The Structure of Information Networks: Coursework
Spring 2011

The assigned work for the course will consist of 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.

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. 28 and due on Feb. 11. The second problem set will be handed out on Feb. 11 and due on Feb. 25. 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 includes a lot of material from the past 5-10 years; this means that much of it exists mainly 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, and to prepare for the project, 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 is a good way to work on formulating a topic for the course project, and your group for the reaction paper can become your group for the project (which also can be done in groups of 3).

The reaction papers will be due on Mar. 18.

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:

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:


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 Apr. 8.

The basic genres of project are the following:

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 13.

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.

Academic Integrity and Plagiarism

You are expected to maintain the utmost level of academic integrity in the course. Any violation of the code of academic integrity will be penalized severely, and can lead to failing the course.

Plagiarism deserves special mention here. Including text from other sources in a reaction paper or project write-up without quoting it and providing a proper citation constitutes plagiarism. This is a serious form of academic misconduct, and instances of plagiarism will very likely result in failing the course. Plagiarism is not just word-for-word copying; it also includes cases in which no full sentence has been copied from the original source, but large amounts of text have been closely paraphrased without proper attribution. There are a number of documents on the Web that provide a good sense for what is allowed, including a set of guidelines maintained by Cornell.