CSc 538
Research Project Specification
Due Dates: See TIMELINE below

Many of the concepts we've seen so far in this course continue to be used and actively researched today. As part of the requirements for this course, you'll be conducting an independent research project to further explore a preselected topic, and then to explore a topic of your choosing. In the first phase of the project, everyone will be researching the same topic. The second phase will be more open-ended, where everyone will end up doing something different.

Independent research may be a new thing for many of you, so you should first read the "How to do (database) research" document to get an idea of what is involved and the resources available to you.

Phase 1: Exploring DSM

In the first part of this project, everyone will research an alternative to the N-ary storage model called the Decomposition Storage Model or DSM. The original, seminal paper is the following:

Copeland and Khoshafian, "A Decomposition Storage Model", SIGMOD 1985.

Using this and other resources, research the DSM to find out how it works and where it is being used. Remember to always have some basic questions in your mind as you read critically:

You will have two deliverables for this phase of the project:

  1. Create an outline of the research paper that could be written from your findings. You won't actually have to write the full paper for this phase, though you should have collected enough information that you could write it, if asked. Include both a thesis for your paper and a bibliography of all the sources you cite.
  2. Create a set of presentation slides (such as on Powerpoint or the equivalent) that could be used in an oral report of your research findings. Again, you won't be actually giving the oral report, but the slides should be complete as if you were. There should be enough material for a 30-minute presentation.

Phase 2: Blaze your own trail

The choice of topic is up to you for the second part of the project. The subject can be an extension of just about anything we've seen in class thus far. To help guide you, I've compiled a list of topics and starting references. You may choose a topic from this list or make up your own. Unlike the paper you critiqued in Phase 1, notice that most of the references I give in the topic list are very recent, having been published just a few years ago, at most. Thus you'll be reviewing some pretty bleeding-edge material.

Once you have settled on a topic, let me know via email what you have chosen. Once a topic has been claimed, no one else can pursue it. There will be three deliverables for this phase:

  1. A research paper, complete with bibliography, discussing your findings. I don't like giving page limits, but 10-15 pages is what I'm thinking. No problem if you go reasonably above or below these limits.
  2. A set of five questions and answers about your topic, comparable to the types of questions I give you on homework assignments. I will be using these to build one of your future assignments (and maybe part of an exam...)
  3. An oral report to the class, 30 minutes in length, showing the results of your findings. The five questions mentioned above should be answerable from the presentation you give. It is your responsibility to make sure all appropriate compilers/environments/software are loaded onto the console PC before your presentation to ensure that everything works beforehand. An untested talk that goes awry will be reflected in your grade. To get through all the projects, the 30-minute time limit will be rigorously enforced. Practice to be sure you finish on time!


Due dates are as follows:

Warning: due dates above may overlap with due dates for homework assignments so manage your time accordingly.


This project is worth 20% of your total grade. For the Phase 1 outline and the Phase 2 paper, I'll be looking for:

For the Phase 1 slides and the Phase 2 presentation, I'll be looking for

Final words

Remember, you're not just summarizing a paper. Doing that would take a weekend. You have several weeks because finding relevant material, reading papers with a critical eye, and forming new understandings about unknown topics is not trivial work, especially when you have to deal with many authors' differing backgrounds, writing styles, and points of view. Come see me if you need help and start early.
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