Final Project – Course Description

Print Friendly

Vacation period; 60 credits. Course organiser: Martin Parker


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 which is mid-to late August in the year of study.  Part time students should commence work in January of semester 2.

The course aims to:

  • allow students to demonstrate how they have integrated knowledge and skills achieved in the MSc;
  • develop particular applications of sound 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 sound design project progresses from start to completion.
  • An appreciation of the role of information technology in current sound design and a deeper understanding of the context of contemporary approaches to sound design.

Virtually the whole of this course will be devoted to a major project. There is not necessarily a preference for students to work in groups but if groups form, they will consist of a maximum of five members and roles of each member should be clearly and carefully defined at the outset. Each member of a group will work on their own dissertation with an individual title and set of particular questions unique to that person.  The benefit of working in a group is that this may be more consistent with the way design is approached in general and the scope of what can be achieved technically may be much wider.

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 any team will have to be clearly identifiable.

The agreement will take the form of signing-off by the Program Director of a Final Project Agreement Form. 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 is usually an opportunity for an un-assessed public 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 length 6000 words, see also below). This component will be expected to:

  • show a knowledge of the relevant literature;
  • be critical and reflective;
  • exhibit a good standard of presentation, organisation and academic style;
  • coherently integrate accounts of the motivation, methodology and execution of the project;
  • 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 MEDIA* format, accompanying two copies of the hard copy dissertation, of which at least one copy should be suitably bound. Submitted material should be thoroughly checked in advance for correct operation on lab machines, validity of links between files, and other things that may differ after copying to the MEDIA*.

Essential Reading

  1. Wayne C. Booth, Gregory G. Colomb, and Joseph M. Williams, The craft of research (University of Chicago Press, 2008).


There is no provision for a viva voce examination on the MSc Final Project and there is no provision for corrections once the work has been submitted. The work is examined by two markers and marks are available usually two weeks after the exam board which usually happens between 6 and 3 weeks before graduation.

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. Therefore, even an incomplete submission is better than a late submission. See the University regulations (h).
  • 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. a release or showreel 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. The five bullet points for the written work above are all important and should be considered carefully.
  • 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 copies of the text, one of which must be bound in a fashion suitable for it to be kept in the Architecture Library, and 2 copies of the MEDIA*. Please include in the binding a pocket for the DISC 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 unusual must be agreed in advance. A spiral 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 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
Matriculation Number
Master of Science (Sound Design)
Edinburgh College of Art
The University of Edinburgh
Current Year

  • 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 MEDIA*) we will expect to keep for the MSc archive. Group submissions should have composite MEDIA*, which should include all work, written and otherwise. The point about testing functionality and completeness of the digital 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.
  • Include in the text an explicit description and listing of what is on the MEDIA*. It is a requirement that the MEDIA* will work on a Macintosh machine running the version of Mac OS X current in the lab (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 MEDIA*, e.g. screenshots, video segments, simulations, links to web sites, code and scripts, … There should be a single “entry point” to the MEDIA* e.g. an HTML document, Director or Flash presentation, 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, Shockwave 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.
  • Do make sure that you test your MEDIA*. Make sure you have time for this: do not leave writing the MEDIA* 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 DISC. That should avoid the problem, but don’t assume that it has done. Test, and test again! Test your DISC on a different machine from the one you made it on, if possible one not even on the same network.

*MEDIA = SD CARD or USB STICK formatted for use with APPLE and WINDOWS computers