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Engineering degree project

The MSc Engineering and two-year Master’s programmes in Engineering include a degree project of 30 credits that is intended to demonstrate the student’s ability to independently apply the knowledge acquired during their studies.

Here you will find a brief overview of what the degree project involves. The emphasis is on providing short and practical advice that will especially be of use to students working on their degree projects, but to some extent also to supervisors and examiners.

1. Before starting a degree project

Admission requirements

In order to start a degree project on MSc Engineering programmes, students must have completed a minimum of 240 credits within the relevant programme, including at least 30 second cycle credits. In addition, students must have passed all compulsory courses within the basic block of the programme.

Students who began their studies on the MSc Engineering programme prior to autumn 2012 are exempted from the requirements of second cycle credits and of having passed all compulsory courses within the basic block.

Students on the two-year Master’s programmes in Engineering must have completed a minimum of 60 credits within the relevant programme to start their degree projects. Students on the Master’s programme in Energy-Efficient and Environmental Building Design must have completed 75 credits within the programme before they can start their degree projects.

In addition, students must have acquired sufficient knowledge on the topic of their degree project, which is to be assessed by the examiner. 

What is a degree project?

A degree project is an independent project for students to develop specialised knowledge within a subject. A degree project corresponds to approximately 20 weeks of full-time study. The degree project is not only an important part of the study programme; many students find that it is the most interesting and rewarding part of their studies, while also being the most demanding and challenging component. The degree project marks the end of the study programme, but also the start of professional life. The degree projects are often executed in collaboration with companies and can lead to employment, but can also be done in collaboration with a department and serve as an entry point for a career within academia.

The degree project is to focus on an interesting issue within the chosen area, and the emphasis shall be on the investigation and analysis of that issue – a task which requires the integration of knowledge from many different courses and the acquisition of new knowledge. The solution to the problem shall be of interest not only to the client, but also to a wider audience.

Degree projects are normally carried out within the students’ chosen specialisation and for the Msc Engineering programmes, the study handbook provides information about what degree project topics have been approved in your programme. For the two-year Master’s programmes in Engineering more information is given within the information for the respective program (http://www.lth.se/english/education/master/). Degree projects may in some cases be executed outside the students’ specialisation, provided that the student has sufficient knowledge to produce a good project. The degree project is to specialise, not broaden, the student’s expertise.

When should I start looking for a degree project placement?

t is difficult to offer a precise answer to this question; it can vary depending on whether the work is to be done at a division/department, a company, or abroad. However, it could be wise to start planning 34 months ahead of commencing the project. If you want to do your degree project abroad, we recommend that you give yourself extra time as international projects tend to take longer to find and require more planning.

How can I find a degree project placement?

The most common way is to personally contact a department or company. To contact a department you can, for instance, speak with one of your lecturers or visit the relevant department websites. Some departments have specially assigned contact persons for degree projects.

There are different ways to get in touch with companies, for example via ARKAD or through contact information available online where many companies have compiled their information about available degree projects. Some websites list degree project openings, for instance, exjobbstips.se (in Swedish) and the Lund University career portal MyCareer at LU. Another option is to contact the Swedish Trade and Invest Council (visit the Council’s career page Business Sweden). If you wish to write for the Trade and Invest Council, you should first be clear about what area you want to focus on. If you are interested in writing about a particular market, it is best to email the relevant office manager.

Another piece of advice is to search LUP Student Papers to find out where previous degree projects have been conducted. It is important to remember that degree projects at companies and portals will not be automatically approved by your department, and it is therefore important to present the degree project to the department for approval from the examiner and principal supervisor before starting the work.

Prior to choosing a degree project, you should consider the various types of constraints. Where and how will the project be carried out? Will you need to study and take exams in other courses while working on the project? Will you have access to your own workplace and computer? Another important factor is the commitment and availability of the supervisor(s). Personal motivation is the key to successfully completing a degree project, so you should carefully consider whether the proposed project is sufficiently interesting and challenging to devote half a year to it.

A degree project can be conducted by one or two students. There are of course advantages and disadvantages to both. Working alone gives you more control over the work, but you will have fewer people to discuss it with. Working together with someone will provide you with a constant sounding board, but it will require you to devote some time to coordination. Personal chemistry can be crucial, and the respective levels of ambition should be clarified prior to starting the work.

