Computer Science 338
Parallel Processing

Williams College
Spring 2006

Term project
Groups must be formed by: Tuesday, April 11, 2006
Proposals due: 11:59 PM, Friday, April 14, 2006
Progress reports due: 11:59 PM, Monday, April 24, 2006
Paper drafts due: 11:59 PM, Friday, May 5, 2006
Presentations: Tuesday, May 16, 2006
Final submission: 11:59 PM, Wednesday, May 17, 2006

As you know, this course requires you to complete a final project that will determine 40% of your grade. You may choose your own topic related to parallel processing to study in more detail than we have as a class. Your project should include programming, but the amount may vary from topic to topic. A formal research paper and brief (approximately 20 minute) presentation at a minisymposium to be held during reading period are required.

You may work individually or in groups of two or three. Groups must be formed by Tuesday, April 11, 2006.

The proposal

Please start thinking about a topic over spring break and come to me with your ideas. By 11:59 PM, Friday, April 14, 2006, submit a proposal, no more than one page in length, that describes your topic, what you plan to investigate, and how you plan to go about it. If you will need access to any special hardware or software, include that in your proposal. Submit as a PDF file proposal.pdf.

The progress report

By 11:59 PM, Monday, April 24, 2006, submit a progress report. This should consist of a detailed outline (or better yet, an early draft) of your paper including sources, and a description of the design and current implementation status of your software, as well as a timetable for completion of the project. Submit a PDF file progress.pdf.

The paper

This is to be a formal research paper, and should be organized as such. You should begin with a title, author list, and abstract. The main body of the paper should be organized into sections including (i) an introduction in which you describe the general topic and the particular aspects you will be examining, (ii) one or more sections comprising your main text, where you describe what you have done, how you have done it, and what you have learned, (iii) a conclusion, which should include ideas for future investigation into your topic which were beyond the scope of your paper, and (iv) a complete list of citations. Citations of web pages are acceptable in some circumstances, but books, articles in conference proceedings or journals, or technical reports are preferred. Examples of papers that fit the expected format will be provided.

Proper English and a good technical writing style are important. Writing well is very difficult - it is an iterative process and cannot be done all at once. Be precise and be concise. Group members should proofread and make suggestions about each other's writing. Check your spelling and grammar carefully. I expect most papers will be around 15 single-sided pages, using 1.5 spacing, one inch margins, and a 12-point Times Roman font (or as close as you can come). Please do not adjust margins and font sizes to force a certain length. You are encouraged but not required to use LaTeX to typeset your paper. The LaTeX example in my shared area is already set up with an appropriate format. Length is not important - content and quality are. Papers shorter than 10 pages or longer than 20 pages are acceptable, if the length is appropriate for the content.

Submit a draft, as complete as possible, as a PDF file draft.pdf by 11:59 PM, Friday, May 5, 2006. The more complete this draft, the better feedback I can give you to improve it and the more you can focus on programming over the last week or two. You may also submit additional drafts for feedback, but keep in mind that it may take me a day or two to get to them. Submit your final version as a PDF file paper.pdf by 11:59 PM, Wednesday, May 17, 2006.

The project

You should submit your source code and instructions on how to build and run it. The software should be described in the paper. Please make arrangements to demonstrate the program. Source code should be submitted and demonstrations completed by 11:59 PM, Wednesday, May 17, 2006.

The presentation

Each group will present a summary of their work to the class. Include background information on your topic, a description of what you did, and a summary of what you learned. Software demonstrations may also be appropriate. Prepare slides or web pages. Rehearse your presentation, paying special attention to timing. Given how busy everyone will be at the end of the semester, our schedule will be tight, so groups will not be allowed to run over the alloted time. Presentations will take place during a class minisymposium on Tuesday, May 16, 2006  at a time and place to be determined. All group members must participate in the presentation. Attendance is required at the entire presentation session, not just when your group is speaking.


This final project accounts for 40% of the course grade. The grade will be based on all aspects of the project, including the proposal (5%), the progress report (5%), the design, documentation, style, and correctness of the software developed (0-30%), the content and writing style of the draft (15%) and final version (30-60%) of the paper, and quality of the presentation (15%). No credit is given for attendance, but penalties will be applied for missing all or part of the minisymposium.

Choosing a topic

Here are some ideas to consider when choosing your topic:

These are just ideas, and you should not restrict yourself to this list. I hope everyone can find an appropriate topic that they find interesting. You might also find it useful to browse the topics and abstracts of the talks at last fall's Supercomputing conference or the SIAM Conference on Parallel Processing for Scientific Computing from earlier this semester to get a feel for some current research projects in parallel processing.

Honor Code Guidelines

Collaboration within a group is unrestricted. Since each group is working on a different project, you are free to discuss your projects with each other. If you wish to use or refer to any software libraries or outside source code beyond the standard language (C, C++, Java) libraries, check with me first. All sources must be cited properly. If in doubt about anything related to Honor Code, ask now and avoid problems later!