Project — Instructions

SA402 Fall 2016

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Big Picture

What will I be doing?

For this project, you will:

  • read a research article that uses a stochastic process to model and analyze a real-world system, and
  • write a review of the article that summarizes and critiques the article's approach to studying the system.

What's the point of this project?

By doing this project, I want you to:

  • discover an interesting application of stochastic processes,
  • gain some experience with reading scientific literature, and
  • practice technical writing — a skill you will use well beyond your time at USNA.

Who do I work with? When is the project due?

  • You must work in teams of 2 (one team may be just 1).
  • You must submit a first draft in class on Wednesday 23 November.
  • I will return your drafts on Monday 28 November, with suggestions for improvement and scores on course standards G1, G2, and G3.
  • You may revise and resubmit your project twice, any time before Friday 16 December.
  • If you are finding your own article, you must get my approval by Monday 7 November Thursday 10 November. In addition, please include a hard copy of your article when submitting your first draft and revisions.


What article should I read?

You may choose to read one of the following articles:

  • P. Kolesar. Stalking the endangered CAT: a queueing analysis of congestion at automatic teller machines. Interfaces 14(6): 16-26, 1984. [article on JSTOR]
  • J. Meredith. A Markovian analysis of a geriatric ward. Management Science 19(6): 604-612, 1973. [article on JSTOR]
  • D. G. Morrison and R. D. Wheat. Misapplications reviews: pulling the goalie revisited. Interfaces 16(6): 28-34, 1986. [article on JSTOR]
  • J. M. Steele. Models for managing secrets. Management Science 35(2): 240-248, 1989. [article on JSTOR]

Why these articles?

I chose these articles because

  • they represent a wide range of applications, and
  • you should be able to understand these articles with a reasonable amount of effort.

Some of these articles may require reading ahead in the course.

Can I choose my own article?

You are welcome to find your own article for this project. Google Scholar is a pretty good place to start. If you choose to find your own article, you must get my approval first (see above).

What should you write in your review?

Your review should address the following:

  1. What real-world system are the authors studying? Why is this study important?
  2. How do the authors model this system as a stochastic process? If they use a stochastic process model that we did not cover in class, provide an algorithmic description (using our general framework in Lesson 7).
  3. With their model, what assumptions do the authors make about the system they are studying? Do the authors validate these assumptions using data from the real-world system? Are these assumptions reasonable? Why or why not?
  4. What insights and conclusions do the authors draw from analyzing their model?
  5. How can the authors' model and analysis be improved?

Guidelines and suggestions

On reading:

  • Reading a scientific article takes a lot of time. Start early. Don't let the relatively small page counts fool you.
  • The math in research articles is often not cleanly presented like in a textbook. You may need to seek some additional sources to fully understand what is going on — either by reading ahead in our textbook, or looking at other textbooks.

On writing:

  • Your audience is your classmates. Your review should contain just enough detail so that any of your classmates can read it and get a good idea of what's going on in the article.
  • Focus on making your review well-written and concise. Note: "concise" doesn't mean "without mathematical details."
  • There is no minimum or maximum length for your review.
  • Consider using section headings to make your review easier to follow.
  • Proofread, proofread, proofread.
On citations:
  • Cite all your sources (at minimum, this should include the article you're reviewing). You can use whatever citation style you like (e.g. MLA, APA); just be consistent.
  • It is customary in the scientific literature to simply refer to authors simply by their last names without titles. For example: "Uhan (2010) used a stationary Poisson process to ..."

How will I be graded?

You will receive scores for course standards G1, G2 and G3 based on your project:
  • G1. Understanding the stochastic process model and assumptions. I can describe how the article's authors model the real-world system they are studying as a stochastic process. I can describe the assumptions they make about the system, and discuss whether these assumptions are reasonable.
  • G2. Understanding the analysis of the stochastic process model. I can describe the insights and conclusions that the article's authors draw from studying their model. I can offer meaningful suggestions on how the authors' model can be improved.
  • G3. Technical writing. I can write a review that is clear, concise, and well-organized.