The anticipated output from a three-credit MS in MSE project (MSE 451) is some fairly substantial set of information, software, code, design or other problem addressing (solving) activity that is presented coherently and has potential useful application. For a Ph.D there is need to establish 'proof of original thought.' In the case of an MS this is not required; an MS project can report the unsuccessful pursuit of a hypothesis. [Even this though could have value as an example for possible use in future classes, etc.]
A three-credit MS project presents less output, and often less rigor, than the six-credit thesis. There are also filing and administrative differences. The thesis 'report' is microfiched and enters the public domain; a three-credit project report may be proprietary, in which case only the top sheet is retained, and this only in the Center archives, not the University archives. In terms of volume, effort, etc., a reasonable measure is the goal of assembling a mass of sufficiently robust evidence, data or information that when condensed and 'netted out' could comprise a decent publication for presentation at a regular engineering, or other conference and be accepted for publication in the proceedings. Conference papers are often restricted to six pages, and seldom exceed ten, using single spaced 12 point font, etc.
A six page conference paper, or a slightly lengthier article in a trade magazine, or even a journal will call for the development of perhaps 60-80 pages of preparatory materials. These will comprise the project report to be graded, and should be assembled, edited and augmented as result of regular reviews and interchanges with a faculty advisor.
Typically a report will comprise (not necessarily written in the sequence of presentation) sign-off sheet, a title page, abstract, list of contents, acknowledgements, introduction (this gives an overview of the work to be accomplished, places it in context, and forecasts the utility, for example). This should be followed by, or even include, a review of previous work in the field and present state-of-the-art. Moving from this composite of the 'as-is' condition, then depending upon the nature of the topic, it may be appropriate to review possible aims and objectives with a breakdown of the approach to be adopted, or attempted, for the proposed research work. Logically the next section would describe some experimental design, some postulates, assumptions, details of proposed tests, further research, etc. Following upon this would be sequences of results, data, charts, discoveries and then assessment of the meaning, interpretation, etc. Discussion could be embedded here also drawing upon points made in the first two sections. Further discussion could build on this suggesting impediments, disadvantages, needs and suggestions for further work, and ideal revised objectives for some future researcher.
Finally, sum up with lessons learned, recommendations (if not already dealt with), conclusions - what was discovered, what was successful, what was wrong, what was right, etc. The whole closes with a list of references, preferably dealt with in the format of journals accepted in the field of study. Superscripted numbers are recommended at the appropriate points in the text where work is mentioned, or where the reference complements the idea presented, etc. In general, in the project report, more references are better than fewer, and the references should be such as to be traceable by an 'average' or typical engineering investigator, or another student. Some web references are acceptable, but hardcopy regular library resources, trade magazines, journals etc. are much preferred. Many web references disappear with time!
The project report should be written so as to be understandable to any student, or faculty member associated with the MSE program. Acronyms must be explained at point of first use, all technical terms unique to the field must be described in a glossary, or wherever first encountered. It is preferable that proprietary information be held separately and placed in addenda, and efforts made to have the main body of text written so as to be generic - output, throughput, etc. may be dealt with algebraically, etc. Although this is only for purposes of easing the transition and reduction to a potentially publishable paper format.
This covers most aspects. The work and effort content can be viewed as equivalent to a three-credit course, but, of course, this is self-driven, self-managed and is thus more intangible. You should realize that the final finishing up stages ALWAYS take appreciably longer than one ever expects, thus aiming to finish early provides a valuable buffer.
Due dates - agree on a schedule with your advisor and strive to stick to it. It is possible to carry an INCOMPLETE until the semester in which you plan to graduate - by then it must be completed!