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2nd Year Reading Week Assignment

Whatever happened to...?

One of the skills that you need to develop during your University studies is that of researching and summarising available information in a particular technical area. During 'reading week' (week 6 of semester 1) you are set an exercise whereby you can develop and practise such skills, by tracking the development of what appeared, several years ago, to be a promising idea.

The links below lead to articles about ideas and developments that were at the forefront of computer science over a decade ago. Your task for reading week is to choose one of these topics and to bring it up to date in an essay. The essay should be 2000 words.

The remit of the essay is quite broad: the articles are meant to provide you with ideas and starting points rather than to restrict you. Here are some possible approaches you might take:

  • You may consider the social issues and forces that guided the evolution of a technology over the past decade or so
  • You might instead concentrate in detail on the technological improvements
  • You could choose to follow the development of a specific sub-component of the ideas described (say, the advances that have affected computer memory
  • Alternatively you might want to discuss a recent development that was foreshadowed by an older idea (for example "hypertext" leads to "semantic web").

The essay should contain an introduction of no more than 500 words that reflects on the content of your chosen article, with the main body describing the modern state of affairs. You should make sure that you make clear the relationship between the old and the new.

References, Quotations and good practice

Please make sure you have read the general guidelines for essay writing.

You are encouraged to research your essay using the net and the library. Any material taken from other articles, or from web pages etc should be suitably acknowledged.

In general it is an infringement of copyright to reproduce any material, except short acknowledged quotations, from a published book or journal without the written permission of the publisher.

Except for the copying of material that is clearly from internal documents of the Department, any copying of books, journals, or documents required for the report should be checked with the supervisor before it is carried out. Any material that is copied must be acknowledged as such. Attempting to present material written by others as your own is plagiarism and a serious disciplinary offence, as described in the University guidelines in the Undergraduate Handbook.

The School, the EPS Faculty, and the University all have resources to help you understand and avoid Plagiarism in your writing:

Make sure you understand this guidance fully. Essays will be checked for Plagiarism.


Your work will be marked by your personal tutor. You must prepare your essay using LaTeX, and submit your it using the submit system before 5pm on Friday of reading week. The file should be called essay.tex and should be placed in a directory called ~/GSkills/RWEssay. It is important to note that the submission system will attempt to compile your LaTeX source, and will reject anything that fails to compile -- so please don't leave it until the last minute to test your submission. Also note, your submitted work must be a single, self contained file, so don't use \input or non-standard style sheets or classes.

You should read the essay assessment criteria, as they will give you a good idea of the expected standards.

Previous essays

To give you some idea of the standard expected, the links below lead to essays from previous years that were some of the best in the year