Course FAQ (Summer 2020)

The following are answers to frequently-asked questions from previous semesters of the course. You’re responsible for knowing any content on this page on the first day of the course; we also may add to this page as the semester goes along, but you aren’t responsible for knowing anything added after day 1.

I haven’t completed my foundational requirement. Can I still take this course?

You can. When we filmed the video advocating finishing your foundational requirement first, this course didn’t count toward it; that was changed about a year later.

That said, we still don’t recommend taking this course early in your OMSCS career. You’ll get a lot of ideas for what you want to work on while enrolled in your own classes, so waiting until later can help you brainstorm. But that’s just a recommendation: there is no requirement to wait.

Will I be penalized for failing to adhere to JDF on my submissions?

Yes and no. The primary purpose of JDF is standardize a document format in a way that lets us give useful expectations about assignment submission lengths that include both text and figures. So, there will be major deductions if you deviate from JDF in a way that breaks that purpose, such as deviations from the prescribed margin size, text size, typeface, and line spacing.

That said, the secondary purpose of JDF is to make your submissions look clean and professional, and to prepare you for the potential world of academic writing where you’re expected to adhere to document formats. So, if there are any cosmetic deviations from JDF that jump out immediately, they may be subject to small deductions. That would include things like: the formatting of section headers, paragraph spacing, and caption formatting.

We won’t be going through your document with a ruler ensuring that your spacing is exactly 1.26 instead of 1.25 or anything like that, though. If deviations can’t be identified during the normal course of viewing the document, you’ll be fine.

If I previously enrolled in this class and withdrew/failed, can I reuse my work?

If you already started this class and completed some of the assignments, it’s okay to resubmit them: we don’t consider that self-plagiarism. That said, we offer no guarantee that the assignment descriptions haven’t changed, so make sure that your submission meets the current criteria.

The syllabus states that the deadline is 11:59PM UTC-12 on Sundays, but Canvas reflects a later deadline. Which is correct?

We add some extra time in Canvas for two reasons: one to account for daylight savings shifts (since if we went strictly by 11:59PM UTC-12, it would mean deadlines would shift back and forth an hour by most of our time zones) and two to allow a grace period around the submission window in case Canvas is momentarily slow, your internet goes out right at the deadline, etc. Canvas’s deadline is always later than 11:59PM UTC-12, so as long as you aim for that deadline you’ll be fine; you will not be penalized as long as you submit before Canvas’s deadline, though.

Note that we do not encourage trying to submit right against the deadline; the reason we use UTC-12 as our time zone is to make deadline-tracking simpler. You know that as long as it’s before midnight wherever you are, you’re still eligible to submit.

I was added to this class from the waitlist, how do I get added to Canvas?

You should receive access within about 24 hours of enrolling in the course. If after 24 hours you still cannot access your course materials, please contact

I dropped this class, but I still have access to Piazza. How do I get rid of the class?

Go to directly, then click on the settings button on the upper-right corner of the page. Click on Account/Email Settings in the dropdown, then go to Class & Email Settings, and find the class in the list. Then, click Drop Class.

Is there a way to use JDF without using LaTex?

Georgia Tech students get free professional license to OverLeaf, an online browser based LaTeX editor:

It works much like an online IDE/interpreter and you don’t need to install anything locally—you can just import the JDF LaTeX template and compile directly in the browser window and see the results. There is a GitHub integration that lets you push directly from the page and PDF export as well.

If you don’t want to use LaTeX, there is also a word template (.docx) and a Google Doc template here:

You can export a Word doc to PDF in both MS Word and OpenOffice. Google Doc has export to PDF as well. Our recommendation if you don’t want to use LaTeX is that you make a copy of the template and enter your content directly.

Are Piazza posts considered course content that should be cited?

If someone points out a resource on Piazza you don’t need to cite that Piazza was the place where you found out the resource exists. If someone’s Piazza post is actually the source itself, though, you’d be expected to cite that. Otherwise, you should generally cite videos, articles, journals, or other intellectual works.

Can I cite Wikipedia?

Generally speaking, citing Wikipedia for an academic paper is not a good idea, and Wikipedia even agrees. If you are citing work that was original to academic literature, you should reference the original work and use your own prose. After all, Wikipedia is a conglomeration of prose from others’ interpretations of the sources referenced for a given subject matter. it is an abstraction and summary of secondary sources. Those interpretations may be inaccurate and paraphrasing them again in your own words might be a complete deviation from the original work.

It is always a good idea to cite the original work, interpret it yourself, and use your own prose to describe it. If you’re citing Wikipedia because Wikipedia is quoting an original work, then you would still want to cite the original work, which is typically cited at the bottom of the Wikipedia article (and if it isn’t, it’s even less likely that you want to cite the claim as it appears on Wikipedia).

Wikipedia actually has good information on Academic Use.

Should I cite sources on [assignment]?

There are two answers to this. One: the expectation in this class is that you’ll cite sources on every written assignment.

Two: to gauge whether you should cite a particular source, there are a number of times when you should always cite a source, both in-line and in your references section. I’ll use this paper as an example.

First, most obviously, if you’re writing about a paper, you would cite it:

One paper in this field looked at the interactions between motivation and student demographics among TA applicants (Joyner 2017).

If you are directly quoting or near-paraphrase another source, you should always cite in-line. If you are directly quoting, you would put quotation marks around the quoted material as well. For example:

Joyner writes that “scaling expert feedback while preserving affordability is possible.” (Joyner 2017)

When you are providing the source for an objective fact that is not common knowledge and that you did not discover yourself, you would cite in-line as well. For example, you would cite the following statement, as it is not common knowledge nor discovered by you:

58% of online TAs cite intrinsic motivations for wanting to be teaching assistants (Joyner 2017).

You do not need to cite common knowledge. For example, you would not do this:

The earth goes around the sun (Copernicus 1514).

Finally, if you are summarizing or using as foundation the higher-level ideas, methods, or structure of another source, you would cite that. This is a little fuzzier to describe, but you’ll probably know when you’ll use it. These are times when you want the reader to know there is precedent for your ideas, methods, or structure. For example:

One key challenge with scaling online education is keeping access to expert feedback in larger class sizes (Joyner 2017).

Regardless, for all of these examples, you would have the full citation at the bottom of the paper:

Joyner, D. A. (2017). Scaling Expert Feedback: Two Case Studies. In Proceedings of the Fourth Annual ACM Conference on Learning at Scale. Cambridge, Massachusetts. ACM Press.

For more, check out Yale University’s excellent Warning: When You Must Cite.