Directed Individual Study Courses (2024) - Home Page

This information applies to COMP 440, COMP 441, ENGR 440, ENGR 441, AIML 440, AIML 441, and CGRA 440, in all trimesters.

This is a directed Individual Study course, which can take more than one form.

The standard ("real DIS") form is an individualised course of study negotiated with your supervisor and the DIS Coordinator. A Course Outline is prepared and agreed with you, detailing the topic of the Directed Individual Study, what you are required to do and how you will be assessed. If you believe you are doing a "real DIS" and have not received a course outline, you need to contact Dr Andrew Lensen NOW.

A non-standard form is the "wrapped" form ("wrapper DIS"), which consists of a 300-level course plus (generally) a research essay. The course requirements consist of the requirements for the 300-level "wrapped" course plus the additional requirements below.

Admin link for staff and DIS Procedures for staff.

Requirements (when taken as a 400-level "wrapper" for another course)

You must meet all the requirements of the wrapped course. As a graduate course, you are required to do work additional to the 300-level wrapped course, often in the form of a research essay on some topic related to the wrapped course.

Students must reach out to the course coordinator of the 300-level course and identify themselves. The course coordinator for the 300-level wrapped course will let you know what the requirements are for their course.


Your grade for this course will be determined based on the following assessment weightings:
  • 80%: Your mark for the wrapped course
  • 20%: Research Essay (or other additional component --- ask the 300-level course coordinator!)

Research Essay

On some courses, the course coordinator will have course-specific instructions about the research essay. In this case, you should follow their instructions and their deadlines.

If the course coordinator does not have instructions specific to that course, then:

  • You can choose your own topic for your essay but you should have the topic approved by the organiser of the wrapped course by Friday Week 5.
  • You should have a preliminary bibliography of reading for the essay approved by Friday Week 8.
  • You must submit the final essay by Friday in the 2nd week of the assessment period.
  • The essay topic, the bibliography, and the final essay are to be submitted as pdf files via the submission system.
  • Submission page. The title of the page is "COMP440", but use it regardless of which actual code you are enrolled in. You may get a warning you are not enrolled in COMP440, but you can safely ignore this.
  • Please include your name and the code for the wrapped course in the name of the file that you submit.

Essay Structure

Unless you have negotiated an alternative form of the essay (or an approved practical project or other alternative assessment), your essay should describe the state of the art of some narrow research area within the area of your course, based around three key research papers, but referring to additional papers for background. The audience for the essay is students who have taken the wrapped course; we may make these essays available to future students of the course as resources for them to find out more about the area of the course.

The essay should be around 1500 - 2000 words (3000-word limit).

The structure of the essay will be:
  • The problem/issue:
    • Describe the problem/issue/limitation that the papers are trying to address.
    • Explain why it matters - where does the problem arise in practice?
  • Explaining the three papers:
    • Explain the solutions presented by the three papers, highlighting the similarities and differences between their solutions.
    • Briefly describe the major contributions of the papers (what have they added to the field?).
  • Limitations:
    • Discuss the limitations of the solutions - what they don't solve yet.
    • Briefly outline any other approaches from other papers that address any of these limitations, if any.
  • Conclusion
    • Summarise the state of the art in addressing the problem, saying what can be done now, and what issues are still open for future research.

Essay Marking

The essay is expected to demonstrate achievement at a graduate level, as in other 400-level courses. The essay will be marked by the 300-level course coordinator.

The assessment of the essay will be based on criteria such as:
  • Demonstrated understanding of appropriate research literature.
  • Clear exposition of the issue addressed and the approaches presented in the papers that were read.
  • Demonstrated understanding of the relationships between the approaches presented in papers, comparing and contrasting the approaches, not simply describing each paper separately.
  • Insightful discussion of the limitations of the approaches and the outstanding problems that still need to be addressed
  • Well written (spelling, grammar, clarity, structure) with appropriate referencing of the literature.

For "wrapper" courses with a final essay component, late submission of the final essay will limit your essay grade to an A, with the maximum grade further decreasing by one grade for every additional two days late. For example, an essay received five days late will be limited to a maximum grade of A-. Extensions due to exceptional circumstances may be negotiated on a case-by-case basis.


  • For questions about the content of your DIS, you should contact your supervisor (for real DISes) or the course coordinator/lecturer of the 300-level course (for "wrapper" courses).
  • You can contact the DIS coordinator (currently Dr Andrew Lensen for 2024) for general DIS queries, or issues that you cannot resolve with the supervisor or course coordinator.

-- Main.lensenandr - 14 Feb 2024