Scholarship Skills Winter 2020

PSU CS 669 (PhD students)

Course Description and Grading
Course Schedule
Useful Links
Rubric for project 1
Rubric for projects 2 and 4
Rubric for projects 5 and 7
Schedule of 5-minute talks
Rubric for talks
Schedule of 15-minute talks
Rubric for talks

Course Overview: The purpose of this course is to make you better scholars. In particular it attempts to make you better researchers, better writers, better presenters, and better reviewers. It concentrates on your reading, writing and composition skills. The course deals with both the production and consumption of the “media” used by computer scientists to communicate today. 

You will learn to both read and write papers, such as conference and journal articles; you will learn to both listen to and prepare and deliver oral presentations.  You will also learn skills that will prepare you for your career as a scholar: how to choose a thesis topic, and how to write a thesis; how to be an effective reviewer of material written by others; how to prepare yourself for the job hunt in academia or industry when you graduate. When you’re through with this course you should have a feel for the tasks and activities of modern scholars in informatics.

PSU CRN: 40933

Class meets: Winter Quarter 2020. 
         Monday & Wednesday 08:30–09:50, Fourth Avenue Building, Room 150


  • Andrew Black, office: FAB 115-10, ’phone 503-725-2411

    Office hours: Monday 13:00–14:00, or by appointment. It's also fine to just wander by my office and see if I'm free, and if not, to set up an appointment.  To set up an appointment at an alternative time, please use the telephone


This term we will be using Piazza for class discussion. The system is highly catered to getting you help fast and efficiently from classmates, the TA, and myself. Rather than emailing questions to the teaching staff, I encourage you to post your questions on Piazza. If you have any problems or feedback for the developers, email

Find our class page at:

  PSU CS Department Comprehensive Exam
  PSU Writing Center

Required Text:

  •  Lyn Dupré. Bugs in Writing.  Addison Wesley, ISGM 0-201-60019-6. (Some online notes are at
    This book is now out of print — which doesn't make it any less useful.  Fortunately, used copies are available inexpensively on Amazon (but Powells is out of stock).
    It doesn't really matter which edition you buy.
Cover of
                        Dupré Book

Ancillary Texts

  Lynne Truss.  Eats, Shoots & Leaves.  Gotham, 2004.  ISBN 1592400876.

If you are not use how to punctuate English — or if your instructors tells you that you are wrong — let this consise and amusing book be your guide.

  Mark Zobel.  Writing for Computer ScienceSpringer; Third Edition ISBN 978-1-4471-6638-2 (2014) is available as an e-Book as well as a paperback.

Covers many of the topics of this course.  In addition to Writing, has chapters on Hypotheses & Evidence, Style, Punctuation, Mathematics, Algorithms, Graphs, Figures & Tables, Editing, Statistical Principles, and Ethics.

  Henry Watson Fowler.  The New Fowler's Modern English Usage, R.W. Burchfield
  (Editor), Oxford, 2000.

A standard work, and one that taught me the love of the well-chosen word.

  William Zinsser.  On Writing Well Harpercollins, 1994, and Harper Perennial; Anniversary, Reprint edition,  2016

A classic book on wrting non-fiction from a former Yale Professor.  Not focussed on technical or computer topics.

  Mary-Clair van Leunen, A Handbook for Scholars, 2nd Ed,  Oxford University Press, 
  1992.  Some online notes are at

The authoratative guide to citation, and many other things.  Fortunately, effective use of digital citation tools make a lot of the hand-work that Mary-Clair assumes unnecessary.  What is doubly necessary, though, is checking your citation database.  As with anything in informatice, “Garbage In” leads to “Garbage Out”.

  Donald E. Knuth, Tracy Larrabee, and Paul M. Robers, Mathematical Writing.
  MAA Notes Number 14, The Mathematical Association of America, 1989.

A book based on a course that DOn Knuth originally gave at Stanford.  The original course notes are online, and make fo rinteresting reading.

  William Strunk, Jr. and E. B. White.  The Elements of Style. Pearson; 4th edition,  2019.

The classic style manual for American writers.  You can find old versions of this text on the web.  The Boston Globe says "No book in shorter space, with fewer words, will help any writer more than this persistent little volume."

  Nichoals Higham, Handbook of Writing for the Mathematical Sciences, Second Edition. SIAM, 1998

The Strunk & White of mathematics.  If your want to know how to write mathematics, this is your reference.

  Robert I. Berkman. Find It Fast: Extracting Expert Information from Social Networks, Big Data, Tweets, and More. Sixth Edition. Harper Perennial, 2015.

Extracting information from the web beyond Google, and why print resources are still relevant.

  Gary Blake and Robert W. Bly, The Elements of Technical Writing, Pearson, 2000.

A guide to writing clear, concise proposals, reports, manuals, letters, memos, and other technical documents.   Includes a section on the specialized writing problems of systems analysts and software engineers

  Edward Tufte. The Visual Display of Quantitative Information, Graphics Press, 1983.

From the master of infographics, this and three later books by Tufte are filled with a wealth of examples that explain the principles of creating clear graphics, and why they work


Other Resources


Merriam-Webster Style Guide on Commas
Barry Tarshis on Commas