Introduction to Cognitive Science

Term Project

Last Update: 28 August 2008, 12:30 p.m.

Note: NEW or UPDATED material is highlighted


The term project must be one of the following:

  1. 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:

    1. a summary of a cognitive-science-related problem area,
    2. a brief review of some of the relevant literature,
    3. a statement of open questions that you propose to research,
    4. 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 it!)

  2. 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 readings.

Moreover, it should not just be a re-hash of either

  1. a paper you have done (or are doing) for another course, or
  2. material that you are already knowledgeable in.

In other words, the project should be a learning experience.


  1. 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.

    NEW 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.

  2. 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.


  1. Your report must be on 8.5 x 11-inch paper.
  2. It should be no longer than 10-15 pages (not counting the bibliography),
    i.e., approximately 2500-4000 words.

  3. It should be double-spaced.
  4. It should be printed on only one side of the page.
  5. Your report must be stapled in the upper left-hand corner.
  6. The first page should include the following information, centered:

    1. descriptive title (e.g., not: "Cog Sci Project")
    2. your name
    3. course number (e.g., CSE 575, APY 526, etc.)
    4. 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!

Writing Guidelines

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 represent?

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; see "How to Write: How to Handle Citations" for details on how to cite references.

You should try at all costs to avoid using websites, especially including Wikipedia, as sources!


Grading Criteria:

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.

Copyright © 2008 by William J. Rapaport (