Chapter 1 Club

The chapter 1 club is an informal seminar where graduate students are introduced to the intricacies of what it takes to do research and write a thesis. This material is also highly relevant (and has been offered) as seminars in CPSC 699.


For you to think like a researcher, especially in how to discover and frame problems suitable to an MSc or PhD. Sub-goals include:

  • know how to search for and decide upon a thesis topic and refine it into a thesis problem
  • know how to write a thesis, especially its structure. This includes typical contents found in the first critical chapter, the review section, and in its conclusions
  • know how to write scholarship applications and research proposals

General philosophy

While the undergraduate program usually teaches methods that you can apply to solve problems, the graduate program trains you to define problems in a way that they can be solved. This is far more difficult to do than most people think.

Learning how to define a solvable problem is an important part of your training. Your supervisor's job is to give you guidance and advice on how to find a problem that fits your interests, and how to craft it so you have a reasonable chance of success during your time here. Don't expect your supervisor to just give you a very well formed problem with a detailed methodology on what to do. Depending on where you are starting from and your personality (as well as the supervisor's personality), you may get only a little guidance or lots of guidance.

PhD students usually have to be far more aggressive at determining their research than MSc students, but all have to take the initiative.

Introduction to the graduate program
  • Some basic things a new grad student in computer science needs to know about. Used as a handout accompanied by a 30 minute (non powerpoint) talk.
Do you want to be a grad?
  • Do you really want to be a graduate student? Read So long, and thanks for the Ph.D. by Ronald T. Azuma. It has some excellent reflections on why he chose to be a grad student and the qualities he believes makes for a good graduate student.
Structure of a Chapter 1
  • The Chapter 1's of most theses define the research. As we will see, the structure of a Chapter 1 generally reflects how one should think about research.
How to write a literature review
  • Your job when writing a literature review is to add value to all those papers you have read, where you explain how the many salient ideas of others (often gathered from many disparate sources) have led up to and have contributed to your research problem.
How to give presentations
  • While there are some 'naturally born' presenters, most of us have to work at becoming good speakers. This presentation describes some basic tips for giving effective presentations to audiences.
How to referee
  • While there are some 'naturally born' presenters, most of us have to work at becoming good speakers. This presentation describes some basic tips for giving effective presentations to audiences.
How to give a perfect demo
  • See the Blog Page of valuable tips by Scott Berkun
Where do ideas come from?
  • Good ideas do not fall out of the sky. Rather, they are the result of hard work, much searching and reading, and considerable reflection. I suggest a top-down and bottom-up approach to getting started.
  • Plagiarism, whether intentional or inadvertent, is a very serious offence that can get you thrown out of university. The sad fact is that there is no need for plagiarism, for the Science discipline actually encourages researchers to make use of prior work in the form of references, citations and quotations.
How to write a research paper and thesis
  • There are common strategies to writing research papers and theses, no matter what its content.
Life cycle of a graduate student
  • Most graduates go through certain stages as they pursue their thesis work.
The thesis oral and defence
  • Tips on what can happen at your Defence
How to apply for scholarships
  • What scholarships are available to me? How to I create a scholarship applications?
How to run meetings
  • Meetings can be productive or a time-waster. Here are some tips.
How to write reports
Good Teaching
How to do research * ICE Lab Guide - a variety of helpful documents to guide research and software development (Dan Olson, BYU)
How to grade * A video illustrating a grading technique - although I don't use this particular method. PS Its humour ...
Citation Indexes
  • Knowing your citations are helpful when trying to tell others how influential you are. A good program for doing this is Publish or Perish, which gives you your publication stats in various ways, e.g., as an H-number.
Unused but related collected resources