Students have one opportunity to clearly and succinctly communicate their intended Senior Project. The SPC, including the project proposal, is the tool students use to "sell" their project to the BSCIS Review Board. The review board then reviews the proposal against a set of standard project criteria (see below). These criteria are in place to ensure a consistent level of quality, scholarship and integrity in the Senior Project process. SPCs are disapproved, not because the project lacks these elements, but because the submitted, written proposal does not adequately convince the reader the elements are present. A review board member can only evaluate the completeness of a project by what is submitted. Review board members may guess what a student had in mind, but this in not the same as being able to read about it in the proposal.
The criteria for a Senior Project are that it demonstrates the following elements:
- critical thinking,
- new value,
- usefulness to a wide audience,
- good system development, engineering or research practices.
These elements are "linked" together and all six must be satisfied for approval of a project proposal. Let's look at some of the factors that each of these criteria implies about a Senior Project.
It is often the case that Senior Projects specialize in one aspect of CIS. Projects that span multiple disciplines usually are very large in scope, and may be too overwhelming for a single student. One of the best approaches is to focus on one particular problem, and apply in-depth knowledge and research to the solution. In some cases the interaction between two disciplines (a networked database or applying object-oriented development to multimedia, for example) provides interesting projects. From our experience, the key is to focus on one discipline, even if applying it to another.
A leading problem with Senior Projects is integration of the principles learned pursuing the BSCIS degree. Application of the course work and research, coupled with problem solving skills, should be part of the Senior Project. Using a problem-solving approach, weighing alternatives, proposing solutions and recommending actions are all aspects of critical thinking. Further, students should strive to make the Senior Project a growth experience, stretching their skills and knowledge.
Not all of the BSCIS Senior Projects have to be unique. However, the Senior Projects should add new value to the understanding of others in the field of CIS. The problem to be solved or the approach to solving the problem are both areas where "new value" can be added. Students should demonstrate original thinking in conceiving and solving the particular problem. The problem should be unique to the organization, and not solved by other, off-the-shelf products. A Senior Project to build a windows-based word processor would not be acceptable, as multiple, inexpensive products already exist in the marketplace. Students should work with their Faculty Advisor to determine the added value of their particular problem.
There are some projects that do not contain the depth of scope or breadth of knowledge enhancement to be properly categorized as a Senior Project. Triviality refers to the context in which the problem is solved and the knowledge acquired by the solution. This is a moving target; five years ago building a web page might have been acceptable. Today, with the tools on the market that automate this process, a web page is not an acceptable Senior Project. On the other hand, a project to teach others how to simplify building a web page may offer depth and new value.
Usefulness to a Wide Audience
One of the most critical factors of a successful Senior Project is its usefulness to others. When completed, documentation of the Senior Project should be "publishable", in so much as other professionals, solving similar problems, could use the conclusions to repeat the solution. One question students might ask themselves is "would someone else, faced with a similar problem, find usefulness from this project?" Projects need to be of interest to other professionals solving similar problems. A goal for all projects should be publishing the results of the study in an appropriate professional journal or trade magazine.
Good System Development, Engineering or Research Practices
If development of a system is included in a proposed Senior Project, the student must demonstrate that good development or engineering practices were followed. The application of a development methodology or the application of development standards is a basic minimum for project acceptance. System development Senior Projects must document requirements, propose a design, and test the system to the original requirements. Regardless of the development approach (object-oriented, traditional, RAD, etc.), the student must apply the current state-of-the-practice to their development. Engineering projects (e.g., network development) must document requirements, alternatives and solutions selected.
Students pursuing research-oriented projects should ensure that good research practices are employed. For more theoretical projects, the student proposed a hypothesis, and defines the approach they will take to prove or disprove their theory. Solutions for theoretical or research oriented projects should be balanced between academic and practical aspects. Research Senior Project should include appropriate references from the CIS body of knowledge, and applicable professional journals and technical magazines. Further, research projects should have a purpose or hypothesis. A literature review or technology scan in not sufficient for a Senior Project.
A Note About Confidentiality
If the nature of your work is confidential or propriety (i.e., your company does not want you talking about the products of your work), you may want to address the management side of the issue. For example, you may want to address the manner in which the management of your current project can be improved versus dealing with the product of your current project.
It is up to the student to investigate the confidential or proprietary nature of a proposed project and get corporate permission to proceed before the SPC is submitted.