Describing the project proposal

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1. Overview

This consists of from one to four paragraphs briefly describing the project proposal in general terms eg the background, the research you will undertake and finally the build. For example, mention what the project is, whether it for an employer/supervisor's suggested project or one suggested by the student. It should also state the intended result is. (A poor example is "I aim to prove that SSADM is a better method than JSD for scientific software." What if the investigations show the opposite? Instead, it should read somewhat like "I aim to present a critical comparison of the SSADM and Object Oriented methods of software engineering design which shows whether one method is more effective than the other for developing scientific software.").

The last paragraph should state how it meets the programme you are studying, how the courses that you have studied contribute to this project and how it will meet the QCF guidelines for Masters Projects.

2. Objectives

What are the specific objectives that you set yourself (up to 6)? At the most basic level these are Research, Build and Evaluate. Make sure that the objectives relate to the project title and the overview you have provided in the first section of this proposal. Expand these objectives in terms of: the understanding you need to achieve; the activities you need to undertake; the deliverables required.

An objective states what one wants to achieve and this section lists the project's objectives. An example of an objective is to evaluate several similar pieces of hardware and select the most suitable one; another objective might be to design software for a particular application using the selected hardware. Make sure that it is clear how the objectives relate to the project title and to the overview given in the first section of the proposal. The list does not have to be exhaustive, but should run to about half a page or more. Remember that objectives should be measurable.

At this early stage of the project the objectives identified will probably be rather general. They must state what it is intended to achieve, which means that they are best stated using verbs like: to investigate, to study, to develop, to analyse and so on. Possible objectives for a project on object databases might be:

  • To investigate the current state of Object Databases for use by small businesses.

That in itself is not enough to make a complete proposal, but it's a very good start. One might also want to include an objective about the design methodology for Object Databases:

  • To learn more about Object Database design by reading about it and using it.

Another two objectives might be:

  • To research current Object Oriented products on the market
  • To search specialist journals for reviews by experts

Some more objective setting will still be necessary to complete a full proposal, and here is where you will need to begin to consider what methods to use given what one wants to know. For example one could decide to do some experimental work with Oracle Objects. Remember that all objectives identify what needs to be achieved in terms of actions like investigate, interview, experiment and so on.

Set measurable objectives. A clear objective is unambiguous - there is no mistaking what you intend to do. There should also be some very clear way of deciding when an objective has been met. The best - the only effective - objectives are those where it is possible to say whether or they have been achieved. By doing this you gain a measuring stick against which to judge everything that occurs during the project.

How the objectives will be achieved

  • For each objective listed above you now need to consider an associated statement that outlines how it will be achieved and how it will be measured once it is completed. By doing this you gain a measuring stick against which to judge everything that occurs during the project. The process for completing this process is outlined below. Once the main objectives are set, then the following needs to be answered:
  • What are the activities that need to be undertaken in order to achieve a particular objective? For example, if one intended to evaluate types of hardware and then choose one, state how many types there are, how it is intended to evaluate it and how the criteria will set. The tasks one might note are:
  • reading books, journals and websites;
  • undertaking a requirements analysis;
  • determining what hardware is available;
  • preparing and carrying out a features analysis of all available hardware;
  • deciding which hardware is the best for the application being developed.
  • What are the 'deliverables' for these activities? Examples include:
  • chapter of the final report;
  • questionnaire developed in the appendix;
  • storyboards in appendixes;
  • data gathered, data analysed;
  • initial and interim report;
  • hardware assembles;
  • software written.
  • How long will these activities take?
  • The aforementioned activities will a set of defined tasks and you then need to decide how manageable each of these tasks is, given one's circumstances and environment. Always be realistic - life has a way of catching up J.
  • Use the resulting lists to determine what needs to be done in what order and estimate how long it will take e.g. visit a library, identify, obtain and read the relevant materials all need to be completed before it is possible to write up the literature survey. Similarly assembling the necessary software components must usually be completed before one can begin work on the system.
  • Then use the information to construct a project schedule. Always keep this up to date - students who do not meet the project standard usually fail to keep to any project schedule deadline.
  • Keep your project blog and records of meeting with supervisors up to date.

The layout for Section 2 Objectives is

2.1 Description of Objective 1

  • Bullet point list of activities required to accomplish Objective 1
  • Bullet point list of Deliverables for Objective 1 (eg Chapter on...)

2.2 Description of Objective 2

  • Bullet point list of activities required to accomplish Objective 1
  • Bullet point list of Deliverables for Objective 1 (eg Appendix on..) Etc

2.? Last Objective is to develop your Project Plan

  • Bullet point list of activities required to accomplish Objective 1
  • Bullet point list of Deliverables for Objective 1 (eg Appendix on)

This should show the schedule of tasks, associated descriptions and duration in hours per task. A Gantt chart should also be attached to the proposal. Remember failure to plan, is planning to fail. It is much harder without a detailed plan - as many students will testify to.

3. Legal, Social and Ethical Issues

Below are some suggested areas you should think about however it is not exhaustive and it is your responsibility to think and act appropriately.

  • Will you be using copyright material? How will you get permission to use it?
  • Will you need permits to record video/audio/photography?
  • Will you need model release forms?
  • How does the data protection act affect you?
  • How does the Disability discrimination act affect you?
  • Are there any social issues that your project may impact on?
  • Who will you interview?
  • Are they classed as vulnerable? Do you need a CRB check?
  • Do you have consent forms?
  • Do you make it clear they can withdraw at any time?
  • Are you to use questionnaires?
  1. Who will approve the questions?
  2. Who will you test out the questions on?

"All research involving pharmaceutical preparations, animals, physically invasive or psychologically intrusive procedures (e.g. questionnaires, interviews, focus groups, etc), that may be stressful or distressing, fetal material or other human tissue, pregnant women, women in labour, children or other vulnerable categories or minorities defined by ethnicity, gender, physical or mental disability, age, sexual orientation and religion must be referred to the UREC[1] for approval."

Guidelines and Checklist for Directors of Research / Heads of School, Heads of Department, Course Leaders and Supervisors, http://www.gre.ac.uk/research/research_ethics_committee/policy/checklist

4. Resources and people

This details all of the resources and people required to successfully complete the project eg hardware software, access to data, research material. It should also state whether or not there are any potential issues that may arise, for example a company may be introducing new software next month but what are the implications if this is deferred for three months. List any required computing resources and ensure that there is adequate access to them and that the final product (if applicable) can be demonstrated at Greenwich to your supervisor and second marker. If there is an issue with this it must be discussed at this stage.

  • What resources are needed to do these activities?
  • Has one got or can acquire the hardware, software, access to libraries, access to a lab if necessary, subjects for any interviews or experiments? List these in some detail. Are you aware of any issues that may arise especially if these resources are not readily available on the University Campus?

5. Critical success factors

  • What are the critical activities, people or resources that can make or break your project ?
  • Where is the risk ?
  • What can you do about it? Risk Management Plan

6. Your references

You should by now have read some useful books and journal articles. List them with a brief note of how they will help you with your project (e.g. provide important background, help determine how you evaluate your product). Don't forget to use Harvard Referencing for this.

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