CMSC-443: Project (spring 1999)

Read and follow the Alan Sherman's "Some advice on writing technical reports."


The purposes of the project are: (1) to give you the opportunity to explore a topic of your choice in depth, (2) to encourage you to be creative and original, and (3) to help you learn how to do research and to communicate your findings in the form of a a computer science technical report.


An informal written proposal is due 3/15. The final report is due at the beginning of the last lecture. Late work will be penalized by one letter grade for each day of lateness.


State what you plan to do, why you would like to do so, and how you plan to accomplish your task. State a focused thesis (topic + attitude) in the form of a well-defined question.

Content Requirements

You must try to solve a well-defined, focused, novel, significant problem relating to the course. Within this constraint, you are welcome to do whatever you like. Your project should clearly state and answer some interesting question.

Your project must be original. Surveys are not acceptable. Reviews are discouraged unless they contain significant original critical content.

You are welcome to, encouraged to, but not required to use computational tools in your work.

It is acceptable if you are unable to solve your original problem. In this case, document your findings and partial work, and try to solve a simple special case of your problem.

Most successful work is highly focused.

Pick a thesis that interests you greatly. Be sure you have a thesis (topic + attitude) and not just a topic. A good place to start is to read selected research papers from a conference that interests you (e.g. Crypto 98, ACM Conference on Computer and Communications Security, Fast Software Encryption, USENIX, IEEE [Oakland] Conference on Privacy and Security).

Some generic suggestions include: (1) automatic cryptanalysis of some hand cipher, (2) application of cryptography to some modern focused problem (e.g. micropayments in electronic commerce), (3) extension of a research paper, (4) creation of a learning module for this course, and (5) analysis of a submission for the AES.

Format Requirements

You must communicate your findings in the form of a written technical report.

There is no page limit. I suggest about 10 pages. Less than five leaves little room to develop an idea, and I don't want to read much more than 10 pages unless the report is extremely good. The length should be appropriate for what you have to say.

Be sure your report is complete in document and includes an informative abstract. See my guidelines for writing a technical report.

Hand in your report on plain white 8.5 x 11 inch paper with no covers and with one staple in the upper left corner. If you include any appendices, do not staple them to the body of the report; hand them in separately.

If you do any computer work, please hand in a documented listing of all source code you wrote as an appendix.

Evaluation Criteria

The project will be evaluated based on the scientific merit (correctness, significance, non-triviality, novelty, completeness), effective presentation (clarity, organization, English usage, document completeness), and appropriateness of the written technical report to the assignment.