Department of Statistics

Projects, dissertations, theses


What is the point of doing a project, dissertation or thesis?

The purpose of a project course is to provide you with experience working on a single large problem. It will generally involve such things as collecting data, reading and collating research literature, applying statistical techniques that you have learnt, and interpreting your results. An important part of the process is communicating your results both in writing and verbally.

What programmes require me to do a project?

The Honours and Masters courses require that you include a project in your course. For the BSc (Hons) and BA (Hons) degree you must include the 30 point project paper STATS 781. For the MSc and MA by coursework in Statistics you must include the 30 point project STATS 790. For the MSc in Medical Statistics, the project is 45 points and is STATS 788.

Projects may be taken over one or two semesters. To take a project over two semesters you enrol in STATSxxxA in one semester and STATSxxxB in the next semester where xxx is one of 781, 790, and 788.

A few students do a research MSc or MA. In this case the project is 90 points and is STATS 798, taken over two semesters as STATS 798A and STATS 798B. Two courses worth an additional 30 points must be taken to complete a research Masters. These can be normal courses or courses which allow you to in fact work totally on your research topic. The courses STATS 701 and STATS 702 have been established to allow your research project to cover the full 120 points required.

What topics can I do for my project?

You should do a project which interests you or which you think might be important to your further study or future career.

Alternatively you can arrange a project with a lecturer yourself. First decide on a few members of staff who you would like to supervise you. Look at the staff websites to see what areas of statistics they are interested in, or choose a staff member whose course you enjoyed, or talk to other students who have experience with different lecturers.

to get some ideas, visit our postgraduate research topics page.

Go and talk to the staff members you have decided on. Ask if they have any topics for a project, and if they are able to supervise you. If you have an idea of your own about a potential topic for a project, ask the staff members if they are willing to supervise you. If none of the possible projects suit you, you may have to choose some more potential supervisors to talk to.

Decide on a supervisor and project, and confirm your choice with the staff member who is to supervise you. Tell the Graduate Officer who your supervisor is going to be and the topic of your project.

Remember that one staff member can only supervise a few projects each year, and there can be many students looking for projects. It is a good idea to start early in looking for a project.


Project assessment

Do I have to work on my project all by myself?

No, all graduate students will be placed under the supervision of a member of staff, whose research interests are related to the student’s topic.

When is the project due in?

The completion date for MSc projects is specified in the University Calendar. According to this regulation, your MSc project needs to be completed by the last day of the final semester of your course. The last day of the semester is listed on the University’s website on Important dates.

The regulations are less clear about a hand-in date for Honours projects, but the Department of Statistics rule is that the due date is the same as for MSc projects.

For the few students who undertake a Masters in Statistics by research, the due dates for handing in a bound copy of their dissertation are 15 December for those completing in Semester 2, and 1 May for those completing in Semester 1.

How long does my report have to be?

This depends on whether your project is worth 30 (for Honours and MSc) or 45 (for the MSc in Medical Statistics) points. Old 2 point projects averaged about 20 pages in length, while old 4 point projects were about 40. A 30 point project is more than an old 2 point project but less than an old 4 point project, suggesting that a reasonable average for a 30 point project might be around 30 pages. The 45 point project for Medical Statistics must involve more work and the report should reflect that. There are no absolute requirements, but remember that quality is always better than quantity.

A few students do an MSc or MA by research, which requires the writing of a 90 point thesis. This naturally might be expected to be longer than a project report. About 60 pages might be considered normal.

Advice concerning the writing up of your project is included in the Research Skills Short Course conducted at the start of each year for new graduate students.

Why have we changed to external markers?

The Faculty of Science requires it. The University Instructions to Examiners and Assessors states that for dissertations or other research projects, “One of the examiners or assessors should normally be appointed from outside the University of Auckland”. All grades for projects have to be signed off by the Dean (Postgraduate) in the Faculty of Science. Without an external assessor or examiner no grades would be approved.

Is it possible to do project during the summer?

No, it is not possible to enrol to take your project over the summer.

