COMS 4995-1 Spring 2020 Instructions for scribe notes

Instructions for scribe notes

Writing scribe notes for a lecture is a very kind service for your fellow classmates. It is also a good way to practice clear mathematical writing (and LaTeX!).

The sign-up link is posted on Piazza. Signing-up to do scribe notes is not required; we will give some extra credit to students who complete them. However, please only sign up if you are very confident that you can keep this commitment.

If there are multiple students signed-up to scribe the same lecture, each student should independently produce scribe notes for that lecture.

To be done in advance of the lecture

  • Read and take notes on the assigned reading.

To be done on the day of the presentation

  • Take careful notes on the lecture and the discussion from the class.

To be done by one week after the presentation

  • Using the provided LaTeX template, write-up self-contained “scribe notes” on the paper and presentation.
  • Fill-in any missing details by consulting the assigned reading for the lecture.
  • Put the LaTeX source and any figures and bibliography files in a Google Drive folder, and email a sharing link to the TAs; their UNIs are cq2199 (Chao) and sl3794 (Sihyun).

To be done by 10 days after the presentation

  • Revise the scribe notes as needed based on feedback from the TAs.
  • Re-submit the revised scribe notes (+ source) to the TAs as before.
  • We will post the finalized scribe notes on Piazza.

Writing instructions

  • 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.
  • Try to 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).
  • The amount of extra credit earned will be determined by the quality of the scribe notes.

Things to watch out for in scribe notes

  1. Run a spell-checker.
  2. Make sure notation and jargon is properly defined before use.
  3. If you use \(X\) or \(i\) as variables, don’t write them as X or i.
  4. 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.
  5. For inner product notation, use \(\langle x,y \rangle\) instead of \(<x,y>\).
  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. Define “theorem” environments as needed (e.g., using the amsthm package).