D.Phil. in Computer Science
First Year Requirements
Requirement III: Qualifying DissertationThe thesis proposal is the most important part of the transfer examination. It should be concise, and supported by an extensive literature review, demonstrating the candidate's command of related work in the literature. There is no formal word limit, but as a rough guide, the literature review should be around 5000 words, and the thesis proposal should be around 6 pages.
The literature review should survey the state of the art in the PRS's chosen area. It should explain the background of the proposed research, the results that have been obtained by other researchers, and the conclusions that may be drawn. The student is expected to give a clear and coherent account, demonstrating competence in organising ideas and presenting them in a scholarly manner.
The thesis proposal is expected to address the following questions.
i. What is your research topic? What are the fundamental challenges?
ii. What are you trying to do? Give a high-level description of your research goal avoiding any jargon.
iii. What is the state of the art? What are the limits of current practice? Why is the problem you are trying to solve hard?
iv. What is new in your approach? Describe your method with sufficient details to enable the assessors to form a view. Illustrate it using an example or two. Explain why you think it will be successful.
v. How do you intend to evaluate your results?
vi. What difference will it make if you are successful? What are the risks?
Your proposed research topic should be well-defined and specific. It should admit of novel treatment, and it must be significant enough to be worthy of a DPhil, if competently investigated. Your proposed research programme should be concrete, clearly explained, and of justifiable promise.
Your research report and thesis proposal may well be the first formal documents you produce under the guidance of your supervisor. It is important to realise that they will be assessed for style as well as technical content. Ability to write your ideas clearly and convincingly is an essential part of your training. For an excellent treatment of how to write technical documents, including LATEX tips, see N. J. Higham, Handbook of Writing for the Mathematical Sciences (2nd Edition), SIAM, which can be found in the Department of Computer Science library.
No degree is awarded on the basis of the transfer application, so the work described in your research report can (and normally will) form part of the final DPhil dissertation. (If, however, you have made a Category B application and used your MSc dissertation to qualify, this cannot be used as part of your final DPhil dissertation.)