Where can I find the theses, dissertations or research essays of project that are done by previous students?

They are kept in the Statistics Office and may be borrowed if you wish.

Is there a required style for the project write-ups re references, linespacing etc?

There is no special style required. For references, a list in alphabetical order is common in Statistics (as opposed to for example a list in order of appearance in the article which is used in Medicine). Citations are usually of the form Scott(2003). Single spacing is all that is needed. Larger spacings such as double are required by journals because space is needed for editors to add editorial markings. That is not necessary for project write-ups.


Project talks

All students who do an Honours, MSc or MA project are required to give a talk on their project. Project reports are due in on the Monday after the end of the Semester and project talks are usually scheduled for later that week, on either the Thursday or Friday. Your talk should be 20 minutes long and a further 10 minutes will be allowed for questions.

Students who undertake an MSc or MA by research are expected to give a proper seminar about their work, with 50 minutes allowed for the talk and 10 minutes for questions.

Advice on how to prepare your project talk is given as part of the Research Skills workshop conducted at the start of the year for new graduate students.

Find more information about the postgraduate skills workshop.



I have a supervisor and topic. What's next?

Further suggestions regarding your project topic are difficult to make, as research is a highly individual undertaking. Some ideas about writing up your report that should be followed from the beginning are listed below.

How much do I need to put into my project?

The size of the project must be kept in perspective. Although most students find the work to be exciting and stimulating, and sometimes prefer to work on it at every spare moment, remember that this subject is worth only part of the whole final-year load. Most students will be taking a 30 point project spread over two semesters, and so the project will comprise a quarter of their workload. Working on the basis of a 40 hour week this suggests allocating about 10 hours per week to the project. For students taking the project in Medical Statistics, which is 45 points, the time allocated should then be 15 hours per week.

How do I plan my time?

Many students still do not allow enough time to write up their reports comfortably. For the following discussion, assume that your project is due in November. (If it is due in June, you have to move the suggested dates by 6 months). If you can give yourself a deadline before the November hand-in date, you will find it easier to finish on time. Take some time to discuss with your supervisor the goals you should plan to achieve. You will have spent 8 months working on this subject – so give yourself enough time to write it up properly.

What you should do is:

  1. In the first or second month of your research, take half a day to write out the structure that you think you might use for your report.
  2. As you progress through the year, keep updating this structure with important information/notes. Eg relevant references, observations. This way you will know where they are when you come to write up your final report. Continually revise this, writing in methods, etc so you don’t forget them.
  3. Around September, prepare a final plan for your thesis, working backwards from the submission date and identifying key deadlines. Discuss this with your supervisor.

Borrowing dissertations

Can we borrow past dissertations?

The Department of Statistics has masters and honours dissertations from past years (2004 onwards) available for masters and honours students to borrow. The dissertations are available in our department office (Building 303, level 3, room 305).

How do I borrow?

The dissertations are organized according to the year which the dissertation was handed in, and on the spiral of the dissertation there is a label with its designated code. There is a list of all the dissertations on the shelf.

Write on the yellow lending book the borrow date, your name and the code of the dissertation that you would like to borrow.

See example below:

Date Name Dissertation Code
24/04/2009 John Smith 0401

How many items can I borrow, and for how long?

The loan period for the books is two weeks, and the limit is two dissertations per person until return. Renewal is possible upon request.

Lists of Available Dissertations

2016 dissertations
(41.5 kB, PDF)
2015 dissertations
(24.9 kB, PDF)
2014 dissertations
(21.0 kB, PDF)
2013 dissertations
(46.9 kB, PDF)
2012 dissertations
(8.8 kB, PDF)
2011 dissertations
(9.3 kB, PDF)
2010 dissertations
(10.9 kB, PDF)
2009 dissertations
(8.3 kB, PDF)
2008 dissertations
(8.0 kB, PDF)
2007 dissertations
(9.3 kB, PDF)
2006 dissertations
(8.5 kB, PDF)
2005 dissertations
(8.2 kB, PDF)
2004 dissertations
(8.1 kB, PDF)