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MSc Project Overview: Plan, Undertake, and Present Your Findings

Project overview

Project overview

The project is the single most important part of the MSc and is worth 60 credits - one third of the whole course. It is an opportunity for you to demonstrate your ability to plan and undertake a piece of research (analytical or forensic), interpret the results obtained and then present your findings in three different formats: a written report, a talk and a poster.

What does the project involve?

The project comprises 400 hours of a detailed practical or theoretical investigation into a problem of forensic or analytical interest. Under the guidance of a Project Supervisor, you will plan experiments / investigations, undertake necessary laboratory/computer work and then process and interpret the results obtained.

At the start of the project you may be quite reliant on your Supervisor (or their PhD students) while you learn the practical and/or theoretical skills necessary to undertake work in your selected area. However, as the project progresses you will be expected to work increasingly independently although you should always follow the guidance of your Supervisor and never attempt experiments that have not been agreed to.   

Project selection

The School uses a web-based system where academics upload details of the projects they are offering and the area to which they are most suited (forensic, biomedical, bioscience, pharmaceutical, etc.). Students then access the website and select their 4 preferred choices. The Module Tutor then reviews all the choices and allocates the projects. Generally, students will be allocated one of their choices but this cannot be guaranteed and the Module Tutor will select an unallocated project deemed most suitable depending on the student’s pathway. 

Assessment criteria

The project is worth 60 credits (one third of the MSc)

The project is assessed by three components:

Written report                        50%

Project work                          25%

Talk and poster                     25%

None of the component assessments are available for Tutor Reassessment

Module Grading Bands








0 - 49.5%

Written report (dissertation)

This element of the assessment comprises a 8000 (± 800) word written report (dissertation) to be submitted via Turnitin by the due date. The report is marked by both the Project Supervisor and an independent academic member of staff.

Note, that if there If there are photographs or scanned spectra chromatograms these should be incorporated into an indexed Appendix and submitted separately to the Project Supervisor.

  • Project work

This element of the assessment is based on the Project Supervisor’s evaluation of the student’s day-to-day work, their ability, their motivation, etc. The mark (25% of module mark) is primarily based on what is evidenced in the student’s laboratory notebook.  

What does the project involve?

Laboratory notebook

An A4 hard-backed laboratory notebook will be provided. This should contain a detailed, dated and contemporaneous document of all the activities undertaken for the project.  It should not just be used to record values such as sample masses but also incorporate key points from meetings with the Project Supervisor, planned work for the day, etc., etc. 

Your Project Supervisor will expect to see your laboratory notebook at every formal meeting you have. In addition, a detailed laboratory notebook will greatly help during writing of the report.

  • Talk and poster

In September, there is a MSc Research Conference where you will be expected to give a talk and present a poster on your project.

The poster should be A1 in size but can be either portrait or landscape. Posters prepared using Powerpoint can be printed prior to the date of the presentation. One copy only will be printed free of charge. You will be charged for subsequent printings if you make changes to your poster.

The talk will comprise a 9 – 10 minute presentation.

Electronic copies of the talk and poster must be submitted via Brightspace by the due date.

All components of your project, report, notebook, talk and poster, will be scrutinised by an External Examiner (an independent academic from another institution) at the Exam Board in February to confirm that the marking has been fair and consistent.  Confirmed marks will be released shortly afterwards.



Project choices made PROVISIONAL

Late August 2021  

Project allocated. PROVISIONAL

Late August/ Early September 2021

Arrange to meet Supervisor.   PROVISIONAL

Early September 2021

Background reading, preparation of project work plan (1 – 2 weeks)

September 2021

6-8 week project work period (as agreed with Supervisor)

September – October/ November 2021

Completed project report submitted via Turnitin

Friday 7th  January 2022

Submission of laboratory notebook to Supervisor

Friday 7th  January 2022

Submission of any appendices, etc., to Supervisor

Friday 7th  January 2022

Submission of project abstract to Module Tutor

Friday 7th  January 2022

MSc Research Onlin Conference (Talk and Poster)  PROVISIONAL

Friday 14th January 2022

Submission of electronic copy of talk and poster   

Friday 14th January 2022

Confirmation of project marks (at Course Assessment Board)

Early - Mid February 2022

General guidance on writing the project dissertation

Regardless of how hard you have worked in the laboratory or how good your results are, your work will have little impact unless it is written up well. (Please note. Every year papers and data on pen drives and hard discs are lost, stolen or otherwise rendered inaccessible so ensure that you have separate copies of all your work before and during the write up).

