Staff Handbook: 3.3.2 Project Assessment

(Procedures for Final-Year and MSc Projects not preceded by a mini-project)

(The timing of these events is described in the Project Guidance Notes.)

1. The inspection and demonstration

The Project Guidance Notes for students explain the purpose of the project inspections and demonstrations.

Normally, one member of staff is present at the inspection (the 'inspector') and two at the demonstration (the 'demonstration team'). None of these is the supervisor. Where possible, the inspector will be one of the members of the demonstration team. Inspections are timetabled for around 15 minutes; demonstrations for 30 minutes.

The project inspection and the demonstration constitute the formal review points for the project. Before the inspection, the supervisor indicates on the Project Progress Form information about the student's progress so far and the number of meetings held. After the inspection, the inspector records an impression of the progress so far, the feasibility of the plans, and their adequacy in terms of gaining a satisfactory project mark. The inspector also indicates whether further action by the supervisor or by the Undergraduate or Conversion MSc Project Coordinator is required. The Teaching Support Office notifies the Coordinator of these cases. Further action may include

  • a letter to the student warning of lack of progress, and/or advising the student that the plans are not adequate and recommending urgent consultation with the supervisor
  • arrangement of another inspection.

The project coordinator follows up these letters after one month, by asking the supervisor to confirm by email that the points raised during the inspection have been addressed by the student. If this is not the case, a further letter is sent, requesting that the student meet with the project coordinator.

Before the demonstration, the supervisor again indicates on the Project Progress Form the student's progress and the number of meetings held in total. 'Demonstrations' take one of two forms. If the project involves a software product, the student gives a demonstration and answers questions from the demonstration team. The team makes its assessment of the quality of the demonstration and the student's answering of questions, the functionality and robustness of the program, the intrinsic difficulty in carrying out the project, and any particular problems the student may have faced. The team also examines the source code, and should ask the student questions about it in order to ascertain that it is indeed the student's own work.

If there is no software product (e.g. the project is theoretical or comparative), the student gives a presentation of the work and answers questions from the demonstration team. The team's assessment is based on the quality of the presentation and the student's answering of questions, the quality of the research and analysis undertaken, the intrinsic difficulty in carrying out the project, and any particular problems the student may have faced.

In either case, the team can indicate to the student some of the issues they would like to see addressed in the dissertation.

The team should complete the relevant sections of the Project Progress Form. They may also choose to complete the demonstration part of the Project Mark Sheet. Whether they do so or not, it is essential that the relevant parts of Project Progress Form are completed, since the supervisor needs feedback to guide the student in writing up, and the Project Mark Sheet will not be made available to the supervisor, to ensure independent marking.

The team should also decide which of them will be the marker.

Students whose progress is judged to be inadequate at this stage are in danger of failing the project module, and the following remedial action may be recommended by the demonstration team:

  • A letter to the student warning that the demonstration was insufficient, and indicating what topics should be covered in the dissertation in order to avoid failure of the module.
  • The supervisor is asked to arrange a meeting with the student to advise on writing the dissertation.

2. Guideline for marking projects

The general procedure is:

  • The Inspection Team should jointly complete the tickbox section "Quality of Demonstration" and assign a mark on the marking form after the inspection. Only concerns to be forwarded to the supervisor/project coordinator should be recorded on the 'progress' form.
  • The project is independently marked by the project supervisor and by one member of the demonstration team. During final marking, the two markers separately complete the remaining tickbox sections, using the Not Applicable box where appropriate, and completing the Comments box for all issues not covered by the tickboxes.
  • The tickbox sections will be made available to students. Their prime purpose is as an aide memoire in subsequent discussions and decisions and as feedback to students.
  • The marksheet has lines to be completed which correspond to the tickbox sections. In each line, a percentage should be assigned, using the Descriptors for Use in Project Marking. The weighted mark should then be calculated and entered into the appropriate box.
  • Normally this will be the final mark, and should be copied into the final mark box. Exceptionally, a different final mark can be assigned, but a full explanation must be given for the discrepancy. Possible explanations include: other factors were thought to be relevant; criteria were given different weightings; etc.

