## The Structure of Information Networks: Coursework Spring 2006

The assigned work for the course will consist of
• two problem sets,
• a reaction paper, and
• a final project (which in turn will begin with a project proposal).
The grading will be based 20% on each problem set, 20% on the reaction paper, and 40% on the project. Here is a more detailed description of each of these components. the reaction paper and the project.

### Problem Sets

We will begin with two problem sets; the goal here is to get everyone to practice some skills that will be crucial in doing the project. Specifically, in the project, we will be looking for you to work with real network data, and also to work with mathematical models of networks. Thus, the first problem set will be a computational one concerned with a specific network dataset, and the second problem set will be a mathematical one concerned with network models.

The first problem set will be handed out on Jan. 27 and due on Feb. 10. The second problem set will be handed out on Feb. 10 and due on Feb. 24. You may discuss the problem sets with other students in the class, but since the goal is to practice skills, the actual writing up of the solutions must be done separately. (In particular, this means that your solution should not word-for-word resemble another student's.)

### Reaction Papers

The course is primarily based on material from the past 5-7 years; this means that most of it exists in the form of papers on the Web, and the existing literature raises a lot of interesting issues that have yet to be explored.

As a way to get everyone thinking about the research issues underlying the course, there will be a short reaction paper of roughly 5 pages in length. You can work in groups of up to 3 people on the paper.

The reaction papers will be due on Mar. 17.

The reaction paper should be structured as follows. First, you should read at least two closely related papers relevant to a particular section of the course, at least one of which is not linked from the course home page. You should then write approximately 5 pages in which you address the following points:

• What is main technical content of the papers?
• Why is it interesting in relation to the corresponding section of the course?
• What are the weakness of the papers, and how could they be improved?
• What are some promising further research questions in the direction of the papers, and how could they be pursued?

Reaction papers should not just be summaries of the papers you read; most of your text should be focused on synthesis of the underlying ideas, and your own perspective on the papers. To make this concrete, you should make sure that you devote much of the content to the last bullet above: promising directions for further research. In particular, the reaction paper should contain at least some amount of each of the following types of content:

• A proposal for a model or algorithm -- potentially extending, varying, or improving something in the papers you've read -- together with some mathematical analysis of it.
• A test of a model or algorithm (either your own or something from one of the papers) on a dataset or on simulated data.

In prior versions of the course, the reaction paper has been a very good way to explore a potential project topic.

### Project

The final piece of the work for the course will be a project. You can work on this in groups of up to 3 people, and it is largely up to you to define the topic and scope of the project.

The first step in the project will be a short `proposal.' This is meant just to be a brief description of what you're intending for the project -- about 2 pages in length, with a discussion of relevant background work and tentative plans for how you'll proceed. If your project is based on your reaction paper, then you don't need to repeat things you've said in the reaction paper -- it's enough to describe how you're planning to turn the ideas from the reaction paper into a larger project.

The project proposal will be due on April 12.

The basic genres of project are the following:

• An experimental evaluation of an algorithm, model, or measure on an interesting dataset. The datasets on the course home page suggest some possible domains in which to think about such experiments; but you can also assemble your own data.
• A theoretical project that considers an algorithm, model, or measure in the area of some course topic, and derives rigorous results about it.
• An extended, critical survey of one the course topics, going into significant depth and offering a novel perspective on the area.
As with the reaction paper, the project should contain at least some amount of mathematical analysis, and some experimentation on real or synthetic data.

The result of the project will typically be a 10-15 page paper, describing the approach, the results, and the related work. The references on the course home page serve as examples of what such papers tend to look like; of course, the overall form of the paper will depend on the nature of the project.

The project write-up will be due on May 11.

The final stage will be a presentation of the projects in class by each group. The exact schedule for the project presentations will be worked out later in the semester.