CMSC 601: Research Skills for Computer Scientists
Students will learn basic skills that are essential to becoming a successful
researcher. The objective of the course is to teach research skills in a
systematic fashion, early in a student's graduate program. Lecture topics
will include research methodology, experimental design, career options, professional
ethics and academic integrity, and oral and written presentation techniques.
CMSC faculty members and senior graduate students will give short invited presentations on their own research.
The core of the course will be a structured, supervised "mini-research
project" on a topic of the student's choice. Students will be required to
perform a literature survey on their topic, construct a research proposal
that includes an experimental design, and write a paper summary in the style
of a formal scientific paper. Incremental deliverables will provide structure
and feedback over the course of the semester. Each student will be required
to find an outside reader for their literature survey and final paper. Additional
assignments will include participating in class discussions, giving in-class
presentations, preparing a research portfolio (including a CV), creating
a personal website, and preparing a poster for presentation at the CSEE Research Day in early May.
Other topics will include:
This course is open to all CMSC graduate students, and counts as an elective
towards the M.S. or Ph.D. degree. First-year Ph.D. students
and M.S. students who intend to complete a master's thesis are particularly
encouraged to take the class. CMPE graduate students may also be able
to count the course as an elective towards the M.S. or Ph.D., but should
confirm with the CMPE Graduate Program Director.
- Finding an advisor
- Time management skills
- Career options, internships, and summer jobs
- Teaching skills
When and Where
Monday/Wednesday, 1:00-2:15, in ITE 237 (ROOM CHANGE).
The schedule (which is subject to change) is available here.
All handouts and assignments will also be linked from the
All students are expected to participate in classroom discussions, both
by asking questions and by expressing opinions.
In return, I will make myself available to answer questions, listen to
concerns, and talk to any student about topics related to the class (or
not). I welcome your feedback throughout the semester about how the course
In addition to regular office hours, I maintain an open-door policy: you
should feel to stop by to ask questions, or just say hello, whenever my
door is open (which it generally will be unless I am out of the office,
in a meeting, or deep in thought). (I'm not that great at remembering names,
so please don't be offended if I ask you several times to re-introduce yourself!)
I will also make a concerted effort to answer e-mail in a timely fashion
(generally within 24 hours on weekdays, and on Monday for messages sent
over the weekend).
Course grades will be based on the following work.
|Class attendance and participation
Students are expected to submit all assignments, regardless of the
weight allocated to that assignment. Failure to submit assigned work may
result in additional penalties, including one or more reductions in your letter
grade. Students must find an outside reader for the literature survey
and research paper. (Preferably this reader will be a tenure-track faculty
member in the CS&EE department--ideally your research advisor or potential
research advisor. If you wish to use someone else as your outside reader,
you must obtain permission from Dr. desJardins).
The first part of your supervised research in this class will consist of
a literature survey on a topic of your choice. The literature survey constitutes
25% of your overall grade, and consists of the following assignments:
- Topic paragraph (10%)
- Annotated bibliography (20%)
- Literature survey outline (10%)
- Literature survey draft (10%)
- Final literature survey (50%)
Building on the literature survey, in the second half of the semester,
each student will develop a research proposal on an open problem in their
chosen area, and will write a technical paper summarizing related work and
outlining their proposed research. The research paper constitutes 30% of
your grade, and consists of the following assignments:
- Research problem statement (10%)
- Paper draft (15%)
- Final paper (75%)
A number of written exercises will be assigned over the course of the semester,
and are worth 25% of your grade. The approximate weight distribution for
these assignments is as follows.
For the first item, students must turn in paper summaries for the two
papers discussed in class on February 8, plus paper summaries on
your choice of any three of the papers presented by students in class
(not to include your own presentation).
All summaries are due in class the day that the paper is
- Library exercise (5%)
- Paper summaries for selected in-class reading assignments (40%)
- Reviews of two other students' literature surveys (15%)
- Professional website (10%)
- Reviews of two other students' research paper drafts (15%)
- Written feedback on other students' presentations (15%)
Class Attendance and Participation
Students are expected to attend all classes and participate in class discussions.
Each student will also be required to present and lead a discussion
of one of the papers in their literature survey, and to give an in-class
presentation on their research proposal. Finally, students are expected to
demonstrate professional participation in the research community of the department
by soliciting an outside reader for their literature survey/research proposal,
by meeting with faculty members to discuss research, and by attending technical
talks, and by presenting your research project for this class
at the CSEE Research Day in May.
These activities are worth 20% of your grade, distributed as follows:
- Consistent class attendance (20%)
- Participation in class discussions ("question quota") (20%)
- Paper presentation (20%)
- In-class research presentation (including draft slides submitted
48 hours prior to your presentation) (20%)
- Poster presentation at CSEE Research Day (including draft poster) (20%)
Homeworks will be due at the beginning of class on the due date.
Any assignments not due on a class day will be due at midnight on the due
date. Assignments that are to be reviewed by other students (i.e., the literature
survey draft and paper draft) must be turned in on time and will receive
a zero if turned in late. For the other assignments, a penalty
for late assignments will be applied, as follows:
Extensions of up to a week may be granted for circumstances
such as conference travel or significant workload from other
classes or TA/RA duties. Such extensions will only be
granted if made at least a week in advance, and repeated
requests for extensions will be denied, so manage your time
wisely and plan ahead. Late penalties will be waived
"after the fact" only for
students who have a serious medical situation or significant
personal circumstance. Please provide documentation of such
situations so that I am able to be fair and consistent.
- 25% penalty: assignments submitted less than 24 hours late
- 50% penalty: assignments submitted 24-48 hours late
- 75% penalty: assignments submitted 48-72 hours late
By enrolling in this course, each student assumes the responsibilities
of an active participant in UMBC's scholarly community, in which everyone's
academic work and behavior are held to the highest standards of honesty.
Cheating, fabrication, plagiarism, and helping others to commit these acts
are all forms of academic dishonesty, and they are wrong. Academic misconduct
could result in disciplinary action that may include, but is not limited
to, suspension or dismissal. To read the full Student Academic Conduct
Policy, consult the UMBC Student Handbook, the Faculty Handbook, or the UMBC
Policies section of the UMBC Directory. [Statement adopted by UMBC's Undergraduate
Council and Provost's Office.]
Cheating in any form will not be tolerated. In particular, plagiarism of
any published work, another student's work, or your own previously published
or submitted work without proper attribution will not be tolerated. These
penalties apply to everything you submit for the class, including
paper summaries and draft papers. We will
be discussing plagiarism, summarization, and proper citation techniques
in the class. If you have any questions about what is acceptable, please
bring them to me before submitting your work. The
minimum penalty for a violation of the academic honesty
policy is a zero on the assignment. Other penalties may include a
letter grade reduction, a failing grade in the class, or, in extreme or
repeated cases, dismissal from the program.
A mailing list has been created for the class. You will need
to subscribe to the list by visiting lists.umbc.edu, logging in
using your myumbc account, searching for "cmsc601", and clicking
"Subscribe." All students will be responsible for information
posted to the list.
All handouts and web links will be posted to the schedule page
(see link above).