As you write it, think of the reader. Write for a graduate scientist but not a specialist in the particular topic. The dissertation should be readable from start to finish like a book but you do not have to present your work in chronological order. It must also be easy to find one’s way around so it should be well structured.

The dissertation must be in concise and clear scientific English. It must be free of spelling mistakes, typographic errors and grammatical mistakes. (Spell checking is essential, grammar checking recommended but proof reading is also required.) Pages should be numbered. Use one and a half line spacing and Ariel font (size 11 or 12). Ariel font is suggested as it is easier to read.

Project selection

Diagrams must be referred to by sequential numbers in the text, and must appear near the first citation. Tables must also be referenced in this way. (You may wish to have a separate sequence for each chapter: thus for chapter 4 you might have Figs. 4.1, 4.2, etc.)

Reference citations may be either in the form of sequential numbers in the text (superscript or bracketed, (Royal Society Chemistry), or using the Harvard system, that is, names and dates inserted into the text. Most word processors will automatically add references in numerical order. Use an accepted style suggested by your Project Supervisor. All authors' names must be given -do not use et al. in references. Make sure that books and websites are referenced correctly (website full address and date accessed).

The dissertation should be limited to a maximum of 8,000 words ± 800 words (10%). You are strongly encouraged to present the shortest dissertation that adequately covers your project. If necessary place data in an Appendix.

The text should be clearly divided and subdivided into headed and numbered parts according to a consistent scheme. You do not have to follow the structure below exactly - it is a suggestion.

  • Name and full qualifications (e.g. Jane Doe BSc (Hons) )
  • Project Title. (e.g. The analysis of impurities in tableted formulations of aspirin)

Choose a title which is not too long but gives a clear indication of the area of your project

  • Course (e.g. MSc Pharmaceutical and Analytical Science)
  • Month and Year (e.g. August 2021)


This should be not more than one page, written concisely in the present tense. It should clearly indicate all that you have done and particularly indicate what you found.

  1. The abstract along with title and name will also need to be submitted on a single page by e-mail for inclusion in the book of abstracts (please ensure that your full name is on this and your student number).


A few lines listing all the people who have helped you in your project. It is good practice to also include the name of the company or government body that has funded the research or your MSc.

Table of Contents

List of all numbered sections. Most word processors will do this automatically if you mark the headings you wish to appear.

Glossary (Optional)

If you use a large number of symbols and/or acronyms, it is good practice to provide an alphabetical list with explanations.

  1. Introduction

This should firstly explain the nature of the analytical problem that you are studying. You should place this in the context of your company or research group, outline possible ways of solving the problem, review with literature references relevant work and explain your experimental approach to the problem. A brief outline of the theoretical basis of any instrumental methods and chemistry involved should be given. It is important here not to include elementary material which could better be given as a reference. Thus you should refer to texts and review articles in journals. Remember also that what you do write here should be relevant to your project. Do not write about a technique just because you have used it. Write about those aspects which are relevant to your analytical problem.

  1. Experimental

This section is mostly for reference by the reader to see what instruments and conditions were used. COSHH data isn’t normally required but any special safety precautions should be included.

  1. Results

Either combine with the discussion section or a concise summary of your experimental results again mostly for reference. Where possible organise the data, for example into tables. Present the data in a logical rather than a chronological manner. Include estimates of uncertainties in numerical results. If you have spectra or chromatograms that you wish to include put these in an appendix. Give only specimen calculations. If you have a large number of similar results you may wish to include typical results only.

  1. Discussion

This is very important section in which you discuss what you found and achieved in the project. It will be read to see if you are able to critically analyse your data, make deductions and understand what you did.

  1. Conclusion

Briefly discuss what you have achieved in the light of your stated aims in the introduction. Make suggestions as to the future direction of the project.

  1. References

Ensure that these are up-to-date, relevant and accurate - the examiners will look at these. If you have not read a paper or seen an abstract then you should give the Chemical Abstract reference as well. Give all the author names for papers.

Other material such as chromatographs, spectra, photographs, etc. This can be spiral bound or submitted in a ring-binder. In either case the appendix should be ordered and have a clear index.

It should be submitted separately to the Project Supervisor on the due date

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