The research thesis is an essential component of the Masters courses. It is a substantial piece of full-time independent research in the field of robotics and autonomous systems. You will carry out your project under the individual supervision of a member of CDT staff.
For further information please check also the ECR student webpages.
The project will occupy two thirds of your time during the Spring semester, and 100% of your time during the summer period (from completion of examinations until mid-August). A dissertation describing the work must be submitted by a deadline in mid-August.
You are expected to choose a project by the beginning of Semester 2. Students are expected to find their own projects in consultation with their mentors, rather than choosing from a predefined database. Often the staff member who is mentoring you during Semester 1, will also be the supervisor of your research project. You should, however, feel free to arrange meetings (during Semester 1) with other potential supervisors who work in a research area in which you are interested. Often supervisors will have several potential project ideas in mind, but you should of course bring up any potential directions that you have been thinking about.IMPORTANT: Once you have identified a project and supervisor who is willing to take you on, you should fill out a project form for a self proposed project. You must do this by the beginning of the third week of second term. Just fill out your selected project as your #1 choice. You do not need to select backup choices. The project proposals will all be reviewed for suitability by the CDT project coordinator.
The overall schedule is: You will meet with supervisors and select a project just after classes end in Semester 1 and over the winter break. Once you have selected a project, during Semester 2, you will work approximately one third of your time on coursework and two thirds on your project. After classes end in Semester 2, you will have a revision period for your exams – during this period we recommend that you focus solely on your exams. Once the exams complete, you should return to your project work, spending 100% time on it until the final deadline in mid-August.
Here are the important dates and deadlines:
As part of choosing a project, you will also choose a supervisor. Your supervisor gives technical advice and also assists you in planning the research. Students should expect approximately weekly meetings with their supervisor. Backup supervisors may be allocated to cover periods of absence of the supervisor, if necessary.
At the beginning of April, you will submit a Robotics Research Proposal (RRP) about how your project is going to continue based on the work you have been doing so far. This should be about 20 pages possibly including work from the earlier Robotics Research Report (RRR, literature review). Like the RRR, this RRP will be considered for the mark of your research thesis, in particular if you are reusing parts of the RRR and/or RRP in thesis. More weight will be given to the thesis than to RRR and RRP together. You will be given information about writing the proposal in specific tutorials. Please refer to the ECR pages for more information. You should write this proposal in such a way that you can re-use the text in your final MSc project report.
The MSc project is designed to be a first research project that prepares you for the more extended work that you will do in your PhD. The project is intended to be novel research – we hope that in some cases the MSc projects will lead to publishable results, although this is not required and will not always be possible, depending on the nature of the project. Your supervisor should help you identify a topic that has the potential to lead into a larger PhD project, should you decide to continue research in the area.
That said, it is not required that your PhD research be in the same area as your MSc research. Some students will indeed continue their PhD work with the same research area and supervisor as their MSc. Others will choose a different PhD supervisor. Both of these outcomes are expected and are perfectly fine.
Of course if you do already have a good idea about your intended PhD topic, you will want to take this into account when selecting your MSc topic – whether it be to choose a topic in the same area, or to choose a topic that will provide you with complementary experience.
Some students may wish to undertake a project which relates to the activities of one of our external partners. Alternatively, some projects that supervisors suggest to you may have a natural relationship with one of the CDT partners. This is encouraged. A student undertaking such a project will still need to find an academic supervisor who is willing to take on the project. During the project phase, students working on such projects have both an academic supervisor and a designated contact at the partner organisation. The CDT conference in October is a good time to build links with partners.
The project will be supported by group tutorials, roughly once every fortnight. This will be a chance for you to talk to the other CDT first year students, talk informally about your progress, and get advice from your peers about any issues. These discussions will be led by a more senior PhD student. The timetable for these, as well as tutorial sheets to spark the discussion, will be announced in the spring.
The project is assessed on the basis of a final written dissertation, in order to comply with HWU regulations also the result of the assessment of the RRR and RRP will be taken into account. Additional material, such as the code you submit, may be taken into account in case of doubt, but you should make sure that all the work you have done is carefully described in the dissertation document. Dissertations will typically conform to the following format:
In addition, the dissertation must be accompanied by a statement declaring that the student has read and understood the University's plagiarism guidelines.
Students should budget at least four weeks for the final dissertation writing-up phase. The length of the main body of the dissertation should be around 50 pages. Where appropriate the dissertation may additionally contain appendices in which relevant program listings, experimental data, circuit diagrams, formal proofs, etc. may be included. However, students should keep in mind that they are marked on the quality of the dissertation, not its length.
The dissertation must be word-processed using either LaTeX or a system with similar capabilities. The LaTeX thesis template can be found via the local packages web page. You don't have to use these packages, but your thesis must match the style (i.e., font size, text width etc) shown in the sample output for an Informatics thesis. Please make sure your thesis will be printed double-sided.
Many projects will require computing and lab resources. Please discuss these requirement with your supervisor and see the CDT handbook for information about what computing resources are available to CDT students.
If a project requires anything more, this needs to be requested at the time of writing the proposal, and the supervisor needs to explicitly ask for additional resources if necessary (start by talking to the CDT projects organiser, below).
Technical problems during project work are only considered for resources we provide; no technical support, compensation for lost data, extensions for time lost due to technical problems with external hard- and software as provided will be given, except where this is explicitly stated as part of a project specification and adequately resourced at the start of the project.
Students must submit their project by the deadline in mid August (see above). Students need to submit hard copy, electronic copy and archive software as detailed below.
Projects are assessed in terms of a number of basic and other criteria. Only the dissertation is used for assessment. Knowledge of these criteria will help you to plan your project and also when writing up. They include:
The project involves both the application of skills learned in the past and the acquisition of new skills. It allows students to demonstrate their ability to organise and carry out a major piece of work according to sound scientific and engineering principles. The types of activity involved in each project will vary but all will typically share the following features:
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