2 Developing your Project Proposal A project proposal is a brief description of what you intend to do. Typically, a project proposal is only a few pages long. On these few pages you need to introduce the reader to the:Subject area. What is the topic and scope of your project?Aim/Objectives. What is the goal of your project?Arguments. Why is it important to investigate the chosen topic?Method. Preliminary ideas for how you intend to achieve the aim.The following Figure presents an overview of activities to be carried out when developing a project proposal. In subsequent sections, we shall take a closer look at each one of these activities.
3 Developing your Project Proposal Developing a project proposal
4 Developing your Project Proposal (When) Developing a project proposal
5 Subject areaThe subject area is the topic of your project. Some example areas within computer science and information systems are: electronic commerce, software engineering and human-computer interaction. Apart from choosing a subject area, it is necessary to describe the topic of your project in more detail
6 Subject area: exampleDatabase systems. Object-oriented databases, relational databases, active databases, multimedia databases, distributed databases, etcElectronic commerce. Infrastructure, web auctions, web shops, company strategies for implementing electronic commerce, etcSoftware engineering. Software testing, object-oriented modeling, CASE tools, rapid prototyping, etcHuman-computer interaction. Usability, interface design, visualization, etcThese examples show that the names of subject areas often correspond to course names, titles of textbooks, or keywords in research articles.
7 Subject areaIn some situations, a subject area consists of a combination of other subject areas, for example, databases and human-computer interaction. These could be combined, perhaps, to become user interfaces for database systems. In addition, there are subject areas that combine computer science or information science with another academic field. For example, bioinformatics can be viewed as a combination of computer science and biology. Although these types of subject areas are worthwhile to explore, it can be problematic to find a supervisor for such a project. The supervisor should know the related subject area well. Alternatively, you may need two supervisors.
8 Start EarlyFinding and choosing a subject area for the project is a task that benefits from being initiated well before the actual project begins. Start thinking about possible subject areas early, and let the decision regarding the chosen area of study be refined incrementally. In this way, you can avoid quickly made decisions that are not well motivated.
9 Start Early sources of information If you cannot find any literature at the library associated with your subject area, it may be an indication of one of the following:Your chosen subject area is too novel for a B.Sc. or M.Sc. project. Your chosen area is more suitable for a Ph.D. project.You are looking in the wrong place. Try other sources, such as journals or conference proceedings. Sometimes it may help to use a different set of keywords when searching bibliographic databases.You are in the wrong library!
10 How to Choose a Subject Area Nobody else will make this decision for you.One of the most crucial factors for succeeding with a project is the motivation for undertaking the work in the chosen subject area.Choose a subject area where you have the necessary skills.A combination of areas is usually a good source of interesting problems and topics for project proposals. At the same time, it is not recommended that you choose a project which combines more than two areas
11 Choose Problem to Focus on Once you have found a subject area for your project, it is time to focus your interests within the chosen area. You focus your interest by identifying a problem within the subject area that you would like to explore. For example, a potential problem within database systems is how to map a logical database design to a physical database design.You should try to find problems which are of general interest, or which can be generalized or applied, for example, to several companies or organizations.
12 How to?Ask yourself what you would like to do within a particular area (or what you can do, given your current knowledge).Read the literature, since others may have already identified and reported the issues that are worthwhile to explore.Ask potential supervisors, as they typically have ideas on what could be worthwhile and interesting to explore within the subject area.Ask companies and organizations, as they may have encountered problems that they do not have time, knowledge or resources to investigate themselves.
13 Then what!Once you have found a problem, you need to investigate whether it is worthwhile to explore further. Try to write down your arguments for why it is important to investigate the problem. If you find clues in the existing literature that the problem is still not solved, then you are on the right track. On the other hand, if you find no supporting clues in the literature, you have to develop all the arguments yourself.
