CMSC 601: Basic Research Skills
Spring 2010, MW 5:30-6:45, ACIV 011
Instructor: Charles Nicholas
Office: ITE 325G
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 the student's graduate studies. Lecture topics
will include research methodology, experimental design, career options, professional
ethics and academic integrity, and oral and written presentation techniques.
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), and creating
a personal website.
Other topics will include finding an advisor, time management skills, career options, internships and summer jobs, and teaching skills.
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. Undergraduate students are welcome, but should consult with the instructor before enrolling.
The schedule (which is subject to change) is available here.
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
Due to my relatively unpredicable schedule, I don't hold regular office hours. If you want to make an appointment to see me, please call or send email to Ms. Jane Gethmann, 410-455-2713 - Jane manages my appointment calendar. However, I maintain an open-door policy. If I am in my office when you stop by, I'll talk with you, or we'll set up a time when we can do so.
I make a serious effort to answer e-mail in a timely fashion.
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 tenured or tenure-track faculty
member in the CSEE 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 the professor).
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 summary (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 summary (10%)
- Proposal draft (20%)
- Paper draft (20%)
- Final paper (50%)
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 in the first week, 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
- Paper summaries for selected in-class reading assignments (20%)
- Library Exercise (5%)
- Reviews of two other students' literature surveys (10%)
- Research portfolio, including CV (10%)
- Professional website (10%)
- Data analysis mini-project (20%)
- Reviews of two other students' research paper drafts (10%)
- Written feedback on other students' presentations (15%)
Class Attendance and Participation
Students are expected to attend all classes and participate in class discussions.
Sttudents may also be required to present and lead a discussion
of one of the papers in their literature survey, and/or 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. These activities are worth 20% of your grade, distributed as follows:
The following are not graded, but are required of every student
in the class.
- Consistent class attendance (20%)
- Participation in class discussions ("question quota") (30%)
- Paper presentation (20%)
- Research proposal presentation (slides due one week prior to presentation)
- Outside reader comments
- Summary paragraphs of two meetings with department faculty
- Summary paragraphs of two talks attended during the semester
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. Exceptions to this policy will be granted
only in extraordinary circumstances.
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. 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, failing the class, or, in extreme or
repeated cases, dismissal from the program.
Links to Similar Classes and Other Resources
Some of these are regular 3-credit classes, others are less formal seminar series.
Thanks to the CMSC Graduate Committee and particularly to the committee
that developed the proposal for creating this course (Drs. Penny Rheingans
and Scott Cost). Thanks also to Susan Epstein (CUNY) and Tom
Dietterch (Oregon State University) for sharing their course
materials and ideas.
Special thanks to Marie desJardins for doing so much of the heavy lifting by
teaching this course for the first time in Spring 2004. If I use something in
this course and don't attribute it to somebody else, it's likely that I took it
from her first offering of this course! Web pages from previous course offerings should still be available.