COMP60990: Research methods
and professional skills


The word limits below are provided for the guidance of markers. The number of words includes all the text and headings but excludes (i) figure and table captions, (ii) references, (iii) any compulsory statements required by university regulations.

Initial report

The initial report should be 1000 words. The normal margin is +/- 100 words. Reports are assessed using the following criteria:
Written quality (40%)
Structure (suitable sections with suitable headers in suitable order). Clear sentences, with correct punctuation. No colloquialisms or shortenings. No typos or blatant grammatical errors. Technical terms are used appropriately and acronyms are introduced. References are well-formed.
Technical content (40%)
Introduction - Setting the scene. Description of problem to be solved/what will be done? How will the problem be solved/project goal achieved? Evaluation of the project: how will the result be evaluated?
Planning (20%)
Project plan is present (Gantt chart or similar, with chunks of work, deadlines, milestones). Project plan matches the project description.

Progress report

The progress report should be 7000 words. The normal margin is +/- 1000 words.
Abstract and introduction (10%)
These should “set the scene” and provide a clear explanation of what is involved with the project. The introduction should state the research question(s) to be answered. The introduction should also summarise the contents of the rest of the report.
Background (40%)
This category covers both general background reading and background specific to the project. These may be covered on one chapter or two depending on what is appropriate for the project.
Project progress (25%)
In the following, the term “ interim product” means something, with contributes in a substantial, practical, way towards the program, system, experiment, case study, framework, formalism or mathematical development that the student set out to design and produce in the project. “Progress” in this context means practical work (not background reading) which directly contributes towards the interim product and/or the final product.
Project plan (10%)
The plan should clearly state the way the student intends to go about the project (including “research methodology” where appropriate) as well as specifying milestones and deliverables. The plan should be consistent with the progress made to date.
Writing style (15%)
The report should be written in correct, formal English with appropriate use of figures and tables. There should be good balance and flow, and the presentation should be clear and consistent with correctly formatted references.


The dissertation is expected to be between 15,000 and 25,000 words (60 - 100 pages). It is suggested that students aim at producing a work that is approximately 18,000 words.
Abstract, introduction and background (15%)
This should include a description and motivation of the research question(s) and research objectives together with the suitability of background material in this context. It is expected that normally the introduction and background sections will be closely modelled on that produced for the progress report.
Theory and design (20%)
This includes the description & understanding of topic/problems, awareness and solutions to technical/scientific challenges. Is the theory, design and technical understanding at a level appropriate for a Masters degree. Does it include any original elements of work? How complex and work intensive was the project?
Technical quality and evaluation (40%)
This assesses the main technical output from the project including the correctness, elegance, usability etc. of the final product, theoretical or practical, and the techniques employed. This section covers steps taken to evaluate, test or compare the work.
Summary and conclusions (10%)
This covers the conclusion, summary of achievements, reflection, identification of improvements and/or further work.
Presentation, structure & language (15%)
Organisation and structure of the dissertation. Does it demonstrate a proper use of the English language, quality of the prose, clarity of explanations, spelling, punctuation, legibility, relevance of figures, proper use and formatting of references etc. Is the dissertation professionally presented?