Course Description

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Vacation period; 60 credits. Course organiser: John Lee


This is the main project, the equivalent of the Master’s Dissertation in other programmes, which may be pursued as a group or individual exercise. Work should commence after the end of teaching in semester 2 and continue to the submission date of 18th August 2017. It aims to:

  • allow students to demonstrate how they have integrated knowledge and skills achieved in the MSc;
  • develop particular applications of digital design;
  • employ investigative methods of creative problem-solving;
  • encourage and develop the practice of group working.

Learning Outcomes

A detailed project bringing together many elements of the programme. A thorough understanding of the way in which a working digital project progresses from start to completion. An appreciation of the role of information technology in current design.


Virtually the whole of this course will be devoted to a major project. Students may elect to work in groups: teams will consist normally of a maximum of two members. There is also scope for individual projects, which may in some cases have more the character of a research-based dissertation.

To ensure that it is feasible within the given time and resource constraints, the scope and nature of each project must be agreed by the prospective supervisor before commencement, and the roles, duties and contribution of each member of the team will have to be clearly identifiable. The agreement will take the form of signing-off by the Program Director of a two- to three-page briefing document based on the form of which a specimen appears at the end of this section. Each student will be assigned an individual supervisor, who will monitor progress and offer advice and support, but students are expected to take full responsibility for their own work. Planning and scheduling of the work is crucial, and the Programme Calendar offers only the barest outline. The fact that the project is worth 60 credit points gives some indication of the amount of time and effort it is expected to demand in comparison to the taught courses; approx. 600 hours overall – this should not be underestimated. It is very important not to postpone major parts of the work, especially the writing, until near the end of the available time period.

There will be an unassessed presentation/critique at an interim stage, and assessment of the project will be by independent double marking of the submitted material and written component (guideline minimum length 6000 words, see also below). This component will be expected to:

  1. show a knowledge of the relevant literature;
  2. be critical and reflective;
  3. exhibit a good standard of presentation, organisation and academic style;
  4. coherently integrate accounts of the motivation, methodology and execution of the project;
  5. clearly identify the contribution of the individual student to any joint outcome.

Students must submit a draft of their written dissertation at the time of the interim crit session (see the Programme Calendar). For the final submission, all project materials (including dissertation text and e.g. photographic or video documentation of anything that does not exist in digital form) must be submitted digitally on a clearly-marked SD card , accompanying two copies of the hard copy dissertation, of which both copies must be adequately bound. Submitted material should be thoroughly checked in advance for correct operation on MSc Studio machines, validity of links between files, and other things that may differ after copying to the SD card.

Further guidance notes

  • Late submissions may be disqualified. This could mean that you automatically fail the dissertation component, and so graduate only with the Diploma. Only major, e.g. medical, problems (fully documented) can be considered as excuses, and these must be notified to the Programme Director at the earliest possible opportunity so that a Special Circumstances form can be completed. Otherwise, even an incomplete submission is better than a late submission.
  • The objective of the project (apart from learning!) is to produce material that can be assessed and material that can serve as “portfolio” content, e.g. material that can be shown to prospective employers. The first objective means we have to be able to tell clearly what was done, and who did what in a group.
  • Maintain a blog about your project progress. This is an invaluable way to keep a record of what you have done, promote your own thinking about the project, help your supervisor track your work, publicise and create a profile for your activity and its outcomes. It is now a natural medium for any digitally creative practitioner. Of course, also tweet, use Facebook, etc. if you wish.
  • The five bullet points for the written work above are all important and should be considered carefully. The text should not be mainly about some subject that is only tangential to the project, and it should not contain large amounts of historical or other material that is not closely bound into a discussion of the motivation, methodology and/or execution of the project. It should be an integral part of the project, and therefore not left until a late stage or treated as an afterthought. There is often a tendency for writing to be very descriptive (of what you did) and to offer long summaries of existing literature or similar material. Some of that is good, but not too much, and not by itself.  “The relevant literature” means the literature relevant to your project, and your discussion of it should show how it has influenced your work, and should form an integral part of your overall argument.  We want to know why you did what you did, and what you think about the things you have read.  Your own ideas are the most important content: please try to emphasise them.  But don’t be anecdotal: the hallmark of academic writing is critical discussion, so don’t just tell us what you think, but discuss what reasons you have for it, what alternatives there might be, and how it compares with other people’s ideas.  You don’t have to prove that your ideas are right — it can be even better to explain why from another point of view you might be wrong.  If you made mistakes, it is good to admit that and explain what you learnt from them.
  • Try not to include very long or very frequent quoted passages, and note the advice elsewhere in this Handbook about avoiding any hint of plagiarism. Never include more than 3 words verbatim from any source without explicitly quoting them, and giving the source. You will be signing a statement on the submission form that says you have always done this; please make sure that you have. It is not good to over-use quotations, but it is far, far worse to use even a single quotation without full and proper documentation. Note also that plagiarism doesn’t just apply to text: images, software, scripts, models, photographs, even ideas — everything you submit must be either your own original work or clearly credited to its original author. This is easy to do if you are careful.  You may feel that you could lose some credit, but you will always in fact gain more credit for being entirely honest.
  • The length of the text is not rigid; the 6000 words suggested should be seen as a minimum. In a group project, there could be a common text as well as e.g. shorter, individual reflections on it. If the design aspect of a project is relatively limited, or the project is mainly research-based, the text will need to be longer and more substantial (perhaps 10,000 words, or even more). The length and form of the text should be determined by the nature of the material, but having careful thought for the role it has to play in assessment. It should be well written, with properly organised and formatted references, etc., following the guidelines for essays that appear elsewhere in this document (and especially avoiding any possible suggestion of plagiarism). Your writing, whatever the nature of the project, should adhere to appropriate academic conventions in terms of style, but also and especially the use of references etc. Do always give a reference (including a page number if possible and web address if necessary) for anything you quote directly, or paraphrase in any way, from any source, however briefly. Make sure that you keep track of all such sources for material that you are drawing on. Various citation conventions are used in different academic disciplines, and will generally be acceptable to us providing they are used consistently. Consult the Librarian for various style guides that are available; check with your supervisor if in any doubt (about this or anything else).
  • Make sure you keep in touch with supervisory staff as work progresses, especially if any kind of problem arises. Identify as early as possible any risks or threats to progress, and make sure they are addressed. This is your responsibility, not the supervisor’s.
  • Problems with equipment or software will not count as an excuse for late submission! You should anticipate problems, and allow for problems that you have not anticipated. Major problems should be brought to the attention of staff without delay. Make sure anything that requires equipment is done in good time. Make sure you always make back-up copies of work, and once you have something that functions try to develop from a copy of it, so that you don’t undo any progress.
  • There must be 2 printed and bound copies of the text, and 2 copies of the SD card(s). Please include in the binding a pocket for the SD card to be kept with it. Note that there are regulations about format and binding in the University Academic Calendar : we allow for these to be relaxed if necessary in the interests of creative presentation, but anything very unusual must be agreed in advance. A spiral or similar binding is acceptable, as long as the covers (as well as the spiral) are reasonably robust, i.e. not just a sheet of thin plastic but thicker, more rigid plastic, or thick card/thin board. No kind of loose-leaf binder is acceptable. Do please include a title page as specified in the regulations, i.e. with the following:

