This activity (normally done within the framework of the “research topics”) should result in a decision to start a particular final project. In order to achieve this result, you must consider, amongst others, when to start searching for a project, your own interests and the available projects.
Start searching for a project
In order to gather information necessary to select a proper final project, you need to make an appointment with your programme mentor at the stage of about 60 credits passed in your programme. Your programme mentor will mention some possible projects and you can talk to some potential supervisors. This may take a lot of time, because these people may have busy agendas or because they may need to think about a project before talking to you. Anyway, you should actively start searching for a project before you have finished all your courses. In this way you can have appointments with potential supervisors and still perform your activities in the courses, avoiding that you end up having nothing to do while you are waiting.
In principle you should choose your final project based on its technical contents and your own interests and skills. However, it is also important that you have a supervisor with whom you can get on well. Your personal relationship with your supervisor can make a lot of difference on the progress of your project. Your first supervisor must, in any case, be affiliated to one of the groups that participate in your track.
Experience shows that if you should start searching for a project six months before finishing your courses in order to have enough time for a proper decision.
A typical misconception concerning the selection of a final project is that you should have a brilliant idea that magically pops up if you wait long enough on your own. We can assure you that things do not happen in this way. You need to search, think and talk to people in order to select your final project. The “research topics” serves as an instrument of fine-tuning your selection. If for some reason the “research topics” turns out to be not matching your expectations (or those from your supervisor) you have the opportunity to start a final project on another subject.
It is obligatory to hand in the “research topics” form to the bureau of educational affairs to make the registration formal!
Your final project will take a considerable amount of time and effort. Keep in mind that you are going to work on it for at least six months. Therefore you should select a project that matches your own interests, so that you can be motivated and will enjoy working on it. This means that you need to know what your interests are before selecting a project.
To help you finding out what your interests are, you can ask yourself a number of questions, like:
- What subjects do I find interesting?
- Is there a certain issue or theory that fascinates me?
- Do I have a preference for certain disciplines?
- Did I enjoy a certain particular course?
- What are my personal characteristics (implementer, researcher, designer, thinker, etc.)?
- Would I like to perform my final project in a certain organization (research institute or company)?
- Do I want to perform a final project that I have defined myself?
- Do I want to perform a final project connected to the kind of work I would like to do after my study?
If you find it difficult to answer these questions, the following tips may help you:
- Look at the research projects carried out by the groups of the faculties especially the ones related to the track you are in. Often they can be found on the webpages of the groups and those of the research institutes to reach via this link
- Have a look back at the courses that you have followed. Have a look at the textbooks and your notes and ask yourself what you have enjoyed and what you have definitely not enjoyed.
- Try to identify current technological issues that are of interest for society. Newspapers and television give a lot of information on problems, e.g., within public administration and business, and can therefore be a useful source of inspiration.
- Take a look at scientific publications (journals, conference proceedings and theses) to find out what sort of research is being done and what sort of scientific problems are relevant at the moment. Most papers and theses contain suggestions for further research at the end. A visit to the library can help you in that.
- Talk with your fellow students or lecturers about your interests. A brainstorm session now and then may help you compile your list of interests.
Based on your list of interests, you should try to determine which themes appeal to you. In order to make it more concrete, you could, for instance, make a list of subjects in the area of your track, indicating your own priority of interest. You should not only know your own interests, but also your own capabilities. The knowledge of your capabilities can help you later in the choice of a suitable final project. For example, you should select a final project that not only matches your interests, but also requires skills that you already have or can quickly develop.
Another aspect of your final project you have to think about is whether you prefer to perform it at the University of Twente (internal project) or at a company or research institute (external project).
Once you have formed a reasonable picture of the theme in which you want to work in your final project, the next step is to acquire a concrete project. There are two types of final projects, namely internal projects that are performed at the University, and external projects that are performed at another organisation.
In order to acquire an internal project you can either talk to the programme mentor or to any lecturer in the field if you prefer. You can also check the websites of the groups searching for a project. Another alternative is that you formulate a project yourself. Keep in mind that at the end you will need a supervisor and this person should agree to guide you in your project. Therefore if you intend to formulate a project yourself it is better to do it in cooperation with your future supervisor, so that the project fits the expertise and interests of your supervisor as well as yours.
In order to acquire an external project, you can approach organizations that operate in your areas of interest. Since you will need a supervisor from the University, this selection of organisations is best done together with your programme mentor or even better with your future supervisor. In an external project, the external organisation normally determines the task to be done and appoints one or more supervisors to monitor your work. These external supervisors have to agree with your internal supervisor on the contents of the project. Be sure that this is the case, otherwise you may end up in the middle of a conflict.
A final project has to meet the following criteria in order to be acceptable:
- The project must address topics in the area of your track. According to this criterion, you should consider the relevance of your project to this field.
- The final project must have a scientific character. A final project normally concerns research, design (development) or a combination of both. Research in a final project has to be carried out according to a systematic approach and the results should be interpreted and verifiable. Design (development) has to be carried out according to systematic methods and techniques and should serve a scientific purpose. For example, prototypes that may be produced in a final project aim at either proving a method or some theory, but they should not be considered as the final goal of the project. This avoids that candidates are used by companies and work there during their final project as ‘cheap programmers’.
The final project should be feasible in time prescribed in the master programme being 6 months. It may be difficult to assess this last criterion while defining the project, but you can consider the following points to estimate the time spending of a project:
- Do you have enough knowledge to perform this project or do you have to acquire the necessary knowledge?
- Are you sufficiently motivated to work with this subject for a long period and is the project interesting enough?
- Will the necessary data be available on time?
- Will the necessary resources (people, equipment, etc.) be available on time?
- Is the approach feasible?
- Are the intended results reasonable or is the project too ambitious?
In the case of an external project, you can also consider the following questions:
- Is the end result desired by the external organisation clear enough?
- Can you trust that the external organisation will provide the necessary support?
- Are you sure there will be no conflicts of interest and internal problems within the external organisation?
- Is the area of expertise of the external organisation compatible with your specialisation?
When deciding which final project to pursue, you should continuously evaluate the project proposals you may have against the criteria given above. In the beginning it may be difficult to evaluate your final project alternatives against these criteria, because the proposals may still be vague. As the project proposals become more concrete, this evaluation should be facilitated. You can also ask the help of your supervisor for doing that.