Course Syllabus

CSci 8002: Introduction to Research in Computer Science II

Spring Semester 2022, 2 Credits


This course is co-taught by Professors Lana Yarosh (she/her or they/them) and Dan Keefe (he/him).  You can contact us at and

Office Hours

Prof. Yarosh: Hours and a link to Zoom meeting posted here: Most office hours will be held both online and in-person (in Keller 5-187).

Prof. Keefe:  Hours and a link to a weekly zoom meeting where you can join me are posted in my Google Office Hours Calendar.  This is also posted at the bottom of my webpage at for easy access.  You don't need to signup to come, you can just join the zoom meeting, which will be at:   

Class Forum on Slack

If you haven't already, join our Slack Forum (a.k.a. Slack Workspace)

Important Dates

Class meets just once a week, on Fridays from 11:15am to 12:30pm in Room 2-120 of the Molecular and Cellular Biology Building (across the street from Keller Hall) from Jan 21 to Apr 29.  There are no midterm or final exams for this course.


Welcome and a Brief Intro to the Course

CSci-8002 is a two-credit course (meaning about 6 hours/week workload) and the second course in the year-long 8001/8002 sequence taught for CS&E Ph.D. students.  In this course, we'll continue helping you get up to speed with what it means to conduct computer science research, and more informally, how to succeed as a CS Ph.D. student at UMN.  This semester we will place a special emphasis on learning to write a research proposal that, for many of you, may become or become a part of your written preliminary exam.

Remember that although the 8001/8002 course sequence is not technically required for all Ph.D. students, you will find that most advisors in our department encourage their new Ph.D. students to take the course, and students typically find it is useful to take it in the first year or two after joining the Ph.D. program.  At this point in your Ph.D. career, you will be finding a research lab and an advisor and getting started on a first research project.  This course is designed to complement these outside-the-classroom activities.  For example, you'll learn useful skills like how to position yourself as a researcher, find and read research papers, and evaluate the ethics of CS research projects.  In addition, this course is a great place to form a peer group that might continue to support you throughout your time as a graduate student.

We think you'll find this course valuable and practical.  Welcome!


Acknowledging this Moment

We all enter this semester with a lot of uncertainty.  The pandemic continues to evolve.  We are returning to in-person, on-campus interactions that we cannot be completely sure are safe.  We are low on reserves after the past few years, which have included multiple events that might be described as once-in-a-generation.  We are on the heels of a divisive election in this country.  Twin Cities communities of color continue to lead a critical, now worldwide, movement for anti-racism education and activism.  It would be inhumane to expect that all these events will not enter our classroom.  Instead, let us acknowledge from the beginning that this is a seriously hard time for all of us.  Let us be flexible, generous, and do what we can to support each other. 

As you navigate your semester, please do not hesitate to take advantage of the many resources the UMN provides to support you.  As a department, we have collected many of these on our new website.  And, you can find additional info on several topics below.  Often you will see these resources listed at the bottom of a course syllabus.  This is a time to place them up front!   Please take care of yourself this semester, and feel free to contact us if you need help.  We will do our best to support you.


Mental Health Information

As a student you may experience a range of issues that can cause barriers to learning, such as strained relationships, increased anxiety, alcohol/drug problems, feeling down, difficulty concentrating and/or lack of motivation. These mental health concerns or stressful events may lead to diminished academic performance or reduce your ability to participate in daily activities. University of Minnesota services are available to assist you with addressing these and other concerns you may be experiencing. You can learn more about the broad range of confidential mental health services available on campus via


Disability Information

If you have already been working with the Disabilities Resource Center and have a letter from them to help direct your instructors on to set you up for success, then please send that to us, and we will make every effort to make sure this class is a good experience for you.

University policy is to provide, on a flexible and individualized basis, reasonable accommodations to students who have documented disability conditions (e.g., physical, learning, psychiatric, vision, hearing, or systemic) that may affect your ability to participate in course activities or to meet course requirements. Students with disabilities are encouraged to contact Disability Services and their instructors to discuss individual needs for accommodations. Disability Services, McNamara Alumni Center, Suite 180, 200 Oak Street, East Bank. Staff can be reached at or by calling (612) 626-1333 (voice or TTY).


Additional Course Information


Students should be enrolled in the CS&E Ph.D. program and have completed the 8001 portion of this two-course sequence before enrolling in 8002. 

Is the course required? 

No.  The department "strongly recommends" that PhD students take this course, but it is not technically required.

Assignments and Participation 

This course breaks the task of developing a research proposal into 10 sequential steps that we will treat as weekly assignments.  It is important to keep up with this weekly schedule for several reasons: 

  1. Each assignment builds upon the previous, so it does not really help to skip one as you will need to complete it eventually in order to complete the following assignment.
  2. We will regularly use class time in 8002 to "workshop" your proposals, working through difficult sections and providing feedback to each other.  So, your ability to participate in class is dependent upon having the assignment completed before class begins.
  3. We will ask you to turn in each weekly assignment 1 day (24 hours) before the next class meeting so that we can read your work beforehand and adapt class to be most useful to you based on what we see.

