The University of Sheffield
Department of Computer Science

Dissertation Project: Survey and Analysis Stage

Towards the end of the first semester of your 3rd year you have to submit a preliminary report on your project. Failure to submit a satisfactory report will result in disciplinary action, and referral under terms of progress of students regulations. Where instances of plagiarism are detected in the survey and analysis report, students will be required to attend a viva following the submission of their dissertation.

The main component of this report will be an extensive literature survey (or similar technology/mathematical survey for certain types of project). In addition, the report should contain a clear presentation of what the project is aiming to achieve and a description of the work done so far. You will receive feedback from your supervisor and second marker, which will help you to prepare your final dissertation. Much of what is written for this report will probably be reused in a modified form in the final dissertation.  It is expected that the project will be well under way at this stage. Many potential pitfalls can be avoided if you submit a draft of your report to your supervisor two weeks before the handin date.

Report Structure

For students taking COM3610 the report should be between 3000 and 6000 words. Students taking COM3500 should submit a report between 2500 and 5000 words.  In either case the word limit does not include references and appendices etc., with the font size being 11 or 12 pt.

There are many different types of project and so it is difficult to produce a detailed set of recommendations to suit every single report. The structure given below is only a suggestion, and your project supervisor will be able to give you further guidence on your own work. In general, all reports should be divided into a series of numbered chapters and sections, each with titles. Only the Chapters count towards the page limit.

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].
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.
Abstract This should be two or three short paragraphs (100-150 words total), summarising the report. A suggested flow is background, project aims, and achievements to date. It should not simply be a restatement of the original project outline.
Contents Includes titles and page numbers of all sections and subsections. Chapter 1 begins on page 1. Use roman numerals for all previous pages, eg. 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 report, in effect giving the reader an overview of what is to come.
Chapter 2:
Literature Survey
Depending on the type of the project, relevant literature may be hard to find, and a technology survey/review of relevant mathematics/review of similar software tools may be more appropriate - you should discuss this with your supervisor.
A good literature survey should demonstrate your awareness and understanding of the background literature to your topic. It should begin by setting the proposed research in a wide context, and progress to a more detailed account of the most relevant work in the area, taking care to include some up-to-date references. Reviewing the literature can help to identify questions and issues that have not yet been answered, ideally questions that will be addressed through your project. It may also be appropriate to incorporate criticisms of previous work, although you need to take care here that your criticisms do not reflect a lack of understanding.
Think of the review as writing an essay on the background literature for your project. You should not just provide a list of references followed by a short summary of each of them. Instead the review should be organised and structured in a meaningful way, and the themes and relationships between the references identified. You should expect to redraft the review several times in order to arrive at a text that is clearly written, easy to understand, but that displays an in-depth understanding of the topic.
It is usual to assume that the reader is familiar with first and second year course material. Any further material needed should be summarised either and suitable references cited.
Chapter 3: Requirements and analysis Detail the aims and objectives of your project and analyse individual parts in detail. The analysis may cover more than is finally implemented. As a result of the analysis, you should state what will be covered by the project and what will not be done and why. Due consideration should also be given to how you will evaluate your work. Evaluation is one of the most important aspects of any piece of work and it should be thought about in the early stages. Consider tests or experiments that can be conducted to establish the success of the work.
Chapter 4: Progress What have you achieved to date? Describe any results you have. It may be appropriate for your project to combine this chapter with the following chapter - discuss this with your supervisor.
Chapter 5
Conclusions and project plan
Give a brief summary of the main achievements to date and a detailed plan of work (e.g. using a Gantt chart) to the end of project.
References See the References page
Appendices 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 could be included as appendices, although this will be more important for the final dissertation than for this report. Any appendices do not count towards the page limit, but equally they are not treated as part of the report 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 report or of the project as a whole should be in the main body of the report, and not in appendices.

See also the page on writing and presentation issues.


This report will be examined by your supervisor and the second examiner independently. Your supervisor will then give detailed feedback, as well as an indicative mark, in a subsequent meeting with you. The purpose of the indicative mark is to provide you with an assessment of the quality of your work. If this feedback has not happened within two weeks of the start of semester 2, please contact the Project Officer. The categories listed below are included on an assessment form that the supervisor and second examiner will complete. Also included below is a table that gives an indication of what is being looked for in the overall work - note however that this is only a guide.

