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CSE465 - Course Overview

CSE 465 home page

This course uses a combination of lectures and a hands-on group project to learn about data structures and algorithms. The emphasis is on how to use these, rather than how to build them. Grading is done with a combination of tests and papers.

The course was originally set up with 13 lectures and group presentations during the final class. The first four classes take up most of the available time. The remainder of the lectures were designed to take about half the time, leaving the other half for group project time. This has been modified to reduce commuting demands for distant students and to allow teams to hold "blitz project sessions". After the first two weeks, two lectures are now combined into a single class night, with the other night usually an informal session for questions and answers, and/or for help on projects.

Grading is done as describe in the syllabus: 10% for the test score, 30% for the group paper, and 60% for the individual paper. The respective scores are multiplied by the above percentage, added together, and then scored according to the scale on the syllabus. These are explained below:

Test
This will be an open-book, open-notes essay test that will evaluate your understanding of the subject matter. A typical test would describe a possible project, along with a description of the constraints and goals. The student will then be required to write a proposal describing how they would design the data structures and algorithms for the project, including the reasons for their choices. For a sample test, click here.
Group Paper
The entire group will work together on a group project, and then write a paper based on this effort. The paper should concentrate on the reasons why decisions were made, along with an evaluation on the decisions. This paper will get a single grade that will be shared among all the members of the team. For more details, check here.
Individual Paper
Each student will submit a paper to demonstrate that they understand the subject matter. The paper must include the group project, but can include additional material as well. As with the group paper, emphasis should be on analysis and evaluation rather than technical implementation details. For more details, check here.

Sample Test

Here is a sample test. You should bring your own pencil and paper.

You have been asked to design a music collection program. They don't want to use a database. An album has a title, one or more artists, a genre, date, recording label, and catalog number. An album also has one or more songs, each of which have a song title, a time, and possibly different artists than the album. The order of the songs in an album is significant. The user wants to be able to search by song title, album title, artist, and/or genre.

Describe the data structures you would build for the music collection, including the fields and their uses. Describe any algorithms you would implement for the project, what they would be used for, and why. Explain the reasons for your decisions. Clearly state any assumptions you are making.

Usually, there won't be just one solution to any of these problems. That is why you should state your assumptions and explain your reasons. Even if you make what seems like a bad decision, if you have a good reason, that can help.

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