Third Year Project Courses

Please also see Guidelines for Writing a Thesis for important information on writing your report and choosing a supervisor.

The School of Mathematics and Statistics has Level III projects available in three different sizes.

  • MATH3000 is 3 UOC and is usually just used for a short project to satisfy some administrative requirements.
  • MATH3001 is 6 UOC and is the usual size for a project.
  • MATH3002 is 12 UOC, and is only allowed in very special cases.

It is possible to do more than one project under the same course code.

A project allows you to attempt some independent study under individual supervision of a member of staff, and to gain some experience in writing up the results in a coherent and logical manner. A written report is an essential component of the project, and on rare occasions a student may be invited to give or contribute to a seminar on the project material. Your supervisor will discuss what is expected in any such presentation.

Your first step will be to find someone willing to supervise you for the project. Staff members in the School have a wide variety of areas of interest

The School is not obliged to offer you supervision: if you cannot find someone willing then you will not be able to do a project. If you do find a supervisor, ask them to get in touch with the Director of Undergraduate Studies to organise your enrolment. 

Project objectives

The objectives of the project are:

  • To give the student an opportunity to engage in some study which is driven more by their curiosity than by a given syllabus.
  • To expose the student to mathematics beyond the standard syllabus and to get some view of what is happening at the research front.
  • To help develop some of the basic research skills including use of the library and computer databases.
  • To develop the skill of writing technical material well.
  • To develop the skill of presenting technical material orally.

Many of these skills will be of great benefit whether or not the student progresses to further study in mathematics. Of course, for the student who does go on to do mathematical research, these skills are vital. It should be noted that although a project is an important part of a student's research training, the aim of the project is not to produce original new theorems. Occasionally a project will contain some original results, but this is certainly not a required component.

Remember that different projects can have quite different natures. Some are surveys of a particular area of mathematics, some look at the history behind a famous problem, others may require calculating some examples, or filling in gaps in published works.

What is expected

The basic question that needs to be answered for the staff is 'Can this student independently take in some advanced mathematics and then clearly present this in written and/or oral form?'

The thesis will be assessed for quality in three major areas: 

Exposition: This includes expression, grammar, layout, organisation, communication skills. Is it easy to follow what is written? Is the notation sensibly chosen and consistent?

Literature coverage: Does the student understand the context and history of the subject area? Is the bibliography and referencing adequate?

Critical analysis and insight: This includes technical competency, understanding and the level of the material. Does the student understand what they are writing/saying?

If the project involves some original work, that will also be taken into account. For a third year project, we do not expect you to produce something startlingly novel, so a report with very little original work, for example a survey of published material, or a relatively simple application of known work is perfectly adequate.

Timetable

The following is a general guide to how work on your project should progress. If you think that a major variation is warranted, please discuss this with either your supervisor or the Director of Undergraduate Studies.

You should begin to plan the 'shape' of the report by about Week 4, and your supervisor may require a one or two page summary of preliminary work to give you some early feedback by then too.

Select supervisor and topic: Before the start of semester

Research, reading, discussion, understanding: First half of semester

Start work on first draft: About Week 6

Give draft to supervisor: About Week 9

Final submission: Friday of Week 13

NOTE For projects in summer, the submission date is the Friday before O Week.

Report Format

This section provides some guidance as to the physical presentation of a project report in the School of Mathematics and Statistics.

A project report should be in at least 12pt font and single spaced (or one-and-a-half spaced). Regarding the length of the report:

  • A 3 UOC project report should should be between 10 and 20 pages.
  • A 6 UOC project report should be between 20 to 35 pages.
  • A 12 UOC report should be between 40 and 60 pages.

If you think that you have a good reason to write a shorter or longer report, discuss this with your supervisor. Projects are not judged by the weight of the report! It is better to write a shorter report in which you understand everything than a longer one where you are rather hazy on the details.

You are required to submit two copies of your report, typed and in a protective binder. You are responsible for the production of your report. These days, almost all students type their theses using LaTeX. The School runs periodic classes on how to get started in LaTeX and you should take advantage of these as early as you can.

Another option is to have the typing done by a professional typist. Some of the administrative staff in the School may be prepared to type theses for payment outside of normal working hours.

Getting a good looking report can be helped by having a good style or 'document class' file and a decent example to copy.  The following files can help you to get your thesis writing started. (You will only need one of the UNSW crest files, depending on whether you are using the pdflatex or latex command to compile your thesis.)

This sample is of course much shorter than a real thesis should be! The LaTeX file contains lots of macros and special environments if you want some examples of how these work.