As you know, one of the major goals of this class is to understand how networking research is done. To this end, the term project is a major component of 6.829, since that's where you draw upon your knowledge and experience from the course readings and elsewhere to actually do research. This document is intended to ease the process of figuring out what to work on and writing a short proposal explaining what you want to work on. A separate document handed out in class describes some project suggestions we came up with.

Please feel free to come up with your own ideas, or modify our suggestions in any way you want. Our suggestions are simply that; and they're usually incomplete. They are usually not complete specifications of projects.

  1. Teams: As far as possible, you should work in teams of two unless you are doing the M-to-N fast file transfer protocol project. Working with others is a lot more fun, is often a lot more productive, and the resulting work a lot sounder than if you were working in isolation. The nature of the networking field is one that fosters collaboration and often makes it essential for high impact work, and you should develop the ability to collaborate on projects. Unless there is a very good and compelling reason for you to work alone, we won't agree to it! For large enough projects, we will be happy to allow teams of three, provided the proposal makes it clear why it is a large enough project (and ideally also what the approximate task assignment is).

  2. Schedule: One- to two-page proposals (details below) are due before Lecture 8. Print out three hard copies and bring them to class. We will read the proposals carefully over the following few days and get back to you by email if we have any questions. In some cases, we may want to meet with teams to understand better exactly what you are doing, perhaps because it is not focused enough or because you are trying to accomplish too much. Please do not wait for us to get back to you; get started as soon as possible! You have about two months to carry out the project, which is ample if your proposal is focused and you start early, but not otherwise.

    Project presentations have been scheduled for the sessions after Lecture 22. Your paper is due on the last class. It is important that you read important background material before turning in the proposal!

  3. Proposal: A crisp one-page write-up that should contain the following items. Three hard copies per group.
    • Project title (a detailed title is better than a vague one; you can always change it later if you don't like it!) and names of investigators with email addresses.

    • A clear statement of the research problem: a one-sentence summary followed by a one-paragraph explanation (the paragraph should not be more than 10-12 lines long). This should identify clearly the research question you are addressing (for example, implementing a TCP/IP networking stack, while a lot of work, is not research, unless of course you are doing it differently from today's approaches).

    • A clear statement of your research methodology, i.e., how are you going to solve the problems you have raised and motivated in the previous paragraph?

    • A statement of plan and schedule, to convince us (and yourself!) that you can complete this by the end of the term (exact due dates are here).

    • A list of resources you need to accomplish your work, with special emphasis on important pieces you don't yet have access to. Be as clear as you can in your requirements and we will work towards getting what you need as quickly as possible. If your request can't be accommodated for any reason, we will try to get back to you about it as soon as we find out.

    • Any other questions you have or clarifications you need from us.

  4. Background: In a one-semester class, one can only cover a fraction of networking topics, and there are sure to be projects where the background material won't be covered in too much detail. And even for topics that we do cover, there will almost certainly be other relevant related work that you should be familiar with. Part of doing something new is figuring out what's already been done or is known, so you should search the related literature and Web pages as extensively as you can. Keep an eye out for useful software or research methodology or tools that you can leverage; this will save you tremendous amounts of time later in the term. You might find some of the course links in the related resources section actually useful.

  5. Standards: Aim high in a focused way, and do the best you can! The best projects are sure to be publishable (as they have in past years) in top ACM or IEEE conferences in the area, such as SIGCOMM, INFOCOM, or MOBICOM, or appear as articles in journals like SIGCOMM's Computer Communications Review (CCR). I have a strong feeling that you will far surpass my already high expectations with wonderful work that will further the state-of-the-art in network research.

Where do you get a project? You are free to come up with your own, and the staff will be happy to discuss your proposal ideas by email (or in person) over the next few days. Or, you might want to pursue one of our suggestions (feel free to modify them in your proposal if you like).