Scribe notes for COMS 4774 Spring 2021


Registered students should sign up for a total of 3 “points” of class participation to fulfill the course requirement.

  • Scribe: worth 2 points
  • Editor: worth 1 point

So, you might sign up to be the scribe for one lecture and editor for another; or you might sign up to be an editor for three different lectures.

Naturally, please don’t sign up to be a scribe and editor for the same lecture! Also, please don’t sign up as “editor #2” for a lecture unless all other scribe/editor slots are filled.

Sign-up sheet:


Please use the following LaTeX template: scribe-template.tex, scribe-template.pdf


To be done during the lecture

Scribe and Editor(s):

  • Take your own careful notes during the lecture.

To be done within 2 days after the lecture


  • Using the provided LaTeX template, write self-contained notes on the lecture.
  • Make sure the source can be compiled without errors. (Tip for Overleaf users.)
  • E-mail the source files (LaTeX source, along with any figures and bibliography files) to editor(s) and the (with the subject “COMS 4774 Scribe Notes”).

(If there is no student editor, one of the TAs will function as the editor.)

To be done within 4 days after the lecture


  • Check and edit the notes for clarity and correctness.
  • Leave comments/questions for the scribe directly in the LaTeX source.
  • Make sure the source can be compiled without errors. (Tip for Overleaf users.)
  • E-mail the files to the scribe and the (with the subject “COMS 4774 Scribe Notes”).

To be done within 6 days after the lecture

Scribe and Editor(s):

  • Collaboratively finalize a single version of the notes that is suitable to be read by other students in the class.
  • Make sure the names of the scribe and editor(s) appear in the notes.
  • Make sure the source can be compiled without errors. (Tip for Overleaf users.)
  • E-mail the source files to the (with the subject “COMS 4774 Scribe Notes”).

We’ll post the finalized notes on Piazza or Courseworks.

About the scribe notes

  • The scribe notes should be well-organized, using logical sectional divisions as appropriate.
  • It is not enough to simply typeset the contents of the slides and/or blackboard. The scribe notes should fill in omissions from the lecture, work out details for proofs and derivations, etc.
  • The scribe notes should be understandable by students who have been following the course up until the assigned date.
  • Write in complete sentences, in clear and precise prose. I highly recommend the article The Science of Scientific Writing by Gopen and Swan for tips to improve the quality of your writing.
  • Do not copy or simply paraphrase material from the readings. This defeats the purpose of writing these notes. You can of course consult the source materials for details, but you should work primarily from the notes you took during the presentation and notes you took while reading.
  • Accompany every algorithm, lemma, theorem, etc. with discussion of its purpose, intuition behind its derivation or proof, etc.
  • Use figures and diagrams where appropriate.
  • Include bibliographic references (e.g., using BibTeX).
  • Some good examples (from a different course):

Things to keep in mind

  1. Run a spell-checker.
  2. If you use \(X\) or \(i\) as variables, don’t write them as X or i.
  3. Write \(\log(n)\) instead of \(log(n)\), \(\arg\max\) instead of \(argmax\), \(\Pr(E)\) instead of \(Pr(E)\)), etc. You can use the “\operatorname” command for non-standard operators.
  4. For inner product notation, use \(\langle x,y \rangle\) instead of \(<x,y>\).
  5. For transpose notation, use \(A^{\scriptscriptstyle{\mathsf{T}}}\) instead of \(A^T\). (I suggest defining a macro.)
  6. Make sure all parentheses, brackets, curly braces, etc. are matched, and also properly sized, e.g., \[ \left( \frac{x+y}{2} \right) \] rather than \[ ( \frac{x+y}{2} . \]
  7. Be consistent in your use of calligraphic (e.g., \(\mathcal{X}\)), blackboard (e.g., \(\mathbb{P}\)), and other font styles.
  8. If you have a “tall” mathematical expression like \(\left( \sum_{x=0}^{2^n-1} \frac{2^{2^x}}{3} \right)\), it is better to put it in a separate equation display, like \[ \left( \sum_{x=0}^{2^n-1} \frac{2^{2^x}}{3} \right) . \]
  9. If you need to use some text expression inside an equation, use the “\text” command, e.g., \[ \{ x \in [0,1] : \text{$1/x$ is a prime integer} \} . \]
  10. Mathematical expressions and equations should generally be written as if part of a complete sentence. For example, I define a set \(S\) by \[ S := \{ x \in [0,1] : \text{$1/x$ is a prime integer} \} , \] and there is a comma at the end of the display to separate the independent clauses.
  11. In \(\LaTeX\), it is better to use “double-backtick” for opening quotation marks and “double-apostrophe” for closing quotation marks.
  12. Make sure notation and jargon is properly defined before use.
  13. Define “theorem” environments as needed (e.g., using the amsthm package).