The University of Sheffield
Department of Computer Science

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There are many different types of project and so it is difficult to produce a detailed set of recommendations to suit every single dissertation. Thus the dissertation structure below is only a suggestion. Presentation and writing issues are described elsewhere but, in general, all dissertations should be divided into a series of numbered chapters and sections, each with titles and only these chapters count towards the page limit. It may be helpful to peruse a few previous dissertations to help see how the following structure can be adapted.

It is usual to assume that the reader is familiar with material all your fellow students will be familiar with from the taught component (so you cannot assume your reader will know anything you have covered in an optional module). Any further material needed should be summarised and suitable references cited.

Title page Title, name, supervisor, module code, date, and the following statement:    
"This report is submitted in partial fulfilment of the requirement for the degree of [Degree Title] by [Full Name]".   
The title the dissertation ends up with need not be the one it started with in the project choice stage more than a year earlier but it should be meaningful.  "My Design Project" is not meaningful.
Declaration The second page should be the following declaration:

"All sentences or passages quoted in this report from other people's work have been specifically acknowledged by clear cross-referencing to author, work and page(s). Any illustrations that are not the work of the author of this report have been used with the explicit permission of the originator and are specifically acknowledged. I understand that failure to do this amounts to plagiarism and will be considered grounds for failure in this project and the degree examination as a whole.

(your name**)"

** Note that you should type your name here but you are not required to physically sign this page. By submitting your project through MOLE, you agree to the declaration above.

This should be two or three short paragraphs (100-150 words total), summarising the dissertation. It is important that this is not just a restatement of the original project outline. A suggested flow is background, project aims and main achievements. A bad abstract would have a final paragraph that just said "the achievements will be described" - this is useless, as it says nothing. From the abstract a reader should be able to ascertain if the project is of interest to them and presents results of which they would like to know more details.

Acknowledgements Thanks to whoever may have helped you in any way - both serious and a bit of fun.
Contents Includes titles and page numbers of all sections and subsections. Chapter 1 begins on page 1. Use Roman numerals for all previous pages, e.g.. title page (i), signed declaration (ii) abstract (iii), acknowledgements (iv) and contents (v-?).
 It is often best include a separate list of all the figures in the dissertation (figure number, label, page number), and a separate list of all tables in the dissertation (table number, label, page number).
Chapter 1: Introduction

The introduction has several purposes. Clearly one is to set the scene for the project by giving a little relevant background information - try to grab the reader's interest early. Another is to clearly elucidate the aims and objectives of the project and the constraints that might affect the way in which the project is carried out. If the project involves the solution of a specific problem or the production of a specific system this should be clearly specified in an informal way. Finally, the introduction should summarise the remaining chapters of the dissertation, in effect giving the reader an overview of what is to come.

The type of project will dictate the content and structure of the following chapters and you should discuss this with your supervisor. For example, for a theoretical project it is likely that several chapters will be devoted to constructing the theoretical foundations for the project and will consist of your own interpretation and synthesis of existing work with suitable examples discussed throughout. A sequence of chapters that cover theoretical framework, conditions and assumptions and theory application and comparisons may be appropriate. For an experimental project, the experimental goals, design, execution and evaluation might be covered. What now follows is a typical structure for a 'design and build' project. 

At the end of chapter 1, you should include a brief discussion of your view of the relationship between your project, and your degree programme. In your discussion, you should mention any advantages or challenges created by this relationship.

Chapter 2: Literature Review

The title of this chapter is open to discussion. Literature review is a bit simplistic and it may be that you can title the chapter better, based on the particular type of project that you are doing.

It is often useful to start this chapter with an overview of its contents, giving the reasoning behind why you have structured it in a particular way. The main thrust of the chapter is a review of relevant work by other authors and the relationship between this and your own work. If several other people have done closely related work in a different way then the reasons for your approach should be summarised here.

A good literature review is synthetic: general trends and positions in your research area should be identified, and the papers you cite should be compared and contrasted. A literature review is not simply an annotated list of papers you may have read. It should cover a range of relevant material to your project. Everything you use should be cited by reference to the bibliography at the end of your dissertation. See the page on using references for how to do this.