14 Project typeYour initial ideas can be further refined by asking yourself – what type of project would I really like to do? Should it be, for example:A descriptive projectA theory oriented projectAn applied projectA comparison of theory and practice
15 Project typeYour initial ideas can be further refined by asking yourself – what type of project would I really like to do? Should it be, for example:A descriptive projectA theory oriented projectAn applied projectA comparison of theory and practiceMost thesis projects use elements from more than one of the above categories. Use the categories to identify the main characteristic of your approach.
16 Descriptive ProjectsDescriptive projects present the state-of-the art for a given subject. A descriptive project can be set up in different ways. Here we outline two common types of descriptive projects.
17 Descriptive Projects (1st) The aim is to categorize and compare previous work within a subject area. This may include objectives such as (1) categorizing previous work, (2) selecting comparison criteria, and (3) comparing previous work with respect to the comparison criteria. This type of survey is useful when you want to identify how a subject area has evolved over time, what its current status is, and how it may evolve in the near future.
18 Descriptive Projects (2nd) In the second type of project, the aim is to gain an understanding of the current status of the subject, and to identify important factors. This may include objectives such as (1) selecting questions, (2) interviewing people, and (3) identifying important factors from the interviews.When you choose to do a descriptive project, it is important that you do not write a report which is simply a summary of all the literature you have read in the field. Instead you need to, e.g. highlight your analysis of the literature.
19 Theory Oriented Projects Theory oriented projects often deal with extending or comparing existing theoretical models without testing them in practice. Here we outline two common types of theoretical projects.
20 Theory Oriented Projects (1st) The aim is to extend an already existing theory or model; to extend the relational data model with support for business rules. This may include objectives such as (1) identifying the details of the extension (e.g. what types of business rules), (2) introducing the extension to the original theoretical model, and (3) comparing the original theoretical model with the extended version.
21 Theory Oriented Projects (2nd) The aim is to compare the support for business rules in two different data models. This project is an example of a comparison between two theoretical models; This may include objectives such as (1) selecting comparison criteria, and (2) analyzing the two data models with respect to the comparison criteria.It is important that you are aware of how the theoretical ideas may be applied in practice.
22 Applied ProjectsApplied projects often deal with conducting experiments and building proof-of-principle implementations, and gathering experiences from them. Here we outline one common type of applied project.
23 Applied Projectsthe aim is to gain experience from implementing an algorithm for caching of web data. This may include objectives such as (1) setting up a simulator, (2) implementing the new algorithm, (3) testing and analyzing the results obtained, and (4) suggesting improvements to the algorithm.Take a practical problem, e.g. from a company, and put it into a theoretical context.
24 A Comparison of Theory and Practice Projects which combine theory and practice may contrast the theory with current practice in companies or organizations.
25 A Comparison of Theory and Practice example project:The aim is to contrast the current theory relating to object-oriented modeling, with how companies and organizations use object-oriented modeling in practice. This may include objectives such as (1) selecting companies or organizations, (2) selecting comparison criteria, (3) investigating the details of the theory with respect to the comparison criteria, (4) investigating how companies or organizations work with object-oriented modeling with respect to the comparison criteria, and (5) a comparison of the results obtained from (3) and (4).
26 Assure Quality of Initial Ideas If you start with a project idea suggested by a supervisor, it is still important to write a project proposal yourself. It is not a good idea to just copy the supervisor’s description of the idea, and use that as your project proposal. Your potential supervisor wants to know that you have understood the idea, that you have really thought about the problem yourself, and that you are able to develop the idea further by yourself. Therefore, you must write a project proposal which develops the supervisor’s ideas further, expresses your own understanding of that idea and contains your own thoughts of how it can be developed.
27 Project Proposal Checklist Before submitting the project proposal, check the following:Proper language. Is the wording in the project proposal clear and concise?Mandatory information. Does the project proposal contain the required information?Quality assurance. Have you discussed the project proposal with a potential supervisor or someone else who has knowledge in the chosen subject area?Skills and resources. Do you have the necessary background and resources to do a project in the chosen subject area?Time. Have you estimated the time it takes to complete the project? Preferably, your estimation should also include some slack to cater for any project delays.