2. Initial phase

During the initial phase the student(s) plan their degree project. This means that the examiner, supervisor and, where relevant, host company/organisation become involved and the students’ prior knowledge is assessed. A document defining the goals of a degree project, see below, is to be drawn up. This is to include a preliminary description of the background, context, overall objectives and issues to be addressed in the degree project. When all involved parties can agree on the content of the document, the degree project will be registered in Ladok.

Examiner and supervisor(s)

Every degree project must have an examiner appointed by the department at which the work is to be conducted, and at least one supervisor. There is a difference between the supervisor and examiner. The examiner must have a doctoral degree, be employed by Lund University and is to formally decide whether the student(s) meet/s the requirements and whether the topic is relevant to the subject, for instance on the basis of the students’ choice of elective courses. The examiner will also make the final assessment of the degree project, i.e. check that all parts of the course have been completed in accordance with the current quality standards. Students who are doing a degree project as a pair will be assessed individually and it is therefore important that the individual contributions are clearly discernible.

The principal supervisor is also to be employed by Lund University and must either conduct third cycle studies (at least have a licentiate degree or be a doctoral student at the end of their PhD programme) or be an experienced teacher. The principal supervisor is to support the student(s) during planning, ensure that the necessary resources are available, and offer expertise and knowledge about the degree project process throughout the work, so that the project will satisfy the course requirements. Please note that the department is generally only obligated to provide supervision for 12 months.

Persons outside the University or with limited third cycle education may serve as assistant supervisors. For example, an emplyeee of a company where the degree project is carried out who can provide expertise in the specific are could serve as an assistant supervisor.

Procedure during the initial phase

Before students are allowed to start the degree project, their eligibility must be checked by the International office/MID at IKDC/Programme planner at Utbildningsservice. This is to be indicated on the form Enrolment formdegree project.

The student must subsequently write a document defining the goals of the degree project. The document must be approved by all supervisors and the examiner at LTH. In addition, the examiner is to check whether the student has the necessary prior knowledge in the area. This too will be documented on the registration form.

Once the document defining the goals of the degree project has been approved and the prior knowledge confirmed, the completed form is to be submitted to the programme planner. In terms of administration, this phase can be said to precede the degree project, as registration in Ladok will take place only at the very end of the phase. 

 

Document defining the goals of the degree project

A document defining the goals of the degree project shall be written by the prospective degree project student(s) as a preliminary study to the degree project. The main purpose of the document is to ensure that the degree project has the potential to fulfil the requirements for a passing grade, and that the students, supervisors, representatives from participating companies/organisations and the examiner are all in agreement, i.e. have shared expectations of the degree project and its results and benefits.

If the degree project is to be conducted by a pair of students, they must write a joint document defining the goals of the degree project. The document is typically one or two pages long and should include the following headings and questions:

  • Working title, names and contact information of those involved and preliminary start and end dates.
  • Background/context and motivation for the degree project.
  • Overall objectives and issues/research questions.
  • Approach/methodology and methods.
  • Disciplinary foundation and proven experience on which the degree project is to build. This could, for example, be described in the form of a couple of key references to articles or other reference documents.
  • How is the degree project expected to contribute to the development of knowledge.
  • Preliminary description of the resources required for the completion of the work, such as workplace and equipment, and how these are to be arranged and made available.

The document should be further developed into a project plan (see below). Large parts of the document can often be used as a basis for the degree project report.

The examiner and all supervisors must approve the document defining the goals of the degree project before the degree project is planned further and started. Among other things, approval means that

  • the purpose and issue of the project are clearly stated
  • the proposed project is deemed to have  the potential to achieve the degree project objectives
  • the project clearly relates to the relevant area and the elective courses that the student(s) has/have studied.

In this context, it might be worth reviewing the learning outcomes for the degree project in the course syllabus.

When is the initial phase complete?

The initial phase is complete when

  • the examiner and supervisor(s) for the degree project have been appointed
  • the student’s general eligibility has been confirmed
  • the document defining the goals of the degree project has been completed and approved by the examiner and all supervisors
  • the examiner has confirmed that the student has the necessary prior knowledge
  • the degree project is registered in Ladok

3. Planning phase

Any major work will benefit from planning, not least degree projects which last about six months. In the planning phase, the document defining the goals of the degree project is to be developed into a plan for the execution of the degree project.