  • Quality of literature review / technology survey / review of relevant mathematics / review of similar software tools: The ability to understand/synthesize/combine/evaluate/analyse/categorise relevant work is being considered here.
  • Quality of overall work (as ascertained from the report): This category mainly focuses on the analysis that has been done to date, and which should be complete for most projects. However, since for some types of project the analysis may be ongoing, this category looks at the work as a whole.
  • Amount of work completed: [somewhat self-descriptive] The amount of work done in relation to what could be reasonably expected to be done on the particular project, given its level of difficulty and the time available.
  • Report presentation: The readability of the report and the precision of its language will be judged here, along with the overall presentation: sensible notation, diagrams, layout, headings, references, etc.
Some of the questions that supervisor and second examiners will consider in marking the report are:
  • Is the project clearly defined?
  • Are the objectives attainable?
  • Does the student know what s/he is doing?
  • Does the student have a clear understanding of what is still required in order to produce a satisfactory final dissertation?
  • Is progress so far satisfactory?
  • Does the literature survey synthesize information from several sources?
  • Are sources suitably referenced and is the bibliography/list of citations adequate?
  • Have potential problems and possible processes/tools/techniques been identified?
  • Is the writing clear, precise and of the standard to be expected for a degree in science or engineering?
  • Is the plan of action realistic?

The following list gives an indication of what is being looked for in the overall work to date. Note however that this is only a guide.

70-100 Sensible subdivision of material into chapters and sections to produce a coherent and well-balanced account. Good introduction chapter that puts the case for the project and its aims. Review is well researched. Thorough understanding of subject. Focussed on topic. Factually correct. Addresses issues critically. Analysis of problem area is in-depth and requirements of project are clear. Project evaluation is addressed with insight and testing is properly covered. Diagrams/maths/tables should be relevant and clearly presented. Unambiguous and grammatically correct English. Perfection is not essential. Some originality or innovation. 80-89: indicates that the work has some originality and with some further work could be of publishable quality. 90-100: indicates originality and work of publishable quality.
60-69 Well-organised with a sensible subdivision of material into chapters and sections. Decent introduction that generally makes the project aims clear. Review shows some evidence of research. Good understanding of subject. Predominantly focussed on topic. Largely factually accurate. May contain some irrelevant material. Analysis is generally good and project requirements are clear. Decent attempt at addressing issues of testing and evaluation. Diagrams/maths/tables should be relevant and clearly presented. Predominantly unambiguous and grammatically correct English.
50-59 Logical structure with sensible subdivision into chapters and sections. Introduction chapter is generally ok. Review is competent but generally exhibits a basic understanding of the subject. Largely focussed on topic. Largely factually correct, but may contain some irrelevant material or miss some important points. Analysis and requirements are adequate. Evaluation and testing is covered. Some use of diagrams/maths/tables, but may be poorly organised. Clearly written overall, but may be ambiguous in places and show lapses of grammar.
40-49 Subdivided into chapters and sections, but not particularly logical in flow of material within chapters. Introduction chapter is unclear. Review, analysis and requirements show an incomplete understanding of subject. Poorly focussed with either irrelevant material or a failure to appreciate important points. Some material may be incorrect. Poor or little use of diagrams/tables/maths. Style and grammar poor.
0-39 Some attempt, but unfocussed with high content of irrelevant material. Some material may be incorrect. Poorly organised with major omissions and/or major errors. Inadequate style and/or grammar.

In addition your supervisor will also be continually judging your performance on the project.

If either examiner has concerns about the report, it may be necessary to hold a viva. This is likely when progress on the project has been slow, and/or the indicative mark is lower than 40%. It might also be held if there are problems with the direction of the project, and the student's attitude towards the work. In all cases the viva will normally be held before the end of Semester 1, probably during the Semester 1 exam period.


You are required to submit the report electronically through MOLE by the deadline. You must include the declaration in your work.


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.