CIS 573 - Fall 2011

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CIS 573 Course Overview



Course Objectives

On the first day at your new job as a software engineer, your boss says to you "Here's 6,000 lines of code. Find the bugs. Fix them. Then document how you did it." Would you even know where to begin?

This course seeks to answer questions like: How would you test a program you didn't write? How would you know when you were done testing it? How would you locate and fix the bugs? And make sure that your fixes didn't break other stuff? How would you modify existing code to make it better? What does "better" even mean?

Once you have completed this course, you will be able to answer those questions, and you will understand how to apply academic research to real-world software engineering problems.


Class Meeting Times

Mon 4:30-6:00, David Rittenhouse Lab A8
Wed 4:30-6:00, LRSM Auditorium

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There will be no required textbook for this course. There will be numerous assigned readings over the course of the semester, but they will be made available to you via Blackboard.

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Note that these are only guidelines, but final course grades will likely be based on the following:

  • Weekly reading assignments (10%)
    • Every Wednesday, you will be given a reading assignment (usually consisting of just 1-2 papers). The following Monday, there will be a 10-minute open-book/open-notes quiz at the beginning of class. The quiz will usually consist of two "fact" questions, two "analysis" questions, and one "opinion" question.
    • You can drop your lowest quiz grade with no questions asked. If you need to miss more than one quiz, though, please notify the instructor in advance in order to have that score exempted.
  • Midterm exam (15%)
    • This is scheduled for Monday, Oct 31.
    • The exam will be open-book and open-notes, but you cannot use electronic devices.
  • Final exam (25%)
    • This is tentatively scheduled for Dec 15, 3-5pm. Note that final exams are scheduled by the university registrar.
    • The exam will be open-book and open-notes, but you cannot use electronic devices.
    • The exam will be comprehensive, but will focus on material covered after the midterm.
  • "Engineering assignments" (50%)
    • There will be 3-4 short projects (2-3 weeks each) related to the major themes of the course: testing, debugging, refactoring, and design.
    • You can work on these alone or with one other person (no exceptions). You do not have to work with the same person on all assignments.


Credit for work will be recorded only as reported by the TA in the Gradebook on Blackboard. It is your responsibility to make sure that your work has been properly recorded in the Gradebook.

Make sure you notify the TA of any problems regarding missing records or incorrectly entered scores; the grade entries on the Blackboard will be considered permanent one week subsequent to their posting.

Our TAs will be responsible for adjudicating problems related to grading; the instructor will only be involved as a possible court of last appeal in case there is some truly difficult decision to make (i.e., in most cases, I will not be willing to second guess the TAs' decisions). To submit a request to the TA for a regrade of an assignment, email the TA stating the nature of the problem and the remedy you desire. You must submit this adjustment request within one week of the return of the material in question. The TAs will not consider any requests for grade adjustments that are submitted later than this one week grace period.

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Academic Integrity

All work submitted for this class is expected to be your own, unless otherwise noted in the assignment instructions. If you are caught submitting work that is completely copied from some other source, or that has been prepared by somebody other than you, you will face severe discipline by the university.

Homework assignments are to be completed individually unless explicitly stated. You may talk to fellow classmates regarding the assignment and share ideas on Blackboard, but keep in mind what is appropriate and inappropriate about your collaboration:


  • Person A doesn't understand what exactly the problem is asking, e.g. writing actual C code vs. pseudocode. He discusses this with Person B to arrive at one or the other.
  • Person A does not understand a particular concept. Person B explains the concept using an example, other than one asked on the homework.


  • A attempts half the problem, and B attempts the other half. A and B copy the solutions to half the assignment that the other person wrote.
  • Together, A and B work out each homework problem on chalk/white board; then they separately copy down their work and turn it in.
  • Person A completed a programming assignment and just before turning it in, he deleted his program - oh no!!!. In desperation, he asks Person B if he can turn in a copy of her program.
  • Person A happens to be in the lab working on the assignment and notices that Person B is working on the same assignment. Person A is having trouble compiling his program, and asks Person B to fix the problem for him. Sounds safe, right? It's not.

Note: When in doubt always ask the instructor or TA first, to avoid any potential collabration that can lead to academic dishonesty.

You can further read Penn's Code of Academic Integrity page on this subject matter, as well as the SEAS Graduate Student guidelines on the code of ethics.

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Homework turn-in procedure

You will turn-in all homework assignments using Blackboard. Follow the steps below.

  1. Log into Blackboard
  2. Open your course (CIS 573).
  3. In the main menu on the left-hand side, click "Assignments".
  4. Click on the assignment for which you want to submit your homework.
  5. In Section #2, "Assignment Materials", leave the "Submission" (the text area at the top) blank, as your submission will consist of files that you will upload.
  6. Below the textbox, next to the label "Attach File", click the "Browse for Local File" button. After you choose the file, you should see it listed next to the label "Attached files" (i.e., it should be uploaded automatically when you select it). Unless otherwise noted, your submission should consist of a single .zip or .tar file.
  7. After uploading all files, click the "Submit" button.

You may submit multiple times, but only the last submission will be graded.

Submissions after the deadline are subject to a 10% per day penalty, up to seven days, after which the submission will not be accepted.