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More in this section MSc Project

MSc Project Guidance

The MSc Project (IY5500) is worth 1/3 of the overall MSc. Moreover, a student's performance on the MSc Project is often of interest to potential employers, as it demonstrates their ability to independently research and understand complex information security issues. This is a key skill for all information security professionals.

The most important advice that you can be given for your MSc project is to read the MSc Project Handbook, and it is available from the Forms and Templates web page. Please read it very carefully!

This is the most important document in the whole project repertoire - it explains the purpose of the project, suggests ways to work on your project, describes how a typical project should be presented, and explains how it will be marked. Ignore this document at your peril!

The Msc Project Handbook

The MSc Project Handbook is the most important document in the whole project repertoire - it explains the purpose of the project, suggests ways to work on your project, describes how a typical project should be presented, and explains how it will be marked. Ignore this document at your peril!

Who will be my project supervisor?

You have the opportunity to nominate your own project supervisor. While not all staff members will be available to supervise projects every year, it is still worth talking to a number of members of staff and trying to pick one whose interests are most aligned to the project which you want to work on.

The list of supervisors for 2017-2018 is as follows:

  • Andy Clark
  • Allan Tomlinson
  • Bertram Poettering
  • Chez Ciechanowicz
  • Chris Mitchell
  • Daniele Sgandurra
  • Elizabeth Quaglia
  • Geraint Price
  • Jorge Blasco
  • Keith Martin
  • Keith Mayes
  • Kenny Paterson
  • Konstantinos Mersinas
  • Lorenzo Cavallaro
  • Martin Albrecht
  • Martin Sadler
  • Paul Dorey
  • Peter Komisarzcuk
  • Rikke Jensen
  • Robert Carolina
  • Robert Coles
  • Sean Murphy
  • Siaw Lynn
  • Stephen Wolthusen
  • Steve Babbage

You can learn about their respective areas of interested here.

More information about the supervisor nomination process is available at the supervisor nomination process page.

What should I do my project on?

You may write a report on any aspect of information security (although it doesn't hurt to have the assessment criteria in mind when you pick your project topic). While some supervisors (including those in the Smart Card Centre) may publish a list of suggested thesis topics, the majority of supervisors will expect you to decide upon your own thesis topic.

One good way to help develop your MSc project topic is to reserve a couple of pages in your notebook for project ideas. Every time you come across an information security topic that you think might make an interesting project, make a note of it on these pages. Once you have collected a number of project ideas, you can investigate them more deeply, e.g. by going to the library and using tools such as Google Scholar. This should help tell you whether you think you can study that topic for four months without going crazy and whether there is enough useful research material available to make the project viable.

Don't think you can skip the topic investigation stage. Any potential supervisor will want to see evidence that you have actually done some work on your project topic before agreeing to be your supervisor.

Once you have agreed on your project topic, your supervisor will ask you to complete a Project Description Form and the Preliminary Literature Review, both available from the Forms and Templates page. This is your first major piece of project work and must be completed by the end of the second term at the latest.

Common Statement of Expectations?


The following is a Common Statement of Expectations for Students and Supervisors in terms of Contact, Deadlines and Feedback, and outlines the roles and responsibilities of the student and the supervisor.

  • Each student should consider project topics during the first term and nominate their preferred supervisor before the end of November. Supervisors will be assigned to students before the end of the first term.
  • A short meeting, e.g. of 15 minutes, to discuss project topic choice should take place as soon as possible in the second term, but at the very latest by mid January.
  • Each student must submit a finalised Project Description Form and Preliminary Literature Review to their supervisor by early March.This may require a number of meetings in order for the supervisor to help develop the submissions.
  • A short meeting to discuss the main phase of the project should take place by early June (students are strongly advised to start earlier).
  • Meetings should be held during June, July and August to discuss project progress, perhaps totalling 90 minutes. Students should provide progress reports to their supervisor at least 2 days ahead of meetings. Students should also provide drafts of chapters to supervisors, who will review them.
  • Each student should provide a first complete draft at least two-three weeks before the submission deadline, after having agreed the exact timing with their supervisor. The supervisor will review the draft ahead of the final meeting.
  • A final meeting, of around 30 minutes, should be arranged in late August to provide feedback on the first complete draft.
  • Each student should complete the final version and submit the project by the submission deadline. The supervisor will assess the project.

Guidance on Structure and Content of the Project

The project dissertation will be a document of between 10,000 and 20,000 words (typically about 50 pages). It must be the work of the candidate, and should be a readable and coherent account of the chosen topic. No particular format is specified but it should provide an outline of the scope of the project and describe the extent to which the objectives of the project are met. It should also describe its relation to any industrial placement with which it may be associated.

The library has a reading list "Academic Writing Skills for Information Security Students" consisting of resources for the development of academic writing and referencing.

Please follow the format of the "Title and PLR" document, i.e. the the Forms and Templates page. 

It is important that a student shows that they have extended the source material by including a critical analysis of their chosen subject area. A student may do this, for example, by elaborating the treatment as found in the sources, by comparing different approaches to solving a problem, or by performing practical experimentation to inform their analysis. A student should also reference source material appropriately and demonstrate that they appreciate how the topics discussed relate to one another and to the rest of the subject area concerned.

The College policy on Penalties for over-length work is as follows:

  • For work which exceeds the upper word limit by at least 10% and by less than 20%, the mark will be reduced by ten percentage marks, subject to a minimum mark of a minimum pass.
  • For work which exceeds the upper word limit by 20% or more, the maximum mark will be zero.

Note that references, quotations, bibliographies and appendices are not included in the calculation of the length of the work. 

MSc Year in the Industry and the MSc Project

More information about the MSc Year in the Industry can be found from the following link.

All students registered for the ISG MSc Project, including the ones considering a year in the industry, are expected to complete all project related tasks (including the Project Description Form, and Preliminary Literature Review). The only difference for the year in the industry students is that their MSc project have to be submitted by the MSc project submission deadline of the following academic year. More specifically, after they complete their exams (usually by the end of May) students are expected to begin their placement. At this point their MSc project “freezes” until the same time in the following academic, i.e. by the end of May in the next academic year they will have to return to their MSc project and submit it by the MSc project deadline of that year.

How will my Project be Assessed?

Your project will be marked by your project supervisor and one other member of staff using a standard marking template. If the two examiners cannot agree a mark for your project, then it will be given to a third member of staff for marking. See more details on the submission and assessment process.

Past MSc Projects

Please note that we no longer have hard copies of past MSc projects. However, you can access examples of good MSc projects from http://www.ma.rhul.ac.uk/tech. You want to inspect  the ones with the comment: "Comments: Search Security Award Winning Project" or “Comments: MSc Thesis”.


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