Project plan

Planning is an important part of any major work, and a degree project is no exception. It may be a good idea to use the previously drawn up document which defines the goals of the degree project as a framework for the project plan. The project plan is to describe the content, delimitations and methodology of the project in some detail. This includes trying to plan what measurements, calculations, interviews or other studies are to be carried out, and how the results are intended to be interpreted and analysed. Such a plan will obviously vary significantly between different degree projects.

Another important part of planning is drawing up a timetable. To facilitate management and monitoring of the project, the work should be divided into stages, and corresponding meetings with supervisors. Time often flies by, which can to some extent be controlled by a timetable. It is important to have an idea of how much time should be spent on the various stages early on, and the timetable should reflect that estimate to the best extent possible. A degree project shall correspond to 20 weeks of full-time study. This time limit is not strictly applied, of course, but it can serve as a point of reference. It is also important to consider any potential competing activities, such as the student(s) conducting parallel studies and supervisors taking extended business trips.

It can also be useful, at an early stage, to consider the type of supervision, and to clarify the respective parties’ expectations of each other. Some work well having regularly scheduled meetings, others prefer to only meet as needed. The project plan shall specify all meetings with the supervisors.

Remember not only to factor in the time spent conducting the actual project, but also to include the activities in the final stages, such as the critical review of a fellow student’s project and the presentation which involves a number of practical things that may affect the timetable (printing of the report, preparing a presentation, etc.).

Planning is dynamic, not static. Many degree projects are engaged in research or development, which means that you do not really know what to expect. Good planning must be flexible enough to allow for this. The project plan should be updated regularly and changes should be discussed with the principal supervisor.

When is the planning phase complete?

Once the planning of the degree project is complete, so is the planning phase. It is highly recommended that a project plan is written by the student(s) and approved by the main supervisor.

4. Execution phase

Execution means that students conduct investigation, data collection, analysis, etc. according to plan, and report on these activities in a degree project report. In preparation for the final presentation of the degree project, it is recommended that students also participate in two other degree project presentations. During the final stage of execution, the student is also to write a popular science summary. Below you will find some practical information about information retrieval, how to write a report, etc.

The degree project also includes conducting a critical review of a fellow student’s work – both orally and in writing. The purpose of the critical review is to learn how to assess an advanced engineering study and provide objective criticism. It is recommended that this takes place before the student has completed their own report, as it will help clarify potential pitfalls. It can, therefore, be included in the execution phase (further details about the critical review process below).

All elements that are to be assessed shall be compiled in the form Summary of activities. It is recommended that you print out the form at an early stage so as not to forget any important components. If the degree project is to be carried out over several semesters, it is also important that you contact the department so that the project is re-registered.

Information retrieval

Degree projects involve searching for literature to find out what has been published in the relevant area. Below you will find some information about the libraries and how to find and evaluate information.

Libraries and their services
LTH Libraries - To receive help and guidance on how to search for information for your degree project, visit your library or fill in the form at

http://www.lth.se/english/library/search/book-a-librarian/

The LTH Master’s student guide offers help regarding the information retrieval process, plagiarism, source criticism, reference management, etc.

Search queries/concepts
Think about the search queries, keywords, synonyms, and relevant subject headings that you want to use. Remember that search queries/concepts in English are useful as most resources in databases, etc. are in English.

Information sources can be different types of documents (e.g. books, journal articles or reports) and different types of media (e.g. printed or electronic). More and more documents today are published electronically and are accessible online. You can find plenty of useful materials online: information from public authorities, companies and organisations, news, web portals, blogs, scientific information through databases, etc.

Search tools
There are a number of different search tools that you can use, depending on what source you wish to use.

· Subject databases: Find subject guides at http://www.lth.se/english/library/subject-guides/ describing databases relevant to your subject. There is also a list of databases at http://atoz.ebsco.com/Customization/Tab/15199?tabId=11621 

· Meta search tools: In LUBsearch you can search for electronic articles, e-books, conference reports, etc.

