CS87 Guidelines for Reaction Notes

For most papers we read, you (with your reading group) will write reaction notes prior to our class meeting to help you prepare for in-class discussions. You must write your reaction notes in latex using my template, and you should bring either a print-out or an electronic version of your reaction notes .pdf, as well as of the paper(s) we are discussing to class with you.

Reaction Notes Overview
Reaction Notes Details/Requirements
Reading Group Requirements and Roles
ReactionNotes repo and Latex Template
Submitting Reaction Notes
Tips for Reading Research Papers

Reaction Notes Overview

Reaction notes should should reflect your critical reading of the paper. The point of Reaction Notes is not that you demonstrate that you have interpreted everything in the paper 100% correctly (although you should strive for good interpretation), but that you have thought about the important ideas presented, that you have thought about a specific question about the paper, and that you are thinking about questions prior to in-class discussion. Having an interesting question about the paper is meaningful and important content. Reaction notes are also designed to give you practice with written presentation of your evaluation of a technical paper.

Please note that Reaction notes should be in your own words; cutting and pasting prose from the paper into your reaction notes is plagiarism. Also, your reaction notes should not comment on the quality of the paper's writing nor details of computer systems that are used for experiments mentioned in some papers. These are things we can discuss in class.

Some questions to think about as you read: Did the authors do what they said they were going to do? What are the important ideas (just because an author says something is important doesn't mean it necessarily is)? Do their results make sense? Are their methods sound? Are there weaknesses in their solution? What assumptions are they making? How does their work fit in with other similar work? What improvements and/or extensions to the area do they contribute? Are there terms, ideas, techniques, that you don't understand?


Be sure to read my tips for reading research papers. There are some links to other advice about reading and writing at the bottom of that page. Also, my tips for reading CS textbooks may have some other helpful reading tips.

You should take notes as you critically read the paper on your own, and bring your notes to your reading group discussion. Your reading group discussion should form the basis of your reaction notes that you will write together. I personally find it helpful to read a paper from a print-out and to take notes on the paper itself as I read it.

Reaction Notes Details and Requirements
  1. Create a paperNUM subdirectory in your ReactionNotes-group git repo for each paper. You must use latex and the required reaction's notes latex template for writing up your Reaction Notes. You will this template into your paperNUM subdirectory as a starting point each week (see latex template for details).

  2. Reaction Notes should be 1 page in length (not including Part 3: the list of questions):
    • Parts 1 and 2 must be no longer than one page. I will neither read nor consider for grading anything beyond one page of your response to Parts 1 and 2.
    • Part 3 may be on a second page.
    • Part 4 is optional and should be on a separate page if you include it.

  3. Your Reaction Notes should be structured in the following way:
    1. Summary:
      A 1 paragraph summary of the paper. A summary of what the work is, what problem(s) it addresses, and the results or new technique (if applicable). You can also include a short list of the strengths and weaknesses of the work, and list how it is related to other work we have read (when applicable).
    2. Answer to Specific Question(s):
      A 1-2 paragraph answer to the specific question(s) associated with this paper.
    3. In your reading groups you should discuss other parts of the paper in detail in addition to discussing the specific reading question. However, your reaction notes should focus on the specific reading notes question. You should can include other interesting questions/discussions in part 3.

    4. A list of questions you have about this paper:
      You should list at least 2 discussion-type questions. These are questions that your group thinks would be good for class discussion of the paper or questions that your group had about the paper during your discussion.

      Please also list terms, ideas, techniques that you don't understand. However, for terms you don't understand, also try to find the answer yourself by using on-line sources such as whatis.techtarget.com. If you find an answer, please leave the listing of the term on your reaction notes; it is helpful to me to see which terms are new to students so that I can make sure that we discuss their meaning.

    5. Optional: Group meta-discussion (on separate page):
      An additional, and optional, extra page to your Group's Reaction Notes document is to present/explain/list of any differences of interpretation about part of the paper on which your group was unable to reach a consensus. Differences about big ideas can go in your paper summary: "Some in our group thought that the main contribution of the work was X because Y. Others thought it was Z because of Q." This optional section can be for other discussions that don't fit well into the required parts. This part will not contribute to your Reaction Notes grade. Please use \newpage in latex to make this a separate page if you include this part.

