CS2001: Research Topics in Computer Science, Fall 2021

Location: Sennott Square 5317
Class time: Monday and Wednesday, 1pm-2:15pm
Instructor: Adriana Kovashka (email: kovashka AT cs DOT pitt DOT edu; use "CS2001" at the beginning of the subject line)
Instructor's office hours: Monday and Wednesday, 9am-10:55am


Course description: The first part of this graduate courses introduces students to the principles of conducting research in computer science, including tips on reading and reviewing papers, developing and debating ideas, conducting research, research integrity, and writing and presenting one's work. The second part of the course introduces the students to the research being conducted in the computer science department. Active, state-of-the-art research topics will be covered.

Prerequisites: None, but note course only counts for the PhD program

Canvas: We will use it for assignment turn-in and announcements.




Grading will be based on the following components:

Collaboration Policy and Academic Honesty

You will do your work individually, unless otherwise stated. The work you turn in must be your own work. You are allowed to discuss the assignments with your classmates, but do not look at their written answers. Do not copy any text from the web or others' work. When in doubt about what you can or cannot use, ask the instructor! A first offense will cause you to get 0% credit on the assignment. A report will be filed with the school. A second offense will cause you to fail the class and receive disciplinary penalty. Please consult SCI's Academic Integrity Country and Pitt's Academic Integrity Guidelines.

Note on Disabilities

If you have a disability for which you are or may be requesting an accommodation, you are encouraged to contact both your instructor and Disability Resources and Services (DRS), 140 William Pitt Union, (412) 648-7890, drsrecep@pitt.edu, (412) 228-5347 for P3 ASL users, as early as possible in the term. DRS will verify your disability and determine reasonable accommodations for this course.

Note on Medical Conditions

If you have a medical condition which will prevent you from doing a certain assignment, you must inform the instructor of this before the deadline. You must then submit documentation of your condition within a week of the assignment deadline.

Statement on Classroom Recording

To ensure the free and open discussion of ideas, students may not record classroom lectures, discussion and/or activities without the advance written permission of the instructor, and any such recording properly approved in advance can be used solely for the student's own private use.



Date Chapter Topic Readings Slides Due
8/30 Introduction Intros, course structure, PhD at Pitt pptx pdf
9/1 Conferences, communication, resources
9/6 No class (Labor Day)
9/8 Acquiring knowledge Reading papers (lecture) pptx pdf
9/13 Reading papers (activities)
9/15 Reviewing papers (lecture) pptx pdf
9/20 Reviewing papers (activities) debate
9/22 Pitching and conducting Pitching ideas (lecture) pptx pdf
9/27 Pitching ideas (activities) idea
9/29 Conducting research (lecture) pptx pdf
10/4 Conducting research (tools demo)
10/6 Writing and presenting Writing up your work (lecture) pptx pdf
10/11 Writing (activities) lit. review
10/13 Presenting your work (lecture) pptx pdf
10/18 Faculty talks and mini-project Faculty talk: Kirk Pruhs Moseley et al.
10/20 Faculty talk: Seong Jae Hwang Zhao et al.
10/25 Faculty talk: Diane Litman Litman
10/27 Mid-semester project reports project
11/1 Faculty talk: Erin Walker Lubold et al
11/3 Faculty talk: Shikuo Chang Chang (review as a paper)
11/8 Faculty talk: Xulong Tang Xu et al
11/10 Faculty talk: Jacob Biehl Biehl et al
11/15 Faculty talk: Milos Hauskrecht
11/17 Faculty talks: Panos Chrysanthis, Amy Babay Anastasiou et al,
Khan and Babay
11/22 No class (Thanksgiving)
11/24 No class (Thanksgiving)
11/29 Faculty talk: Stephen Lee Chathoth et al.
12/1 Faculty talks: Youtao Zhang, Xiaowei Jia Willard et al.
12/6 Mini-project presentations Presentations 1 project
12/8 Presentations 2
12/13 Presentations 3
12/15 Faculty talk: Adam Lee, presentation feedback Djoko et al.



