CS573: Graduate Algorithms - Fall 2012

Homework Instructions and FAQ

In all issues the outline is the last word as far as policy.

If you have any questions or concerns about these course policies, please don't hesitate to ask in lecture, during office hours, on the course newsgroup, or by email.

How to Submit Homework

Over 90 students are taking CS573 this semester. The graders will have to critically examine billion pages (or similar nubmer, I am no good with numbers) of homework submissions before the end of semester! We desperately need your help to make sure homeworks are graded and returned quickly.



Homeworks that do not follow these formatting requirements will automatically receive a grade of zero. This is not a joke.

Form: How to write

Please be nice to the graders! Make it easy for them to understand what you're doing. If your answers are hard to read, the graders will be less sympathetic to your mistakes. If your answers are impossible to read, we'll just ignore them. All this goes for exam problems, too.

IDK - I dont know points

Don't babble! If you don't know the answer, don't do a brain dump, hoping to get partial credit for including a few key words. That will never work in this class. Part of what you're supposed to learn here is how to tell when you don't know the answer. Answering "I don't know" (and nothing else) to any homework or exam question is automatically worth 25% partial credit for that question.
(We will also accept "WTF?") If you try to fake it, you'll get nothing. A course average of 30% or less, or a homework average of 50% or less, is an automatic F.

Important: IDK points will not exceed 10% of the given homework or exam.

Content: What to write

Convince the grader that you understand exactly what you're doing.

Grading and regrading

Final course grades

The following is just a sketch of how the final grade computation would be done. The instructor reserves the right to change this algorithm in any way he/she/it sees fit when the actual grading is done. In any case, grading would be done in a consistent and fair way and would try to follow the algorithm described below. Homework and exam grades will be reported on moodle. (We may also use the campus Gradebook program.) For privacy reasons, your alias (if we ask for it) should not resemble your name or NetID. By providing an alias, you agree to let us list your grades. To comply with both fedaral law and university regulations, we cannot list your grades unless you provide us with an alias on Homework 0. Final course grades are assigned using the following algorithm. (What do you expect from an algorithms course?)
  1. Drop each student's lowest homework grade.
  2. Compute everyone's raw average, which excludes all extra credit points. Course work is weighted as follows: (Online students would probably be automatically given the clicker questions points. TBD.)
  3. Compute everyone's adjusted average, which includes extra credit points, even from the dropped homework. (Extra credit points are not necessarily worth the same as regular points.)
  4. Anyone with an adjusted course average below 30% or an adjusted homework average below 50% automatically gets an F. (These are not the only ways to fail!)
  5. Determine letter grade cutoffs, excluding outliers from steps 4 and 5. The mean is a borderline B+/A-, and each standard deviation is worth 2/3 letter grade.
  6. Compute final letter grades from adjusted averages, except for the outliers from steps 4 and 5.
  7. Adjust grades (only upwards!) at the instructor's whim.
This system ensures that extra credit can only increase your grade, that other people's extra credit does not affect your grade, and that the curve isn't skewed by the handful of geniuses and doofuses in every class. We expect roughly 50% of the students get an A- or better.

Academic integrity

This final section is unfortunately necessary, thanks to the actions of a very small minority of students. Each student (or homework group) must write their own homework solutions, in their own words, and must properly credit all sources. We strongly encourage students to use any printed, online, or living resource at their disposal to help solve the homework problems, but you must cite your sources. If you use something you found in a book, cite the book. If you use something you found on the web, cite the web page. If you get an idea from someone else, give them credit. This is the same standard of conduct that researchers are expected to follow for formal publications; start following it now. Citing your sources will not lower your homework grade. Avoiding plagiarism is really very simple: Never present someone else's words or ideas as your own. Repeating ideas from other people, papers, or web pages without proper credit is plagiarism. Verbatim duplication of any source is plagiarism, including official homework solutions from previous semesters of 473/573, even if you properly cite your sources. Turning in a copy of someone else's work as your own, even with their permission, is plagiarism. Allowing other people to copy your work is also a violation of academic integrity. For more information, see the university's Policy on Academic Integrity, especially the section on plagiarism. Violations of academic integrity will not be tolerated. The default penalty for a first offense is a grade of zero on the homework or exam, plus a 10% penalty on the final course average. The penalty for a second offense, or a particularly egregious first offense, is an F in the course. (These are the department's recommended penalties for cheating offenses.) All cheating cases are reported to the department. Multiple offenses can result in suspension or dismissal from the computer science program or from the university. More than one student has been expelled from the university (in part) because of cheating offenses in CS 573.

Our high expectations for graduate students extend to issues of academic integrity. A notice of any cheating offense by a graduate student will be entered into their file, where it will be seen by the student's advisor, as well as their qual, prelim, and thesis committees. Several faculty members have publicly stated that they would refuse to advise or serve on a committee for a MS or PhD student who has committed even a single cheating offense, no matter how minor or how far in the past. In short, if you cheat, you are signing your own academic death warrant.

Regardless of whether it constitutes plagiarism, or whether you get caught, getting too much help on your homework will hurt your final grade. If you don't learn how to solve algorithmic problems on your own, you perform poorly on the (closed-book, closed-notes) exams, which make up 70% of your final course average.

Found a solution online/in a paper/etc

It is quite OK to use a solution you found online/papers/book/etc, with the following restriction. You have to write the solution in your own words and understand the solution (i.e., do not just cut and paste whatever you found - this would be considered cheating). Similarly, you must understand the solution you submit. Failing to understand the solution you submit is cheating.

In any case, you must give clear credit in the text: "the solution is taken from http://www.theunion.com/", etc.

You will not lose points for using outside sources for your solutions.

What not to do...

Last modified: Wed Aug 28 16:30:12 CDT 2013