Research Paper Specification


Artificial Intelligence

Fall Semester 2001

[ Goals | Types of Paper | Potential Topics | Evaluation | Timeline ]


In addition to any writing you may do on homework assignments, you will write one large research paper this semester. The goals for assigning a big paper include:

I hope that you will view this paper not as a burden but as an opportunity to explore a topic that interests you and to practice your professional writing skills.

Types of Paper

You are free to propose any sort of research paper that interests you, but I envisage one you doing one of three types of paper:

You may propose to do a different sort of paper, but if you do you will need to justify both the topic and your paper format.

Potential Topics

Any topic within AI is fair game, as is an application of AI to any problem domain. Select a topic from your own experience and interests, and you will find the project more engaging. The result will be a more interesting -- and, usually, better -- paper.

If you decide to look for a topic in the text or lectures, identify a problem or issue that goes beyond what we read about or discuss. For example, if you find that you really like the area of planning systems, you might select an open question in planning, such as how best to replan in the face of a changing environment, and write a survey of techniques for solving the problem. Or, if you find that you really like the topic of learning, you might select a learning technique that we don't discuss in great detail and write a tutorial.

Here are some topics that interest me. If one of them interests you, consider writing your paper on it.


Your paper should take the form of an article published in a professional journal. Use a paper from such a journal, preferably one of the same type, as a template for your work. You can scan through a generalist CS journal such as Communications of the ACM for surveys, tutorials, and problem analyses. (Keep in mind, though, that such a general will have relatively few AI articles in it.)

Grades will be determined on the basis of content and form.

I really do care about the quality of your writing. Please use this as an opportunity to practice and to learn.


The following schedule lists the important dates for the paper.


Due by Monday, September 17, at 4:00 PM. By e-mail, send me a 400- 500-word description of the topic you'd like to explore and the type of paper you'd like to write. I will try to help you make sure that you have a topic of the right scope and that there is sufficient material available for your research. (I will also try to ensure that I don't end up with 30 papers on the same topic!)

Notice that our class does not meet during the week of September 10-14. Use this time to think, explore topics, do research, and draft your proposal. Unless we discuss otherwise in advance, your paper should follow your proposal and our subsequent discussions of it.

Notice that by this point in the semester, we will have covered only thirteen chapters or so in our text. In order to select a topic, you may want to skim ahead in the text to learn a bit more about what topics are available. Ginsberg's first couple of chapters give a nice overview of the text, so you may want to start there. And feel free to discuss any ideas you may have ahead of time with me. I'll try to point you in a good direction.

Initial Draft

Due by Monday, October 22, at 4:00 PM. By e-mail, send me a draft of approximately 2000 words of one or two sections of your paper. This draft should demonstrate that you have done significant research into at least one part of your topic and should contain a draft outline for the rest of the paper. Include a full bibliography of ten or so articles, book chapters, etc., that you have found for research, even works not yet cited in your initial draft.

Unless we discuss otherwise in advance, your draft must follow from the topic we agree on after you submit your proposal.

Notice that our class does not meet during the week of October 15-19, except for an exam on Tuesday. Use this time to think, explore topics, do research, and write your draft.

Final Paper

Due by Friday, December 14, at 4:00 PM.

Eugene Wallingford ==== ==== August 29, 2001