logo crest

This main page relates to the course for 2022/23. For information regarding the 2023/24 MSc Dissertation, please see Open Course - DISS.

MSc Project Guide, 2022/23


The project is an essential component of the Masters courses. It is a substantial piece of full-time independent work starting in June. A dissertation describing the work must be submitted by a deadline in mid-August.

Students are expected to stay in Edinburgh for the duration of their degree programme. This includes during the writing of the MSc dissertation until the submission deadline. If you are on a Tier 4 visa and leave the country for an extended period of time, the School is obligated to contact Student Immigration Service who will notify UK Visa and Immigration (UKVI).) See MSc handbook.


Date Deadline/event
06-Dec-22 DPMT system opens for MSc project proposals.
20-Jan-23 Deadline for all project proposals (including self-proposed projects)
25-Jan-23 Students start to register interest in projects and meet with potential supervisors. Supervisors mark interested students as suitable/unsuitable for projects.
03-Feb-23 Students should have registered interest in projects, to provide time to meet with prospective supervisors. Supervisors are encouraged to review interested students for suitability at this stage.
10-Feb-23 Project selection phase ends. It is no longer possible for students to register for new projects. Supervisors have marked all interested students as either suitable or unsuitable. Each student has ranked interesting projects in order of preference and is marked suitable for at least 5 projects.
14-Feb-23 Project allocation begins. To be completed during the rest of the week.
27-Feb-23 Project allocation announced to students.
03-Mar-23 Special cases processed. Deadline for changes to projects and supervisors.
25-Apr-23 Final IPP Submission; see IPP page.
June Students start work on MSc projects, based on their IPP.
TBA/July Stage 2 BoE officially makes progression decisions.
14-Jul-23 Submission of project progress reports.
18-Aug-23 submission of dissertation.
11-Sep-23 First and second markers complete their project marking.
15-Sep-23 First and second markers agree a mark for the project, or fail to agree a mark, and the supervisor fills in the agreed (or failure to agree) mark form.
22-Sep-23 All project moderation complete.
TBA/Sept Stage 2 BoE award decisions
TBA/Oct Final MSc BoE


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:


Supervisors enable students to complete the taught module Informatics Project Proposal (IPP) during Semester 2, and to carry out MSc projects over the summer.

Over the summer, the supervisor gives appropriate technical advice and also assists the student in planning the project and working towards various targets during the period of work. Students should expect approximately weekly meetings with their supervisor at the start of the project but the frequency of these meetings will normally drop as the project progresses and as students become more self-sufficient. Backup supervisors may be allocated to cover periods of absence of the supervisor, if necessary.

Choosing a Project

There are several steps

  1. Staff and (optionally) students propose MSc projects.
  2. Students then express interest in projects and potential supervisors mark interested students as suitable/unsuitable for the projects in question. At the end, every student needs to be marked suitable for 5 projects.
  3. Students rank their project choices in order of preference.
  4. Students are assigned a project and MSc supervisor.

Details on how to propose a project and select your project preferences are given below.

Student-proposed projects

Students can submit their own project proposal via the DPMT system. However, they need to find an interested supervisor, typically well in advance of the project selection deadline.

Self-proposed project supervisors should be a member of Academic staff or Research staff. The School’s Institutes pages are useful for finding staff in particular research areas, and to browse the broad research areas represented in the School.

This procedure of self-proposal is intended for students who know at the beginning of semester 2 (or earlier) what specific project they wish to do. The student must discuss their idea with a member of academic staff and get them agree to act as supervisor for the project. The MSc project coordinator will take self-proposed projects into account when making the allocation between students and MSc supervisors, and allocate a self-proposed project whenever feasible.

Students are not expected to propose a project; the default is that students will be assigned a staff-proposed project which they will flesh out into a fuller MSc project as an outcome of the taught module Informatics Project Proposal (henceforth IPP).

If you do wish to propose a project however, you must discuss your ideas with a member of staff and get them to commit to supervising your project before submitting a proposal. This will cover aspects such as the suitability of its topic, the methods to be used, any facilities or systems required, the form the results would take, any difficulties that might arise (i.e., risks), the likelihood that it can be completed and written up by the August deadline, etc. It is up to you to find a supervisor who is willing to supervise your project. Having done this, submit the proposal as instructed in the DPMT system with all the relevant details filled in. The deadline for completing the whole process (discussion with staff and filling in the proposal webform) is in the timetable. This staff member will then register as potential supervisor for your project in the DPMT system. (Green button “Register…” at the bottom of the page.)

