These are just a a few notes for new CS graduate students who are working with me on their MS thesis research, or would like to do so.
Your most important first step will be to take CS 5761, Introduction to Natural Language Processing, in the Fall semester of your first year. This class is typically offered each Fall, and it is important that you take it in your first semster. This will help you get oriented to NLP, and will in the end save you a lot of time as you get up to speed preparing to do your thesis research. This class will count towards your CS electives in your major, and does NOT duplicate CS 8761, Natural Language Processing, which is a graduate level class you will take (in the Fall of your second year). Any CS graduate student working with me as their advisor will be required to complete a Plan A Thesis. While there is a Plan B project option, I have only allowed that in a few (two!) very special cases where a student joins me only during their second and final year in the CS program. We will work together to identify a suitable research topic, but in general it will be in the area of Natural Language Processing and/or Computational Linguistics. You can get a very good idea of the kind of research we do by looking at previous MS student's work : http://www.d.umn.edu/~tpederse/masters.html You should also look at the various software tools we have created over the years, and even give them a try. Some of them have web interfaces, others of them must be installed on a Linux system and run from the command line. You can find those by browsing around my web pages ( http://www.d.umn.edu/~tpederse ) If we have done our job well, you should be able to install and use these packages simply by consulting the documentation. Let us know how well we have met that goal, and suggestions for improvement are always welcome. Most of the software packages have mailing lists associated with them, and you are encouraged to join any and all that you find interesting. In addition, there is a NLP @ UMD mailing list that I ask all students who work with me to join, and anyone else who is interested in what we do here is surely welcome. This is a place where we make announcements and point out issues in the news that might be of interest. Please sign up here : http://groups.yahoo.com/group/nlpatumd/ In addition to completing an original piece of research (ie your thesis), you will be required to take four 8000 level CS classes, plus two additional classes that may be either out of department or within the CS department. One of your additional classes should be CS 5761, Introduction to Natural Language Processing, and the other may be of your own choosing. It is possible to take free electives while you are a graduate student - this is included in your TA or RA funding in fact! These are typically 5000 level classes (or below) that do not count towards your degree (but you can still take them for credit and grades). This could include areas of personal interest (such as Theater or Physical Education), or other academic areas (such as Mathematics, Economics, Linguistics, Psychology, or Engineering Management). As long as you are doing well in your required classes and your thesis research, I will very likely approve. It will take you four semesters of hard work to complete your thesis. We will start working in the first weeks of your first year, and we'll continue through to the end of your second year. Your course load at UMD is relatively light (only 6 courses over 4 semesters) - that is to allow you to spend significant time on your thesis work each semester. You should plan on finishing your thesis by May of your second year. This will require you to work steadily on your thesis through your four semesters at UMD. If you do this, you will certainly be able to finish your thesis by May of your second year. This will enable you to move on to whatever comes next most conveniently and without distractions or interruption. Students who delay finishing their thesis until the summer of their second year or later often have unexpected difficulties in making the transition to whatever is coming next. We will create a plan during your first year (in your thesis proposal) that will give you a realistic schedule that allows you to finish by May of your second year. It is really your responsibility to make sure you both understand and follow that plan. Also note that in some summers I may not be available to supervise or review your thesis work, so if you do not finish by May I may not be available to you until the following September. Your thesis work will inevitably include programming (typically in Perl or Python). Any code that is used to produce results that are either published or that appear in your thesis *must* be released as open-source. The motivations behind this policy are described in a short piece that appeared in Computational Linguistics in 2008 : http://www.d.umn.edu/~tpederse/Pubs/pedersen-last-word-2008.pdf This philosophy is central to much of what we do, so please make sure you over the above very carefully. There are two required pieces of writing that you must complete as a part of your thesis. The first is your thesis proposal (mentioned above), which is normally completed by the end of your first semester. This is a 3-5 page document that describes the problem you will be working on, what approach you will take, how others have tried to solve this problem, and what the overall schedule for the work is. The second is the thesis itself, which should be completed by the end of your fourth semester (May of your second year.) Note that we will start writing your thesis well in advance of this deadline, doing preliminary writing in your first year and then working on the thesis throughout your second year. Both of these documents must be original, and you will do all of the writing yourself (with my guidance). It's very important that the writing be done in a proper academic or scholarly fashion, which means among other things that there must be no plagiarism in the work. Please make sure you read and understand the following, and always ask questions if you are ever in doubt about what is appropriate in your writing: http://www.d.umn.edu/~tpederse/Docs/A-Plagiarism-Case-Study.pdf Also, please read the following, which includes some general thoughts and tips on writing about research : http://www.d.umn.edu/~tpederse/Docs/The-Art-of-WAR.pdf The summer of your first year (between years one and two) is an excellent time to pursue an internship or similar opportunity. If you are an international student, it is important to realize you will need to obtain authorization from the US government in order to work as an intern (or participate in an off campus research experience such as a summer school). This authorization is obtained via something called Curricular Practical Training (CPT). You will need to get my approval for the internship, and also register for a 1 hour Internship class for the following fall. Additional info about CPT can be found here : http://www.isss.umn.edu/fstudent/cpt.html Also, if you are an international student it is important to understand the regulations surrounding Optional Practical Training (OPT). This is an authorization that allows you to work for 12 + 17 months after graduation. You can find more details about OPT here : http://www.isss.umn.edu/fstudent/opt.html Finally, please review the CS department graduate program brochure in detail. All degree requirements are spelled out there, as are expectations regarding academic performance: http://www.d.umn.edu/cs/degrees/grad/brochure.pdf Finally, I always enjoy working with graduate students, and in general have found that students enjoy their work with me. I realize the above may sound a bit formal, but this is just to make sure you understand as much as possible about my expectations and how I manage things before you get started. A good understanding of that will help you be successful and finish a thesis you will be very proud of in a timely and efficient way. Please let me know if you have any questions about any of the above, or anything else related to working with me. I usually respond to email pretty quickly, so please feel free to get in touch (tpede...@d.umn.edu) Last revised June 14, 2015