· Library catalogues: Find books through the library catalogues. LOVISA is the Lund University library catalogue; LIBRIS (the National Library of Sweden) is the shared catalogue for all libraries at the higher education institutions in Sweden. Here you will find books, journals, articles, maps, posters, notes, etc.

Search techniques
Use the help texts of the various databases or see the
LTH Master’s student guide for information about phrase searching, truncation, etc.

Results
Evaluate your sources critically. Online sources vary greatly in terms of content and quality, making critical awareness extremely important. Regardless of whether the literature is printed or available online, you must always ask yourself who the author of the book/article/website is. Another important issue is to consider what knowledge the author has on the subject. The easiest way to keep track of your sources is to use a reference management program. Lund University has licenses to RefWorks and EndNote, and there are also several free programs (see http://www.lub.lu.se/en/search-systems-and-tools/reference-management-programs)

Search for and publish papers/degree projects

In Uppsök you can search for complete degree projects and papers from more than 20 of the higher education institutions in Sweden.

In LUP you can find papers and degree projects from Lund University. This is where information about your degree project is to be entered and where your completed project report is later to be uploaded in full. LUP is part of the national search engine for degree projects, Uppsök.

References

When writing a degree project report or other academic paper you must specify all your sources. Failure to do so will be considered plagiarism.

There are several reasons why you must refer to your sources. The reader must be able to clearly determine what ideas are yours and what has been retrieved from other authors. The reader must also be able to access the original sources in order to review the work. The sources are to be stated in a reference list or bibliography. There are several different established styles that can be applied when referring to sources and writing references. Some of the most used styles are Harvard, MLA, APA, and IEEE. Consult your supervisor or department which reference style applies to your subject.

Prior to starting their degree project, many students have not been confronted with the challenge of keeping track of their references. As a rule, all references used are to be carefully documented, that is, if you use a formula from a book, you must document not only the title and author of the book, but also the page number, publisher, year of publication, edition and any other information that seems relevant. For books, this information can usually be found on one of the first few pages of the book, and for journal articles, often on the first page of the article.

Helpful links:

Reference Management (LTH)

Reference management (Lund University libraries)

Academic integrity (Lund University libraries)

Student papers and Copyright (Lund University libraries)

Writing and referencing (University of Borås)

Documenting the project

The degree project shall culminate in a written report. In order to write this in an effective way, it will help to maintain a good ongoing record of the project to prevent having to repeat previous work due to poor documentation.

One way to document your work is to keep a diary to record the activities during that day or perhaps week. If the work is about making measurements or larger numerical calculations, you can document the conditions or parameters that applied at that point, whether any special circumstances occurred, or similar. This can be helpful if it later turns out that there are oddities in the results that cannot be explained in a simple way, and it might prevent having to repeat a trial session.

Report format

The degree project shall conclude with a written report that describes the project and its results. This must be written in English or Swedish. If the degree project is produced by a pair of students, the report must indicate what each student contributed. At LTH, degree projects must not contain any confidential information and the assessment must not be based on information that is not public, since copyright law allows others to refer to and quote degree projects, as well as copy for private use.

The general design of the report should be discussed at a relatively early stage. It is likely to change a few times which needs to be taken into account in the timetable.

The Academic Support Centre at Lund University can help by discussing the text or the research assignment. They offer individual tutoring and short courses in study techniques, academic writing and public speaking. They can also provide help to students who do not have Swedish as a first language.

The headings must be adapted to the content of the different sections. Consider whether your report might be better off using a completely different format than what is suggested below. Try to be objective and review the report for yourself! Who might find it interesting to read? Is the text logically structured and does it fulfil the aim of the project? Distinguish between results and discussion! Think of what expectations the examiner, peer reviewer and other readers might have, based on the title of your degree project.

Find out if your department has any guidelines with regard to the report format and if there is a template. It is also important to know the format in which the report will be printed, for example the size of the margins, whether the page numbers should be on the right or the left side, if the report shall be printed in colour or black/ white.

The general report format must often be supplemented with various forms of sub-headings, depending on the degree project, and the contents must be well structured. One example of a suitable format is as follows:

· Abstract (in English): A brief summary of approximately 250 words. Note that this is mandatory, and must be written in English and preferably also in Swedish.

· Preface: Explaining when, where, and why the project was carried out, and thanking those who helped.

