CS390 Spring, 2003

Pre-proposal Assignment

Overview – The main goal of this class has been to get you thinking early about your senior thesis.  I've tried to bring in speakers not only from within CS (since you presumably know many of the CS faculty through your coursework) but also from outside the department.  There are of course many more potential advisors and potential topics than this class has covered.  

The preproposal will make this process concrete.  You will turn in a one page description of a research project that you would consider pursuing for your senior thesis.  You are in no way committed to this project, of course; this is simply to make you think seriously about what you will do next year.

Here's the catch: I have found that in practice the hardest part about finding a topic for many students is approaching a faculty member about the possibility of working with them.  Knocking on somebody's door, or sending e-mail asking for a meeting, can be very intimidating for some students.  Unfortunately, you will eventually have to approach somebody; postponing the talk until next fall only makes it much worse.  So the real point of this assignment is to make you talk to a potential advisor about potential projects.  

Honor pledge: At the top of your preproposal, you will include the following pledge: Upon my honor, I spoke to <name of a potential thesis advisor> on <date> about the following project.  

It should go without saying that falsifying this information is an honor code violation.  The faculty member you speak to doesn't have to agree to supervise you, or to supervise the project.  All I really care about is that you make a good-faith effort to talk over potential projects with a potential advisor.  Along those lines, note that "meeting" with a faculty member over the phone or over e-mail is satisfactory only if you have first made a good-faith effort to schedule a face-to-face meeting.  Feel free to ask if you have any questions about the intent of this assignment or the policy behind the above pledge.

It should also go without saying that you should do your own work: don't copy from another student, don't rewrite or blindly paraphrase a researcher's web page.

Assignment Your assignment is to write a one-page overview of a possible senior thesis project.  You should describe the research problem and what (in general terms) you will do to solve it.  In terms of formatting, please use 1-inch margins, 10-pt or larger Times Roman, Times New Roman, or Computer Modern font, and single-spacing.  This assignment is the principal component of your grade (and almost the only thing you have been asked to do for this class), so take it seriously and do a good job.  If it is obvious to me that you have not put any thought into your senior thesis project, or any effort into writing it up, your grade will reflect that.

Remember that clarity is important, too—part of your grade will be based on how well-written your document is. In the real world, nobody will listen to your ideas if you cannot communicate them effectively. And please do not forget to spell-check.

If you absolutely need more than one page, go ahead and use it, but the absolute maximum length is two pages.  In this case please print the preproposal front-and-back of the same page.

If you have long ago found an advisor and already have a good start on a topic, great!  Write it up and have your advisor look it over -- this is a good opportunity for a "sanity check" to make sure your expectations match your advisors.  Use the date on which your advisor reviewed your preproposal for the pledge.

Advice: Don't wait until the last minute to contact faculty!  Their schedules are busy and they have no obligation to meet with you.  In fact, they are unlikely to agree to meet with you if they have already met with several potential students.  It may take several tries before you find a potential advisor.

It’s Due When?April 21 at our final class meeting

In What Form? – Hand it in as a hard copy at the beginning of class.  Note: Your submitted document should clearly and unambiguously identify who you are!