  4. Reaction Notes are due by 9am of the day we will discuss the paper. See the submission instructions below for more details.

Reading Group Requirements and Discussion Roles
Most weeks your reading group will meet for paper discussion and Group Reaction Note writing to be done prior to the class meeting when we discuss the assigned paper. This will be an almost weekly event, so you should schedule a regular weekly meeting time with your group for working on the following:
  1. Meet and discuss the weekly paper(s) prior to the class meeting in which the paper will be discussed.
  2. Prior to meeting with your Reading group, each group member should have critically read the paper (tips for reading research papers), and written their own notes about it to prepare for your group's discussion and to help with your group's writing of its Reaction Notes.
  3. After your group's discussion of the paper, together you will work on a single Reaction Notes document that will be submitted by your Reading Group. Group members should take turns with lead editing responsibility of the write-up. However, you are all responsible for its content and will all receive the same grade on it.

Paper Discussion Roles

During your weekly discussion, each group member should take on one of the following primary discussion roles (and you should swap roles each week, with the expectation that you each do every role roughly the same number of times over the course of the semester):
ReactionNotes repo and Latex template for Reaction Notes
All of your weekly reaction notes should be organized as separate subdirectories in your ReactionNotes-group repo, which you can clone from the class git hub org.

Reaction Notes must be written in latex using the cs87 reaction notes latex template and starting point files. Here are some links to latex resources: latex

When you first clone your ReactionNotes-group repo, a subdirectory for paper2 with the latex template starting point files is included:

  cd cs87
  git clone [ssh path to your ReactionNotes-group repo]
  README.adoc   paper2/
  cd paper2
  Makefile  QUESTIONNAIRE.adoc  README.adoc reactionnotes.tex
In paper2 subdirectory are the latex starting point files for your weekly reaction notes:

For subsequent paper assignments, create new subdirectory named paperNUM in your ReactionNotes-group repo and copy over the latex starting point files. For example, for Paper 5 I'd do the following:

  cd cs87/ReactionNotes-mygroup
  mkdir paper5
  cd paper5
  cp ~newhall/public/latex_examples/reactionnotes/* .
  Makefile  QUESTIONNAIRE.adoc README.adoc  reactionnotes.tex
  git add * 
  git commit
  git push
The latex starting point files for weekly reaction notes can be copied from here:
cp ~newhall/public/latex_examples/reactionnotes/* .

I also encourage you to add and push individual notes and/or group discussion notes (in ascii, .md, .adoc, or .tex form) to your shared repo. I will not look at these for grading, but they will help you as your group works on your jointly written reaction notes.

git add groupnotes 
git commit -m "notes from our group discussion"
git push
Submitting Reaction Notes
There are two steps to submitting your reaction notes:
  1. Check that your submission is correct: do a `make` to build your reactionnotes.pdf file, and open it in evince or acroread to make sure that the .pdf builds correctly and that it is the version you intend to submit.
    evince reactionnotes.pdf

  2. Submit push reactionnotes.tex and QUESTIONNAIRE.adoc files in your paperNUM/ subdirectory to your ReactionNotes-group/paperNum repo. Follow these steps to ensure you submit the correct files (DO NOT add the .pdf version of your reaction notes to your repo):
    1. Edit the QUESTIONNAIRE.adoc file adding in the information about your reading group for this week.
    2. Then do a `make clean` (to ensure you do not add your .pdf file!)
    3. Then git add, commit and push reactionnotes.tex, Makefile, QUESTIONNAIRE.adoc, and any other notes files to your ReactionNotes-group repo. Please DO NOT add reactionnotes.pdf to your repo (you can build it from the .tex).
         make clean
         git add reactionnotes.tex QUESTIONNAIRE.adoc  
         git commit -m "reaction notes for paper 7 submitted"
         git push
    Here is more information about using git and github.
In addition, make sure to bring to class a printout or electronic copy of your reaction notes pdf and the paper we are discussing to class.