Masters Degree in

Multimedia Technology

Writing up your Project

Department of Computer Science

Department of Electronic & Electrical Engineering

June 20th 2002

1. Overall structure of a dissertation

This section gives a brief overview of the various components that make up a typical individual MSc Project dissertation. Your dissertation should follow this overall structure, though individual sections will obviously vary considerably from dissertation to dissertation.

You are expected to submit three soft bound copies of the dissertation, as bound by the University Print Unit, with a cover copied from your title page protected by a clear plastic sheet. Copies must be submitted by the due date to the Computer Science Department Office. Before going into detail about the structure of the dissertation, students will of course want to know how the dissertation will be graded.

Scheme for Assessment of Multimedia MSc Theses.

1. Background and Objectives /20.

The student should have presented the objectives of the project clearly and placed them in context by finding, understanding and summarizing the relevant literature and other background sources.

2. Methods /20

Assess the student's approach and efforts in solving the problems and working towards the objectives of the project.

3. Achievements /20

Assess the student's success in achieving or making progress towards the objectives of the project.

4. Evaluation /20

Assess the student's success in evaluating the results of the project leading to meaningful conclusions, in the context of other work in the field where possible.

5. Presentation /20

Assess the quality of presentation of the thesis, with particular emphasis on insight and coherence.

Total 100 marks

1.1 The title page

This may seem unimportant, or even very obvious, but you need to ensure that your title gives a reader a good idea of what is inside your dissertation. Try not to make the title too long though! A pro-forma for the title page is given at the end of this document. It shows the year, your name and your supervisor’s name, as well as the title.

1.2 The abstract

The abstract comes immediately after the title page, on a page on its own. It consists of a brief summary (about 200 words), which accurately outlines the main aims and achievements of your dissertation. A casual reader should be able to tell from the abstract what the project is about and what its key results are.

1.3 The acknowledgements

In this section you should acknowledge those who have helped you, or offered advice during your dissertation project. It is a courtesy to include an acknowledgement to your project supervisor, and people often also acknowledge family and friends who helped to proof-read the work, or perhaps just provided meals at appropriate times!

1.4 The declaration

The University requires a signed declaration indicating that the dissertation is your own work. A pro-forma for the declaration is given at the end of this document. If there is any part of the work that is not your own, you should say so explicitly and identify that part. The same applies to any material which has contributed towards a different degree etc. University rules are strict on this and you can be failed for passing off the work of others as your own or for submitting material for two different qualifications.

1.5 The contents page

This is, of course, made up of all the titles of the sections and subsections in the report. It should be laid out so that the structure of the dissertation is easy to see. Give the page number at which each section starts. To make sure it is correct, do the page numbers last. Here is an example:

Chapter 1 Introduction 1

1.1 A background to program synthesis 1

1.1.2 Problems with program synthesis 4

1.2 An alternative approach through reuse 5

1.2.1 Code level reuse 6

1.2.2 Design level reuse 6

1.2.3 Specification level reuse 7

1.2.4 The object-oriented approach 7

1.2.5 Abstraction for reuse 8

1.3 Reuse or synthesis 9

1.4 Combining reuse with artificial intelligence 9

1.5 Overview of thesis 9

Chapter 2 Data abstraction 12

2.1 The history of data abstraction 12

2.2 Formal (algebraic) specification of ADTs 15

2.2.1 Specifying ADTs 17


1.6 The main body

This is the main part of your dissertation. It will contain your description of the problem you are solving and usually some background on the problem and related problems (including reporting on other people's work). It will also describe your analysis of the problem, your design of your problem solution, how you implemented your problem solution, how you tested your problem solution, and finally an evaluation of what you have achieved.

Length is not an indication of quality: sometimes it is the opposite. However as a general guideline, a dissertation whose main body is less than 60 pages is unlikely to do justice to the topic, while one that is longer than 100 pages is probably capable of being improved by being shortened.

Therefore this section should be about 60 - 100 pages, including diagrams. Dissertations longer than this are strongly discouraged, unless the nature of the dissertation necessitates a large number of diagrams and illustrations of results.

The main body will be made up of a series of chapters. It is recommended that this includes one introductory chapter, one background chapter, at least one describing the solution of the problem, one of discussion, and one of conclusions.