· Table of contents

· Introduction: Short background, issue and aim, as well as the structure of the report.

· Methodology: Theories, tools, etc., that were applied in the project.

· Results

· Discussion and conclusion: Reflection on whether the aim was fulfilled, and on the opportunities for further development. Critical review and discussion of the results.

  • References: In order to enable the reader to review the project and go to the original sources on which the material is based, the report needs a good reference list. Continuously filling in the reference list can save you a lot of time compared to doing everything at the end. See more information under the heading References earlier in the present document.
  • Appendices: Extensive data material that is relevant to the work, but too large to incorporate into the running text can be included in an appendix. It is often better to concentrate more on the content of the report than on the graphic design. It is better to customise the layout to fit the content rather than the other way around. Remember that cross-references (for example, a reference to Figure 3) may change during the writing process, when you might need to swap figures. Some programs will automatically adjust such matters. Prior to printing the degree project report, you will be helped by thinking one step ahead. Which pages will end up on the left vs. the right side, are the margins large enough, does the text have the correct font size, is the quality of the images sufficient for them to be copied, shall the report/images be printed in colour or black/white, etc.
  • Popular science summary: A mandatory part of writing the report includes producing a separate popular science summary. A suitable target audience for this summary may be first-year engineering programme students (Guide for writing a summary aiming at a popular science readership). Whether or not to include the separate summary in the printed report is optional. 

 

Helpful links

Writing guide (Blekinge Institute of Technology, University of Kristianstad, Linnaeus University, Umeå University)

Academic Support Centre (Lund University)

Academic writing in English – AWELU (Lund University)

Critical review

The degree project also involves critically reviewing a fellow student’s project, both orally and in writing, and the review must be certified by the project author’s examiner. The purpose of the critical review is to learn how to examine an advanced engineering study and provide objective criticism. We recommend that you attend some presentations before it is time for your own critical review. Critically reviewing someone else’s project is mandatory, but not all presented works are required to have critical reviewers.

Current degree project seminars are posted on the website where you can advertise your own presentation. It is also possible to find or request degree projects to critically review.

As the critical review also serves as a learning opportunity it is an advantage if the topic is situated within your own area of ​​interest. To read and understand an entire degree project will take up a lot of time and is not something to postpone until the night before. At the latest, the written critical review must be submitted to the author of the project and the author’s examiner at the presentation seminar for that project. It is important that the author’s examiner certifies the critical review by filling in the form Summary of activities (for MSc in Engineering and two-year Master’s programmes).

The role of the critical reviewer is to critically review the degree project and the presentation of it, and to contribute to a constructive discussion about the project. The critical reviewer’s questions are to lead to a discussion that addresses, among other things, the practical and theoretical relevance of the degree project, the balance between the different parts of the work, the methodological awareness and readability. The critical review is to conclude with an overall assessment mentioning the main strengths, weaknesses and areas for improvement in the project. The following questions can be used as support when conducting a critical review:

  • Are objectives, issues and limitations clear and relevant?
  • Is the methodology well described and is the choice of method appropriate?
  • Is it clear what parts are results of the degree project and what parts come from other sources?
  • Are the arguments for claims, interpretations and conclusions well-founded, logical, convincing and credible?
  • Are the conclusions reasonable in relation to the content, methodology and results of the project?
  • Do conclusions and results fulfil the aims and objectives of the project?
  • How does the project take into account relevant societal and ethical aspects?
  • Is the language used correctly and adapted to the target audience?
  • Is the report logically structured and are the tables and diagrams illustrative and comprehensible?
  • Are the sources and references to related work relevant and well described? Are important references missing or are unnecessary references included?
  • Are there points that are unclear in the project?
  • What could be improved and what could have been done differently?

At the actual critical review you should concentrate on the broad outlines of the report and the questions of principle, alternative issues, or similar. Detailed comments about spelling, punctuation, layout, etc. can be communicated directly to the author of the project outside the context of the seminar, for example, by handing over your notes.

When is the execution phase complete?

