Dissertation General Arrangements
For postgraduate taught programmes:
⦁ MSc Data Science and Analytics
⦁ MSc Mathematics
⦁ MSc Operational Research and Applied Statistics
⦁ MSc Operational Research, Applied Statistics and Financial Risk
The MSc project (dissertation) presents students with an opportunity to experience working on a ‘real world’ problem of importance (typically with an external project sponsor), thus allowing students to demonstrate knowledge and understanding of the skills they have acquired in the taught part of the programme. The project is therefore a critical element of the MSc programme.
Every effort is made to put together a portfolio of challenging and relevant projects, which will allow students to fulfil the learning outcomes of the dissertation. For each project on offer, a project summary sheet will be made available to students highlighting the nature of the project and expected deliverables. Students may wish to arrange their own projects with an external organisation. It is anticipated that part-time students, who are also in employment, would undertake their project within their own organisation, although it might be possible to accommodate requests to carry out a project with another organisation with the permission of both organisations involved and the Knowledge Exchange Officer (KEO) and Director of the MSc. Full-time students should expect to work full-time on the project and not plan to take a holiday during this period.
For part-time students, work on the project may start on successful completion of the Postgraduate Diploma stage. Students then have a further year to complete their dissertation, submitting by the end of year 3. It is possible for part-time students to complete within 2 years should they be able to work full-time on their project during the summer of year 2, submitting alongside full-time students in September.
For all enquiries relating to projects, please see the Knowledge Exchange Officer (KEO), Mrs
Joanna Emery (Room M/0.30).
During the project students will be assigned a University supervisor and possibly a sponsor supervisor (from the external organisation). The supervisor(s) will provide guidance about the conduct of the project, but the final responsibility for the content of the dissertation is the student’s. The supervisor(s) may comment on the structure, content and depth of discussion of written chapters but such comments, or their absence, should not be taken by the student as an indication of a satisfactory dissertation. The sponsor supervisor has a responsibility to ensure the health and safety of the student whilst working on-site, provide practical guidance regarding the business issue(s) to be addressed in the project, and to support the student in gaining access to data, systems and personnel necessary to undertake the project. If you are unhappy with the support provided by the sponsor supervisor, you should contact the KEO and your university supervisor in the first instance to seek assistance.
The dissertation should be no more than 10,000 words (excluding references and appendices) and represents 600 hours work. Students should ensure that the dissertation is well structured and organized, which will enhance the finished quality of the work. Characteristics of a good dissertation structure include:
⦁ The order of discussion is natural and logical to any reader and is readily apparent from the contents page.
⦁ Section and sub-section headings (which should be numbered) reflect accurately and concisely the discussion they precede.
⦁ Discussion and analysis develop progressively through the dissertation. Typically, early chapters provide a general overview and context of the work, and later chapters provide a more detailed discussion on specific topics, such as data analysis, research methods employed, and results, followed by conclusions and recommendations for further work.
⦁ Discussion should not become overshadowed by technicalities, for example by including each of line of a computer program in the main text. Sensible use of appendices is good practice.
Each dissertation should include an Executive Summary which is at most 3 pages. The main purpose of the executive summary is to inform your sponsor about what you have done in the course of the project, and it should be clear and non-technical, enabling your busy sponsor to read and understand the main points quickly. Executive summaries should cover: what the problem is; how the issue or business question posed has been addressed; an interpretation of findings; recommendations. Technical details of the methodology should not be included, but graphs or diagrams can be included to show findings quickly and clearly.
A recommended layout for the dissertation is:
⦁ Official front page with logo & declarations page (to be signed)
The KEO will send these templates towards project end date.
⦁ Executive Summary (max 3 pages, which should be understandable by a non-specialist, explaining the problem(s) investigated, what you did and what you found, and what conclusions were drawn)
⦁ Acknowledgments Page (optional, but nice)
⦁ Contents Page
⦁ List of Figures
⦁ List of Tables
⦁ Body of Dissertation (typical structure and useful checklist below)
⦁ Background and Literature Review
⦁ Discussion/conclusions and suggestions for further research
⦁ References: use Harvard scheme e.g. Smith and Jones (2017)
⦁ Appendices (any appendices must be numbered)
Times New Roman font size 12, with justification, should be used with 1.5 line spacing throughout. Pages should be numbered. Section headings and sub-headings should be numbered and may be of a larger font size.
Previous year’s projects can be found in the mathematics library.
It is important that you approach assessment in an honest way and that you only submit written work that is entirely your own. Using the work of others without proper acknowledgement is cheating, or unfair practice, as you will have had an unfair advantage in your assessment compared to other students. Plagiarism (submitting the work of others as your own work), self-plagiarism (using your own ideas for multiple assessments), and collusion (unauthorised collaboration with other(s)) would enable you to receive a higher mark or grade than your abilities would otherwise secure.
Properly referencing the work of others is an important skill in higher education. Guidance and tutorials on how to reference in the Harvard style can be found here:
Your subject librarian can also help with your referencing queries.
The University uses a range of different tools and techniques to identify plagiarism and the penalties for students who are caught can be severe. It is up to you to ensure that you do not commit an unfair practice, whether by accident or by design. It is an offence even when you did not intend to do it.
There are several resources available on the intranet to support development of study skills, including sections on critical analysis, managing and citing information sources, academic writing, and research skills such as literature review and research methodology.
English language support
English Language Programmes’ In-sessional Team provide support to students whose first language is not English. The in-sessional team deliver an Open Access programme of classes and tutorials to support non-native students with advice on the skills they need for academic study in the UK. This programme is open to both undergraduate and postgraduate students. Online lessons to help you improve your writing, grammar and vocabulary are also available. https://intranet.cardiff.ac.uk/students/study/study-skills/english-language-support
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