Note on marks in the range 35-39 A final mark in the range 35-39 indicates that the project is probably a failure, but the marker is willing to be convinced by the other marker that it should pass. A mark below 35 indicates that, in the marker's opinion, the project should certainly fail.

3. Procedure for agreeing a mark

The project coordinator has the overall responsibility for ensuring that the markers arrive at a fair mark.

The two markers independently assess the project and return their mark sheet to the Teaching Support Office, where their marks are recorded on the Summary Mark Sheet.

  1. If their marks are in the same category (I, II.1, II.2, III, Fail for undergraduate projects or Distinction, Merit, Pass, Fail for MSc projects) and their marks differ by 10 or less, the average is taken and recorded by the Teaching Support Office on the Summary Mark Sheet as the Final Mark.
  2. If one of the marks is in the Fail category and the other is in another category (I, II.1, II.2, III for undergraduate projects or Distinction, Merit, Pass for MSc projects), the third marker will automatically be involved (see 4.).
  3. In all other cases, the supervisor receives the Summary Mark Sheet from the Teaching Support Office and arranges to meet the second marker to discuss the reasons for the difference, and try to come to an agreement. Either or both may change their mark, or they may agree to a mark between their two marks. In either case the changes must be clearly recorded by the supervisor on the Summary Mark Sheet with a brief explanation of the reasons. The Final Mark must be entered and the sheet signed by both markers. If they cannot agree, the project is marked by third marker (see 4.).
  4. When required by 2. and 3. above, the third marker (the other member of the demonstration team) is notified by the Teaching Support Office, and initially makes an independent assessment, which is also recorded on the Summary Mark Sheet. Then the three markers discuss further. If they reach agreement, the Final Mark must be entered, together with a brief explanation of the reasons, and the sheet signed by all markers and returned by the supervisor to the Teaching Support Office.
  5. Disagreements which have not been resolved even with the help of a third marker will be discussed and resolved by the Project Marks Meeting.

In any case where plagiarism is suspected by the marker, the project should be referred to the Senior Tutor for investigation. The project will then be dealt with according to the University Code of Practice on Plagiarism.

4. The penalty for late submission

The penalty for late submission is 5 percentage points per working day up to the cut-off date. If the applied penalty brings the final mark below the pass mark, then the student fails. The penalty will be applied by the relevant project coordinator (not the project markers) prior to the Project Marks Meeting. Procedures for granting extensions are described in 3.3.1 Assessment Procedures.

5. The Project Marks Meeting

The purpose of a Project Marks Meeting is discuss project marks. All project supervisors, inspectors and assessors should attend, together with the Module Examiners. The appropriate Module Examiner has final responsibility for transmitting marks to the examination board.

Adjustments to marks in response to mitigating circumstances will not be made by this meeting, nor should they have been made by markers, since this is the prerogative of the Examination Board. However, supervisors and project markers should take the opportunity to ensure that such circumstances are noted so that they can be drawn to the attention of the Examination Board.

6. Plagiarism

The Project Guidance Notes contain a clear warning that plagiarism (of code, documentation or anything else in the dissertation) is an offence, and may result in a zero mark. The supervisor should reinforce this warning and discourage all thoughts of plagiarism. If plagiarism is suspected at the inspection, a suitable discouragement should be given. If it is detected at the demonstration, it is already too late and a zero mark is likely. Details of plagiarism should be clearly indicated on the Project Inspection Sheet or the Project Mark Sheet and the Senior Tutor should be informed. Students suspected of plagiarism will be dealt with according to the School's normal procedures for dealing with plagiarism (see 3.3.1 Assessment Procedures).

7. Ethical Review

Prior to undertaking any student research project, it is required that a self assessment of the ethical issues arising from all proposed work is undertaken. To this effect, each undergraduate and MSc student must complete a self-assessment form to identify those projects which may raise ethical issues. This must be done before the project allocation is agreed. All forms will be submitted to the Project Coordinators. For those projects which do raise ethical issues, an ethical review will be carried out by the project coordinators.