Advice to third-year students on selecting an Honours Project

This document describes the process of project selection. Please read this information carefully to ensure that you fully understand all that is required of you.

All Honours students must complete a 40-point project or dissertation as part of their course. Single honours Informatics students must take the Honours Project (INF-4-PROJ) in their final year; combined honours students may have a choice between taking the Honours Project in Informatics, or a project or dissertation in the other school. Note that if your degree offers you this choice, students seeking BCS accreditation must take the Informatics Honours Project. MInf students must complete an 80-point project project over the course of their fourth and fifth years. For information in relation to your particular degree, see the general information about degree programmes in Informatics).

The project runs from Week 1 of Semester 1 to the middle of Week 11 of Semester 2. The Honours Project Homepage provides access to all the information you need to carry out the project, from project selection through to the final presentation. Be sure to check the document again in September for the conditions relating to your project, in case there are changes.

It is important to make a brisk start on the Honours Project in September. For that reason, projects and supervisors are allocated to students before the end of semester 2 of the previous year.

Project proposal list

The primary mechanism for acquiring a project topic is to select project proposals from the published list. There you will find a list of titles and proposers, and a detailed description of each project. You will need to select five projects in order of preference. You must contact the proposer of each project you list to make sure that you are suited to that project. If this can be sorted out by email, fine - alternatively, if either the student or the supervisor wants to meet in person, the other should make themselves available. Selection of a project for which the proposer deems you unsuitable is not permitted. As time goes by and students express interest in projects, the list will show the popularity of each project.

When choosing projects, some issues you should consider are:

Do not choose five very popular projects or you may find that you get none of your choices and will have to choose from whatever is left over. This does sometimes happen. Most projects can only be allocated to one student. Do not choose five projects that are closely related, e.g., all graphics or all the same supervisor; spread your choices out. Otherwise, because of the popularity of certain project topics and supervisors, you risk getting none of your choices.

Your choices are due by Friday 23rd March Friday 30th March Friday 6th April. The deadline for staff proposals is Friday 23rd February, so the list will be incomplete before that point and there will probably be last-minute proposals submitted later. Students who miss the deadline for submitting their project choices will have to select later from whatever happens to be left over!

Make sure that all projects you choose are appropriate for your target degree classification. For instance, a straightforward implementation project classified as "Easy" is unlikely to present sufficient conceptual challenge to justify a mark in the first-class range. Alternatively, a project classified as "Very Hard" that is described as requiring original research is probably not a wise choice for a student who is struggling to achieve passing marks. We know that this is difficult since you will not know your UG3 mark until after your selections have been made. Make your best guess and if your guess later turns out to have been far from reality then revisit your allocated project with your supervisor to make sure that the project choice is suitable. Check the project assessment criteria for some guidance. Note that project selection is ultimately your responsibility within the constraints of the allocation system.

Ordinary degree students who hope to achieve sufficient performance to transfer to Honours should follow the same project selection process as Honours students, with the same deadlines.

Self-Proposed Projects

This is the secondary mechanism for acquiring a project, which may be appropriate if you have strong (and informed!) views about the sort of project you want to do. The procedure for this is the following:

  1. Look at some previous proposals to get an idea of the level of detail that is required.
  2. Write and submit a proposal for your project using the project proposal form. The deadline for submission is Friday 2nd March Friday 9th March.
  3. Obtain the agreement of at least one member of staff to supervise the project. It is your responsibility to find a supervisor. Don't just email lots of faculty asking if they are willing. Look through the School webpages to find a member of staff who has an interest in what you are proposing - that's the best person to ask. You will probably need to speak to them in person. They should register interest in the proposal as a signal of agreement to supervise.
  4. Submit a list of five projects in order of preference, including your self-proposed project, which need not be your first choice if there are other project that you would prefer.

You are not guaranteed to be assigned your self-proposed project, even if you list it as your first preference, because your chosen supervisor may be over-committed. To avoid this situation, try to find a supervisor whose projects are less popular, and/or get more than one supervisor to register interest.

Project Allocation

The allocation of projects according to the preferences of all students is a complex optimisation problem. Projects are not assigned on a first-come first-served basis so there is no advantage in submitting your preferences early; assignment of students to projects begins only after the deadline for submission of preferences by students has passed. The assignment is the responsibility of the project coordinator, not individual project supervisors. Do not expect necessarily to get your first choice, or even one of your top few choices; there will usually be multiple first choices for the same project or a supervisor may be over-committed.

Don Sannella
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