CAAM 600 Thesis Writing

Spring 2014

Time and room

Fridays 10:00 am - 12:00 in Mech Lab 253. Class attendance is mandatory.

Announcements and Assignments

Note: be sure to read the assignment descriptions in the course schedule as well!
  1. 31 January 2014: sign up for your 10 min overview talk on doodle
  2. 31 January 2014: revised agenda due to "snow day" last week
    1. discuss note-taking template
    2. how to write a Letter of Application, cover letter
    3. 3-minute talks (focus/problem, motivation (importance, what is new), possible application (theoretical or practical). Not all key questions. Understandable to whole group. Discussion after each.
  3. Assignment due 7 February: turn in two filled-in note-taking templates for two important references in your project. [NOTE: this takes the place of Homework #7 on p. 3 of the schedule.
  4. Assignment due 7 February: (Homework #6, p. 3) Write an email subject line and cover paragraph. On a separate page write a letter of application to be sent as an attachment (single spaced, can be double-sided). Place hardcopies in our mailboxes by 1700.
  5. Assignment due 24 February (NOTE NEW DUE DATA as of 17 Feb): (Homework #8, p. 3) Electronic reference file, annotated per note-taking template, email attachment to Symes and Sorensen. Make sure that you answer the SKQ, characterize the contribution of each paper, and explicitly explain how its findings relate to your thesis research. Symes suggests an annotated BibTex file, as most useful for...
  6. Assignment due 24 February: (Homework #9, p. 3) Draft lit review, with references, hardcopy in our mailboxes by 1700.
  7. List of Speakers and Introducers: 10 Minute talks, starting 7 February


About this class

This course assists students in preparation of the CAAM MA/PhD thesis and in other writing projects. It is required of all second-year CAAM graduate students. It is open to others as space permits (max of 10 students) and with permission of instructor(s). Class attendance is mandatory.


  • Completion of a large portion of a coherent, accurate, and persuasive MA thesis. Your thesis draft must include, at minimum, an acceptable abstract, literature review, and methods section. The draft must meet departmental standards as they apply to these parts of the thesis and must clearly answer the Seven Key Questions.
  • Development of oral presentation skills for delivery of a conference paper and a persuasive defense of the thesis with clear and sufficient explanations of your research;
  • Development of oral and written communication skills necessary to communicate your research to someone mathematically trained, but not knowledgeable in your area of expertise.

Syllabus and other materials

  1. Syllabus and class schedule
  2. Template for taking notes on research source material
  3. A Scrutiny of the Abstract, by Landes
  4. A Scrutiny of the Introduction, by Claerbout
  5. Latex and Bibtex style files, including annotation mechanism for note-taking in bibtex databases.

Requirement for the first class

Bring written approval of the thesis topic you and your advisor have agreed on. The topic must be precise, not vague. You cannot take the course without this written approval in place.


You will write a minimum of two drafts of an abstract, literature review, and methods section, plus other short writing assignments. Oral presentations will include a 3-minute introduction to your research, a 10-minute moderately technical talk, a 3-minute progress report, and a final 20-minute technical presentation similar to your thesis defense. Put a paper copy of all written work in the mailboxes of Drs. Hewitt, Symes, and Sorensen by the due date.


Grades will be based on your written work, oral presentations, and class participation; they will be assigned jointly by the instructors. If you need extra time for an assignment, you must receive permission in advance.
Letter grades will be given for the progress report, the 10-minute talk, the 20-minute talk, the second drafts of written work. All other work will be graded with a check, check plus, or check minus.
The final grade for the course will be based on satisfactory completion of the following:
  • A near-final abstract
  • A final and complete literature review
  • A near-final methods section
  • A final 20-minute technical oral presentation
  • Regular attendance and class participation.

Any student with a disability requiring accommodation in this course is encouraged
to contact the instructor during the first week of class, and also to contact a
Disability Support Services in the Ley Student Center.

This web page is maintained by William W. Symes.
Your comments are warmly appreciated.