4. Project execution

Process

You will have many supervision meetings. Here we will discuss only the mandatory ones.

1. The kick-off meeting

If your draft project proposal is sufficient according to your TUD supervisors, then you can ask for a kick-off meeting. Either you or the thesis professor will ask his/her secretary to plan a kick-off meeting date, time and place.
An average kick-off meeting proceeds as follows.
With the kick-off meeting your thesis project has formally started. The date is not registered, however.

Make minutes of the kick-off meeting and email them to your committee for comments. Presenting and writing at the same time is multi-tasking and human brains were never designed for that. Ask for permission to record the discussion and ask for (a copy of) supervisor notes as well.

Special case: It frequently happens that you receive the email about acceptance of your TIL-1-2 forms just before or after the kick-off meeting. Your supervisors are in the cc of this email. In case of a 'non acceptance', check MyTUDelft and contact OSA to find the cause(s) and resolve this/these. Read the MSc TIL Regulations before you contact the TIL Graduation Coordinators. Inform your supervisors about the progress of your actions, but don't panic.

If you are confused by the comments, ask for a short meeting with one of your supervisors directly after the meeting to calm down.

2. The Mid-term meeting

This meeting is either requested by you or suggested by your supervisors. If you feel ready for it, ask for permission and organise it.

In this meeting we discuss your research, timetable and next steps. Use an agenda similar as the one for the kick-off. Ask for recording permission and ask for supervisor notes at the end. 

With sufficient progress you swiftly continue towards the green light meeting. In practice you will receive many advises for improvement, which can range from modest to very serious (mandatory) changes. If you are delayed, then you can also be advised to speed up, improve your work and probably adapt your planning sheet. There will be no formal go/no go decision as in the Green Light meeting.

Special case: It is possible that your progress is seriously lagging. In that case a decision can be made to postpone a planned mid-term meeting or organise a second one. This gives you extra time to improve your work.
Exception: A mid-term meeting can also be used to stop your project.

If you are confused by the comments, ask for a short meeting with one of your supervisors directly after the meeting to calm down.

Preparing for the Green Light Meeting
When writing the green light report, take particular care of the following:

  • Use all the remarks received in the previous meetings and check your TODO-list for things not fully addressed;
  • A green light report is 95% ready with summary, all chapters, draft conclusions and draft recommendations;
  • Recommendations are about scientific- (literature and reduction of research gap, opinion about experts) and societal/practical value. You may use your Preface to compare your learning objectives, assumptions and expectations with what you actually have achieved;
  • Include Appendices as far as possible. Don't forget appendices where you describe tools used such as models or MCA (specification, formulas, validation and verification, description of data, code listing, additional statistics, graphs etc.), if not included in the main text. This transparency helps us to assess your work and allows replication  in a next project.

Submit your green light report to your supervisors 2 days before the Green Light meeting. Take care that you fulfil the relevant course requirements as specified in the TIL-2 form and MSC TIL Regulations from the year you started your MSc before the Green Light Meeting.

The Green Light meeting

The Green Light meeting takes place at least four weeks before your Final defence and graduation meeting. In this meeting we discuss your green light report and agree about necessary changes and enhancements.

  • If you received a green light, then you can organise your Final defence and graduation meeting. Email the TIL-3 form to the TIL administrator, ASAP or at least 20 working days before that meeting should take place;
  • If not, then you have to negotiate with your supervisors what, where and how to improve your results.

Make minutes of the comments and agreements and send these to your supervisors. Use these as a checklist when you upgrade your report and also in the final meeting to see whether specific comments are justified, given the agreements you made during the Green Light or Mid-term meetings.

Special case: It is possible that your green light report does not fulfil our expectations. In that case a decision can be made to have another green light meeting or we can also ask you to write a short note in which you explain how you want to improve your report. This note will then be discussed among the TUD supervisors and you will receive your go/no go decision. This gives you extra time to improve your work. You have to receive a green light as well.
Exception: If your work is still far below the level we deem acceptable, then a decision can be made to stop your project. This will mean that you will have to find another topic, probably also another commissioner and surely another supervision team.

If you are confused by the comments, ask for a short meeting with one of your supervisors directly after the meeting to calm down.

Preparing for the Final Defence and Graduation Meeting

In the weeks ahead of the final thesis meeting, you address the comments made during the Green Light meeting. You also write your scientific paper (Annex A of your thesis report). Discuss a draft version of that paper with your supervisors.Then finalise your thesis report. Ask your supervisors if and when they expect a bounded copy and email the pdf well ahead of the final thesis meeting.
Upload your thesis ("Assignment") for a plagiarism check to the Turnit-in checker on Brightspace (help).

