Undergraduate Reading and Research

Instructor Dr. Bill Young
Office MAIN 2012
Office Hours By appointment
Office Phone 471-9782; Email byoung@cs.utexas.edu

Course Overview

CS 370 is a research-oriented independent study class. Different professors conduct this class differently. This page lays out expectations for someone who is taking this class under my supervision. Do not take this course expecting a "blow off" course with minimal requirements. I expect that your level of effort will be commensurate with that in other advanced undergraduate-level courses, with the exception that you will not be attending class. The course requires self-discipline.

The intent of the course is that you undertake an independent study of some interesting or challenging research area in computer science, preferably one related to my own research interests of computer security, automated reasoning, and contemporary issues in computing. If the topic you choose is too far outside my area of expertise, I may suggest that you consider taking the course with another supervising professor.

You will be required to research your topic of choice and write several papers on selected aspects of it. Typically 5 papers of around 5-10 pages each will be required, demonstrating your mastery of the topic. If you are taking the course as a writing-intensive class, your writing will be scrutinized more carefully than otherwise, but all submissions are expected to be well-researched, well-written, and thoroughly documented. If you feel that this is an excessive work load, perhaps you are not ready for research and should not take the course.

Note: for this course, your research is not required to be novel or publishable. An acceptable project might be to survey the existing work on a specific research problem in some area of computer science, explaining the importance and history of the problem, and comparing and contrasting attempts to solve it. Obviously, I'd be delighted if you can solve open problems or write publishable research papers during the course of the semester, but that's too much to ask in an undergraduate course of this nature.

It may happen that your proposed semester project is not one that fits well within the framework of written research papers. For example, you might propose the design or implementation of a computing system for which primary effort is in programming rather than writing of research reports. If I approve such a project, it will be evaluated according to appropriate criteria that we agree to in advance. Your proposal should reflect the special nature of your project and propose appropriate benchmarks.

Signing up for the Class

Before signing up, you are required to confer with me about the expectations and requirements of the course and obtain my permission to register. I will need to sign your registration form during the first week of the semester. Typically, I will accept no more than three students per semester.

It would be best if you come to our initial interview with an idea of a research topic you would like to pursue. It does not work well for you to arrive expecting me to assign you a topic. You will be more interested and motivated by a topic of your own choosing. I will work with you to refine and refocus your topic if needed.


The first "deliverable" of the course is a short proposal (2-3 pages) describing your topic and laying out the work you propose to perform over the course of the semester. Choosing your topic area is the most important aspect. It should be narrow enough to be interesting, but broad enough to support a full semester's investigation. You are required to have a single research focus for the semester; it is not acceptable to have several unrelated areas to investigate. Your proposal should also list the papers you plan to submit, and the dates you expect to submit them. Generally, it must demonstrate that you have an adequate plan for a semester's research project, and a grasp of the scope of the semester's work. Your proposal is due approximately two weeks after the start of the semester.

Note: the proposal is not a contract that will be rigidly enforced. If you find later in the semester that your interests have changed or that you have misjudged the topic, you may be allowed to change your schedule of work. However, you are strongly encouraged to put enough work into your proposal that you have some confidence that your proposed project is doable and will sustain your interest throughout the semester.

The other "deliverables" are 5 or so papers of some 5-10 pages each on the topics you have proposed. Papers are due at approximately two week intervals. Formatting information will be provided. Do not use formatting tricks (such as wide spacing or large fonts) to pad your papers. Any topic on which you have trouble filling 5 pages isn't an adequate topic. Longer papers may substitute for several shorter ones. Expect to write from 30-50 pages over the course of the semester.


This is an independent study class. I am generally quite accessible and will be happy to spend as much (or as little) time with you as needed. My only requirement is that you check in with me each week and provide evidence that you are making progress on your research project. This can be a 5 minute meeting in my office, or a written summary of your progress. Recall that I am always happy to spend more time with you and address any issues you are having on an as-needed basis.

Grading policies

You will be judged on your fulfillment of your proposed research plan. In past semesters, CS370 students have sometimes disappeared for most of the semester and dropped 5 papers on my desk the final week. That will not be tolerated this semester. You are required to show adequate progress throughout the semester by turning in papers at appropriate intervals and making weekly progress reports. This is for your benefit, not mine. If you let the work slide, it will put an undue burden on you later in the semester and practically guarantee that you don't derive as much benefit as you might from your project.

If you have some special circumstances or personal emergency that requires an adjustment to your proposed schedule, please let me know. I am generally quite sympathetic to well-justified changes. I am much less sympathetic to students who disappear for weeks at a time with no explanation.

Scholastic Dishonesty

Academic dishonesty will not be tolerated. See www.cs.utexas.edu/users/ear/CodeOfConduct.html for an excellent summary of expectations of a student in a CS class. All work must be the student's own effort. Plagiarism is a problem in courses of this sort; it will not be tolerated. If you can find it on the Internet, so can I, and I will make every effort to detect plagiarism in your papers.

No deviation from the standards of scholastic honesty or professional integrity will be tolerated. If you have any questions regarding plagiarism or standards of scholastic honesty, please see me about them. Scholastic dishonesty is a serious violation of UT policy; and will likely result in an automatic F in the course and may involve further disciplinary action at the college or university level.

Writing Resources

Some or all of the following may be useful with your writing.

CS 234: Technical Writing

Substantial Writing Component (SWC) Courses

UT Academic Integrity from the Office of the Dean of Students

Plagiarism This section includes examples of the proper use of quotations, citations and references to avoid plagiarism.

UT Copyright Policy

UT Undergraduate Writing Center

Writer's Handbook - U Wisconsin

Chicago Style Guide: Citations