Fall 2015
CS 390 - Research and Project Design Principles in Computing

Course Description:

CS 390 provides students with an introduction to the research and project design process as applied within the computing field. Students will learn about the tools of the trade and work through design principles starting with the articulation of a question, reviewing methods of exploration, gathering evidence, communicating results, and assessing/evaluating research or project outcomes.

This course will be of interest to the following students:

  • Students interested in a two semester capstone experience should enroll in this course followed by CS 490 - Design Exhibition.
  • Students who would like to get involved in undergraduate research (see UROP).
  • Students interested in working on realworld problems with area companies. Several local companies have proposed projects and will have mentors available throughout the semester.


CS 262 (Low level Programming) is required;
CS 310 (Data Structures) and CS 321 (Software Requirements & Design Modeling) is highly recommended


Jan M. Allbeck
Computer Science Department
Office:  Nguyen Engineering - ENGR 5324
E-mail:    jallbeck at gmu.edu
Office Hours: Tues 2:00 - 4:00 pm

Class Hours:

Mon & Wed 12 - 1:15 pm;   ENGR 1108


The textbook for this course will be "The Craft of Research" by Booth, Colomb, and Williams. Additionally, there will be several papers distributed based on the proposed projects. 

Course Requirements & Grading:

CS 390 is an activity-based course. This means that students must attend all classes and contribute to on-going discussions. There are no exams, but the course grade will be based on class participation and completion of a semester project or research paper:
(1) Participation: readings critiques, progress reports, and presentations: 40%

(2) Semester project: 60%

30% - project design/research plan documents, including regular progress reports and revisions

30% - final report containing documented software and/or project artifacts. For a research paper, final document should show evidence of an original contribution.
The tentative list of required activities:
Week  Dates  Topics  Description 
Aug 31
Sep 2
Defining research
Objectives and first day survey
Discuss research, projects, well-defined problems, and how to get started.
Sep 7
Sep 9
Labor Day
Student group formation
Project discussions
Sep 14
Sep 16
Case Study 1
Student group project ideas
Discuss research papers focused on a single topic
Sep 16
Sep 18
Case Study 2
Finalize group project ideas
Discuss research papers focused on a single topic
Sep 21
Sep 23
Case Study 3
Student (group) presentations
Discuss research papers focused on a single topic
Sep 28
Oct 30
Resources & Software Development   Theresa Calcagno: Fenwick Library Research Department
Oct 5
Oct 7

Student (group) presentations
Oct 12
Oct 14
Columbus Day Break
Student (group) presentations
Oct 19
Oct 21
Project Pitfalls
Tools Identification  
What can and will go wrong and how to handle it.
Are there existing solutions to sub-problems?
10  Oct 26
Oct 28
Student (group) presentations
Evaluation Methodologies

How do you know when you've succeeded?
11  Nov 2
Nov 4
Presentation Techniques
Working groups
Tips on presenting your work.
12  Nov 9
Nov 11
Working groups  
13  Nov 16
Nov 18
Working groups
Presentation practice

Peer feedback
14  Nov 23
Nov 25
Presentation practice
Thanksgiving break

Peer feedback
15 Nov 30
Dec 2
Final group presentations
Final Exam Dec 7
Dec 9
Group Assessments & Evaluations Project critiques; moving on to CS 490

Course Learning Outcomes:

By the end of the semester, students will be able to

  • Articulate and refine a question while following ethical principles
  • Engage in the key elements of the scholarly process by:
      - selecting an appropriate discovery process for scholarly inquiry,   - gathering evidence appropriate to the question, and
      - applying appropriate scholarly conventions during scholarly inquiry and when reporting

  • Assess the validity of key assumptions and evidence, and situate the scholarly inquiry within a broader context.
This course was developed with the support of OSCAR @ GMU and is identified as an Inquiry level course.

Honor Code:

All required coursework for this class must adhere to Mason's and the CS Department's Academic Integrity and Honor Code Policies described here:


If you have a documented learning disability or other condition that may affect academic performance you should: (1) make sure this documentation is on file with the Office of Disability Services (SUB I, Rm. 4205; 993-2474; http://ods.gmu.edu/) to determine the accommodations you need; and (2) talk with me to discuss your accommodation needs.