There follows a possible outline of the main body of a dissertation:

1. Introduction

In most dissertations the title of this chapter is exactly that, Introduction, but it might not be. For example it could be something relating to the broad field of your project, such as ‘Digital Video’.

The purpose of this chapter is to motivate your work. You should briefly state the specific problem, and try to place it in a wider context. Explain why this is a useful, interesting, important, even exciting project. If you are tempted to dive into great detail, avoid the temptation, almost certainly there is a place for detail later in the dissertation.

Suggested length 5-10 pages

2. Background

Again sometimes the title of this Chapter is just Background, although quite often it is more specific, e.g. ‘Wavelets and Video Compression’. Here you go into more detail about the problem itself. In this chapter you must demonstrate that you have read the literature relevant to your problem, and have found the most important previous work on the subject.

Suggested length 10 - 15 pages

3. Theory

Here you should dig into the real specifics that underpin your particular approach to the problem. Most of the time the title of this chapter is really specific, e.g. ‘Wavelet Transforms and their Quantization’’.

Suggested length 10-15 pages

4. Implementation

Here you describe what you have done. Some projects require the construction of an apparatus but in this field you are more likely to write a computer programme. The computer programme is your apparatus, either interesting in itself or absolutely crucial to the results that you will achieve using it. Again the title should be specific to your work e.g. ‘An Embedded Quantizer’.

This is the point where what you have actually done should be made to shine out. Be very specific about what you have done as opposed to what may have been done by others. Don’t miss out: be clear what you achieved. Don’t overplay your hand: acknowledge what others have done.

Suggested length 10 - 15 pages.

5. Results

Here you describe how you applied the computer programme (or apparatus) to achieve meaningful results. Do something with it, for example measure its performance in some way or methodically obtain a range of results for discussion. Show not only that ‘it works’ but also that it achieves its objectives by applying it in a meaningful way. The title could be results, but perhaps again something specific, such as ‘Performance of the Embedded Image Compression System.’

Suggested length 10-20 pages.

6. Discussion

Some students do well up to the implementation but are at a loss for words when it comes to evaluating their results. You need to stand back from the fine details and assess your work. By this stage you should have lots to say about how good your solution was, how well it compared to previous work, and what more you would like to do. Do not say ‘I did not have time to do so-and-so for such and such a reason’. Be positive: ‘I did this. I achieved that. In the future I propose that this could be extended in the following way.’

Suggested length 10-15 pages

7. Conclusions

Make this a really concise and readable summary of the good things that have come out of the project. Be frank about the shortcomings, but try to be positive. What conclusions do you draw from this project and the way it worked out in practice?

Suggested length 5 pages maximum.

Sometimes the Discussion and Conclusions are one chapter and this may make it easier to write. So the above is an outline of what might be a 6 or 7 chapter dissertation. If you have followed the guidelines on length, your dissertation is between 60 and 100 pages.

1.7 Assessment revisited

Now let’s now look at the main body of this dissertation and map it onto the marking scheme for the Multimedia MSc Dissertation:

1. Background and Objectives /20 That’s your Introduction and Background

The student should have presented the objectives of the project clearly and placed them in context by finding, understanding and summarizing the relevant literature and other background sources.

2. Methods /20 That’s your theory and implementation mainly

Assess the student's approach and efforts in solving the problems and working towards the objectives of the project.

3. Achievements /20 That’s a mixture of your implementation and results

Assess the student's success in achieving or making progress towards the objectives of the project.

4. Evaluation /20 That’s your discussion and conclusions

Assess the student's success in evaluating the results of the project leading to meaningful conclusions, in the context of other work in the field where possible.

  1. Presentation /20 That’s not just how pretty it is, note the emphasis

on insight (discussion, conclusions) and coherence

(how it hangs together)

Assess the quality of presentation of the thesis, with particular emphasis on insight and coherence.

1.7 The appendices

There may be information that is important to the understanding of your dissertation report, but which does not fit naturally into the main body of the dissertation. For example, if you are using special tools to build your system (such as Macromedia Director) you might wish to provide the reader with a brief description of these tools. This description is probably best placed in an appendix, and the reader directed to the appendix at the appropriate point in the main text of your dissertation.

Another appendix could usefully contain all the test results from testing your system (see section 2.7). If your system is designed to be used and/or maintained by others then you should include the user and maintenance guides as another appendix.