List of Assignments

  1. Research topics to investigate: During the "Reading papers" lecture, you will be asked to do searches about a topic or a set of topics that interest you (e.g. on Google Scholar), to read papers and conduct literature reviews. Thus, be prepared to identify a few topics to use during class.

  2. Reading iconic papers: During the "Reading papers" and "Reviewing papers" lectures, you will be asked to do a review and comparison of papers from the below list from at least two areas. Please read five papers of your choice carefully, and skim the rest, in order to be prepared to participate in the discussions.
    1. Systems, architecture:
    2. Security and privacy, theory:
    3. Databases, information retrieval, human-computer interaction:
    4. Natural language processing:
    5. Computer vision:

  3. Proponent/opponent discussion: You will pick a partner and a paper (from the iconic list) for the two of you to read carefully. One of you will be the proponent, and the other the opponent of the paper. Choose your roles but do not communicate further, until class. Prepare a list of strengths (for the proponent) and weaknesses (for the opponent). This may require further reading, e.g. looking at what papers cite the ones you chose. During class, the two of you will debate, and the class will choose a winner.

  4. Ideas to pitch for hypothetical project: During the "Pitching ideas" lecture, you will be asked to present an idea for a potential project you want to conduct, and defend the merits of this idea. You don't have to have actual plans to conduct this project, but you have to have a clear enough hypothetical plan to present to the class.

  5. Literature review for one of the research topics: You will conduct a literature review on your chosen research topic during the "Writing" lecture, as a writing exercise. The literature review should have a claim you want to argue and defend, e.g. "X [a family of methods] is/is not an appropriate way to address problem Y." You have to do the literature review at home, and you will turn it in on Canvas. It will also be discussed in class. In particular, you will exchange literature reviews with a classmate and offer each other feedback.

  6. Paper reviews: When the faculty talks commence, each presenting faculty will choose one paper for you to read and review before the class session when that faculty's talk takes place. There will be about 20 paper reviews, each worth about 1% of your grade. These reviews will be turned in before class, using Canvas. Please follow the following grading rubric:
    1. Summarize what this paper aims to do, and what its main contribution is.
    2. Summarize the proposed approach. (Should be at least 5 sentences.)
    3. Summarize the (experimental or other) validation of the approach. (Should be at least 5 sentences.)
    4. What are three advantages of the proposed approach? (Describe each with 1-2 sentences.)
    5. What are three disadvantages or weaknesses of the approach or validation? (Describe each with 1-2 sentences.)
    6. Suggest one possible extension of this approach, i.e. one idea for future work.
    7. Describe one aspect of the writing style that you liked or disliked.
    8. Identify at least two questions you want to ask the speaker about this paper (it can be about low-level details or high-level concepts).

  7. Mini-project and presentation: During the course of the class, you will team up with one classmate, and conduct a mini research project on a topic of your choice. The nature of the project should reflect that you will have limited time. In particular, rather than developing a purely novel idea, you might want to focus on comparing existing methods in a way they have not been compared before, or making small, well-defined changes to an existing project, and testing whether the change had a positive effect on whatever evaluation you choose to conduct. This project will teach you about finding relevant resources (e.g. code) and using them, which unfortunately is not always trivial. It will also teach you about collaboration, communication, and presenting your work in a clear and engaging fashion. In addition to the final project, which will take place after the faculty talks, at the end of class, you will also do very brief mid-semester presentations halfway through the class, to update us on your progress.


Paper reviews are due on Canvas at 11:59pm on the day before the talk given by the faculty member who chose this paper. Your literature review is due on the day stated in the schedule, also at 11:59pm. You will submit your reviews using Canvas, under the corresponding Assignment ID, as a single PDF file. Grades will be posted on Canvas as well.