Introduction to Cognitive Science
Last Update: 28 August 2008, 12:30 p.m.
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The term project must be one of the following:
- An inter- or multidisciplinary, mock grant proposal for a
cognitive-science research project that would investigate some problem
in cognition from the perspectives of 3 different academic
disciplines, at least 2 of which must be "traditional" cognitive
sciences. (If you are not sure what counts as "traditional
cognitive science", please see me.)
Such a proposal should contain:
- a summary
of a cognitive-science-related problem area,
- a brief review of some of the relevant
- a statement of open questions that you
propose to research,
- and a description of what you
would do to try to answer them.
You will need to discuss how each discipline would contribute
to the research.
If you are majoring in cognitive-science-related academic
discipline X, and your proposal covers
disciplines X, Y, and Z, then the amount of material on X should
be no more than 33%. (By the way, you don't have to include X
as one of the disciplines, but it's probably a good idea to include
- A critical study of a book (a monograph or anthology)
on some topic in cognitive science that is written (in whole or
in part) by someone
outside of your own academic discipline.
A "critical study" should include both a summary of
the book under discussion and
an evaluation of it.
The evaluation could consist of a summary
of someone else's evaluation of it, or (better)
it could consist of your evaluation of it.
(If you choose merely to summarize someone else's
evaluation, it would also be useful if you could adjudicate between the
two at the end of the paper; i.e., who do you think is "right"?)
In either case, you must indicate how the topic is related
to cognitive science, preferably to the material covered in lectures and
Moreover, it should not just be a re-hash of either
- a paper you have done (or are doing) for another course, or
- material that you are already
In other words, the project should be a learning experience.
A term-paper proposal (TPP) for your term project is due no later than
(This is approximately 1/3 of the way into the semester.)
No late proposals will be accepted, and no term projects will be
accepted without an approved proposal.
- Your TPP will be "graded" as either:
- OK [i.e., it's good; get started reading & writing!]
- revise & resubmit [i.e., here are a few things to
fix before I give you permission to go ahead]
- do a new one [i.e., you're a bit off-track; maybe try
If I ask you to revise & resubmit or to do a new one, you
will have 1 week to submit a new TPP. The longer it takes you
to get an "OK", the less time you'll have to do the real work.
So please put some serious effort into the proposal. If you'd
like to discuss it with me before turning it in, let me know.
- Here is a template for a TPP for a mock grant proposal
(yes: that would be a proposal for a proposal :-):
"Here is a problem that has been studied by disciplines X, Y, and
Z. X says:.... Y says:.... Z says:.... [I.e., this is where
you do your literature review.] There is one open problem
that none of them have looked at. Here is how all 3 can work
together to investigate it:..."
The proposal for your term project can be as short as 1 page (a
1-paragraph description, perhaps plus a short bibliography) or as long
as 2 pages (a 1-page description plus a 1-page bibliography), but
probably shouldn't be much longer than that.
All reports are due no later than
12:00 noon, Monday, December 8
(which is the first day of final exams).
- If I am in my office, please give me your report in person.
- If I am not in my office, please put your report in
my mailbox in Bell 211.
- If I am not in my office and Bell 211 is locked,
please give me your report as
soon as possible later that day or the next.
- Please do not slip them under my office door.
- Please do not send your report by email;
I will need hardcopy.
All reports must follow the writing guidelines in the document
"How to Write",
which also contains helpful hints on proper citation formats and
American English punctuation and usage.
Your report must be on 8.5 x 11-inch paper.
- It should be no longer than 10-15 pages (not
counting the bibliography),
For the mock grant proposal, if you spend approximately 2 pages on each of the
following, you will have a 12-page paper:
- statement of problem
- what X says about it
- what Y says about it
- what Z says about it
- an open research question
- how X,Y, and Z can work together to solve it
For the critical study of a book, if you spend approximately 4 pages on
each of the folloiwng, you will have a 12-page paper:
- statement of the problem discussed in the book
- presentation of a monograph's position on the problem
or an overview of the articles in an anthology
- critique of the book's position or the of (some of) the articles
- It should be double-spaced.
- It should be printed on only one side of the page.
- Your report must be stapled in the upper left-hand corner.
- Do not use folders or covers,
unless your report is too thick to be stapled.
- It must not include the printer's cover page.
- The first page should include the following information, centered:
- descriptive title (e.g., not: "Cog Sci Project")
- your name
- course number (e.g., CSE 575, APY 526, etc.)
- date completed (e.g., Dec. 8, or whatever).
followed by the abstract (see below)
followed immediately by the body of your paper (which does
not have to start on a new page).
I strongly suggest that you learn to use LaTeX and
ispell. In any case, please be sure to spell-check and
proofread your paper.
Every paper should begin with an
abstract: a 1-paragraph summary of what
the reader is about to read.
This is the sort of information you might
find yourself having to give, extemporaneously, in a
job interview, in an informal discussion at a
conference or convention, or even in a "real" job when
your boss sees you in the hall or even in the mall :-)
The abstract should be completely
self-contained; i.e., it should be understandable by
someone who is not familiar with your topic, as
well as by someone who does not bother to read the rest
of your paper!
And your report should not assume that the
reader has read the abstract!
- Consequently, your paper should
probably begin withany important information from the
You should write for an interdisciplinary, cognitive-science
audience (e.g., your fellow students in this course who are from other
departments from yours). Consequently, don't use any unexplained
technical jargon (beyond what has been introduced in lectures).
All reports must make it crystal-clear to the reader
in what way the topic explores interdisciplinary cognitive science.
I.e., it should make explicit which
disciplines you are focusing on, or how your topic fits into cognitive
science (which, by definition, is interdisciplinary and not merely
cognitive psychology or (cognitive) linguistics, etc.).
Don't use "box and arrow" diagrams without fully explaining
them: What does each box represent? What does each (kind of) arrow
Be sure to give the full source of any quotations. The best way
to do this is by giving the author's last name + year + page reference;
"How to Write: How to
for details on how to cite
You should try at all costs
to avoid using websites, especially including Wikipedia, as
- Citations should be primarily to published journal articles
and books. If you are not sure whether a source is acceptable, please
DO NOT PLAGIARIZE !!
These criteria are intended as a guide to you in preparing
your term project, as well as a guide to me for grading purposes. These
criteria may not be universally appropriate for all possible topics, and
other criteria might turn out to be appropriate. Nevertheless, these
should give you an idea of the kinds of things I will be looking for.
- Is the topic relevant to the course?
i.e., is it suitably cognitive-scientific?
e.g., does it discuss some issue from the perspectives of multiple cognitive-science disciplines?
Is the topic viable (i.e., manageable)?
Is the topic clearly spelled out; is there a clear thesis?
Are the arguments cogent?
Is the overall presentation clear and well-written?
Is there any original content? (Even a literature review should include
the author's (i.e., your!) reasoned opinions.)
Did you learn anything?
Copyright © 2008 by
William J. Rapaport