Spring 2013 — UC IrvineInformation & Computer SciencesICS 139WDavid G. Kay

Writing Assignment Requirements

When it comes to programming assignments, most upper division students know how to prepare their code and what to turn in. You may be less familiar with what we expect when you prepare and submit writing assignments. Please read this sheet carefully, and read it over again each time you start a new assignment. Your grade will suffer if you don't follow these instructions.

Most of this document applies to Informatics 161 and to ICS 139W; both classes involve significant writing assignments. We point out portions that apply just to one class.

Submission mechanics: Unless we say otherwise, you will submit each assignment in two ways: on paper at the beginning of class on the due date and electronically, using the web-based submission system at checkmate.ics.uci.edu. We may use either or both versions for grading, so it's important that you submit each assignment both ways and that your paper and electronic versions are the same. We don't expect technical difficulties with Checkmate, but if you have any, let us know by Email right away; don't just assume that your paper submission is sufficient.

Intermediate versions: Writing is an iterative process. The first words you put on paper won't be perfect, any more than the first code you type when you start writing a program. Revision—debugging—is the norm.

For most assignments, you will turn in more than one version. We may refer to these intermediate versions as drafts, but don't think of them as incomplete, haphazard "rough drafts" or first attempts. Every one of your drafts should be as good as you can make it—thoughtful, polished work with no spelling or sentence-level errors.

In 139W, we typically edit one draft in class. Don't waste your group editing time on proofreading; it's your job to do that in advance so your editor can address the content.

For longer assignments, you will turn in a revised draft (based on the in-class editing in 139W or based on your TA's review of your outline in 161); we will grade this draft and return it to you with comments so you can revise it before you turn in your final version. Doing a good job on intermediate versions will help your grade; on the assignments where we grade more than one version, your score on the intermediate version counts for about one-third of the assignment's grade (the other two-thirds being the final version, of course). For each later version of an assignment that you turn in, you must turn in the marked copies of all the earlier versions, including (for 139W) the written results of your in-class editing session. This applies to your paper submissions; your electronic submissions should include only the current version.

Plagiarism—don't do it: Plagiarism means presenting somebody else's work as if it's your own. You may use whatever outside sources (books, friends, interviews, periodicals) are appropriate for an assignment, so long as you cite them: Any time you use two or more words in a row that you didn't think up and write yourself, you must put the words in quotation marks and indicate where they came from. (There could be situations where this two-word rule isn't appropriate. If you think you have one, check with us.) Even if you paraphrase (state in your own words) someone else's work or ideas, you should cite the source (e.g., "Dijkstra says that unrestricted branching is dangerous."). Plagiarism is academically dishonest, and we expect that nobody in the class will engage in it.

That should be enough said, but unfortunately there have been instances of plagiarism in these courses in the past. We will check for it both manually and by using software that compares students' work with work from other sources, including the Internet and work submitted in previous quarters. ICS school policy is that plagiarists fail the course and have their offense recorded in the Student Affairs Office. Academic honesty violations can affect a student's graduation, financial aid, and eligibility for honors. The school deals with plagiarism cases every quarter, even though most people don't hear about them. No matter how pressured you feel, don't plagiarize; it's not worth it.

Grammatical mechanics: We expect you, as upper-division students who have satisfied the lower-division writing requirement, to have a good command of the mechanical principles of English syntax, spelling, and punctuation. These courses focus on content, organization, audience, and style. We expect that you will take the time to make your assignments nearly flawless from a mechanical standpoint. We will not mark every mechanical error on your papers, but they will lower your grade, and we will ask you to resubmit assignments with significant mechanical problems. Use a writing reference on these issues; the UCI Writing Center lists many on-line resources. Students who wish to hone these mechanical skills further should also contact the Writing Center, which provides a variety of workshops and services.

Any upper division computer science student should be aware that software-based grammar checkers are horribly inaccurate and entirely untrustworthy. Problems may still exist in a document that the grammar checker doesn't complain about, and often grammar checkers complain about passages that are perfectly fine. It is particularly dangerous to use a grammar checker the way a first-year programming student uses an IDE, just tweaking the prose until all the green squiggles go away. Grammar checkers are no substitute for knowing what you're doing; if it were possible to describe natural language completely and accurately in software, we'd all be able to converse with our computers just as they do in the movies.

Spelling and spelling checkers: Never rely solely on an automatic spelling checker; they help, but they do not substitute for human intelligence in proofreading. Spelling checkers locate some typographical errors, but they cannot identify such commonly occurring errors as incorrectly used words ("of" for "or," "it's" for "its," "there" for "their" or "they're") or inadvertent substitution of one valid word for another (such as "consistency" for "consistently"). Also be careful of auto-correct software; the computer is not always right about what it thinks you meant. Always leave yourself the time for a calm, undistracted review of your document for these mechanical errors, independent of your revisions for content and style.

Counting words and pages: So that we can speak consistently of the length of assignments, "one page" will refer to one standard, double-spaced typewritten page. At roughly 30 lines of text per page and roughly 10 words per line, one page by this measure contains roughly 300 words. Typeset material from books and magazines is typically denser. You should use this as a general guideline, and not waste time counting individual words by hand. Most word processors have automatic word counters, however, which you may use if you wish.

Typography and layout: Your papers must be typewritten or word-processed, of course. Everything you turn in should be double-spaced except for the final versions of your Influencing Policy letter and your change proposal. [Double-spacing makes it easier for an editor—a classmate or instructor—to make comments on particular passages. Final versions, on the other hand, should look like polished documents. When we give page counts, we're counting double-spaced pages, so of course your single-spaced final version will be half that length.]

Be sure to read http://www.ics.uci.edu/~kay/typography.pdf and apply the typographic principles described there to your papers. If you use a very old printer, please make sure the print quality is still clean and legible.

Binding: Do not use any kind of report cover. A simple staple in the upper left-hand corner is perfectly fine. For later submissions on paper, which must include previous drafts (as described above), you can group the different components with a big paper clip or "purse clip"; make sure your name is somewhere on each piece, though.