Final presentation
Your presentation will be graded as explained in the TIL Thesis Grading rubric. It precedes your defence, hence it raises or lowers our expectations and gives direction to your final mark. Take sufficient time to prepare it. Send at least one draft version to your supervisors for comments. It should be understood by your family, friends and fellow students and still be attractive for a science-oriented audience. You may use an entertaining element, but take care of technical limitations. Plan a 20-25 minutes presentation with 10-15 sheets. Use the presentation tips below the Content tab. 

Defence and Graduation meeting

Please continue here.

Content

External project tips

An external project is more challenging than an internal TUDl project. You may experience one or more of the following:

1) Confidentiality-Non-disclosure Agreement  issues (advice).

2) Balancing science and practice from start to finish. As project leader you have to find a compromise. To give direction: The scientific perspective is visible in the way you analyse the problem, your choice and application of methods, the way you collect and analyse data, your evaluation, conclusions and recommendations and your scientific reflection. The practical perspective is visible in the way you describe the company and its context, how you collect data, communicate with company staff, write an implementation plan and in your practical reflection. See the TIL Thesis Rubric for these aspects of your work.

3) Data accessibility and quality. As you already experienced in your TIL Design project, collecting data can be very time consuming and even then data quality can be (far) below your requirements. Familiar situations are the following:
a. Data is collected, but not for your purpose, or not systematic; data sets are unreliable, incomplete or scattered over several databases. Then you have clean up the data using statistical or other filtering techniques. Next you fill in the blanks by collecting data yourself or if this is impractical, by using assumptions and estimations. With time series, try for instance extrapolation. Ask your supervisors or specialist lecturers/researchers at TUD if you lack the knowledge or skills to do this;
b. Another problem can be that data is available, but that the data owner (internal or external to the company) is not willing to cooperate with you. If your company supervisor is not able to solve this issue, then ask your supervisors for advice as in a.
c. If numerical data is not available, choose qualitative data and analysis methods. A good qualitative approach is better than a crippled quantitative approach.

*In any case, start data collection as early as possible and limit the time for data collection to a few weeks.

4) Work on other, unrelated, projects. Students are very convenient for carrying out all kinds of small tasks in a company. If it does not take too much time, there's nothing against it. But as soon as it becomes regular and takes more than a few hours per week, say no.

5) Related to 4), sometimes your work place is not the right one. You can be too far from decision makers, from your supervisor or the place is too noisy or there are other inconveniences, such as regular insults by 'co-workers'. Ask your company supervisor ASAP for another work place. Discuss with your TUD supervisors if necessary.

6) Supervision issues (non-TUD). We have had cases, where the company supervisor was very talkative during the official meetings (kick-off etc.), but did not do anything to support a student. This will certainly influence your results. A partially similar situation might occur if your supervisor left the organisation because of a new job. Sometimes he/she stays on as an outsider and helps you to finish your project. In another case, you may get a new supervisor or manager (with a different perspective on the project). Discuss with your TUD supervisors.

7) Company management issues. The reasons why companies seek external advice may be diverse. They range from a lack of time or specialists, creativity, budget, negative experience with consultants or internal 'political status quo' or second opinion. We have experiences where the company lacked leadership and the student was unable to find direction. Discuss with your TUD supervisors.

Writing tips

Here you can find some additional information regarding your thesis report(s).

Lecture about analysis and reporting.

Literature review - purpose

  • to understand the size and significance of the problem (is it a more general issue?) and how to find direction and scope your project;
  • to learn from professionals dealing with a similar research challenge;
  • to identify your research gap;
  • to find out how your project could help to reduce this research gap (what kind of solutions can you offer?, how to find the most effective one?);
  • to choose suitable theories and develop conceptual frameworks and hypotheses;
  • to use proper definitions and terms;
  • to make a motivated choice of methods (qualitative, quantitative, simple, more complex?) and required data.

See also http://guides.library.harvard.edu/literaturereview.

Mandatory course TIL4020-16 is meant to improve your skills in literature analysis and writing.

Writing excellence:

English writing
A few of the many sources of information to improve your written English: 

References
To use proper references, check this out.

Report length limitation
Writing in a concise way is a sign that you fully master the core subject of your thesis. Our advice is to limit your final report to 80-120 pages; 80 pages main text and 40 pages appendices, including your research paper, in-depth information about research tools, overview of formulas and data etc. Larger reports serve no purpose. You actually waste time. Your supervisors don't have the time to read reports the size of a telephone book either.

http://www.littlethingsmatter.com/blog/2010/04/13/the-value-of-being-clear-and-concise-in-your-communications/

Scientific paper tips

Completion of a TIL5060 thesis project requires two deliverables (together in one report):
- a concise (80-120 pages) thesis report;
- a summary in the form of a scientific paper.

