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C SC 80010 Research Survey

Spring 2019

by Professor Hui Chen, CUNY Brooklyn College & Graduate Center


Section 1

Class Meeting: 09:30-11:30AM Thursday
Classroom: Graduate Center 4422


Hui Chen, Ph.D.
Office Hours: 9:30 - 11:30, Monday and Wednesday
Office: Room 1432N Ingersoll Hall
Phone: (718)951-5000 ext. 2055

Course Description

3 hours; 3 credits


The Computer Science Ph.D. Program aims to prepare its students to become outstanding scholars and leaders in both industry and academic institutions in the broad field of Computer Science and Technology. To achieve this goal, one of the most important skills that students must develop during their Ph.D. study is the ability of doing and communicating innovative research. That is, to be able to learn from existing literature, identify unsolved problems, propose inventive and effective approaches to solve the problems, communicate and present their work before others, and publish their research in well-established professional journals and conferences.

To help achieve the above, all Ph.D. students are required to pass the Second Exam, which contains a component of Survey study in the area that a student will focus on for her or his Thesis. The Survey study is further divided into a survey writing part and an oral exam part. This course is designed to help students, especially the ones in their first two years study, to conduct survey research with dedicated faculty advice, and further to provide a platform for the students to share their experience in doing the survey and to practice their presentation during in-class seminars before going up for the official public talk for the Second Exam. The goal is to better prepare the students for a successful result of the Second Exam.


This course is to allocate a reasonable number of credit hours for a student to work on her or his Thesis research. This course will be conducted flexibly to allow each of the registered students identifying their thesis topics as early as possible, and working on his/her thesis related research project for a minimum of 80 hours a semester and present their research to the class.

The evaluation metrics include extensive literature survey, production of conference and journal papers, publishable research work, and project results being ready for submission.

Learning Outcomes

By the end of this course students will be able to:

  1. Research the history of an area in computer science and summarize the scientific development at different stages of the research area;
  2. Lead discussions on current topics in a research area;
  3. Be able to write summary and critical analysis of scientific publications;
  4. Write a literature survey describing various milestones and the state of the art of the research area;
  5. Gain improved ability to conduct research by becoming familiar with the research field and presenting coherent explanatory technical talks in the research field; finally,
  6. Produce publishable survey research results.


The instructor will make sure that the students will gain proper experience in doing research in their own field. Important assessment metrics include extensive literature survey, coherent understandable presentation to the class, production of a paper for a conference or journal, or have a project result ready for submission.

Students will be graded based on the following criterion:

Assessment Components and Grade Calculation
Component Percent
Class Participation 20%
Topic Identification and Presentation 10%
Topic Exploration and Presentation 20%
First Draft of Survey Paper and Presentation 20%
Second Draft of Survey Paper and Presentation 20%
Final Survey Paper and Presentation 10%
Total 100%

Class Participation. Participation and discussions are critical in this course in order to meet the learning objectives for each student

Papers Review. Each student is required to identify and survey 35-40 papers, articles or book chapters, some briefly and others intensively, in their research field throughout the semester. It is recommended that a student should identify and survey at least 3 papers (or book chapters) per week. For each research work surveyed, the student should write a 1-2 paragraph summary which includes the motivation, major contribution, and pros & cons of the work in brief narratives. The students are encouraged to put in their own thoughts when reviewing other people’s work, and even better, to suggest improving ideas. This will help make fundamental progress towards accomplishing their Second Exam and their dissertation research.

Oral Presentation Each student is required to prepare and delivery a number of presentations throughput the semester. First, the student should identify a research topic, and identify most relevant research papers pertinent to the topic, and prepare and delivery an oral presentation for it (See Research Topic Identification below). Second, the student should identify a few major research paper for the identified topic, study the papers intensively, and prepare and deliver a detailed technical presentation (See Research Topic Exploration below). Third, the student prepares a survey paper with the aim to publish in a peer-reviewed journal (such as, ACM Computing Survey). During the course of the preparation, the student is required to make 3 oral presentations for the survey paper (See Survey Paper below). The format of the final presentation should be similar to the oral exam of the Second Exam.

Technical and Scientific Writing. For each presentation, the student is required to produce presentation slides and a concise written paper. Finally, the student must prepare a survey paper summarizing the work surveyed throughout the semester. This paper is due by the end of the semester. This summery should be in the same format of the written component for the Second Exam. The best turnout for this written delivery is to get the written part of the Second Exam ready, and the exemplary output is to format and submit the paper to a peer-reviewed journal (e.g., ACM Computing Survey). For more information, see below for Research Topic Identification, Research Topic Exploration, and Survey Paper.

Research Topic Identification. Choose a topic of research in any area of Computer Science in consultation with the course instructor and/or the Ph.D. mentor. Write an introductory (or topic) paper to introduce the field of study to a newcomer. This paper should be a brief description of the research topic, applications if any, and its current status. Prepare 10 minute presentations to introduce the topics to their peers.

Research Topic Exploration. Following the topic identification, select a short list of (e.g., three or four) representative papers in the field of interest and perform thorough critical analysis and review of these papers. Write the review outlining the purpose, strengths, weakness and contributions of each paper. Explain the threads that tie the selected papers together. Prepare 15 minute presentations to explain the analysis to their peers.

Survey Paper. Write literature surveys of the selected research area. In order to perform the survey, students will research the topic from its roots to the current state of art. The survey can be done in several ways. For instance, one way is to perform a chronological survey and then look for a theme that can tie the history with the research the student intends to pursue in her or his dissertation. Thus, divide the research topic in several periods, e.g., computer network protocol was proposed around 1960s, since then its already been almost 60 years. Divide 60 years into 5 periods as follows, 1960-1972, 1973-1985, 1986-1998, 1999-2011, and 2011-2015. For each period, research its important developments, the state of the art, important failures and contributions. Another way is to survey the research areas by topics and important milestones. The topics can also be divided by identifying important milestones in the research area. For each period, choose several representative papers to write brief summaries to build a chronological account of developments in the research area. In general, this can be done by writing a brief summary of the paper, the strengths and weakness, and importance of the paper in advancing the research in the field.

Manuscript Preparation and Style. The topic and analysis papers should be written in a peer-reviewed journal paper format. LaTeX is the recommended manuscript preparation system. The LaTeX template for these papers will be provided. The survey paper should also follow the format of a Ph.D. second exam paper.

Reference Textbooks

  • Booth, Wayne C., Gregory G. Colomb, and Joseph M. Williams. The craft of research. University of Chicago press, 2009.
  • Williams, Joseph M. Style: Toward Clarity and Grace (Chicago Guides to Writing, Editing & Publishing). (1995).
  • Zobel, Justin. Writing for Computer Science. 3rd Ed. Springer, 2015.

Course Website and CUNY Blackboard

The instructor posts syllabus, course schedule, and lecture notes on the Class Website, and posts assignments, assignment grades, and advisory grades on CUNY Blackboard.

The writings and the presentation slides are required to be submitted at Github. The detailed instructions are given in class.


This syllabus is created based on previous installation of this course, in particular, the Spring 2018 edition by Professor Saptarshi Debroy, and the earlier editions by Professor Ping Ji.