If you want to do your self-proposed project with an external industrial partner as supervisor, you’ll still need an internal co-supervisor (i.e., an Informatics staff member) in addition to your external supervisor. (If your supervisor is a staff member at a different School at the University of Edinburgh, then no co-supervisor is required.)

See the guide for external supervisors

As always, your project proposal must be filed before the deadline Both the internal and external supervisor need to register for it.

Even if you self-propose a project, you still need to register interest in other projects, until you are marked suitable for 5 projects (including your self-proposed one). You might not get your self-proposed project if the named supervisor ends up with too many projects to supervise. Thus you need fall-backs.

There is no guarantee that all proposed projects will be allocated. However, any pairings between staff and students that happen as a result of student self-proposed project development during these first 2 weeks of the semester will be taken into account when assigning staff their MSc students.

Projects with Industrial Collaborators

Students who are sponsored by, or have close contact with an industrial company may wish to undertake a project which relates to that company’s activities. This is encouraged. Such collaborations can take two different forms:

Students doing a project with an industrial partner are still expected to spend a significant portion of their time at the University.

Selecting projects

Students can view the proposed projects from the DPMT system. The list of projects can be sorted by project title, number or supervisor name by clicking on the relevant columns. There is also a search facility (via project tags), so that you can find projects in specific areas.

Students must eventually be marked suitable (by the potential supervisor) for at least 5 MSc projects that they would like to do (this includes supervisors registering interest in any self-proposed projects, where relevant). To this end, students must register interest in projects via the DPMT system and must contact the project proposer. Before doing this, read project descriptions carefully: these often contain information about how to contact the proposer and what information to provide. This is so that the project proposer can provide feedback to the MSc project coordinator about the student's suitability for doing the project. The supervisor will then mark the student as either suitable or unsuitable for the project. Students who are marked unsuitable for some of their chosen projects must register interest in more projects until they are marked suitable for at least 5 projects.

See the timetable for when project selection phase ends. Students who lack five suitable projects by this date risk being assigned to one of the remaining un-allocated projects/supervisors. To be safe, please try to identify and register interest in an initial set of projects a week before this deadline.

Project selection step-by-step

Please follow all of the steps below, even if you proposed a self-proposed project and found a supervisor for it. We try to accommodate all self-proposed projects, but sometimes load-balancing constraints make it impossible. Thus you need fallback options.

  1. Log into the DPMT system and take a detailed look through the list of proposed projects. You must be on campus or the School’s VPN to access DPMT.

  2. Read the details of all projects that seem interesting, paying attention to “Essential Skills” and “Completion Criteria”. We try hard to make sure you get a project of your choice, but this is not always possible. Some projects are extremely popular, but many can only be allocated to one student. We also cannot guarantee that you will be assigned a project in your specialism area.

  3. In the DPMT system you can register interest in projects. Start by registering interest in 5 projects. Try to do this before 3 February, as supervisors will be encouraged to review students for suitability at that point. Do not worry about your preference ranking at this stage. You may need to register interest in a few more projects later (see below).

If you register interest in a project, then you must contact the supervisor (and, ideally, the co-supervisor as well if there is one) and ask to discuss the project. Please see if there is guidance about how to do this in the project description. Just clicking a button in DPMT alone achieves nothing. This will give you a chance to learn more about the project and about the supervisor(s). It will also give the supervisor(s) a chance to assess if you have the right skills to do the project. Some supervisors may not be able to meet with you in person, in which case you will need to discuss the project via video chat or email. Some supervisors also hold pre-tests or group meetings to assess candidates.

The supervisor will then mark you as either “very suitable”, “suitable” or “unsuitable” for the project in the DPMT system. Normally, the only reason for being “unsuitable” is the student does not have the “Essential Skills” to undertake the project.

  1. If you get marked “unsuitable” for some of your first 5 projects of interest, you need to register interest in a few more until you are “suitable” for 5. Please start doing this at least 4-5 days before the final selection deadline. Do not register interest in large numbers of projects, because you’d be wasting everybody’s time.