Everything that you write must be your own words and you must cite other people using references. You may also quote sentences from the work of others. These must be included in quotation marks and again the relevant work must be cited. Your signed declaration means that you will fail your dissertation if you do not acknowledge the work of others.

Chapter 3: Requirements and analysis This should state, in a more detailed way, the objectives of the project by requirement and the analysis should break the problem down into manageable steps. There may be more than one suitable approach; the analysis may cover more of the area than is finally implemented. Testing and evaluation should be given due consideration. It is important that you state how you will evaluate your work. For a design project it is appropriate to consider testing at the same time as specification.
Chapter 4: Design This should explain the design technique chosen (and justify why it is appropriate) from the various ones available; it should select a suitable subset of the things described in the analysis chapter and develop a design. Where trade-offs exist between different designs, the chosen approach should be justified. Suitable diagram-techniques (e.g. UML, other drawings) should be used where appropriate. If a method is applied selectively, explain which parts were used and why. Experimental projects should pay careful attention to control conditions, samples selected, etc. to ensure a valid result.
Chapter 5: Implementation and testing In addition to illustrating "coding traps", this should highlight particular novel aspects to algorithms. Testing should be according to the scheme presented in the Analysis chapter and should follow some suitable model - e.g. category partition, state machine-based. Both functional testing and user-acceptance testing are appropriate. For experimental/investigative projects, techniques developed should be evaluated against a standard result set for calibration, as well as the "live" data set. For theoretical projects, the relative power/expressiveness of the theory should be evaluated with respect to competing approaches.
Chapter 6: Results and discussion The main results of your work should be presented, together with critical discussion. The chapter should cover three things (although these would not be used as section headings):
  • Findings - present all the results (products, experimental findings, theories, etc.) generated during the project. This may also include some off-topic findings that were not expected, or which were side-effects of other explorations.
  • Goals achieved - describes the degree to which the findings support the original objectives laid out for the project. The goals may be partially or fully achieved, or exceeded. An experimental project may prove, or disprove the original thesis. A theoretical project may cover some or all of the example cases. Note that reporting of failures to achieve goals is important since a fundamental feature of the assessment procedures is that the processes (how you went about your project) are often as important as the products of the project.
  • Further work - describes two things: firstly, new areas of investigation prompted by developments in this project, and secondly parts of the current work which were not completed due to time constraints and/or problems encountered.
Chapter 7 Conclusions The conclusions can be summarised in a fairly short chapter (2 or 3 pages). This chapter brings together many of the points that you will have made in other chapters, especially in the previous results and discussion chapter. Do not be afraid of repeating some of your earlier statements here, albeit using different wording.
References See the References page

These may be provided to include further details of results, mathematical derivations, certain illustrative parts of program code (e.g. class interfaces), user documentation, log of project milestones. In particular, if there are technical details of the work done that might be useful to others who wish to build on this work, but that are not sufficiently important to the project as a whole to justify being discussed in the main body of the dissertation, then they should be included as appendices.

Any appendices do not count towards the page limit, but equally they are not treated as part of the dissertation for the purposes of assessing it. In other words, there is no expectation that the examiners should read the appendices as part of the assessment process. Hence, it is important that any material which will be significant to judging the quality of the dissertation or of the project as a whole should be in the main body of the dissertation, and not in appendices. Do not include an appendix containing all your source code listings - instead this material will be collected electronically. What may be worth doing, perhaps, is that if there are any code fragments of particular novelty, then you could include these in an appendix, so that they could be referenced in any descriptions in the main text of the chapters. This would make such an appendix very similar to the idea of appendices for mathematical proofs.



You are required to submit the report electronically through MOLE by the deadline. BY SUBMITTING YOU AGREE TO THE FOLLOWING DECLARATION:

All sentences or passages quoted in this report from other people's work have been specifically acknowledged by clear cross-referencing to author, work and page(s).
Any illustrations which are not the work of the author of this report have been used with the explicit permission of the originator and are specifically acknowledged.
I understand that failure to do this amounts to plagiarism and will be considered grounds for failure in this project and the degree examination as a whole.