Honors Projects in Computer Science

In order to be recommended for honors in computer science, a student must: complete all departmental requirements for the Computer Science major, including the Comprehensive Examination; undertake an honors project while enrolled in Computer Science 498 and 499 during the senior year; complete a thesis document describing the honors project; and present a public talk and a thesis defense. Departmental permission is required for enrollment in Computer Science 498 and 499.

Regulations concerning honors projects and their presentation appear below.  Most honors students will want to use LaTex and BibTex in order to produce their theses.  A commented style file is available here.

Juniors who are considering honors work are strongly encouraged to visit Computer Science faculty members early in the spring semester to discuss topic ideas and expectations.  Juniors should also attend the Senior Honors Research Presentations held in early March.  Once a student has identified a topic and a faculty member willing to serve as advisor, he or she may register for Computer Science 498.  The topic taken up in the fall may be different from the one proposed in the previous spring, with the approval of the Computer Science faculty.

Computer Science 498

Students enrolled in Computer Science 498 are expected to meet regularly with their thesis advisors, and also in an Honors Seminar with other students doing honors work, to present their research efforts and to discuss their progress. The meeting time of the seminar will be determined at the beginning of the fall semester.

This course will culminate in the writing of an extended abstract that describes the problem or question, surveys related work on the topic, and summarizes any results obtained so far. The abstract is expected eventually to form a substantial portion of the honors thesis. Students should discuss the content and format of the extended abstract with their thesis advisors well before the due date. The deadline for the extended abstract is the last day of Exam Period in the fall semester.

Participation in the seminar and the quality of the extended abstract will be taken into account (among other aspects of the research project) when the advisor assigns a grade for Computer Science 498.

Computer Science faculty members will review the abstracts for the purpose of identifying serious problems with research progress or writing ability. Students who are experiencing such problems will be contacted in December and may not be permitted to enroll in Computer Science 499, the senior honors course for the spring semester.

Computer Science 499

There will be no regular student seminars during this semester, although honors students are expected to meet regularly with their advisors.

In early March (approximately two weeks before Spring recess), students enrolled in Computer Science 499 will present public talks on their thesis work. These talks are expected to take about 20 minutes and should be aimed at an audience of upper-level computer science majors.

Honors candidates must also complete a thesis document. The deadline for submission of Computer Science theses is 5:00pm on the Monday of the fourth week before the end of classes. This date is not subject to extension. Theses may be submitted to the department ADC (Leena Valge - lvvalge@amherst.edu). Theses should be submitted as PDFs.

In the two weeks following submission of theses, each honors candidate will participate in a "thesis defense" attended by faculty members of the department. The defense will consist of a short presentation by the student, followed by questions from faculty members, on any aspect of the honors project. The defense is expected to take no more than 15 minutes.

The grade in Computer Science 499 is determined by the thesis advisor. The advisor may consider the public presentation, the thesis document, and the defense when determining the grade.

The level of honors recommended to the College is determined by the department. The thesis document, the public talk, and the thesis defense are considered when setting the level of honors.

Regulations for the Honors Thesis

  1. The body of the honors thesis, excluding the cover page, dedication, table of contents, bibliography, and appendices, must not exceed fifty pages. No exceptions to this maximum page limit will be accepted.
  2. The pages must be double-spaced, with no more than twenty-eight lines per page. The text must be printed using either a fixed width twelve-point font, or a variable width eleven-point font. Larger or smaller fonts are permitted outside regular text, such as in headings, sub- and superscripts, or footnotes. The margins of the thesis should be at least one inch wide.
  3. Every effort should be made to format formulae, code, and technical expressions in such a way that they are clear and unambiguous. Care should be taken to leave plenty of space above and below diagrams, equations, superscripts, and subscripts, and to avoid breaking equations between pages.
  4. Failure to comply with the above regulations will be regarded as a serious flaw in the thesis, and may result in a lowered grade in the thesis course and possibly a lower level of honors.
  5. The final version of the thesis must be submitted both to the department (as a PDF) and to the registrar.  The registrar/archive copy must conform to the specifications of the College Library and be acceptable for deposit in the College Archives. (The Registrar ordinarily sends a copy of the College guidelines to each senior in the first few weeks of his or her last semester.)
  6. Minor corrections to theses may be made after the date on which they are due in the Department's hands.  The final copy must be submitted to the Chair before 3 p.m. on the last day of classes.
  7. At the request of the Chair, the honors candidate will make available in the Department Office a set of references pertaining to the thesis.

November 2010