Computer Science Department
Graduate School of Arts and Sciences

Computer Science Graduate Initiation

Spring 2010






Rich West

richwest at

MCS-289 (617-353-2065)

Wed 5:00-6:30pm

Thu 3:30-5:00pm

John Byers
byers at

MCS-270 (617-353-8925)

Mon 9:30-11:00am

Thu 2:30pm-4:00pm

Class Meetings:
Place: MCS-135
Time: Fri 10am-11am


This required two-credit course is designed to help guide entering Ph.D. students through the challenging transition into the graduate program in Computer Science. Topics we will try to address range broadly across issues of research and scholarship, including:

  • Balancing competing demands of coursework, research, and teaching
  • How to go about identifying and working with a dissertation advisor
  • Working within a research group
  • Resolving conflicts with advisor and collaborators
  • Becoming a proficient reader, writer, and reviewer of technical papers
  • Making use of online and library research resources
  • Becoming proficient with technical tools of the trade for writing and performing research
  • Presenting good talks
  • Networking and becoming visible in the research community
  • Understanding the research funding landscape
  • Understanding and applying scientific ethics
  • Applying for fellowships and internships
  • Writing a thesis proposal and a dissertation
  • Finding a job after graduate school

The course will not cover details of program requirements and milestones, nor will the class provide academic advice specific to individual students in the class. For these please consult the Graduate Student Handbook and your academic advisor, respectively.

Course Syllabus and Readings

+ Required Readings for Upcoming Class Meetings

  • Announcements will be made via email or in class about required readings. Please note that the listing of a particular text doesn't mean that we agree with all, or even most, of what is in it. Our goal (and hope) is that these specific texts will stimulate discussion. Recommended references and readings are available below. 
  • Course syllabus

Resources and References

The following is a comprehensive list of materials and references that have been collected over the many iterations of this class over the years. Feel free to suggest others to the instructors! The required readings for each class meeting are subsets of the references below.

On Being a Graduate Student

Choosing (and Managing the Relationship with)  your Advisor

Reading and Reviewing Research Papers

Writing Research Papers

Presenting Research Work

On Being a Scientist

On Academic Careers

Lighten up!