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Independent Work. Spring 2008 David Walker. What Is Independent Work?. Research Advanced development Some combination of the two Literature survey leading to research. Goal: Fun, Profit, Enrichment. Opportunity to learn something in detail More than you could do in a standard course

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Independent work l.jpg

Independent Work

Spring 2008

David Walker

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What Is Independent Work?

  • Research

  • Advanced development

  • Some combination of the two

  • Literature survey leading to research

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Goal: Fun, Profit, Enrichment

  • Opportunity to learn something in detail

    • More than you could do in a standard course

  • Differentiator

    • Grad schools

    • Jobs

    • Life

  • Fun

    • You get to do exactly what you want to!

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Key Points of this Talk

Everything you need to know is on the web:



    • just in case I’ve miscopied a date in this presentation, the definitive set of deadlines is up on the web

      But if you have questions, ask:

  • Donna O’Leary, [email protected], CS 410

  • David Walker, [email protected], CS 412

    And aside from logistics, the most important thing to do is find an advisor who you can work well with and a project you are excited to work on.

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General Outline (1 semester)

  • Find an advisor

  • Start working

    • 6-10 hours/week is an appropriate amount of time per week

    • work steadily

  • Give a 12 minute project proposal talk (+ 3 minutes for questions/changeover)

    • Oct 6-10

  • Write up a 1-page checkpoint report

    • Nov 7

  • 20-25 page Final Report

    • Jan 5

  • Poster Session

    • Jan 7, 2-4pm

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How To Have a Good 12 Weeks

  • Start as soon as possible

  • Take some time right now to shop around

    • Read project ideas

    • Read web pages

    • Talk to grad students you’ve had as TAs

    • Talk to faculty – Finding an advisor you want to work with is the key step

  • Come up with your own idea

    • Be clever, but not too clever

    • Do a decent sales pitch

    • But listen to your advisor’s advice

  • Don’t be afraid of change

    • Better to change course than dead end

    • Don’t change course too often

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How To Have a Bad 12 Weeks

  • Delay project selection until last minute

  • Ignore your advisor

    • you should try to meet once/week, even if it’s a brief meeting

  • Allow yourself to get stuck

    • talk to your advisor; don’t avoid them when you are stuck

  • Bluff your way through checkpoints

    • think hard about your plans

    • work hard & start early

  • Give incoherent presentations

    • prepare & practice

    • get feedback from your advisor & friends

    • give slides to your advisor in advance & ask for feedback

    • communication skills are the key to technical success

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How To Find a Project

  • Meet professors for lunch on Monday

    • 12-1:30pm

  • Browse the web:


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Proposal Presentations [Sign up Feb 16-20; Present March 3-6]

  • Logistics:

    • 12 minute talk; 3 minutes for questions/changeover

    • Attend full 1-hour session and give feedback to other students

  • Content Goals:

    • Describe the problem

      • explain why it is important, challenging and interesting

      • make me excited to hear more later

    • Explain how the research will be evaluated

    • Present a realistic plan for the semester

      • point out possible stumbling points – what is your contingency plan if research does not go as you hoped?

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Proposal Presentations

  • Presentation Goals:

    • Clearly communicate the key points

      • Be sure your talk is well-structured

      • Pretend you are talking to a goup of CS seniors who have not taken a course in the area of research you are pursuing

      • Don’t use uncommon jargon or terms without defining them

      • Use screen real estate effectively

      • Pictures, charts and graphs are your friends

    • Be conscious of your presentation style

      • Speak clearly

      • Make eye contact

      • Show energy and enthusiasm in your voice

      • Assess your audience’s level of comprehension

      • Practice in advance and in front of friends and your advisor

      • Heed feedback

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Proposal Presentations

  • Audience Goals:

    • Listen to the content and note both good and bad presentation elements

      • both for your benefit and the speaker’s benefit

    • Give feedback notes to your fellow students:

      • summarize the most important points of the talk

      • what could improve

      • what is already good

    • For proposals, each student will attend the talks give in the same hour as their talk

  • Grades:

    • Formal grades won’t be given to the presentation itself

    • However, presentation quality & amount of progress will be a component when assigning an overall grade at the end of the semester.

      • eg: when deciding between an A- and B+, we’ll think about presentation quality

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Checkpoints [March 27]

  • approximately a 1 page document

    • describe the accomplishments made so far

      • note tasks partially or completely completed

      • note papers read, experiments conducted, code completed

      • illustrate your understanding of the topic

    • give a plan for the rest of the semester

      • note deadlines for completing other tasks

  • meet with your advisor, have them read your checkpoint document and sign the checkpoint form

    • You must return the form to Donna O’Leary (CS 410) by the checkpoint deadline

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Poster Session [May 6, 2-4pm]

  • Create a display for a 4-by-4 bulletin board

    • poster, collection of slides, etc.

    • plus optional software demo

  • Content

    • background – explain the problem & motivation

    • what have you learned?

    • what experiments have you performed?

    • what have you proven?

    • what algorithms have you defined?

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Final Report [May 4]

  • Final report is 20-25 pages

    • do not go “much” over 25 pages

    • you may have an appendix that contains auxiliary materials such as code that spills over 25 pages

    • Thesis Reports: approximately twice as long (40-50 pages)

  • Content and writing are both important

  • Visuals such as graphs, diagrams, pictures, etc can be effective communication mechanisms

  • See website for turn-in instructions & specifics about fonts and such (which aren’t that important, but be reasonable...)

  • A printed copy needs to be submitted to Donna by the deadline

    • 2 unbound copies for a thesis

  • Give your advisor a copy (either e-mail or hard copy as they prefer)

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  • Grades will depend upon:

    • the creativity and originality of student ideas

    • the content, amount of work accomplished to date, clarity and polish of presentations

    • the content, eloquence, organization and clarity of writing

    • the majority of the grade will depend upon the final report

    • however, poor presentations and missing checkpoints will also have an impact

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Summary: Most important things

  • Find an adviser and project as soon as possible

    • lunch on monday 12-1:30 may help

    • feel free to email them

    • check out the independent work projects page

  • Go to the course web site and read the course web pages – make a note of all deadlines

  • Meet with your advisor often (once per week is a basic requirement) and talk to them as soon as you get stuck – do not procrastinate

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A good project is a lot of work

... but it could be more fun than any other course you’ll take.