CS598CXZ Advanced Topics in Information Retrieval (Fall 2013)

Instructor: ChengXiang Zhai

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Basic Information



The required readings for this course are a combination of research papers, survey articles, and book chapters. Most of the readings should be available online (if not, hard copies will be made for you). The major sources are:


Students are expected to have a good knowledge of basic probability and statisticcs in addition to programming skills at the level of CS225 or a similar programming course. Some background in one or more of the following areas: information retrieval, machine learning, natural language processing, data mining, or databases would be a plus, but not required. If you are not sure whether you have the right background, please contact the instructor.


The course consists of a mixture of mostly lectures by instructor and some presentations by students. There will be a few written assignments and exploratory assignments. There will be a 75-minute midterm exam to be given in the middle or slightly after the middle of the semester at a class. Each student is also required to finish a research project to do an in-depth study of a topic, aiming at producing a publication/submission or developing a novel useful system. Group work is allowed.

Course Policy and Grading

  1. Attendance
  2. Attendance is mandatory, but use common sense if you are sick or run into any emergency situation. In case you cannot go to a class, you must send (or ask some one to send) an explanation message to the instructor no later than 24 hours after the class. For example, if you cannot go to a class on Tuesday, you need to send a message before 2:00pm the next day (i.e., Wednesday).

  3. Readings
  4. Specific reading assignments will be posted in the schedule page.

  5. Assignments
  6. The assignments are designed to ensure that every student has a deep and precise understanding of the major core topics, thus the students are generally required to complete them independently. Discussion with others is allowed to the extent of helping understand the material. The purpose of student collaboration is to facilitate learning, not to circumvent it. The actual solution must be done by each student alone, and the student should be ready to reproduce their solution upon request. If any substantial discussion happens, every one involved must write down the names of the people that he/she has discussed with and the nature or topic of discussion. In any case, you must exercise academic integrity. Make sure that you have read the University Policy on Academic Integrity, especially the section on plagiarism.

    Late submission of an assignment would result in a reduced grade for the assignment, unless an extension has been granted by the instructor. An assignment is worth full credit at the beginning of class on the due date (later if an extension has been granted). It is worth at most 90% credit for the next 24 hours. It is worth 75% credit for the following 24 hours. It is worth 50% credit after that. If you need an extension, please ask for it (by sending email to the instructor) as soon as the need for it is known. Extensions that are requested promptly will be granted more liberally. You must turn in all assignments.

  7. Midterm examination
  8. There will be a midterm exam in the middle (or later in the second half) of the semester. The purpose is to ensure that students have a good understanding of all the core IR topics. It will be in the classroom, lasting for 75 minutes.
  9. In-class quizzes
  10. Multiple in-class short quizzes will be given at the end of some randomly chosen classes. The quiz questions should be relatively straightforward to answer if a student has really paid attention to what is discussed in the particular class. Besides being one factor contributing to grading, quizzes also serve as a way to keep track of class attendance.
  11. The course project
  12. The purpose of the course project is to provide students an opportunity to study and work on a topic in-depth so as to obtain experience with research in IR or application of advanced IR technologies to develop an interesting novel application system. Group projects with a team of up to 4 students are allowed. You will be asked to do a presentation of your course project and submit a written project report at the end of the semester. More details to be posted later.

  13. Grading
  14. Grading will be based on the following weighting scheme:

    Class participation will be graded based on in-class quizzes, project proposal reviews, online reviews and discussions of research papers.