It may also be useful to put your code into an appendix, so that the reader can see your coding style and commenting standards. Provide a short overview at the start of the appendix, to allow the reader to find their way around the code. Just presenting the code, with no explanation at all is unhelpful. However do not use the code as a substitute for explaining what it does.

If you include an appendix containing your code: you should photo-reduce the code so that you get at least two original pages per A4 page (and preferably four per A4 page, as long as it is still readable). This is easily done with a photocopier, although it may take a little time.

These are only suggestions as what goes into the appendices is very dependent on the specific project you are undertaking. You should only include appendices that are absolutely necessary. Do not pad out your dissertation with unnecessary appendices.

1.8 The bibliography

You will certainly be using books, research papers, articles, URLs and so forth, to provide you with information to do your project. In addition, the background section of your dissertation will discuss other people's work in the field in which you are working.

You must acknowledge all your information sources. This is done by providing a list of references, usually called a bibliography, at the back of your dissertation, and referring to the individual items in this list at the appropriate points in your dissertation.

The bibliography is usually put at the very end of the dissertation, after all the chapters and appendices. It is not usual to give a section number to the bibliography section. (See the possible contents listing at the beginning of section 2.)

Also if your project is the kind that requires a fair bit of reading around the topic, then the bibliography will be substantial and will almost certainly affect your grade for background and objectives.

1.8.1 The author-date system of referencing

There are various accepted ways of referencing and you can choose any which works for you. If you have no particular views, I would recommend that you use the following form of bibliography (often called the Harvard system), which is simpler to use than many others:

Atkinson, C 1991. Object-oriented reuse, concurrency and distribution. Addison-Wesley.

Barnes, B H and Bollinger, T B 1991. Making reuse cost-effective. IEEE Software, January, 13-24.

Berztiss, A T and Thatte, S 1983. Specification and implementation of abstract data types. In Advances in Computers, Volume 22. Academic Press, 295-353

Dershowitz, N 1985a. Synthetic programming, Artificial Intelligence, 25, 323-373.

Dershowitz, N 1985b. Computing with rewrite systems. Information and Control, 65, 122-157.

This bibliography is in alphabetical order, but is un-numbered. Items from this type of bibliography can be referenced in the text as follows:

This deficiency in procedural languages has led to research into separate forms of specification which provide both syntactic and semantic information [Guttag and Horning [1978]].

Goguen, Thatcher and Wagner [1978] gave a description of a formal specification of an ADT as equivalent to an algebra.

We can trace the roots of object-oriented languages back to Simula [Dahl and Nygaard [1966]], which was the first language to provide a means of defining ADTs in modules (called classes in Simula and most later object-oriented languages).

These references are much more informative when they appear in the text. A reader who is knowledgeable in the research area covered by the report is likely to know which reference is being referred to, without having to look it up in the bibliography. Note that you need to give both the author(s) and the year of publication, where the reference appears in the text. If an author has multiple publications for one year, label them a, b, c and so on, so that they can be distinguished in the text (as in the example for Dershowitz, above).

The use of square brackets for this style of reference is not compulsory. Some people prefer to use round brackets, such as (Dahl and Nygaard (1966)). Some also prefer not to bracket the date, but just to separate it from the author(s) with a comma, such as (Dahl and Nygaard, 1966).

A variant style is to cite a reference as “ARM94” and to provide this abbreviation in the bibliography. Two or more references to the same author in the same year would be “ARM94a”, ARM94b” etc.

Whichever method you choose, remember that every item in your bibliography must be referred to at least once somewhere in the text. If you wish to show anything else, list it in a final section as ‘Further Reading’.

Project Title

Katherine L. Keen

Supervisor: Dr Intrepid Academic

September 2001 MSc Thesis

Department of Computer Science

This dissertation is submitted in accordance with the requirements for the degree of Master of Science in Multimedia Technology

University of Bath


This dissertation is submitted to The University of Bath in accordance with the requirements of the degree of Master of Science in Multimedia Technology, in the Department of Electronic and Electrical Engineering and the Department of Computer Science. No portion of the work in this thesis has been submitted in support of an application for any other degree or qualification of this or any other University or institution of learning. Except where specifically acknowledged, it is the work of the author.