Computer Laboratory

Part III and MPhil ACS projects and essays

Guidance on Part III projects for students and supervisors

The official requirement for the project dissertation is a document of not more than 12,000 words in length on a topic approved by the Faculty Board.

These guidelines for projects refer to the conduct of project work, to the status of project results, to the structure of the project dissertation and to issues relating to confidentiality and intellectual property rights (IPR). The IPR guidelines are generally intended, but they are particularly relevant to projects being done in cooperation with outside organizations (industrial or other) and to projects being done by students on EPSRC Course Studentships.

  1. The project is primarily intended to meet the course requirements of Part III in Computer Science, i.e., it should demonstrate the student's knowledge and skill in a rounded piece of work. The project work officially starts in Lent term and the thesis is submitted during the following June. To satisfy the course requirements it is necessary for students to obtain a pass mark for the project. The project specification has to be approved by those responsible for the course, and the student should have a formal supervisor within the university. The student's prime place of work is normally at the University. Where an outside organization is involved in the project, the student will usually visit the organization to discuss his or her work as thought necessary, with expenses being paid by the organization.

    Students are required to submit a written research proposal and work-plan for their project, to be explicitly agreed by their supervisor by the deadline specified in Lent Term. Students and supervisors meet to discuss project progress on a regular basis. Many supervisors find that arranging regular weekly, half-hour meetings with students works well.

  2. The "project results" are defined for the purposes of examination and any subsequent exploitation as being represented by the project report itself and any software (or hardware) produced during the work.
    1. The first page of the project dissertation must give the course name in the University of Cambridge; the title of the dissertation; the student's name and college; and the date. The following page must provide an abstract.
    2. The inside of the front page of the report must contain a declaration of originality, as follows:

      I [Name] of [College] , being a candidate for the Part III in Computer Science, hereby declare that this report and the work described in it are my own work, unaided except as may be specified below, and that the report does not contain material that has already been used to any substantial extent for a comparable purpose.

      Signed [signature]

      Date [date]

      The word count, excluding bibliography, photographs and diagrams but including tables, footnotes, and appendices (except as noted below), should also be given on this page.

    3. The report should clearly indicate the scope and results of any experimental work done. All data used should be clearly described. Appendices should be avoided where possible, but may be appropriate in some cases. For example, if the results are copious, they should be summarised in the main text and given in full in an appendix. Similarly additional straightforward yet verbose elements of a proof can be placed in an appendix. In such cases, you need not include the relevant appendix(ces) in the word count, but should note any such exclusions in your declaration. Note that assessors are not expected to read any such appendix, and you should not rely on their doing so. Where a project has as its main aim the production of a piece of software, the project report should state clearly what test procedures were adopted and should include test output.
    4. All collaboration should be specified in an acknowledgements section.
    5. The dissertation should explicitly describe the starting point for the project, making clear what existing software or other resources were used. If a student is building on any work that they did before starting Part III, this should be indicated. The report should include a concise summary of the work undertaken by the student in the course of the project.
    6. Original software produced by the student should be made available for inspection by the examiners. This can be done by sending supervisors a pointer to a readable directory at the time of submission, or by other means that may be agreed by the supervisor and an examiner. Where software has been produced by extending an existing piece of software, then those parts of the existing software which are necessary to understand the operation of the new software should be included but should be clearly marked as being not the student's own work.
    7. A pdf version of the report (as a single file) is also required. This should be identical in content to the printed version.
    8. The Faculty Board approves project report titles during the Lent Term. If you wish to change the title from that originally specified, you must discuss this with your supervisor and notify the Graduate Education Manager in good time so that the Faculty Board may be informed.
  3. Students should note that the situation regarding intellectual property generated by a project is complex. Students should discuss with their supervisor any result which they consider might have commercial significance and they must do so in good time before publication or other disclosure so that suitable protection can be obtained.
  4. Where third parties are involved, such as companies proposing and/or being involved in supervising Part III projects, there may be a need for a collaboration agreement to be signed before commencing the project. This agreement will typically cover confidentiality and specify how exploitation of any results might be achieved. No commitment with regard to the assignment of IPR should be made by a student without taking advice from the University (via the academic supervisor). Companies should note in this respect that it is extremely difficult to assign IPR up-front and the University prefers to work on the basis of an exclusive license to any generated IPR being negotiated on fair and reasonable terms after the project has finished when the full nature of the exploitation is known.
  5. All students should note that publication for reports is represented by their being made generally available, as in the Department's library, and should also observe two general consequences of the formal rules:
    1. that student projects should not make use of any material supplied by an organisation to which any confidentiality is attached, or, without appropriate safeguards, where the organisation wishes to retain rights; and
    2. that student projects should not make use of any material supplied by others within the university, e.g. by the supervisor or other staff members, without their rights being safeguarded; written statements would appear appropriate for this. Prudent students might attach a copyright declaration to their reports.
  6. Students are also reminded that they have signed the Computing Service form agreeing to abide by the Rules Governing Use of the University Computing Service, and that this applies to University resources used for projects, as for other course work.

I. J. Wassell
November 2011