COMPGS11 - Research Seminar in Software Engineering

This database contains 2016-17 versions of the syllabuses. For current versions please see here.

PrerequisitesA good standard of computer literacy is required as programming may be involved.
Prerequisite forCOMPGS98 (Students wishing to take COMPGS98 Research Project in Software Engineering MUST choose GS11 as one of their options).
Taught ByEarl Barr
AimsTo introduce students to cutting-edge research methods in software engineering emphasising 1) the close reading of research papers 2) the critical, yet balanced, evaluation of research ideas, and 3) writing a research project proposal.
Learning Outcomes

Students successfully completing the module should be able to:

  • carefully read, i.e. peruse, research papers and books, identifying and articulating their core ideas, contributions and techniques or, at least, clearly state what was confusing and why and what steps to take to reduce that confusion.
  • identify research areas in software engineering, and discuss their seminal problems and solution techniques.
  • find and formulate a good research problem (or question), then convincingly and effectively solve (or answer) it, either via validation or proof.
  • conduct a literature search, avoiding the twin evils of shallowness and excessive depth.
  • describe the principal sections of a research paper and their purpose.
  • write a detailed research project proposal.
  • facilitate a seminar-style discussion of a research paper.
  • formulate, present and critique a research presentation, including an elevator pitch.
  • understand how papers are reviewed and accepted at conferences and journals.


This module will teach students how to conduct research in software engineering. It will introduce them to seminal papers and the cutting-edge research that UCL faculty are pursuing. 

The module will begin by discussing what research is from the point of view of software engineering. It will discuss finding, evaluating and formulating research ideas. To this end, the bulk of term prior to reading week will focus on developing the skills and habits needed to closely read research papers. After reading week, students will apply those skills to reading papers selected by the members of the SSE faculty.

A detailed research report will be developed in stages as described in Assessment, below. The final report will include a clear problem statement and enumerate the problem's novelty and importance. If the work is very novel, the final report must include a detailed review of literature necessary to understand its importance; otherwise, it must include a detailed literature survey that positions the proposed work against related work. Finally, the research report must close with a careful, succinct discussion of the theoretical or experimental work to be done to prove or validate the work.

Students may work individually or in small groups. Individual projects are preferred; group projects will require justification and approval. Groups will be expected to do more work, commensurate with their size.

Students who perform well in this module may be invited to enrol in COMPGS98 Research Project in Software Engineering.

Method of Instruction

Seminar, lecture, and peer presentation and review. Students will read 4-5 papers each week; for each assigned paper, they must turn in a 1 page critique. Readings will be assigned and available via Moodle.


The module has the following assessment components:

  • Project Presentation (70%)
  • Coursework (30%)

To pass this course, students must:

  • Obtain an overall pass mark of 50% for all sections combined.


An important component of coursework is writing short, 1 page critiques of each reading. Each paper critique must be separately posted to Moodle at least one workday (minimally 24 hours) before the class in which the paper will be discussed and be visible to all enrolled students. The students will peer assess each other's critiques. This module has no exam.

Further assessment details can be found from the course Moodle page.


The exact readings will vary from year to year. Most will be electronic versions of papers made available via Moodle.