There is no clearly defined point in time to indicate that the execution phase is completed, but it basically involves that

· the main supervisor has assessed that the report has reached the stage when it is ready to be presented and critically reviewed and thus schedules a date for the final seminar

· the popular science summary has been completed

· the critical review of a fellow student’s work has been scheduled or completed (more information above in the present document)

5. Concluding phase

In the concluding phase the degree project is presented at a public seminar at LTH, and based on the opinions of the critical reviewer, supervisors and examiner the student(s) will then make the final adjustments to the report and submit it for grading. If the student has not yet carried out a critical review, this should also be done in this phase (see details under Execution phase). The popular science summary is to be completed and, finally, both the article and the passed report are to be uploaded in LUP Student Papers. The report is to be filed by the department. All steps must be completed and ticked off in the form that summarises all degree project activities. Once completed, this form shall be submitted to the department that will mark the degree project as passed in Ladok.

 

Presentation

The report shall be presented orally at a public seminar at LTH. The period in which students may present their degree projects runs from 15 August until and including the Monday during Midsummer week, with the exception of 22 December to 6 January. It is often the main supervisor who convenes the seminar. The report must be available in a reviewable version at least one week before the seminar. Discuss with your supervisor how the seminar will be planned, for example with regard to the amount of time for the presentation, critical review and questions.

Most presentations are held in the form of lectures using computers and projectors as aids, so the following advice is primarily focused on such presentation techniques.

· Analyse your audience. Consider how much of your project they have seen before, and at what level you should present it in order for your message to get through. Spend some extra time on explaining the issue; most people will probably only have seen the title of your project. 

· Do not attempt to present everything you have done. Concentrate on the major features; choose the most important contributions and explain them in a good way. Refer to the written report for any details. 

· Any visual aids you choose to show must be clear and explanatory. Avoid formulas and complicated diagrams. Large size text helps to keep the amount of information down. 

· Practise beforehand – on your own and in front of friends. Inspect the premises in advance to figure out whether your visual aids can be seen from the back of the room, the lighting situation, how loud you must be in order for everyone to hear you, what pointing devices are available, where it is appropriate for you to stand, and how you will be able to move.

· One piece of advice for future presentations is to study other speakers. Try to analyse what makes their presentation successful or not, and use the methods that you like and that suit you.

After the seminar, consider the comments of your peer reviewers, supervisors, examiner and, where relevant, other members of the audience, and update your report into a final version.

Assessment

Your degree project must include the following five components in order for it to receive a passing grade:

· A document defining the goals of the degree project

· An oral and written critical review at a seminar at which a fellow student’s degree project is presented.

· A presentation at a public seminar at LTH.

· A written report in English or Swedish, and a summary in English.

· A separate popular science summary.

The available grades for a degree project are Pass or Fail. In both cases the grade shall be entered into Ladok.

Printing

Prior to printing the degree project report, please contact your department to find out what rules apply, in terms of number of copies, etc.

Make sure that the report has a format suitable for printing, for example that the margins are the right size, that the page numbers are aligned correctly on the left or right side, what the report looks like when printed in colour vs. black/white.

Publishing

The final degree project shall be registered in LUP Student Papers – the Lund University database of theses and student papers. Here you can enter information about your degree project and upload the completed report in full text. The service also includes a search function. LUP is part of Uppsök – the national search engine for degree projects. If you wish to upload your degree project in LUP, contact your department.

You can specify in LUP how visible your report should be. Students should consult with their supervisors which option is appropriate. It is worth noting that regardless of the selected level of visibility, the report will be considered a public document and must therefore not contain confidential information.

The popular science summary may also be uploaded in LUP, if it is not part of the report document. There is a field in LUP to enable inclusion of the popular science summary in text format.

LUP    

Evaluation

Once the degree project has been presented, the student(s) should have an evaluative discussion with their examiner. To enable degree projects at LTH to become even better, you will also be given an opportunity to respond to a questionnaire about the degree project process once it has been completed. See reports from previous degree project questionnaires here
    

When is the concluding phase complete?

The concluding phase is complete when

· the examiner has approved

othe oral presentation

othe written report after checking that comments during the final seminar from supervisors and critical reviewer have been considered and incorporated into the final report

othe popular science summary

othe critical review, based on the certificate from the examiner

· the examiner has confirmed that all other obligations of the student(s) have been fulfilled, and subsequently registered in Ladok.

 

Bear in mind that if the degree project was the last step in your degree programme, it is time to obtain your degree certificate.

Apply for degree certificate