CS 3950 Introduction to Computer Science Research


This is a preliminary syllabus. The precise format of the class is subject to change prior to the class starting.

General Information

Professor:David Choffnes
Instructor Office Hours:TBD
Location: 613 ISEC
Teaching Assistants:TBD
TA Email:TBD
TA Office Hours:TBD
Class Forum:TBD

Course Description

Provides students with an introduction to research in the fields of computer science, information science, data science, and cybersecurity. Explores how the scientific method is applied to these fields, covers the breadth of sub-areas of speciality that exist, and gives students practice on how to locate and read scientific literature in different sub-areas. Also provides students with an overview of graduate education in these fields.
The class will once per week for a 100-minute session.

Goals and Format

By the end of this course, I expect you to:

As this course is closest to a seminar course, the structure will consist of three components:
Lectures on Basics of Research The first few weeks will consist of lectures and discussions on the basics of computer science, research, and graduate studies. There will weekly assignments consisting of homework and background reading.
Reading and Discussing Papers The middle few weeks of the course will consist of reading and discussing papers from different areas of computer science. The focus will be on different styles of research, and how the results are presented.
Paper presentations The final few weeks of the class will consist of student presentations of research papers in groups. Each group will be expected to make 10 minutes presentations on papers of their choice, followed by leading a 10–15 minute discussion of the paper.


The official prerequisite for this course is CS 2510, or permission of the instructor. You will only need a basic knowledge of programming to take this course. This course will be largely discussion-based, and you will be expected to actively participate in class.

Class Forum

The class forum is on Piazza. Why Piazza? Because they have a nice web interface, as well as iPhone and Android apps. Piazza is the best place to ask questions about projects, programming, debugging issues, exams, etc. To keep things organized, please tag all posts with the appropriate hashtags, e.g. #lecture1, #project3, etc. I will also use Piazza to broadcast announcements to the class. Bottom line: unless you have a private problem, post to Piazza before writing me/the TA an email.

Schedule, Lecture Slides, and Assigned Readings



There is no textbook for this course.

Papers readings and discussions

Leading the discussion involves two tasks. First, you will make an approximately 10 minute presentation that describes the motivation, goals, and results of the paper. Second, after this presentation and for the remainder of the allocated time slot, you will lead the discussion on the paper. It is you just to ensure a lively atmosphere for discussion, while being careful to stay on the topic of the paper. I will let students sign up to lead the discussion for the papers they choose.

If you are an audience member, you are expected to have read the paper and to participate in the discussion. This is a seminar course, meaning that the point of the course is to have a discussion. Not participating in this part of the course is not an option. The list of the papers will be available on the course website.


This course will have weekly homework assignments reviewing concepts in class. Homework assignments are to be done by each student individually. The homework assignments will be graded and handed back to you within a week.
Homework assignments are due at the beginning of lecture on the specified date. No slip days may be used on the homeworks. Homeworks will be marked 20 points off per day that they are late, up to 2 days.


There are no exams in this course.


I do not require students to attend class, and I won't be taking attendance. If you need to miss class for any reason, you don't need to tell me beforehand. However, that said, 5% of your final grade is based on your participation in class (i.e. asking questions) and on Piazza, so it behooves you to attend and speak up.


The breakdown of the grades in this course is:

Each homework will include a breakdown and description of how it will be graded.

Any requests for grade changes or regrading must be made within 7 days of when the work was returned. To ask for a regrade, attach to your work a page that specifies (a) the problem or problems you want to be regraded, and (b) for each of these problems, why do you think the problem was misgraded.

To calculate final grades, I simply sum up the points obtained by each student (the points will sum up to some number x out of 100) and then use the following scale to determine the letter grade: [0-60] F, [60-62] D-, [63-66] D, [67-69] D+, [70-72] C-, [73-76] C, [77-79] C+, [80-82] B-, [83-86] B, [87-89] B+, [90-92] A-, [93-100] A. I do not curve the grades in any way. All fractions will be rounded up.

Cheating Policy

It's ok to ask your peers about the concepts, algorithms, or approaches needed to do the assignments. We encourage you to do so; both giving and taking advice will help you to learn. However, what you turn in must be your own, or for projects, your group's own work. Looking at or copying code or homework solutions from other people or the Web is strictly prohibited. In particular, looking at other solutions (e.g., from other groups or prior CS 3700 students) is a direct violation. Projects must be entirely the work of the students turning them in, i.e. you and your group members. If you have any questions about using a particular resource, ask the course staff or post a question to the class forum.

All students are subject to the Northeastern University's Academic Integrity Policy. Per CCIS policy, all cases of suspected plagiarism or other academic dishonesty must be referred to the Office of Student Conduct and Conflict Resolution (OSCCR). This may result is deferred suspension, suspension, or expulsion from the university.

Accomodations for Students with Disabilities

If you have a disability-related need for reasonable academic accommodations in this course and have not yet met with a Disability Specialist, please visit www.northeastern.edu/drc and follow the outlined procedure to request services. If the Disability Resource Center has formally approved you for an academic accommodation in this class, please present the instructor with your "Professor Notification Letter" at your earliest convenience, so that we can address your specific needs as early as possible.

Title IX

Title IX makes it clear that violence and harassment based on sex and gender are Civil Rights offenses subject to the same kinds of accountability and the same kinds of support applied to offenses against other protected categories such as race, national origin, etc. If you or someone you know has been harassed or assaulted, you can find the appropriate resources here.