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California State University Stanislaus

CS 4960 - 01: Seminar in Computer Science

Fall 2016

Monday 4:00 pm - 5:00 pm, DBH 101,  Dr. Megan Thomas

[Basic Information]        [Announcements]        [Calendar/Assignments]

Welcome to CS 4960, Seminar in Computer Science

Course Description:
Presentation and discussion of selected topics in computer science from current literature.

Course Objectives:

Announcements and Upcoming Events

9/15/2016 Thur, 9/22 and Tues 9/27, 3-4pm, ASI offering (free) workshops on giving good presentations (sign up ahead of time). Lakeside Conference Room. (here is more information
8/29/2016 Welcome to CS 4960!

Basic Information

Textbook: None.

Best way to contact Dr. Thomas:  Email  Please put "CS4960" in the subject line of every email. Email without the "CS4960" might be classified as spam by my email filters. (Remember to sign your emails (put your first and last name at the bottom)).

Or simply stop by office hours.

Class E-Mailing List: Students must register for the class mailing list. Here is the web site where students can register for the mailing list.

Prerequisite: Senior standing and consent of the instructor. (This course is for senior Computer Science majors.)

Warning: I reserve the right to make changes to the syllabus at any time during the term by announcing them in class and on my web page.

Course Requirements


Assuming you fulfill all the requirements listed above, I will base your grade on three components:
  1. your grade on your written report,
  2. your grade on your oral presentation, and
  3. your participation grade.
Each of the components above will get equal weight.

I'll grade your paper and oral presentation based on the thoroughness and depth with which you address your topic as well as the clarity, accuracy and style of your presentation. You'll get a grade between 0 and 100 for each.

The video-taping of your topic proposal and reflections thereon will be part of your oral presentation grade.

You'll get two participation credits for each time you attend a presentation and turn in an acceptable critique sheet. You'll get one participation credit for each time you attend a presentation and turn in an unacceptable critique sheet. I'll compute your number of satisfactory critiques as a percentage of two times the number of credits, and this percentage will be your participation grade. (If you show up late for a presentation and interrupt the speaker, you will receive a half-credit for that day.)

You will receive credit (a grade of "CR") for the course if
  1. you receive a a score of 60 or above in each of the three components, and
  2. your average over the three components is 70% or above.
Otherwise you will receive no credit ("NC").

(The above "course requirements" and "grading" are borrowed liberally from Dr. John Sarraille and Dr. Melanie Martin's CS 4960 course description, with permission.)

Academic Honesty

The work you do for this course will be your own, unless otherwise specified. You are not to submit other people's work and represent it as your own. I consider academic honesty to be at the core of the University's activities in education and research. Academic honesty is expected at all times in this course.


  1. "What if I show a video during my presentation?" : As long as copyright laws are properly obeyed (see me if you have a question about how to do that), fine by me. But I will turn off the stopwatch that is keeping track of the length of your talk while the video is playing. So 15 minutes of videos will not shorten your talk requirements by 15 minutes.
  2. "What am I supposed to look for / comment on when reading student papers?"

    This list is just to generate ideas. Feel free to use your own insight to help your fellow students improve their papers.

    1) Is the paper at least a promising length? (Less than 10 pages is worrisome.)
    2) Grammar and spelling? Any errors you can point out how to fix?
    3) Are unfamiliar technical terms defined soon after they are first used?
    4) Are citations provided for facts and quotations the author presents? *
    5) Are there at least a half-dozen "good" sources in the bibliography?
    6) Does the bibliography provide complete and well-formatted information on each and every source?
    7) Did the author answer all the "what you learned and think" questions from the course syllabus?
    8) Diagrams, graphs, charts -- clear captions, sources cited, readable labels?

    9) Do key ideas show up only as quotations, without further discussion? (bad) *
    10) Does the author clearly identify at least a few real-world uses, implications, and / or concerns about the topic they are discussing? In other words, is it clear why the topic is important?

    11) Is the paper organized well? Introduction, background / history / definitions section, topic-related sections, conclusion section?
    12) Are the technical topics well explained? Enough background provided for a CS major to understand them? Clear examples?
    13) Are the technical topics deeply technical enough? Would a history or business major understand? (bad - not technical enough)

    4* Citations should be provided for "new" facts, and for all quotations, but "everyday" facts do not necessarily require citations. For example, "bananas are yellow" or "CPU = central processing unit" do not require citations. "Google made $x profit in 2013" would require a citation.
    9* Quotations show that the author can insert quotations, but do not show understanding of the concepts in the quotation. Paper must discuss quotations to show that the author understands what the quotation means.

Research Topic and Public Speaking Information


[1] Significant articles are long. Two-page opinion pieces are not considered, for this purpose, significant.
[2] If a student wants to know if a particular publication is an equivalent publication, the student should ask the professor promptly.