Watch for updates! This file was last updated on January 10, 2005.

Homework for 15-721 is (a) summaries of research papers (10% of grade) and (b) in-class paper presentations and participation in discussions (10% of grade). Before each lecture you should have read the paper that we will be discussing.

Paper Summary Writing and Submission Guidelines

An important component of 721 is critical reading of the assigned papers and coming to class ready to discuss them. To help you in this process, we require that you hand in a short review of each paper at the beginning of the class during which we will discuss the paper. The preferred format is ASCII text.

Your summaries should:

  1. State the 3 (or more) most important things the paper says. These could be some combination of their motivations, observations, interesting parts of the design, or clever parts of their implementation.
  2. Describe the paper's most glaring deficiencies, in decreasing order of importance. Every paper has some fault. Perhaps an experiment was poorly designed or the main idea had a narrow scope or applicability. Being able to assess weaknesses as well as strengths is an important skill for this course and beyond.
  3. Describe what conclusion you draw from the paper as to how to build systems in the future, and what can be future research stemming from the paper. Most of the assigned papers are have been significant to the systems community and have had some lasting impact on the area.

We do not want a book report or a repeat of the paper's abstract. Rather, we want your considered opinions about the key points indicated above. Of course, if you have an insight that doesn't fit the above format, please include it as well.

We want the reviews to be short, between 1/2 and 1 page. Here is an example review. Note: the example is a LONG summary; we expect you to provide much shorter ones.

Please bring a printout of the reviews to the instructor by the class start time on the date the paper is scheduled to be discussed. Also, make the review available on a website which will be at the top of your review. You are responsible for the delivery of the review. Too long >1 page) or late submissions will not be accepted.

All reviews will be counted, and a random sample of the reviews will be graded.

In-Class Presentations and Discussions

There are several motivations for our in-class discussions. First, we would like you to be exposed to the state-of-the-art in database systems, including the most recent developments in industry as well as the latest academic studies. If you simply read a textbook, you may get the mistaken impression that all of the questions have been answered already; in reality, things have been changing quite rapidly, both in research and in practice. Second, we would like you to get a feel for how one conducts good research in data management and,more importantly, since this is an extremely large field of study, which are the current challenges and hot topics. Finally, we hope that some of the open questions that will arise in our discussions might help spark ideas for your graduate research. Please see the topics below and sign up for one topic.

With these goals in mind, here are some tips on how to lead a successful discussion:

In-Class Presentation Guidelines

Here are some tips and suggestions for helping you plan your your in-class presentation. They are meant to serve as recommendations only!
Remember, a 60 minute talk with no interruptions = 40 slides

Slide Organization (one possibility)
Slide format (one possibility)
All slides except for outline slides can follow this general format:

  • Title (content) point
  • point
    • subpoint
    • subpoint
  • point
  • punchline
- or -
  • Title Setup
  • Methodology
  • Graph(s)
  • point
  • point
  • point (punchline)

Punchline is recommended be the important result of the slide, or important question raised (that can be answered on the next slide)

Try to encourage class participation through questions, etc. Allow time for class to answer questions.

Topics for discussion