013.

There is additional information for supervisors here:

Any questions or comments should be emailed to the Honours Project Coordinator, Don Sannella, at dtsthe letter a with a circle around itinf.ed.ac.uk.

Slides from project introduction talk, 11 Sep 2013


Introduction

The project involves both the application of skills learnt in the past and the acquisition of new skills, on a substantial piece of independent work. The types of skill required vary from project to project, but six main areas of work are required: You choose a project topic in Semester 2 of the third year from a list of proposals produced by staff and external organisations. Alternatively, you may choose to do a project on a self-proposed topic, on condition that a member of staff can be convinced to act as supervisor.

Projects are intended to allow you to demonstrate your ability to organise and carry out a major piece of work. The relative amounts of time spent on the above areas will vary. No project consists of just implementation or experimentation: much careful thought and planning is required in advance. Project topics span the range of Informatics, so that you can choose a project that you find useful and interesting, and goals are usually flexible so that you can work to the best of your ability.

The fourth year structure has the following blocks of concentrated effort for the project:

During these periods you should be spending much (Weeks 1-5 in both semesters, with few coursework deadlines) or all (Weeks 11-13 of Semester 1 and 10-11 of Semester 2, with no coursework deadlines for most UG4 students) of your time on the project. You should keep your project going at a quieter level during the other periods of the year, as steady progress is far more likely to result in a satisfactory project than erratic jumps. You are encouraged to keep a log in which you record all work done on your project and the time spent.

You are assigned one (or occasionally two) supervisors, who provide technical advice and assist in planning the project. You should meet with your supervisor frequently and regularly, preferably each week during semester time.

Report

The project is assessed on the basis of a written project report submitted in Week 11 of Semester 2. (See the project calendar for the exact date.) You will also be required to submit your entire project directory, to provide background information.

Link: Report requirements and submission procedures

In general, coursework in Informatics will not be accepted late without good reason (where "good reason" is to be judged by the year organiser).

This rule does not apply to the project, for the simple reason that only the Board of Examiners is allowed to judge "good reason" for a significant piece of work such as the project. If you do submit late (which is not recommended, as the penalty for this is high), we use the University's "penalty" scheme. In certain cases, where evidence of special circumstances is presented to the Board of Examiners, the penalty might then be waived.

Assessment

The report is read independently by the project supervisor and a second member of staff (and, in some cases, by others). It must be self-contained and include all information relevant to the project since, in general, the readers will be unaware of the work undertaken, the difficulties encountered and the results obtained. They allocate a numerical mark after assessing the project work in terms of the following criteria:

BASIC CRITERIA
  • Understanding of the problem
  • Completion of the project ("Completion" covers achievement of the original objectives, achievement of modified objectives, or providing convincing evidence that the objectives are unachievable.)
  • Quality of the work
  • Quality of the report
ADDITIONAL CRITERIA
  • Knowledge of the literature
  • Critical evaluation of previous work
  • Critical evaluation of own work
  • Justification of the design decisions
  • Solution of any conceptual problems
  • Amount of work
EXCEPTIONAL CRITERIA
  • Evidence of originality
  • Inclusion of publishable material

Projects are marked according to the following classifications, which relate to the above criteria:

0-19: Bad Fail
The project is inadequate in each of the basic criteria.
20-29: Clear Fail
The project is inadequate in more than one of the basic criteria, but not all.
30-39: Marginal Fail
The project is inadequate in one of the basic criteria.
40-49: III
The project is adequate on each of the basic criteria.
50-59: II.2
The project is at least average on each of the basic criteria and is average on most of the additional criteria.
60-69: II.1
The project is at least good on each of the basic criteria and is at least average and sometimes good or excellent on each of the additional criteria.
70-79: Low I
The project is good or excellent on all the basic and additional criteria.
80-89: High I
The project is good or excellent on all the basic and additional criteria and also has elements of the exceptional criteria.
90-100: Outstanding I
The project is excellent on all the basic and additional criteria, and has strong elements of the exceptional criteria.

Project materials

You are strongly advised to use only supported software, be it programming languages, editors, graphics packages, windowing systems, etc. Where a project requires the purchase of materials of any form, including software, the necessary purchase should be negotiated in good time with the project supervisor and the project coordinator.

Progress documents

To provide a check on progress, and as preparation for writing the final report, you must submit two further documents during the year. These are:

Your interim reports is read by your supervisor, who will give written or verbal feedback.

Project group meetings

To further broaden involvement in projects, students are divided into small groups which meet to discuss progress, with supervisors in attendance. Project groups meet at three times in the year:

One of the supervisors in the group is assigned to act as convener. Group meetings may also be attended by the project coordinator. Your attendance is obligatory. At each meeting, you will give a talk describing your progress on project work and your future plans. Your talk should take 10 minutes, plus 5 minutes for questions.

More detailed guidelines are circulated in advance of each meeting. Your supervisor should assist you in preparing for project group meetings. The group convenor transmits individual feedback to you and to the project coordinator, after discussion with the supervisors, following the meeting.

The purpose of this system is:

Any student whose progress gives cause for concern may be asked to give a further presentation to the project coordinator, with the supervisor in attendance. This permits a more thorough discussion of any problems that have arisen.

Project presentations

Finally, you give a 30-minute presentation of your project to your project markers and perhaps one additional member of staff, in or around Week 1 of the Examination Period (about 3-4 weeks after Semester 2 ends). Alternatively presentations may be arranged in the week immediately following project submission. See the project calendar for more precise information. The purpose of the presentation is to help the markers gain insight into your project, as input to the marking process. The presentation itself is not assessed but it is obligatory.

The focus of the presentation should be a demonstration of results and not just repetition of sections of the report. You might not require a computer to demonstrate your project but you should have some results to demonstrate your evaluation of your work. The markers may well have already read your report and are likely to raise specific questions.

Feedback

Feedback will be provided on all of your work.

Intellectual property and confidentiality

Intellectual Property in a project is owned by the people or organisations who supply original ideas. You are not an employee of the University and you are marked in part for original input so ipso facto you will own at least some intellectual property of your project. This share will depend on who proposed the project and the degree of direction you were given. If this is an issue, you and your supervisor or external organisation should sign an agreement prior to committing to the project. Where a formal agreement is required, the University can provide a document for this purpose which can be obtained from the project coordinator on request. It may also be necessary to ask you to sign a non-disclosure agreement if you are privy to confidential information. Special restrictions or agreements may apply to sponsored students. The University must be informed of any restrictions being imposed on or agreed with you and would veto any agreement that imposes employment restrictions after graduation. Project reports cannot be copied to external organisations without your prior approval in any case and may be restricted by agreement with any other owner of the intellectual property. In normal circumstances you will hold the intellectual property and will be asked to sign a declaration, on submitting their report, which will allow the University to copy the report on request. Although you may own all or part of the intellectual property, nevertheless neither you nor the University can publish or otherwise exploit the substance of the project without the permission and cooperation of the other party.


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