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MA50248: Thesis formulation report

[Page last updated: 05 August 2021]

Academic Year: 2021/2
Owning Department/School: Department of Mathematical Sciences
Credits: 30 [equivalent to 60 CATS credits]
Notional Study Hours: 600
Level: Masters UG & PG (FHEQ level 7)
Dissertation period
Assessment Summary: CW 90%, OR 10%
Assessment Detail:
  • Coursework (CW 90% - Qualifying Mark: 60)
  • Oral (OR 10% - Qualifying Mark: 60)
Supplementary Assessment:
Like-for-like reassessment (where allowed by programme regulations)
Description: Aims:
The aim of this course unit is to train students in: problem formulation; assessing the suitability of mathematical methods and computational techniques for a particular application; identifying research to address gaps in current methodology; planning a substantial research project; writing a research proposal.

Learning Outcomes:
Students should be able to formulate concise mathematical problems from informally presented technical challenges, including the use of data.
Students should be able to test methodology on selected aspects of a problem and identify areas of theory or implementation that need further development.
Students should be able to write a research proposal, including a literature review, a critical appraisal of existing work, and a realistic but challenging programme of future work.

Consultancy skills; problem formulation; planning of research to solve an applied problem; translation of mathematical ideas and methods to real-world problems.

In this course unit, each student will create a research proposal for tackling an applied problem, typically presented by a scientist or industrialist at an Integrative Think Tank, earlier in the year. This process starts with conversations to elicit the nature of the problem and what aspects of this it is feasible to address. A mathematical formulation will then be constructed, relevant literature studied, and methods for solution explored. If an industrial partner is involved, on-site visits are encouraged where relevant to this process.
The aim here is not to solve the problem but rather to define a plan of research that will ultimately lead to a solution. Exploratory work and experimental computations on selected aspects of the problem will be carried out in order to assess the applicability of existing methodology: if shortcomings are identified, extensions of the underlying theory and methods to deal with these issues should be included in the research proposal.
The output from this course unit will be a Thesis Formulation Report describing a possible PhD research project. This report will provide background to the problem, a literature review, and a discussion of the academic and broader impacts of the proposed research. Initial development of methods and introductory computations may be exhibited in detail.
Prior to this course, the student is expected to assemble a supervisory team and members of this team will monitor preparation of the report. The co-directors will oversee the process of assembling this supervisory team. As suggested by the unit title, it is anticipated that students will pursue the research project defined in their Thesis Formulation Report when they continue to the next stage of the SAMBa doctoral training programme.

Programme availability:

MA50248 is a Designated Essential Unit on the following programmes:

Department of Mathematical Sciences


  • This unit catalogue is applicable for the 2021/22 academic year only. Students continuing their studies into 2022/23 and beyond should not assume that this unit will be available in future years in the format displayed here for 2021/22.
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