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Tony Tang

I'm an Associate Professor in Computer Science at the University of Calgary. I'm passionate about Human-Computer Interaction and other weird things.

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Your final paper is an opportunity to practice writing in an academically stuffy way. Ha! Just kidding about the stuffy part. Actually, it is your chance to write about your project, but one thing to note is that it is fundamentally different from final reports that you have written in the past. Most of the final reports you have written in the past can probably be summarized in one sentence: “This is what I did.” A final research paper is fundamentally different because rather than focusing on what you did, your job is to contribute an argument to the intellectual discussion about a topic at hand.

The best way to think about this is that in your proposal, I asked you to outline four things: (a) what the problem is, (b) what others have done about the problem, (c) what you will do about the problem, and to demonstrate that (d) you have a plan to address the problem. Your final paper changes (c) and (d) to the following: (c) what you did about the problem, and (d) what others can learn from your work – be it in terms of the original problem, or in terms of your own work.

On paper, this sounds similar to “this is what I did,” but it is actually different: the focus of the paper should be about the central issue, question, or problem. Your work merely forms a small contribution to our understanding of that question/problem (the context for which you set out in (b)), and is explicated in (d).

The final paper should be about a 7-8 page document. Again, your goal is to write it in such a way that demonstrates to the reader (i.e. me and the course instructor) that you understood the nature of your problem/question, how your work would contribute to that ongoing discussion, that you carried out the work in a capable manner, and perhaps most importantly, that you are able to describe what you learned that would be of benefit to the research community.

Template

Your course instructor will have posted a template for you to do your proposal in. Download and use that template.

In the absence of a template, use the one that is on this webpage.

Exercise

Here are some samples written by previous 502/503 students:

Just as with the proposals, I encourage you to review at least two of these (for variety) – each of these are fairly different project spaces. One strategy that is a good one to apply here is to read one that “looks like” the kind of project you would like to do, and to read another that “really doesn’t look like” the project you are planning on doing. This will give you some good variety. When you read these, think about how the authors answered the questions that I outlined above.

Grading

Remember that two people reading this are me and the course facilitator, who is actually not involved in any of our conversations. That is, s/he will have no background in what you are talking about, what your plans are, etc. Thus, it is your job to make this as clear and as transparent as possible. Be concise, specific and direct in your use of language.

A Note about Feedback

If you would like to get feedback on your writing, provide me with a copy at least one week in advance of whenever you’d like to get it back (there is, unfortunately, enough on my plate that it usually takes a week to get to writing). I am happy to provide this feedback. Note: it is easiest for me to provide feedback on outlines (rather than tomes of text).