Summary exercise

DAT315 The Computer Scientist in Society

You have already studied a paper in its context, and prepared a short talk about it. In this exercise, you will write a summary of the paper’s key ideas, and relate them to the other papers you have read. Your goal is to write a short article suitable for your fellow students, which will enable them to quickly learn about the topic.

This exercise is in three parts, each with its own deadline.

1.       Write a first draft of your summary, to be submitted on 28th November at the latest. Take part in a writing workshop led by one of our course assistants, at which your first draft will be discussed in a small group.

2.       Peer review: read and review the summaries written by two other students. Your reviews will be sent to the other students to provide additional feedback. Your reviews are due on 5th December. You should also receive two reviews of your own summary on that day.

3.       Revise your own summary in the light of the writing workshop and the reviews you received; your final version is due on 21st December.

Before you start

Start by watching the following two excellent videos on writing a paper:

·         Simon Peyton-Jones

·         Derek Dreyer at PLMW 2016

They are each around 30 minutes: it will be time very well spent! You’ll notice they do not entirely agree—you will need to make your own choice as to whose advice you follow.

Read Peter Damashke’s guide to avoiding trivial writing mistakes.

Our main source for detailed writing guidelines is Joseph Williams’ book:,204,203,200_.gif

The material in Chapters 1-7 is particularly important—a brief overview was given in the lecture. You should obtain a copy of this book if you have not already done so, and read those Chapters in parallel with writing your first draft. (You should not delay starting writing until you have finished Chapter 7; however, you will find the material immensely helpful as you write, so you should aim to finish Chapter 7 during the next week).

Part I: Your First Draft

Write a summary of the papers you have read. The title of your summary should be “A Summary of <main paper’s title> by <authors of the main paper>”. Make sure you include your name and email address in the title part of your summary. Your summary should be aimed at your fellow students (so, an audience generally knowledgeable about computer science, but not this speciality), and you should make sure to explain clearly

·         What problem your main paper of choice is solving

·         Why this problem is important

·         The key ideas in the paper

·         Why this paper is important (with reference to the papers that came before and after).

Try to illustrate your points with examples.

You have a page limit of five pages, plus references. This means that all your text, excluding the “References” section at the end of the paper, must fit within five pages. Page limits are common in paper-writing, although five pages is very short—and almost certainly much shorter than the paper you are summarizing. This will force you to be selective, and make sure you choose the most important material to include.

Your submission for this exercise is a first draft—that is, we expect you to revise it in the light of feedback. As such, it’s ok if some parts are incomplete—but then you should clearly indicate what is missing, by writing something such as “The final version will contain a discussion of the relationship to [4] at this point”. Try to make your first draft as complete as possible—even if the writing is rough in places—so that you get feedback on as much of the document as possible.

I advise using LaTeX to prepare your document (although this is just a recommendation, not a requirement). You will find plenty of information about how to use LaTeX online, and you will find ways to install it under virtually any operating system. However, if you are not familiar with LaTeX yet, then you might like to use this template as a starting point.

Your first draft is due on November 28th, and should be submitted through the Fire system. Only PDF files can be submitted. Make sure you select as your reviewer the course assistant leading the writing workshop you have booked (see below: obviously you must book a writing workshop before submitting your draft).

Writing workshops

You should attend a writing workshop, at which your first draft will be discussed by a course assistant and a group of your fellow students. Each workshop is two hours long (or rather, one and three quarter hours, since we will finish at quarter to the hour in the mornings, and start at quarter past the hour in the afternoons). You should attend the entire two hour slot that you book; around 20 minutes will be spent discussing your own writing, and you should expect to spend the remaining time reading other students’ summaries and making helpful suggestions. Please bring enough copies of your draft on paper for everyone at the workshop to have a copy to read.

The times and locations of writing workshops are as follows:


Course assistant and room

Time slots

Thursday, 29 Nov



8-10, 10–12, 13–15, 15–17




8-10, 10-12, 13-15, 15-17

Friday, 30 Nov



8–10, 10–12, 13–15, 15-17




8–10, 10–12, 13–15, 15-17

Monday, 3 Dec



8-10, 10-12, 13-15, 15-17


To book a time, use one of the following links:

Max Algehed

Simon Robillard

Agustin Mista


Part 2: Your reviews

You should receive two other students’ summaries by email from the course assistant that you submitted your own first draft to. Your task is to read each summary, and write a review for the author, following the structure and advice covered in the lecture. Your reviews may be submitted either as a text file (with extension .txt), or as a PDF. Include both your reviews in one file, but start each review by clearly stating the title and author of the summary you are reviewing.

The deadline for your reviews is six days after you receive the summaries to review—so if you receive those summaries on Thursday, then you should submit your reviews the following Wednesday. You should submit your reviews using the Fire system, and send a copy of your review to each summary author at the same time (their email address ought to be given at the top of their summary). Note that your deadline for this is individual—the deadline in the Fire system is after everyone should have finished submitting summaries. Of course, if you submit your reviews early, then we (and the authors of the summaries you are reviewing) will just be happy.

Our goal is to send summaries for review the weekday after they are submitted (i.e. not at the week-end), to other students who submitted their own summary on the same day—so if you are late submitting your summary, then you will still have six days to do your own reviewing, but of course you won’t get reviews on your own work until your own reviewing deadline.

Part 3: Final version

On the day your own reviews are due, you ought to receive two reviews of your own draft summary from your fellow students, and you should have had feedback at a writing workshop. Now it’s time to polish your summary into its final form, taking into account the feedback you have received. Don’t forget that your final summary should not only explain the key idea in the main paper you chose to work with, but also explain why it is important with reference to the papers that came before and after. Check your list of references: are there at least three papers there? If not, you’re not done!

Your final version is due on the 21st December. Note that this is a different exercise in the Fire system—it’s not a resubmission of the first draft. So make sure you submit to the correct exercise!