2 Formalisation

This activity should result in a project plan in which the general objectives and approach of the project are documented. This project plan should form a kind of contract between the supervisor(s) and the candidate. In this activity, the graduation committee of the final project is also settled. A tangible deliverable of this activity is a graduation project description form filled in with a summary of the project plan and the members of the committee (example project description form).

Initial Project Plan

In the initial project plan, at least the following issues should be tackled concerning the final project:

statements describing the problems that have motivated the project. The motivation for a project can be some problem in society, some technical limitations of some systems or simply some interesting scientific (theoretical) topic or some combinations of these;

definition of the final goals to be achieved in the project. Ultimately, the project aims at solving (some of the) problems that have motivated the project. The initial project plan should make a first attempt to delimit these problems, by formulating objectives that are not too trivial but not too ambitious either;

set of methods, models and techniques that are likely to be used in the project;

Graduation committee
project supervisors

It is obligatory to hand in the final project form to the bureau of educational affairs to make the registration of the project formal!

Additionally, it is advisable to tackle the following issues in the initial project plan:

Time schedule
timeline showing which activities have to be performed and when;

some relevant information concerning the area in which the project will be carried out; this can be seen as an extension of the motivation.

Some supervisors consider the writing of an initial project plan as the first activity you have to do in the project. Other supervisors may develop it together with you. In any case, you and your graduation committee have to agree on the contents of this initial project plan before the project can continue. A project plan as indicated above attends the formal requirements of the Students Records and gives a common understanding of the work to be done to the candidate and the graduation committee. However, in most cases this project plan has to be refined and improved during the final project (preparation and development activities). These improvements normally concern the sharpening of the motivation (problem statement), objectives and approach, and the refinement of the time schedule.

Graduation committee

The graduation committee guides the final project, starting with the initial project plan until the final report and the other planned deliverables are produced. The graduation committee also evaluates the results of the final project and assign a mark to it. Therefore, the graduation committee should critically evaluate the initial project plan for its scientific contribution, feasibility, societal relevance, etc. and give feedback, aiming at reaching a satisfactory initial project plan.

The first supervisor is responsible for forming a graduation committee. A graduation committee consists of a first (internal) supervisor, external supervisors (mandatory for an external project), one or more (secondary) internal supervisors, and a chairman, who is an associate or full professor in the research area of the final project.

The most important tasks of the first supervisor are:

•check whether the project meets the requirements mentioned under Exploration

•reach an agreement with the other members of the graduation committee on the aims and requirements of the final project;

•give you directions and instructions for carrying out the project activities, so that you can carry on with your work;

•guarantee that the project stays within the field of your specialization;

•give you feedback on your work;

•monitor the progress of the project;

•encourage and motivate you;

•evaluate the project results.

The second supervisor has to some extent the same duties as the first supervisor:

•check whether the project meets the requirements mentioned under exploration;

•give you directions and instructions for carrying out the project activities, so that you can carry on with your work;

•guarantee that the project stays within the field of your specialisation;

•give you feedback on your work;

•evaluate the project results.

It is possible that your final project is carried out in an external organisation, which acts as a kind of client to your project. You must never forget the scientific character of your final project, which is more important than the pure satisfaction of your client, in this case the external organisation. Since the internal supervisors are responsible for the scientific character of the final project (requirements in exploration), the external supervisor normally sets the specific topics and activities, but these must comply with the scientific and quality standards determined by the internal supervisors.

The external supervisor has the following responsibilities:

•state requirements on the end results from the point of view of the external organisation;

•whenever necessary, arrange a place for you to work in the external organisation;

•help you to establish contacts within the organisation;

•give you advice and support in carrying out the project.

Although in the graduation committee may have reached consensus on the initial project plan, it is still possible that you find yourself later confronted with a conflict of interests between the internal and external supervisors. For example, you may not be capable of getting some necessary background information, because certain documents are confidential.

Initially you should try to find a solution to this sort of problem yourself. If you sense that the problem can jeopardize your project in any way, then you should discuss this problem directly and openly with the graduation committee.

The chairman of the graduation committee has the same responsibilities as an ordinary member of the graduation committee, but of course the chairman has the final responsibility for the final project. In the case of conflicts, the chairman has to intervene and take binding decisions.