COMP390/393/394/395 Overview

The Honours Project Scheme

The third year project provides an opportunity to carry out a substantial piece of work for which you are individually responsible. It is a key element of the Honours degree, in which you are required to apply and explore in more depth some of the things you have learnt elsewhere in the course, and to show initiative in expanding and applying your knowledge.

In a project you should not expect to be told everything that you need to know - you will have to find much of the information for yourself. Nor should you expect to be told exactly what to do - you are responsible for planning and steering the project. You will have a Supervisor who will provide advice and guidance, but it is your project, and you are expected to take responsibility for it.

Elements of a Project

All projects consist of four elements, which are typically each of equal importance. It is important to remember that a project is intended to be more than just the production of a piece of software - you need to show a deeper understanding of what you are doing (see Skills You Will Need to Develop below). This means that you are expected to put the work in a context, to think about alternatives, to justify your choices, and to evaluate your work. The four elements expected of every project are:

  1. Research and Background. This is where you provide the context for your project. You will need to identify and absorb related and parallel work, identify the key ideas you will build on in your project, and identify and acquire any new skills and techniques you will need. Here you will also identify the criteria you will use in the evaluation of your project.

  2. Planning and Design. Any project requires planning, to identify what needs to be done and what will be produced, when this will be produced, and to give a feasible strategy for carrying out the project. The software that you will produce also needs to be designed according to some methodology, and thought given to how it will be tested and evaluated.

  3. Realisation and Implementation. Having a plan is no good unless it is carried out. So the plan must be realised, in accordance with the milestones you identified in your plan: the literature must be surveyed and the design must be implemented and tested, and the experiments must be performed. All of this will need to be documented in the final report.

  4. Evaluation. In an academic project you are supposed to be able to look critically at what you have done. Evaluation needs to cover what was produced: for example, how well does the software perform?; the decisions made: with hindsight were the design choices you made the right ones?; how your project compares with other related work; where there are users: how do they react to the software?; the extent to which the objectives of the project were met; and the scope for further development of the project.

Throughout the project you should keep the need for it to show all four of these elements well in mind.

Skills You Will Need to Develop

In a project you will be using skills you have learnt on your course, but you will also need to develop and demonstrate new skills. Some of these will be technical skills, but you will also need to develop a variety of other, important, skills. Some of these are described below: