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Guidelines for Writing a Computing Research Paper for University Degrees


This is a negotiated research assignment. You are to propose and gain approval for a research paper title on one narrow topic that is relevant to your degree. This paper must be focussed on one narrow aspect of computing research and must not be the same as any other research you are doing, or will be required to do, for any other module while doing your degree.  Guidance will be given on your proposed title by your local tutor but it is your responsibility to ensure you follow this advice and ensure that the paper you submit in the end has an appropriate title.

Your research paper should describe and evaluate current research evidence (research aims, methods, experimental results and a researcher conclusions) and in doing so present your analysis and your conclusions. See the many good exemplars in the module materials.

Computer Systems Engineering students… should write a research paper that is applicable to the design or development of computing systems. For example evaluating current research that aims to:

  • enhance the design or development of databases (e.g distributed database design or text mining and database fusion)
  • enhance the design or development mobile systems  (e.g. usability issues,  performance analysis, analysing smart phone data or lifestyle and health applications)
  • enhance the development of any advanced computing technique (e.g. artificial intelligence applied to medical diagnosis, scalable deep learning, natural language processing or machine vision)
  • enhance any aspect of cyber security (e.g. risk assessment, anomaly detection, real time IDS, mitigation of attacks or security architecture)
  • enhance any aspect of the software lifecycle (e.g. large scale collaborative agile development, quality assurance for deep learning)
  • develop novel applications (e.g. Internet of Things, wearable technologies, medical implants, smart cities)

You are to write a research paper with an appropriate title with reference to between 8 and 12 relevant conference and journal articles. Your research paper should include a detailed discussion and evaluation of current research on the topic under consideration leading to your own well-reasoned conclusions.

The word limit for this assignment is 3000 words (this includes the reference list but does not include the assignment cover sheet). You must put the word count on your assignment cover sheet (details of which are provided later) and you must explain why the topic chosen is relevant to the specific degree you are studying.

In line with University policies regarding assignment length you will be penalised according to the following table for breaking the limitations.

Your task in doing this assignment is not to undertake the research you proposed for assignment 1 but to discuss and evaluate research published by other researchers. In doing so you are required to discuss the research described in current research papers. Therefore, providing an introductory discussion, or providing a detailed description of a technical subject will score very low marks.

Care should be taken to ensure that your paper is unbiased and accurately referenced using the Harvard referencing system (see the lecture slides and publication template for guidance on this).

Any words not your own must be in quotation marks and sources cited. Quotations should be no more than two lines long and, taken all together, should represent less than 10% of the words written. The remaining 90% of this assignment must be entirely in your own words.

Scope of the Research Paper

Your paper should be appropriately sectioned, well structured and should clearly set out your own evaluation of the evidence, analysis and conclusions. Your conclusions should be backed up by well-reasoned arguments and should be suitably illustrated with appropriate examples. It is not enough to regurgitate or summarize material found in literature.

Good academic writing uses literature to present evidence and the conclusions reached by other researchers and discusses this literature allowing the author draw out their own concrete conclusions.  

Your conclusions should come from:-

  • Your evaluation of the evidence presented in research papers,
  • Your comparison of the theories proposed by researchers in research papers,
  • Your consideration of the potential application of these theories to real world situations.

For a good balance you should aim to spend about 50% of the space devoted to presenting research materials and 50% to your evaluation of this evidence, your comparison, your reasoned argument and your conclusions.

A reference list must be included at the end of the research paper.

Your paper should be in a format suitable for publication. A publication template is available to help with this. Students will have the opportunity to get their research papers published if their paper is good enough and correctly formatted.

Assignment Submission and Marking

Your assignment should be submitted as one document. This should start with an assignment cover sheet which includes the following information:-

  • the module code,
  • your name and student registration number,
  • the name of the degree you are studying
  • the name of the centre you are studying at (for off-campus students),
  • the title of your paper
  • the word count and
  • a short statement that explains the relevance of this research to your degree (2 or 3 sentences should suffice for this).

The title page should then be followed by the body of the assignment which should be a correctly formatted a research paper. A research paper template is provided to help you with this within the module materials. For reasons explained later the research paper, if correctly formatted, will duplicate some of the information on the assignment cover sheet (ie. title and author name).