The second deliverable is mandatory for students who started their thesis project on or after September 1, 2017.

The scientific paper of your research consists of about 6-10 pages that tell the world what stands out in your research. It offers more than the regular summary in the beginning of your report.

It has the following structure:

  • Title, authors, 10-15 lines abstract;
  • Introduction;
  • Research methodology: Description (e.g., model structure) and implementation;
  • Application in more detail (e.g., optimisation function);
  • Results (e.g., of a simulation, mca, design);
  • Conclusions and recommendations.

The paper increases the impact of your work. It helps to distinguish primary and secondary issues and to structure your final report and presentation.

Write this paper after your green light meeting, as by then you have completed at least 95% of your main thesis text. Put it in Appendix A of your thesis report. It will also be graded. Have it ready before the defence and graduation meeting. Ask your weekly supervisors to comment on a draft version. Some sections can already be written as draft earlier on in the project. This also helps to structure your thinking process.

The mandatory TIL projects prepare you as follows:

-TIL5050-12 Design Project for writing your thesis report;
-TIL4020-16 Research Project for writing your scientific paper.  

Here you can find a few examples of finished papers. You can also use the TUD repository for more examples.

Paper 1    Paper 2    Paper 3    Paper 4     Paper 5    paper 6

Presentation tips

We expect that you present your results regularly in a professional way. Useful tools and tips can be found here:

Dynamic scientific presentations

When the scientist presents

How to give a good presentation

Designing powerpoints

Motivation, time and relaxation

A graduation project is in many ways different from your previous student experience. Key differences, potential pitfalls and tips to deal with them are given here.

1) There is a lot of freedom. Positive: You can scope the project to your own needs and capabilities. Negative: Not everyone can handle this amount of freedom and some are quite task-oriented. Take sufficient time for scoping. It is better to start with a reduced scope, than to promise a lot in order to convince a commissioner, but later on you can't deliver. Discuss your uncertainties with your supervisors.

2) There are various forms of uncertainty: Content, supervision, company, your personal uncertainties and other private issues. Uncertainty can be reduced by active project planning, good communication with all involved, assertiveness and expectations management. Promise what you feel comfortable with to deliver.

3) You have to work on your own. You can't rely on team mates, but you can rely on many supervisors, you can contact other staff at the university and in the external organisation. You can download reports from the repository, from libraries, from the Internet. You can contact their authors and other students. You can also learn new things.

4) You are Gen Z. Internet, multi-tasking, constant following of peers and many similar treats are in your routines. Being offline, single tasking and minimal comparison of what other students are (seemingly) achieving is part of a successful thesis project, however. Concentrate on your project and switch-off from time-consuming alternatives to get into flow.

5) You have to deal with many advisors. Many people, many different opinions. You are project manager, which means that you decide what you do with the advice you receive. Use the meetings with your supervisors to reach common ground. If the positions remain too far apart and affect your progress seriously, then contact a TIL Graduation Coordinator to see if external intervention is needed.

6) You may have taken too much work on your shoulders. If you gradually feel that the work is too much in terms of size or you can't manage the (proposed) methods etc., then the best way is to be open about it and share your feelings with your supervisors. In many cases they are not aware of psychological issues of their students and usually willing to help you. Any project can be refocussed if the situation demands it.

7) You are uncertain about your results and how they are valued and assessed by your supervisors. Your project gets its form gradually. From the way your supervisors approach your work you can get some idea how they value your work. You can also ask them how your work compares to the work of others. Read the TIL Thesis Grading Rubric to see what elements should be included and which criteria are used to assess your work.

8) If you don't know how to use your time effectively and efficiently, then the best way is to make a short list with priorities. Take the biggest tasks first, not the smallest, easiest, ones. Work steadily. Postponing things does not help. Making excessive working weeks does not either. Unlike your exam schedule where you have the typical peaks and valleys, this is more the way a long distance runner approaches his/her job. Take regular breaks, like a short vacation, relax with friends or family. Don't push yourself over limits, take a break and then the energy returns for the next step. Time management is counterproductive; sooner or later you will reach a burnout. Learn to work smart by a good organisation of your work and of the people that provide you with information. Say yes to challenges that you can meet and no if you can't.

9) Managing your project also means managing your private affairs. Yes, your friends and relatives will see and hear less from you for some time. Accept it and make them aware of the future benefits. 

10) Finally, if you worry because results do not come as expected and time is running out, then think about it this way. There are situations that you can control and there are also situations which you can't. If you have good supervision, rich data and the right tools, then life is easier than when you experience the opposite. A commissioner may not be satisfied with your work, but if he or she did not provide you with the right data and/or sufficient supervision, are you then the one to blame? In either case a good description of and reflection on how you carried out your project will help you to get an objective assessment.