Working on
Research Projects
with Me

Working with Me on Your Individual Research Projects

I have experience in this process from both sides of the table:

Even so, I am still learning about the process and still learning to be a better advisor. These guidelines represent what I think I have learned thus far. Many of these ideas have been gathered from other computer scientists, too, as I learned from them. As I learn more, I will modify them. If you have any questions or comments about what you see here, be sure to discuss them with me!

A Rough Outline

Review a proposed outline of tasks to be performed, in roughly chronological order.

Project Meetings

Contact me promptly at the beginning of each term to set up a weekly meeting for your project. Meetings are expected to last at least one-half hour each week. If you can schedule an hour-long block, all the better; you can use the second half hour to follow up on ideas from our discussion.

If you cannot make a meeting, notify me before the scheduled meeting time. Ordinarily, I expect 24 hours notice except in case of an emergency. I will try to meet the same standard if I am unable to make a meeting.

At the beginning of each meeting, you should report on activities since our last meeting, including obstacles encountered and work to be done. To aid in delivering this report, prepare a written progress report on your project. Either e-mail your report prior to our meeting, or -- preferably -- post it to your project web page. In either case, keep on-line copies for yourself; they will be useful in writing your final project report.

Time Commitment

This is often a bone of contention between faculty members. Here are my thoughts on the matter.

For a 1-credit undergraduate project, I expect that you will spend 4-6 hours per week on project work. For a 2-credit undergraduate project, that range grows to 6-10 hours per week. For a typical graduate project, which consists of two semesters at 3 credits each, I expect that you will average 15-20 hours per week on your project.

These estimates reflect my belief that your research project should be important to you. It is not just an add-on to end of your program, done in order to satisfy arbitrary degree requirements. It is a capstone to your study and a door to your future intellectual life.

As your advisor, I will commit a commensurate amount of time and interest to ensure that you gain as much as you can from your project. I also hope to learn from your project!

Your Final Products

A well-written final report is required for all projects. It should conform to professional standards of presentation. Check out my Writing Tips page for some guidance.

Document all software thoroughly. Your work will have more value to you, to me, and to other students if others can read, use, and modify it. Write a user's manual for your system and include it as an appendix in your final report.

A well-organized public presentation is required for all projects. You will schedule your presentation for some time at the end of the term in which you complete your project. If your project is strong enough, we will try to find other otlets for your work, such as UNI's Sigma Xi Student Research Conference or Argonne Labs' Student Research Conference.

Project Evaluation

Upon completion of the project, you will receive a grade for the entirety of your project. By this, I mean that your grade will reflect both your final products of the project (results, report, and presentation) and the process by which they were attained. No amount of last-minute effort will turn a mediocre project effort into an A.

Final grades reflect the following standards:

For projects that span multiple terms, only one grade is given, in the semester during which the project is completed. I will try to give you enough feedback as you work on your project that you can have some idea of how well you are doing. If you would like more information, please ask. I won't generally pre-grade your results, but I can at least tell you my current assessment of the consistency and quality of your work.

Please do not become overly concerned with the grade you will or won't receive. Concentrate on doing the project work to the best of your ability. Rather than thinking about your grade, think about the impression that your work on the project will make on me and on others as you seek future employment, admission to graduate school, and so on. My experience is that students who focus on doing as well as they can end up with grades that satisfy them.

Academic Integrity

Academic integrity is essential to all phases of your project. This is more than a necessary professional standard; it is the personal standard that I set for myself and for the people with whom I wish to work.

Eugene Wallingford ==== ==== August 22, 2003