Research Methods for Empirical Computer Science

COMPSCI 691DD • Fall 2017 • Mon and Wed 9:05-10:20 • ELAB 323

DescriptionScheduleProjectReviewing ReportsResources


Prof. David Jensen
308 CS Building

Office Hours TBA


Graduate or undergraduate standing in the College of Information and Computer Sciences or the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering; At least one course in statistics.


This course introduces graduate and undergraduate students to concepts, practices, and tools for conducting effective research. Students will learn basic methods for activities such as reading technical papers, selecting research topics, devising research questions, planning research, analyzing experimental results, modeling and simulation of computational phenomena, and synthesizing broader theories.

The course is structured around three activities: lectures on basic concepts of research strategy and techniques, discussions of technical papers, and preparation and review of written assignments. Significant reading, reviewing, and writing is required. Students are expected to participate actively in class discussions and to provide meaningful comments on the work of other students.

For PhD students, this course helps accelerate their current and future research. For MS students, this course provides a grounding in research methods that will aid entry into research-oriented industrial positions and provide information about continuing to PhD studies.

For undergraduates considering graduate studies, this course will help inform and accelerate that direction. This course can be used to satisfy the 499Y requirement for Departmental and Multidisciplinary Honors students whose theses or projects have a substantial empirical component, although approval of the Computer Science Honors Program Director is required for prior to registering.


No required texts.  All readings will be web-accessible articles and books.

Grading Criteria

40% Project reports
20% Project reviews
20% Class participation
20% Response reports

The project reports will consist of specific elements of a semester-long research project. Students will be expected to produce each report (e.g., algorithm description, literature review, experimental design). For selected project reports, students will be expected to reviewing the reports of two other students.

A response report briefly summarizes the of goal of an assigned reading and then makes two or more primary points that critique, dispute, reinforce, or extend findings of the reading. See this example response report for further guidance.

A single response report on the assigned readings is due by 10:00 pm of the day preceeding selected classes (see the schedule). Each response report should be three paragraphs long and should be submitted using the online submission system.

Each student can opt out of the discussion in up to three classes by informing the instructor prior to the beginning of class. Grades on the lowest three response reports will be dropped before final grades are calculated.

COMPSCI 691DD: Syllabus