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Professor Saiedian developed these guidelines in the mid-2000s for his software engineering students, but any EECS student may use them in other classes, ignoring the SE-specific requirements. Other faculty may borrow these guidelines with proper attribution.

Preparing a term paper proposal

Due date. The term paper proposal is due during the third week of the semester.

To submit a paper proposal for your research project, please adhere to the following guidelines. Your proposal, spanning 2-3 pages, should encompass the following elements:

  1. Tentative Paper Title: Construct a descriptive, precise, and focused title for your proposed term paper. Avoid overly broad topics; instead, narrow down your research area to simplify your subsequent tasks, such as reference searches.

    Consider using a heuristic: craft a comprehensive sentence describing your research objective, then refine it into your paper's title. When seeking inspiration for good titles, analyze existing research paper titles within the chosen field.

  2. Problem Statement: Offer a clear and concise problem statement that defines the issue you intend to address or the research you plan to undertake. Avoid merely describing the symptoms of the problem or proposing solutions. Instead, define the problem's core and emphasize its significance. Even if you opt for a survey or taxonomy paper, create a problem statement that warrants or invites such an approach. Articulate the objectives, motivations, and the significance of your chosen topic.

  3. Intended Contributions: Articulate a clear description of what your term paper aims to contribute to the field.

  4. Research Methodology: Clearly outline your intended research methodology, whether it involves:
    • Basic research (which entails studying, synthesizing, organizing, evaluating, and summarizing existing research results)
    • An empirical study
    • Research involving experiments
    • A survey and literature review. If you plan to prepare a literature review, ensure that it:

      -- Does not consist of fragmented, disjointed summaries of individual articles, experiments, or studies.

      -- Presents a critical and analytical synthesis of various findings or case studies (e.g., comparing, contrasting, relating).

      -- Possesses a well-defined focus or theme, steering away from a purely chronological approach in favor of a thematic one (e.g., different theoretical or contrasting approaches).

      -- While not necessarily exhaustive, covers the most significant contributions in the field.

    Consult the ACM Computing Surveys for ideas and suggestions on how a survey paper is organized.

  5. Tentative Schedule: Provide a preliminary schedule outlining your proposed timeline for completing various stages of your term paper.

  6. References. In addition to the proposal, include a list of 10--15 references (from credible, peer-reviewed sources) related to the topic of your term paper proposal. You must CAREFULLY follow the APA or Harvard citation format and and bibliography style (also briefly presented below). No exceptions here. Depending on the focus of your proposed work, most of your references, especially for introductory papers, should be drawn from the following journals (see the course-specific requirements):
    • Communications of the ACM (general computing/IT)
    • IEEE Computer (general computing/IT)
    • IEEE Software (software engineering)
    • IEEE Security & Privacy (security)
    • IEEE Communications (communications and signal processing)
    • IEEE Network (computer networks)

    For more advanced graduate papers, you should consider transactions and high quality conference proceedings. See course specific guidelines.

  7. Formatting references. The reference listing should be as complete as possible. It is very likely that your references will include journal articles, conference proceedings articles, books (or chapters in a book or in a collection), and technical reports. Follow a bibliography style like the APA. The following is a list of required items for each article:

    • Journal articles: author, title, journal, volume, number, year, pages [month].
    • Books: author (or editor), title, publisher, year, edition, publisher address.
    • Book chapters: same as book and/or conference proceedings articles.
    • Conference proceedings: author, title, proceedings title, pages, year, publisher, [editor, month, place]
    • Technical reports: author, title, institution, year [number, address]
    • Thesis/dissertation: author, title, school, year, [address]

Powerful digital libraries (links)