CIS Undergraduate Research Projects: Proposal Requirements
for students who want to register for CISC 5001 (88.1):
last updated: sklar/20-dec-2011
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As of Fall 2010, students wanting to register for CISC 5001 (formerly CIS
88.1) need to submit a proposal to the CIS department for approval. Once the
project proposal is approved, you will be given permission to register for the
The project proposal must be prepared in collaboration with your project
advisor, i.e., me.
It is likely that you will write a draft, send it to me for comments, and then
I will send you feedback, and you will make modifications and send me a
revised version. This revision cycle may iterate more than once, but
eventually we will converge on a version that I am comfortable sending to the
committee for review.
CISC 5001 is the Honors Project course.
If you have a (major) GPA above 3.5, then you may be considered.
It is a good idea to look at the
final report requirements first,
so you know where you are headed.
The project proposal should be between 1-2 pages long (single-spaced, 11-point
PDF format is preferred for the final version.
However, drafts can be sent to me in RTF or ODT or DOC formats, to facilitate
the editing/feedback process.
Make sure to spell check your proposal, and read it through carefully.
Spell checkers will not catch words that are spelled correctly but used
The proposal should have the following sections:
- Title and Abstract
The Abstract should be 1 short paragraph explaining the overall goals of the project.
This should re-state the abstract in more detail and should provide motivation
for the research project.
Here are some questions that you might answer in this section:
- What are the goals of your research?
- What are the questions you are trying to answer?
- Why is this research area interesting to you?
- Why are you motivated to address the research question(s)?
- Why should the person reviewing your proposal be interested?
Your project will be based on some background reading that grounds your
research in some technical computing field.
You may have time to read 1-2 papers before writing the proposal, but you will
certainly read at least 2 or more papers during the course of the proposal.
Typically, I will supply you with 2 papers to get you started, at the time
that we begin to discuss your project proposal.
This section should briefly outline the background information you have.
It is not expected that you will have a lot of detail to provide at the
proposal stage, but you should have a general idea of the area of research
you will be working in and how it will fit into prior work in the field.
- Project Description
Describe your proposed project.
Explain how you plan to achieve the goals and answer the questions set forth
in your Introduction.
You are not expected to know all the minute details of the project when you
are in the proposal stage, but you should have some general idea of your
overall plan and some thoughts about what you want to do.
Your project will probably involve writing some software, so you should
briefly discuss your plans for software development. Include information about
the language/environment you expect to use.
In some cases, this will be an open question, and you can state that in your
proposal (i.e., which languages you are considering and why).
- Experiments and Results
If you are planning to conduct any experiments with your research, you should
outline here what those are.
Explain the experimental design, what variables you are planning to measure,
and how you will analyze the data that you collect.
What do you expect to learn from the experiment(s)?
- Research Plan and Schedule
Make a schedule that plans out the investigation of your research goals.
A semester is typically 15 weeks long (including exams).
You should set 2-3 major goals for yourself over the course of the semester,
and minor goals in between.
Ideally, you will set a major or minor goal every 1-2 weeks.
You will not be held tightly to this schedule--research is, by design,
open-ended, and you will encounter unforeseen difficulties or come across new
questions that you did not anticipate at the beginning of the term.
Nonetheless, it is good to have a working schedule.
Then, if you do make changes to your initial research plan, you should adjust
the working schedule as you go along.
Include FULL bibliographic references from any outside sources.
FULL means you need to include:
author(s) (full names of all authors),
title of article,
where it was published (book, journal, conference proceedings, etc.),
when it was published (year),
who published it (name of publisher).
Journal articles typically have a volume number and sometimes an issue number.
If you are citing a URL, something that is only published online and is not
part of an archival document (i.e., never published on paper), then you need
to include as much of the above information as you can find, plus the complete
URL plus the date when you last accessed the source. In the bibliography entry,
you say something like: last accessed: January 1, 2010.
Note: Wikipedia is not a reliable reference. The content is not
peer-reviewed (not reviewed by qualified professionals working within
the content area), so the information has not necessarily been
verified. While you might go to Wikipedia as a first place to look
for information, you should make sure to double-check all the
information that you gather there using another source that
is published and peer-reviewed (e.g., a book, a journal
article or an archival conference---such as one sponsored by IEEE or