The assignment will be submitted electronically via your module space in the Virtual Learning Environment (VLE).  The submission is electronic and there is no requirement for any other form of submission.  Uploading your assignment constitutes the submission. Late submissions will not be marked!

Please note that the assignment must be submitted as a Microsoft Word document.

Assignments are normally marked within 4 working weeks – this does not include the three week holidays period at Christmas or Easter. You can view your assignment marks and feedback by returning to the assignment link after this period.  

Research Paper Publication

The best research papers have in the past been published in the University of Sunderland library. Sadly I cannot yet confirm if this will still be possible.

Only papers that are formatted according to the publication template exactly and have an overall mark of 75% or above will be considered for publication – and only the best 15 papers will be accepted.

Word Limit and Penalties

Publication, or failure to be published, will have no impact on your module mark. The opportunity, if still available, is entirely an optional extra and will be at the discretion of the module leader.

Assignment Marking Scheme

Content:- the quality of content that describes current research 20%

Critical Evaluation: - the quality of your critical evaluation of the evidence presented 15%

Reasoned Argument: -the quality of your reasoned argument and conclusions 15%

Citations: - how well the materials from the literature are cited in the body paper 15%

Literature Search: - the range and quality of the reference list 15%

Presentation:- the quality of formatting and structuring of the research paper 20%

A more detailed breakdown of this marking scheme is presented at the end of this document for further guidance.

Essential Information

1) This is an individual assignment, the work must be entirely your own.  The safety of your assessments is your responsibility.  You must not permit another student access to your work.

2) Your assignment will be submitted electronically via the module space. You must therefore sort out any module registration log in problems within the first three weeks of the module and upload your assignment by the date specified. If you cannot log in and upload an assignment by the due date you will fail this assignment. You are strongly recommended to upload a draft assignment at least 1 week before the deadline and to keep uploading revised versions. Technical problems on the deadline day will not be accepted as a valid excuse for non-submission.  

3) The assignment should be submitted by 4pm UK time on the date specified in the VLE however to allow for internet problems assignments will be accepted up until 23.59.

4) You are required to submit your work within the bounds of the University Infringement of Assessment Regulations (see your Programme Guide).  Plagiarism, paraphrasing and downloading large amounts of information from external sources, will not be tolerated and will be dealt with severely.  

5) All text taken from other sources must be in quotations and the sources cited. Quotations should be no more than two lines long and, taken all together, should represent less than 10% of the words written. The remaining 90% of this assignment must be entirely in your own words.

6) You should upload a draft of your research paper via your module space early and respond to the ‘TurnItIn’ report generated. This report will indicate any non-original words in your paper including a) correctly quoted text, b) the reference list and c) and any plagiarized text. Reports that come back rated at less than 20% non-original text are usually fine. Those that come back with a score of over 25% i.e. yellow, orange or red usually need fixing. Plagiarised text will not be tolerated. Please note that the generation of originality reports can take up to 24 hours.  

7) Where a word limit is specified the university has implemented a standard policy and penalties on assignments that go over the word limit. On your assignment you must provide your word count and lying about this is an academic offence.

8) You can repeatedly submit your assignment up until the deadline and the last assignment uploaded at the deadline will be marked.  You will be marked online and will be able to see your marks and feedback online at the same location – usually marks and feedback will be available after 4 working weeks (this does not include holidays).  

9) If you cannot complete this assignment for reasons that are outside of your control, e.g. serious illness, you can apply to the Extenuating Circumstances Panel asking for a deferral but you will need to provide appropriate evidence e.g. medical evidence covering the appropriate period. Technical problems on the day of the assignment deadline, module registration issues and failure to back up your work will not be accepted as valid excuses. Therefore you should a) ensure you can log into the module b) upload a draft assignment early and keep uploading revisions as you make changes c) keep electronic copies of your work. If you provide a good reason your local tutor can grant an extension of 72 hours but there are restrictions on this – see module guide for more details.

10)  The following learning outcomes are assessed by this assignment:-

Knowledge an understanding of current research, scientific principles and research methodology within an area appropriate to the students named degree.  Skills the ability to critically evaluate current research within an area appropriate to the students named degree and document this in the form of a research paper.

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