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California State University Stanislaus
CS 4960 - 04: Seminar in Computer Science
Monday 4:00 pm - 4:50 pm, DBH 104, Dr. Megan Thomas
Welcome to CS 4960, Seminar in Computer Science
Presentation and discussion of
selected topics in computer science from current literature.
- To explore aspects of computer science beyond what you have
encountered in your previous course work,
- To benefit from similar research done by your fellow students,
- To present an important body of work in both written and oral
Announcements and Upcoming Events
Due to problems with Gmail, I recommend also uploading a "nice copy" of your final paper to the CS Homework web site.
Welcome to CS 4960!
Best way to contact Dr. Thomas:
Email firstname.lastname@example.org Please put "CS4960" in the subject
line of every email. Email without the "CS4960" might be classified as spam by my
(Remember to sign your emails (put your first and last name at the bottom)).
Or simply stop by office hours.
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, Assignments
Presentation and Paper Due Dates
- Accept a presentation date assigned by the instructor at the beginning of the semester. The final draft of your paper will be due exactly one week before your presentation.
- Choose a computer science topic to research and present to an
audience. The audience will include, but not be limited to, the other
members of the class.
- The topic must have significant scholarly, as
opposed to merely technological, content.
- The research must draw on multiple sources, and
embody concepts that may be expected to endure beyond any particular
- The topic must be selected from a significant
in the "Communications of the ACM" magazine
(or equivalent publication).
- Propose the topic to the instructor, in writing.
The proposal must specify multiple reliable sources (at least two)
from which you intend to draw. (One must be your chosen CACM article.) Include
full citations in bibliograpic form: for details about
the required form for citations see "Your List of References"
and "When You Make Direct Use of a Source" here.
Your proposal must also describe the nature of the scholarly content you
will include in your presentation.
- To pass the course, you must turn in a satisfactory
proposal. You must get the instructor's formal approval of the
proposal by working out an agreement with the instructor. Your
presentation must correspond to the agreed-upon proposal.
- If a student does not have a topic chosen,
proposed, and approved by the instructor by the campus Census Date,
the student will be instructor-withdrawn from the class.
- If a student does not even submit a formal proposal by the formal
proposal deadline, 10 points (out of 100) will be automatically deducted from the paper grade.
- Preliminary proposal: The preliminary proposal must
be made in person, during class time or professor office hours of the second
or third week of classes. (See class schedule.)
The student must bring a paper copy of the CACM article that will be
one of the sources, and will be asked to describe the intended topic and
- Final proposal: The final proposal must be submitted via email.
It must agree with the topic discussed during the preliminary topic proposal,
and identify at least two good sources, using a proper bibliographic format.
- Proposal video: Each student must make a five minute (or longer) presentation
of their topic proposal, and also must watch the video of their own proposal
and turn in a thoughtful,
reflective written response to it.
(Here is the form to fill out.)
- Two responses to each video presentation must be turned in,
one from the student making the presentation and one from another member of the class.
- Students may arrange with the professor to borrow a camera to
make the video.
(A modern smartphone may also have sufficient memory to create and store
a five minute video. If a student uses their own equipment, a copy of the
video must be submitted to the professor by bringing the video file on a thumb drive
to office hours. Do Not Email the video file.)
- Submit the video in a file format any operating system can read.
(Not a .WMV file.)
- The video presentation of the topic proposals will not be
uploaded to the WWW by the professor, and will be deleted after this
course requirement is satisfied.
What to Bring on Paper Draft Feedback Day
- Paper draft: Two hardcopies of at least two full pages of prose from your paper. Bring more, if it is available. We will pass the pages around for other students to read and suggest improvements.
- Paper outline: A good outline of your entire paper. (Here are sample paper outlines, to remind you what they look like.)
- Paper bibliography: Bibliography created so far, in proper bibliographic format. The professor will read and comment on this.
- At this meeting, we will pair up students so that everyone has someone else to watch and critique their topic proposal video.
- Create a balanced and unbiased written report on your topic.
