Title: Self-Paced Lab for Information Retrieval (11-743)

Course Description: The Self-Paced Lab for Information Retrieval (IR Lab) is intended to complement the courses 11-741/11-641/11-441 and 11-642/11-442 by providing a chance for hands-on, in-depth exploration of information retrieval research topics. Students design their own projects (project examples), which must be approved by the instructor. Each student works independently. If multiple students work as a team on a particular topic, each must choose an approach that is different from the approaches used by the other students working on the same problem. Students use web pages for communication and to document their progress (examples). Web pages also facilitate the sharing of data/tools among students.

This is a full-semester, self-paced lab course worth 6 units. The workload is expected to be about 6 hours per week for 16 weeks.

Learning Objective: By the end of the course, students are expected to have developed skills in developing and implementing information retrieval algorithms; performing experiments that test the effectiveness of information retrieval algorithms; and analyzing experimental results.

Eligibility: This course is open to all students who meet the prerequisites.

Prerequisites: Either 11-441/11-641/11-741 or 11-442/11-642.

Semester: Fall, Spring, Summer

Instructors: Yiming Yang, Jamie Callan


·        Initial Meeting: The student begins by presenting a project proposal to a professor (typically Jamie Callan or Yiming Yang). This is done in a 15-20 minute meeting in which the student describes one or two project ideas, explains why the work is suitable for the IR Lab (e.g., with respect to the research value, programming work, non-trivial experiments), and gives a brief overview of the recent literature related to the topic. The professor provides feedback and advice about how to improve or adjust the scale of the project, and indicates whether he or she is willing to supervise the project.

·        Project Proposal: The student writes a project proposal that formally describes the project. The project is not officially approved until the instructor approves this document (web page).

·        Literature Review: The student writes a literature survey by the end of the second week of the semester, and reads at least two of the most important related papers. The survey should make a connection to the planned work, including a statement of the objectives, the description of the planned approach, the design of the experiments, and the estimated significance of the contribution if the project goes reasonably well.

·        Project Plan: The student creates a timetable that describes the major project components, and when each component will be completed.

·        Implementation of proposed method(s), algorithm(s) or comparison among methods. The lab requires exercising and demonstrating programming skills in information retrieval, in conjunction with analytic skills. Project web pages are checked periodically by the instructor, thus they must be updated each week to reflect progress.

·        Preliminary results: By the seventh week, preliminary results are expected. A two-page progress summary is required, which should include an informative and concise description of the new algorithm(s), an analysis of the preliminary results, and an outline of the remaining work. Details of the experiments can be provided via the Web page.

·        Documentation and final presentation: Submit a final report on the system and experiments, and present the work to the instructor (and possibly other students); arrange this with the instructor through email.

Grading Criteria: The student's grade is based on the criteria described below.

·        How meaningful the topic and the approach are, how carefully the study is carried out, and how significant the findings are compare to those reported by other students or in the literature.

·        The quality and quantity of the programming part, and appropriateness of the documentation (final report).

·        How well the approach/results are present in written and oral forms.

Updated on August 8, 2016.