CS 598cxz Fall 2016

Course Project


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 either (1) research in IR, (2) practical experience in implementing advanced IR algorithms in a real system, or (3) application of advanced IR technologies to develop an interesting novel application system. Group projects with a team of up to 3 students are allowed and encouraged. Larger groups are also possible with approval from the instructor.

Grading Criteria

Your project will be graded primarily based on the following weighting scheme:


There are three distinct project topic tracks. They differ mainly in the proposed end goal of the project.

  1. Research Track. This track should culminate in a research paper that could be suitable for submission to an information retrieval journal or conference (like SIGIR, CIKM, etc.)

    When picking a topic in this track, try to ask yourself the following questions:

    • What is the main research question? A research contribute is generally in the form of providing an answer to a new question that has never been addressed by any published work or a better answer to an old question than the previous answers. A research question can be of many different forms. In engineering, a common form of question is: how do we build X? Another common form is: how can we build a better technology to do X than the current technologies available? Sometimes, however, a question may be a “why” question such as “why is algorithm A better than algorithm B under condition C?”

    • What is the expected novelty of your work? Is your research question a new question or one that has been studied by others? If it has been studied before, why should we expect your new solution to be better than the previous ones? What’s your new idea?

    • How important is your question? Why do we have to address the question? What if we don’t address it? Who will benefit from studying the question?

    A good topic is one that is novel, that you like to work on, that people care about, and that you have some idea about how to carry out the proposed work.

    Check out this tutorial on research.

    We’ll post some sample research topics a bit later.

  2. Software Track. This track aims to contribute a major piece of open-source software to the community. This may be in the form of a brand new software package, or as an extension of an existing toolkit or library.

    Here are some software track project ideas.

  3. Startup (Business) Track. This track is application-oriented, and should result in a demo system that clearly demonstrates novel useful functions from a user’s perspective. Think of this as a “minimum viable product” for a startup idea.

Project Proposal (October 22nd)

You must write a one-page proposal before you actually begin your project in-depth. These will be submitted via Compass and are due Saturday, October 22nd at 11:59pm.

In the proposal, you should address the following questions and include the names and email addresses of all the team members. (As long as these questions are addressed, the proposal does not have to be very long. A couple of sentences for each question would be sufficient.)

If your project is aiming at the research track, you should focus on the following in your proposal:

If your project is aiming at the software track, you should focus on the following in your proposal:

If your project is aiming at the startup track, you should focus on the following in your proposal:

Project-based Workshop (November 2nd—December 2nd)

Each project group is expected to present for approximately 10–15 minutes during the project-based workshop period between November 2nd and December 2nd. You will be assigned a specific lecture to present on, and you will give a presentation (with appropriate visual aids) that relates to your project. (Online students will submit a YouTube video.) We will use this rubric to grade your presentation.

There are two main goals here. First, this is to familiarize you with the work that your classmates are doing and learn from your peers. Second, this provides an opportunity for you to solicit feedback about your project from your classmates and the instructor/TAs. You should try to design your presentation so that you can gain something out of the ensuing discussion that you can use to improve your project.

Below are some suggestions based on the different project tracks. These are just suggestions; you don’t need to present all of these things.

If you’re targeting the research track, you might consider presenting:

If you’re targeting the software track, you might consider presenting:

If you’re targeting the startup track, you might consider presenting:

Your grade for this portion of the project is divided into two parts:

Each lecture during this section of the class, you will be expected to write a brief one-page summary of what you learned from watching the other groups presentations that day. These will be due on Compass 24-hours after the lecture. We will use this rubric to grade your reviews.

Project Presentation (December 7th; December 10th)

At the end of the semester, each group is expected to craft an oral presentation for the project, which should aim at being between 20–30 minutes in length. These will be due Wednesday, December 7th at 11:59pm. These will be created as videos on YouTube, and will be evaluated by your peers. Because these presentations are due before the projects themselves, you are not expected to have everything completed before the presentation (although you should be close to being done). Nevertheless, you should present your preliminary results or current progress.

The purpose of this presentation is to: (1) let you know about others’ projects easily, (2) give you some opportunity to practice presentation skills, particularly how to convey a message effectively and efficiently, which are very important for a successful career, and (3) obtain feedback and suggestions from your peers about your project.

To make efficient use of the short time period you have for the presentation, we suggest that you do a demo of your system if you have developed one. This is often the best way to explain what you’ve done to others. If your system is not designed to run in real time (e.g., it may be an offline analysis tool), or if you have not developed a system, you should show some sample results in your presentation. It’s up to each project group to decide how to organize the presentation, but you should attempt to have each group member involved in presenting some part of it.

Your grade for this portion of the project is divided into two parts:

In addition to submitting your video, you will be assigned approximately three other groups’ videos to watch and peer-review. Your peer-review comments should be sufficiently detailed so that the group can use them to improve their project before the final submission deadline. Your reviews themselves will be graded by the instructors (so don’t just write “everything’s great!” and give full marks, or you won’t get full marks yourself!). These reviews will be due on Saturday, December 10th at 11:59pm. We will circulate rubrics for this part soon.

Project Final Report (December 14th)

Approximately one week after the presentations are due, the final project report will be due. Specifically, these are to be handed in by Wednesday, December 14th at 11:59pm. The form of your final report will differ depending on which project track you choose.

Each project group needs to submit a single report. Please make sure to include, for each member of your team, a couple of sentences to describe what he/she did exactly for the project.

In general, all the members of a team will get the same grade for the project unless the report indicates that some member(s) only superficially participated in the project without doing much actual work; in that case, I will discount the grade. Note that it is every individual student’s responsibility (not the responsibility of your team leader) to ensure that he/she makes substantial contributions to the project.