Base it on a variety of solid sources, including the ones you listed in
your approved proposal. Synthesize and summarize the knowledge you
gained from the research. Infuse the exposition of the report with
freshness and originality. The audience for your report is upper division
college students in computer science. The report must tell what you
learned about the subject matter - what you think, feel, and wonder
about it. What interesting questions did your research answer? What
interesting questions remain unanswered?
The work each student does for this class, written and presented orally,
must be different from work written or presented for any other class.
- Meet with the professor one week before your written report is due.
Turn in a good draft (not a rough draft) of your paper 48 hours before the meeting.
(Bringing an outline of your talk ideas to the meeting is recommended but not required.)
Every section and subsection in the submitted paper draft should be complete and
every reference should have all information (date, publisher, authors, etc) completely
specified, without any abbreviations. (ACM and IEEE are acceptable abbreviations.
Spell everything else out.)
- Turn in your written report one week in advance of your
presentation date. Give a copy to the instructor and a copy to each
member of the class so that all members can review the information
before the talk. Reports must have one inch margins,
have numbered pages, and use a font of size 12 or greater. Your report
must include a reference page citing
your sources, at least six of which must be books, peer-reviewed
journal articles, or other sources approved by the professor.
Here is more information on proper citation of sources.
Students must also turn in their written report in to Turnitin.com, via a
link the instructor will create in Blackboard, one week in advance
of their presentation date. Student papers will not be graded until after they
are visible in Turnitin.com.
Finding "good sources": To find good sources of information, start with
the links at the bottom of this web page, or at the CSU Stanislaus library web site.
Do not start with a search of the entire WWW. A search of the entire web
is likely to lead you to untrustworthy information put out either by a) marketing
and advertising groups, or b) "predatory publishers".
- On your assigned date deliver a twenty to twenty-five minute oral presentation of
the content of your written report. (Seminar presentations will be
publicly announced and will be open to visitors who may wish to
- Important: The talk must be at least twenty minutes.
Nineteen minutes and 59 seconds will be an automatic NC.
- Additional information about the oral presentation and accompanying
slides will be given in class.
- Attend all the presentations of the other members of the class,
and react to them by asking questions and by writing a short critique
which will be collected and given to the presenter.
Assuming you fulfill all the requirements listed above, I will base
your grade on three components:
- your grade on your written report,
- your grade on your oral presentation, and
- 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 un
acceptable 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
- you receive a a score of 60 or above in each of the three
- 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.)
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.
- "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.
- "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 2016" 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, Writing and Public Speaking Information
- Finding good research papers
- Communications of the ACM
- Dr. Sarraille's list of links for CS 4960 students
- ACM Queue
- AAAI.org has a digital library of artificial intelligence (AI) papers.
- ACM Digital Library is one of the best
places to find reputable papers on computing research topics. On campus,
all the papers are downloadable.
If off-campus, you may need to access it via the CSUS Library web site and enter
your student password.
- Usenix, and the conferences organized by
Usenix, have a good reputation in the systems, networking and security areas.
If your topic fits somewhere in there, you might check their conferences for material.
- Citeseer is a scientific technical research paper search engine --
not a good place to look for ideas, but perhaps a place to find relevant papers
after you have selected your topic.
- IEEE Computer and
- Google Research -
papers published by researchers working for Google Research. (If you can find a similar
list of research papers by computer science researchers working for Microsoft Research
or a similar research organization, please let me know about it.)
- Writing-related advice
- Examples of paper outlines, courtesy of Austin Community College
- "Writing a Paper: Outlining", instructions on creating a good paper outline, courtesy of Walden University
- Public speaking advice
- IASTED's Presentation Tips
- J. Gallian's advice on public
speaking for technical speakers, and on PowerPoint slides
- The Gettysburg Powerpoint Presentation.
(Norvig comments entertainingly on how he made
the Gettysburg presentation and some responses to it
- E. Tufte makes a persuasive argument that PowerPoint impedes the flow
of information so much that it may have
contributed to the Columbia accident.
Significant articles are long. Two-page opinion
pieces are not considered, for this purpose, significant.
If a student wants to know if a particular publication
is an equivalent publication, the student should ask the professor promptly.