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An Experience in Collaborative Writing

Assignment 3:
Essay on a Topic in Computer Science

  • Topic: A topic in computer science
  • Dates:
    • Proposal Due: Monday, November 16th, 11:59pm
    • First Draft Due: Wednesday December 2nd, 11:59pm
    • Assignment Due: Wednesday, December 9th, 11:59pm
  • Format:
    • Proposal: No more than 250 words, submitted to Canvas
    • Assignment: a single Google Doc, done in groups of 3, consisting of:
      • Your essay, in 6 single-spaced pages
      • Your collaboration log (see below). Submit this in the same document as your essay. The log does not count towards your 6 single-spaced pages
      • Once your Google Doc is complete, download it as a .docx file or a .pdf file and submit that

An Experience in Collaborative Writing

This assignment will give you an opportunity to go deep into an area of computer science that you are interested in. It is designed to be accomplished as a collaboration. Traditionally in class projects, teams of students often split up work to be completed by each team member, working mainly independently without gaining the benefits of, or learning to, collaborate effectively in a team setting.  In this assignment, we expect teams to adopt an integrated collaborative approach. To facilitate learning about collaboration and recognizing the difficulties of collaborating, we are keeping the required length of the writeup low at 6 pages (used to be 10!), and adding a requirement for a collaboration log (see below for details).

Proposal

Your proposal should describe the area of computer science your essay will focus on and present a brief outline of the topics you plan to address. The proposal should be long enough to tell us what we need to know, and no longer — that is, shorter is better so long as you include the necessary information. The proposal should not be longer than 250 words.
 
The list of sources (at least ten, not included in the word count) should be as close to complete as possible. You won’t be penalized if you end up dropping one or two, or if you add any. But try to have your sources sorted out by the time your proposal is submitted.

Essay Schema

There are three recommended essay schema. They are guidelines; variations that will make your essay even more awesome are acceptable, particularly when none of these schema suit your chosen computer science area.

  • Do an in-depth study of any computer science topic we have discussed (or will discuss). Such a study will survey the history, the state of the art, technical challenges, social impact, and a vision for the future.
  • Do a comparative study of two or more topics that we have discussed (or will discuss). Such a comparative study would survey both topics, explain why they are an interesting combination, and discuss technical challenges, social impact, and a vision for the future.
  • Do an interdisciplinary study that applies computational thinking to a topic that does not traditionally employ computational thinking methods. Such an interdisciplinary study would survey any prior computer science perspectives on this topic, describe how the computer science perspective offers new opportunities over the classical perspective of the field, describe the technical challenges for computer science applied to this field, and describe social impact and a vision for the future.

 
Most importantly, this essay should give you and your teammates the opportunity to learn new material, gain new collaboration skills, and practice communicating complex technical concepts. Your completed assignment should demonstrate this.
 

Collaboration Log

Your collaboration log will document your collaboration process. Your log will consist of entries for each meeting and/or work session. Each entry should contain:

  • Where: Offline, or online? If online, what tool were you using?
  • When: The date
  • Who: Who was present, and for how long?
  • What: Briefly, what happened/what did you accomplish?

 
Additionally, your log should contain,

  • I like / I wish / What if: from each team member, one thing you liked about the collaboration, one thing you wish were different or found challenging, and one suggestion for improving the collaboration
  • The log should also contain at least one photo of the whole team working together in person.

 
We understand that some work will be done asynchronously (not all at the same time); this is perfectly ok, and collaborating doesn’t mean doing every single task together. However, collaborating also doesn’t mean meeting once to split up the work and that’s that — don’t cheat yourself or your teammates out of an opportunity to learn together and from each other.

Resources

Working on large group projects can be challenging. The cloud-based scheduling tools When2Meet (Links to an external site.)Links to an external site. and Doodle (Links to an external site.)Links to an external site. are good choices for coordinating group meeting times. Google Docs or Google Spreadsheets (Links to an external site.)Links to an external site.  are useful for a variety of collaborative tasks, including coordinating brainstorming of topics, gathering of sources, and writing your final essay. The cloud-based collaboration tool Hackpad (Links to an external site.)Links to an external site. is another good option.
If you have questions about academic integrity and plagiarism, you can consult Northwestern’s Academic Integrity Guide or McCormick’s Academic Integrity Policy (Links to an external site.)

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