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Research Survey


All PhD students are required to pass the Second Exam, which contains a component of Survey study in the area that a student will focus on for his/her Thesis. The Survey study is further divided into a survey writing part and an oral exam part. This course is designed to help students, especially the ones in their first two years study, to conduct survey research with dedicated faculty advice, and further to provide a platform for the students to share their experience in doing the survey and to practice their presentation during in-class seminars before going up for the official public talk for the Second Exam. The goal is to better prepare the students for a successful result of the Second Exam.

Course Description

This course is designed to introduce and practice the art of writing and presenting research to an audience in both written and oral format. Students will study and write several papers in their own research area of interest, and present their papers to the peers. At the end of the course, students should have made significant progress toward their Level II exam paper and presentation.

List of Topics

  1. Choose a topic of research in any area of Computer Science in consultation with the course instructor and/or the PH.D. mentor. Write an introduction/topic paper to introduce the field of study to a newcomer. This paper should be a brief description of the research topic, applications if any, and its current status. Prepare 10 minute presentations to introduce the topics to their peers.

  2. Select three or four representative/classic papers in the field of interest and perform thorough critical analysis/peer review of these papers. Write the review outlining the purpose, strengths, weakness and contributions of each paper. Explain the threads that tie the selected papers together. Prepare 15 minute presentations to explain the analysis to their peers.

  3. Write literature surveys of the selected research area. In order to perform the survey, students will research the topic from its roots to the current state of art. While a survey can be done in several ways, one of the suggestion is to first perform a chronological survey and then look for a theme that can tie the history with the research the student intends to pursue in his/her dissertation. Thus, divide the research topic in several periods, e.g., computer network protocol was proposed around 1960s, since then its already been almost 60 years. Divide 60 years into 5 periods as follows, 1960-1972, 1973-1985, 1986-1998, 1999-2011, and 2011-2015. For each period, research its important developments, the state of the art, important failures and contributions. The topics can also be divided by identifying important milestones in the research area. For each period, choose several representative papers to write brief summaries to build a chronological account of developments in the research area. In general, this can be done by writing a brief summary of the paper, the strengths and weakness, and importance of the paper in advancing the research in the field.

The topic and analysis papers should be written in a short conference paper format. The latex template for these papers will be provided. The survey paper should follow the format of a PH.D. second exam paper.

Learning Objectives

By the end of this course students will be able to:

  1. Research the history of an area in computer science and summarize the scientific development at different stages of the research area.

  2. Lead discussions on current topics in a research area.

  3. Be able to write summary and critical analysis of scientific publications.

  4. Write a literature survey describing various milestones and the state of the art of the research area.


The student learning goals will be evaluated based on the following criterion:

Objectives Weight
Topic Paper and Presentation 10
Second Paper and Presentation 20
Survey Paper First Draft and Presentation 20
Survey Paper Second Draft and Presentation 20
Survey Paper Final Paper and Presentation 10
Class Participation (Based on feedback to and from peers) 20

Participation and discussions are critical in this course in order to meet the learning objectives for each student