The DCNDS Group Project: assessment and documents

Last updated 28-Jul-2006 by Saleem Bhatti.
Based on guidelines written by Stephen Hailes and Tracy Williams.


This document provides a guide for MSc DCNDS students for preparing their project documents for submission in September. Here is provided information about the Group documents, the Individual report, the oral examination and the overall assessment for the Group project. Please send any questions to me by email.


Formatting and submission
Group documents
Individual report
Previous Group reports

Miscellany - important

Level of detail for the documents - who is the audience?

A question Supervisors are always asked is, "What level of technical detail should I go into in the documents?" This is a reasonable question to ask. Although the intended audience for the reports is ultimately the Examiners (your Supervisor, the Second Examiner and the External Examiners), there is still the question of "what level" the information should be pitched at. A good reference point is actually your fellow students. The documents you submit (Group and Individual) should be written to a level that would be comprehensible to DCNDS students who have completed the taught part of the programme. We consider this to be the "base-level" of knowledge to start the project work and so it is an appropriate level of technical understanding to assume for readers of the documents.

Content of reports

The Examiners are just as interested in the process you went through in performing your project work as the results you finally produced. So, make sure your reports concentrate on why you made the particular choices and decisions that you did. We are looking for reasoned arguments and for critical assessment. This is especially so where design, implementation and engineering decisions have been made not just on technical merit but under pressure of non-functional requirements and external influences.

Examiners are also interested to see more details where you have done something particularly novel or challenging. For example, a new or modified algorithm, a novel piece of architectural design, a different approach to an old problem, or a particularly challenging piece of analysis, implementation or deployment.

Use code fragments sparingly in your documents. These should really be used to explain or clarify point in relation to the two paragraphs above. Examiners do not want to see reams of listings with little or no explanation in your reports. Remember, you will be submitting your code on CD (see below) so we can check the full listings when we want to.

Use of data from customers/clients

Sometimes, projects may be "sponsored" by an external organisation, and you may need to use data from that organisation. This tends to be a contentious issue. Financial institutions, in particular, tend not to want anything about a project to be disclosed to anyone other than the student, no matter how trivial. This does not help in getting useful advice from your internal supervisor. At the start of any external project, care must be taken to discover if there is any material relevant to the project where restrictions on disclosure might apply. If there are any restrictions, then it must be carefully considered with the internal supervisor whether these restrictions are such as to make it difficult for proper internal supervision to occur. A formal procedure should be adopted for identifying and confirming what may or may not be disclosed, i.e. letters should be exchanged.

Talk to your Supervisor

Your Supervisor will be able to advise you and point you in the right direction for your reports and your work. You will have regular meetings with your supervisor. They are also the first point of call should you have any problems.


DCNDS group projects are assessed on three components. These are:

Component Description
1 Group documents (Group report and supporting documents)
2 Individual report
3 Short individual viva voce

All the Group documents and the Individual report are marked by your Supervisor and a Second Examiner normaly from within the department. The viva voce is assessed by the Second Examiner and one of the External Examiners. The marks for all the components for each student are then reviewed at the Board of Examiners meeting which takes place shortly after the vivas.

Reports and supporting documents

The Group documents are worth 40% of the final mark for the project and should be a set of documents prepared by the project group as a whole. All students in the group will normally gain identical marks from the Group documents. The other two components together contribute 60% of the final project mark.

Viva voce

There will be a short, individual viva voce (oral examination) in September, which together with your Individual report will contribute 60% of the project marks. This will last about 30 minutes and you will be expected to be able to discuss:

A schedule for the the oral examinations will be distributed to the main DCNDS e-mail list in due course.

Formatting and submission

You will need to submit the following items:

The Group documents and Individual report must be typed/printed on A4 paper and two hard copies of each must be handed in. Furthermore, you must submit an electronic copy in PDF format: PDF files for the Group documents should be on a CD and the PDF file for the Individual report will be through electronic submission, details of which will be emailed to the main DCNDS list closer to the submission date. A clear typeface should be used and the normal font size should be no less than 12 point with (at least) single spacing. Margins should be at least 2.5cm on all sides. Reports should be handed in to JJ/Trisha (main office), who will arrange for them to be bound.

On the front cover all reports you should have:

The Group report should be no more than 100 pages.
The Individual report should be no more than 20 pages.
Remember: Quantity is no substitute for Quality!

Group documents

During the duration of your project work, your are likely to produce a number of documents. The exact nature of these documents will depend on the nature of your project and the particular project management method you have chosen. Some of these may be maintained on your project-specific web-site.

At the end of the project, you should submit a selection of these documents along with a Group report that will consist of material that is taken from the documents you have produced along the way.

During the course of the project work

A number of documents are useful during the course of the project work. The precise number and nature of these documents are to be decided by the group as part of the project management exercise and agreed with the Supervisor. However, it is likely that some form of all the following documents will need to be produced. Get into the habit of producing summary documents quickly. They serve several purposes, including:

Group documents might include:

[1] Goals and Requirements: This document should be produced immediately the project starts. It should set out what the team aims to do and what the product should be. Requirements obtained from your supervisor and other sources should be documented.
[2] Specification: This is derived from the requirements, and will be a first attempt at specifying the product and its components. It will include a short section indicating the reasoning behind any requirements which will not be addressed, and indicate any particularly novel or interesting aspects of the proposed product.
[3] Design: Structured design diagrams (e.g. UML) etc., as well as documentation for the reasons for making specific design decisions.
[4] Work Plan: The main activities of the project, estimates of effort and assignment of resources. Computer based tools may be used for this. This plan should be used to track progress and monitor delays. It should therefore include adequate milestones to act as monitoring points.
[5] Test and Integration Plan: How testing will proceed and what the module dependencies are.
[6] User Manuals: The user view of your system. It includes the management interfaces too. This might also include an installation guide.
[7] Technical User Guide: A technical user guide to the software components that you built, including novel algorithms, APIs, test programs, and test results.

Depending of the project management method you have chosen, some (or all) of these documents may be "live" documents, and changing from week to week. For example, in an agile project management approach, it is quite likely that [1], [2], [3], [4] and [5] are updated several times during the course of the project whilst [6] an [7] are completed at the end of the project.

At the end of the project - the Group report

Essential to the Group report is not just what you did, but why you did it. The Group report should not just be a journal of your day-to-day activities. It is meant to reflect the collective thought process of the group and justify the decisions you made and the actions you took. A critical assessment of your work is expected.

The Group report should be a set of documents prepared by the project group as a whole. All students in the group will normally gain identical marks from this report and supporting documents and it will contribute about 40% of your total project marks. The Group report should contain at least the following sections:

It should be no longer than 100 pages, together with any necessary diagrams. In association with the Group report, but separate from it, you must submit an Executive Summary of the report which must not exceed two pages.

In the Group report, you may make reference to the submitted supporting documents for further detail, but the report should stand on its own.

Examples of Group reports from previous years can be found below.

Individual report

Essential to the Individual report is a critical assessment of your own role in the project work. The individual report should detail your personal contribution to the work. It is typically between 15 and 20 pages. In particular, it is likely to contain:

Finally, there will be a short individual oral examination in September, which together with your Individual report will contribute 60% of the project marks.

In the Individual report, you may make reference to the submitted Group documents for further detail, but the report should stand on its own.

Note that the Individual report is only made available to the Examiners.

Previous Group reports