  2. You can rank your projects in order of preference. We try to take these into account as far as possible, but remember that you might be assigned to any of your “suitable” projects, including your last choice. So choose carefully.

Getting the project you want

To maximise your chances of getting a project you want:

If you do not register interest/attain “suitability” for 5 projects, you will be de-prioritized in the allocation. This means a significantly higher chance that you don’t get assigned to any project, and will have to choose from whatever projects are left over at the end.

See the timetable for the the deadline for the project selection phase. The final project allocation will be made shortly after that (see timetable).

If you have questions, the IPP/MSc project Piazza instance is a good venue for them.

When choosing projects, some issues you should consider are:

Project selection FAQ

Q: Does it help to register interest in a project early? A: There is no first-come first-serve for projects. It does not matter at all who registers interest in a project first; as long as you are marked suitable you will be a potential candidate for that project.

Q: Will I increase my odds of getting my top pick (or top 2 or 3) if I only register interest for that 1 (or 2 or 3) project(s)? A: No. It will decrease the odds. Our matchmaking system allocates students with five suitable projects first, so your preferences count for much less if you don’t have five.

Q: What if I do not meet the essential requirements but I am a quick learner and a hard worker? A: Many of our projects assume that you are both of those things in addition to meeting the essential requirements. Trying to bluff your way into a project is unlikely to be to your advantage.

Q: If I select an “Easy” project, does that mean I can’t get a high mark (e.g., 75+) on it? A: Generally, all projects can be expanded or executed in an unusually impressive way. If you worry a project that interests you might be an exception, ask the proposer.

Allocation of Projects and Supervisors to Students

The MSc project coordinator will allocate each student a project and MSc supervisor on the basis of the preferences expressed by students and the supervision load of individual supervisors. There will inevitably be difficulties when more than one student wishes to do the same project. Some supervisors’ proposals are much more popular than others. Students should not necessarily expect to get their first preference of project, or even (in rare cases) any of the preferences that they stated. This process of assigning students to supervisors and projects will be completed by a date given in the timetable.

These initial assignments of students to projects happens this early in the semester, so that the supervisors, together with the IPP tutors, can deliver to their MSc students the compulsory taught module IPP. However, there is flexibility in changing supervisors in at least two ways. First, a member of staff can, if they choose, delegate supervising duties to a member of research staff (with the researcher’s agreement). However, the staff member remains responsible for ensuring that the supervision meets acceptable standards. Secondly, a student can also choose to change supervisors, provided they get agreement from their existing supervisor and the proposed new supervisor. If there are problems between a student and supervisor that they can’t sort out themselves, then the student can consult with their Personal Tutor.

This flexibility for changing supervisor remains, until the deadline for changes to projects and supervisors given in the timetable. It is not possible to change supervisors after this date.

Plagiarism and other Academic Misconduct

Remember the good scholarly practice requirements of the University regarding work for credit. You can find guidance at the School page. This also has links to the relevant University pages.

See also the following general guide on how to avoid plagiarism.

Progress reports

Progress reports on your MSc projects are due in July; see the timetable for specifics.

The progress reports will NOT be graded. They are meant to be

The report should be 2-3 pages. It should specify:

Submitting progress reports: Students submit their progress report on the LEARN page of DISS, menu item Assessment and then Progress Report on the page.

The Dissertation

The project is only assessed on the basis of a final written dissertation. 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. All 60-credit MSc dissertations must conform to the following format: (The following limits on the length do not apply to EPCC, DSTI Dissertation (Distance Learning), Masters Dissertation (Design Informatics), and CDT thesis.)

The typical structure of an Informatics MSc thesis is as follows:

In addition, the dissertation must be accompanied by an ethics statement and an own-work declaration, as in the provided template. Your IPP should have planned for the projects ethics requirements, and review the academic conduct section above.

Writing a dissertation is time-consuming. Doing it well can take as long as four weeks of full-time work. You should write up explanations, results, and discussion as you go; this reduces the risk you will run out of time, and often clarifies and improves the research. Do not leave writing up until the last couple of weeks.

Some guidelines on the style of an MSc thesis.

Some links to lectures on writing:

Computing Resources

The standard computing resource we provide is 24/7 access to communally used DICE machines; we cannot guarantee access to or a specific lab or specific machine, reliable constant remote access, or exclusive use of any machine.

By default, you and the project supervisor are responsible for providing any and all resources required to complete the project. If necessary, the supervisor should discuss any exceptional requirements with support and/or the ITO, and receive their approval before writing the proposal.

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 (see the timetable of events). Students need to submit an electronic copy and archive software as detailed below. Paper copies are not required.

Electronic Copy

Students must submit a PDF version of their thesis. These are included in an electronic archive that is accessible to future students. If there are good reasons why a thesis cannot be archived, ensure your supervisor knows the reasons and tick the appropriate box on the submission page.

Generating your thesis in pdf format should be straightforward, using LaTeX (or similar), or a “save to PDF” feature in most word processors. Take care to ensure that all figures, tables and listings are correctly incorporated into the pdf file you plan to submit.

Submit your PDF using this form.


When you submit the electronic copy of your thesis you will also be asked to provide an archive file (tar or zip) containing all the project materials. Students should use this to preserve any software they have generated, source, object and make files, together with any essential data. This material is not marked directly, but may be used to assess the accuracy of claims in the report. It should contain sufficient material for examiners to assess the completion of the project, the quality of the project, and the amount of work required to complete the project.

You should create a directory, for example named PROJECT, in your file space specifically for the purpose. Please follow the accepted practice of creating a README file which documents your files and their function. This directory should be compressed and then submitted, together with the electronic version of the thesis, via the submission webpage.

Your README should make clear where any data that you used came from, how it was processed, and how any outputs can be generated from the code that you have included. You do not normally need to include large datasets, model outputs, or model checkpoints in your archive. However, sometimes such data might be useful for follow-up projects in future years, or could be important for checking your work. Please discuss with your supervisor what to include.

Project Assessment

Projects are marked independently by the supervisor (1st marker) and the (centrally allocated) 2nd marker. The 1st and 2nd marker are not allowed to discuss marks until after both have filed their marking forms. Once both markers have filed their forms, they discuss the final mark, and one of them (usually the 1st marker) files the Agreed Mark Form. (If you fail to agree, then explain why on this form.) In certain circumstances the project will go to moderation (see below).

Projects are assessed in terms of a number of basic and other criteria. Only the dissertation is used for assessment. See also the common marking scheme. Knowledge of these criteria will help you to plan your project and also when writing up. They include:

Marks in the range of 45-49 allow a re-submission of the thesis by the student within 3 months, which will need to be re-marked (Taught Assessment Regulation 58). The marking guidelines can be found here and the policy on moderation can be found here.

Markers can find electronic copies of reports here. (Access problems? Contact Computing support to give you access.)

Marking is done via the webmark system. (Access problems? If you are UoE staff without an Informatics co-supervisor: Contact Computing support to give you access. If you are external and have an Informatics co-supervisor: Consult with your co-supervisor. It is his/her responsibility to file the marking form.)


Extensions are permitted and Extra Time Adjustments (ETA) for extensions are permitted. Please refer to Rule 3 here for further details. Please see Learn for the number of extension days that are permitted.

Important Dates

All the deadlines for the various tasks, including the deadline for submitting the thesis, can be found in the Timetable of Events.


While a demonstration is not a compulsory component of your MSc summer project, there are many circumstances in which providing your supervisor and your second marker with a demo will enable them to assess your achievements more accurately.

How to give a good demo

If you do decide to give them a demo, then your examiners will need to be convinced that:

You should also try to educate the examiners by clearly presenting:

As a guide to pitching the level of your explanations, assume that your examiners are ignorant of the particular problem you are investigating, but have a general background in the subject area. Often the second examiner is from outside your project area. So, be sure to introduce your project properly, don't just dive into the middle. What were the aims of the project, how did you go about achieving them, what results did you obtain, what difficulties did you have?

In a typical demo, you might:

Not all projects will follow this outline; modify it to suit your own particular project.

A demo should take about 20 minutes. You will probably find that this is quite a short time, but it is good practice to do it in this time because this is typically the time you will have to demo a system in other scenarios; e.g., at conferences. Given that 20 minutes is not long, you should:

Two related mistakes that even good students make are: trying to tell the audience EVERYTHING about their project, instead of an overview; and spending too much time giving a lecture about the project instead of using the time to show things working (which is the main reason for the demo).