Title of thesis
Author’s name and student number
Master of Science (Design and Digital Media)
Edinburgh College of Art
The University of Edinburgh

  • The point of the draft text submitted at the time of the interim crit is to allow a little time for feedback and final polishing. The bound copy (and also the SD card) we will expect to keep for the Architecture Library. Group submissions should have composite SD cards, which should include all work, written and otherwise. The point about testing functionality and completeness of the SD material is very important. The written submission(s) must make clear who is responsible for what aspects of the work. There can be a joint document with individual components: in this case, each student should submit a bound volume containing the joint document along with their own individual component.
  • A note on presentation: you aspire to be a designer, and so it’s good if your document exhibits good design.  Make sure it’s clearly legible, above all, but feel free to experiment with layout, use of images and other media, etc.  You can also experiment with the cover and binding (materials, colours, etc.), as long as it is sufficiently robust to protect the document and includes the SD card securely attached, but also clearly marked inside it.
  • Include in the text an explicit description and listing of what is on the SD card. It is a requirement that the SD card will work on a Macintosh machine running a suitable version of Mac OS X 10 (Windows compatibility is optional although desirable). State minimum requirements for the system needed to run your software. If this exceeds a typical studio machine you should give a full justification of why this is necessary.
  • You can have almost anything on the SD card, e.g. screenshots, video segments, simulations, links to web sites, code and scripts, … There should be a single “entry point” to the SD card, e.g. an HTML document, Flash presentation, or other application, which describes and links to, or clearly identifies, all the components of your presentation as a coherent whole. You should include everything digital that you have created as part of your project (even as maybe an “appendix”, or miscellany folder), and some kind of digital record (e.g. photographs, video, sound recordings, etc.) of anything that was not digital. If you have compiled code, or e.g. a Projector or Flash movie, include all source files. If a live web site is part of your project, include the URL, but also as far as possible a working version of the site itself, and certainly all of the material, code, etc. on the site. If you have produced a mobile app, include video footage of the app in use, in case we are unable to run it.
  • Do make sure that you test your SD card. Make sure you have time for this: do not leave writing the card to the last minute. Marks are likely to be deducted for material that fails to work due to simple errors such as the following. Check especially for any files that are missing, or any files that are in the wrong place so that your application can’t find them. Be aware that things which work well on your machine may turn out to have problems once written to a disk and run on a different machine. This is a problem that easily arises where linked files are used. Always try to make sure files are linked relatively — so that they are all copied within one folder on your machine, and then the whole of this folder is put onto the SD card. That should avoid the problem, but don’t assume that it has done. Test, and test again! Test your SD card on a different machine from the one you made it on, if possible one not even on the same network.
  • If your submission is or includes a web site hosted on a server outside the University, it is your responsibility to make sure that the site is up and running and available for access for assessment at all times between the submission date and the final Board of Examiners meeting (which is usually in early October). No changes may be made to the site until assessment is fully completed. (This period may be extended if necessary, e.g. in the case of an appeal.) You must include all source code and other material from the site on your SD card submission: we cannot necessarily install the site ourselves in any circumstances, but we may check that no changes have been made.

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