Assessment / Grading

Please note that you need to complete both 8001 and 8002 in order to receive a grade for either course.  You will receive a single A-F grade this Spring for your combined work in both 8001 and 8002.  Since 8001 is a 1-credit course and 8002 is 2-credits, your final grade for the two-course sequence will be weighted accordingly, with 1/3 of the grade coming from 8001 and 2/3 coming from 8002.  In fact, you should already see this weighting and the grade carried over from a previous semester in 8001 reflected in the Grades section with this semester's Canvas course.

The 8002 portion of your grade will be based on:

  • 50% Assignments -- there are 10 planned weekly assignments as mentioned earlier.  Each will be graded for quality on a Check-Plus (A), Check (A-), Check-Minus (B), Minus (C), Not Submitted/Too Late to Grade (F) scale.  "Too Late to Grade" applies to work handed in more than 1 week after it was due.  We will only go back and grade this work for quality if you have made an arrangement with us due to illness or some other special circumstance.  The lowest grade of the 10 will be automatically dropped when calculating the final score.
  • 50% Weekly Participation -- participation this semester relies upon  completing assignments on-time and attending class to take part in proposal workshopping and other small-group activities.  We will grade this using the rubric below.  Again, the lowest of the 10 grades in this section will be automatically dropped.  Note that, unless you have previously cleared it with us, you must attend class to participate in the workshopping activities in order to receive a passing grade for that week's participation.
    Grade Assignment Hand-in Time Comments
    Check-Plus (A) 11:15am Thursday On time.  We will read your work before class and use it to adapt the lesson to be most useful to the class.

    Check (A-)

    11:15am Friday Too late for us to read, but at least you are coming to class prepared.
    Check-Minus (B) 11:15am Monday Sorry you had a tough week, but glad you could catch up over the weekend.
    Minus (C) 11:15am the next Friday Up to 1 week late.  Don't give up; we will still grade this.  If you can "rescue" the situation on your own and get back on track for the next week, then that's great.  But, if you think you will still be behind for next week, come talk to us now about how best to recover since each assignment builds on the next.

    Did not attend class, Not submitted, and/or Too Late to Grade (F)

    Later than 1 week Unless you have approached us to work out an accommodation for some special circumstance, >1 week is getting to the point where we should both just move on.  If this happens once, use it as your one automatically dropped grade.  If it happens more than once, then we are concerned, and you should come talk to us.


Calendar & Course Webpages

The course webpage is hosted on Canvas, and as you have likely already found, it includes a full calendar of class meetings, topics, readings, and assignments for the semester.  These may change slightly as we navigate the semester; we will take advantage of the digital format to always keep the course webpage up to date with our latest plans.  

Planned Topics

The best way to view the specific topics for the semester is to click the "Home" link to the left and see the topics organized by class meeting.  The topics include:

  • Intro to Proposal Writing / Starting with Related Work
  • Categorizing the Literature
  • Discussing a Set of Closely Related Papers
  • Providing Constructive Peer Review
  • How to Introduce Your Work, Including Framing Contributions
  • Writing Methods, Results, and Discussion Sections
  • Translating Your Research into a Poster Format / How to Pitch Your Work
  • How Peer Review Works for Research Papers and Proposals
  • A Mock Program Committee Meeting
  • Contributing to a Research Team: Working and Writing with a Group
  • Building Your Job Application / Setting Multi-Year Expectations for Your PhD Process


Inclusive Conduct within Our Classroom and the Field of Computing

At this point in your careers, we trust you are already aware that computing as a field has a huge problem with a lack of diversity.  At all levels, there is an underrepresentation of populations, including women, African Americans, Hispanics, American Indians, Alaska Natives, Native Hawaiians, Native Pacific Islanders, and persons with disabilities.  During the course, we will share actual data from our degree programs with you so you can see specifically, by the numbers, how this plays out within our department today.  By pursuing the Ph.D. degree, you are by definition working toward becoming a leader in our field.  So, we will not shy away from this topic in this course.  We want you to know and think creatively about this problem because it is something that you have a responsibility to help change as you continue in this field at UMN and beyond.  To that end, in this course, we will use inclusive language and be respectful in all of our interactions, including written and face-to-face communication. 

We include some info on related, official university policies below as well.

Equal Access and Opportunity

The University of Minnesota shall provide equal access to and opportunity in its programs, facilities, and employment without regard to race, color, creed, religion, national origin, gender, age, marital status, disability, public assistance status, veteran status, sexual orientation, gender identity, or gender expression.

Sexual Harassment

University policy prohibits sexual harassment as defined in the University Policy Statement adopted on December 11, 1998. Complaints about sexual harassment should be reported to the University Office of Equal Opportunity, 419 Morrill Hall, East Bank.


Academic Integrity

All work submitted for this course is required to be your original work.  Scholastic dishonesty includes violating the course policies outlined here, plagiarizing, or cheating on assignments. Within the course, a student responsible for scholastic dishonesty can be given a penalty, including an "F" or "N" for the course, and further disciplinary action may occur. 

Course Summary:

Date Details Due