BCSC 310: Syllabus

Spring 2024

Time & Location

Mon. & Wed. 3:25 – 4:40 PM
Hylan Building Room 201


Instructor: Dora Biro

Office: Meliora Hall 305
Office hours: by appointment

Course Description & Objectives

This course is required for all senior BCS majors. The main purpose of the course is to provide students with experience in reading, evaluating, presenting, and discussing primary research in BCS. You will work in small groups (2-3 students, BCSC 310) or individually (BCSC 311), and throughout the semester you will complete the following tasks:

  1. Read: You/your group will choose a topic of interest, gain familiarity with the literature on that topic, and select 1 classic research article on that topic and 1 recent research article that has cited the classic article.
  2. Present: You/your group will give a PowerPoint presentation on your chosen articles. The purpose of this assignment is: (1) to consider where the relevant field began and where it is now; (2) to present the materials in a way that highlights why the work you’ve chosen to discuss is of interest to cognitive scientists (and yourself); and (3) to learn how to give an academic presentation.
  3. Discuss: Following your presentation, you/your group will guide a seminar-style class discussion focused on your articles and your topic. The class will have read your articles and will participate in the discussion.
  4. Review: Before your presentation, you will submit a written evaluation of ONE of your two articles, as though you were providing a formal peer review for a journal. Each student must work individually on their review.
  5. Review-the-Review: The instructor and one other student will provide written comments on your review.
  6. Rewrite your Review: Upon receiving review feedback, you will rewrite your review to incorporate the comments.
  7. Participate: When you are not presenting, you are expected to be an active participant by reading other students’ chosen articles, thinking critically about them, and contributing to class discussion. In addition, before each class discussion, everyone other than the presenter(s) must post at least ONE discussion question about the assigned articles to Blackboard.

The next section provides instructions and more information on the requirements for each of these tasks.

Course Requirements

At the start of the course those registered for BCS310 will be split into groups of 2-3 students and assigned a specific date on which their presentation and class discussion will take place. Groups will be comprised of students with similar interests in cognitive science. Written work must be done individually, but your seminar presentation and discussion will be done as a group. The documents highlighted in blue below can be found under the “Course Materials” link in the left-hand pane of the course homepage on Blackboard.

  1. Read: Guidelines for choosing your TWO ARTICLES (one classic and one recent) are posted to Blackboard in the document Articles: How to Find Them. Within the first few weeks of class, you must obtain approval from the instructor concerning your articles to ensure that they are (a) in the field, (b) substantial and in a “good” journal, and (c) comprised of one “classic” that has stood the test of time and one recent“hot topic” article that has generated recent interest. Article selection is first-come, firstserved, so please do not wait until the last moment to select your articles!
  2. Present: Your presentation should last approx. 30 mins and ideally make use of slides (Powerpoint, KeyNote, GoogleSlides, etc). See the section “Presentation” in the Review-Present-Discuss document on Blackboard for more information.
  3. Discuss: The class discussion immediately following your presentation should last approx. 45 mins. You will be responsible for guiding the flow of the discussion and for prompting participation from other students by providing discussion points. See the section “Discussion” in the Review-Present-Discuss document on Blackboard for more information.
  4. Review: Pick ONE of your two articles to review (either classic or recent). Guidelines on writing the review can be found in the section “Review: How to Write and Review It” in the Review-Present-Discuss document on Blackboard. Your review is due BEFORE your presentation (Monday or Wednesday at 3.25PM). Email the review to the instructor.
  5. Review-the-Review: At some point during the semester, you will be sent one other student’s review to review. Within one week of receiving this review, submit an electronic copy of your review-of-thereview to the instructor (not to the student writer). It will then be forwarded back to the original writer. More details on how to do this are can be found in the section “Review: How to Write and Review It” in the Review-Present-Discuss document on Blackboard.
  6. Rewrite the Review: Within one week of receiving the instructor’s feedback and the other student’s review-of-the-review, rewrite your review. Your rewrite will be assessed based on how thoroughly you addressed the comments of the instructor and student reviewer.
  7. Participate: Participate actively in class discussions, even when you are not the presenter. You are expected to have read the articles in advance, and you should be prepared to raise questions, comments or concerns regarding them as they are being discussed in class. Although you may feel that you have little to say about any given article, if you ask yourself why you have nothing to say, you might discover questions or opinions that you didn’t know you had. It will also be helpful if you make sure you have a copy of the articles being discussed with you in class (can be an electronic version on a laptop).
    In addition, on each presentation day (by noon), you are required to post at least ONE discussion question or clarification question to Blackboard. Please see the section “Discussion” in the ReviewPresent-Discuss document on Blackboard for more information. Make sure to read others’ posted questions and think about some answers.
    Your participation will be determined by your preparedness (i.e., ability to ask and answer questions and provide comments about the articles), your Blackboard discussion question posts, your review-of the-review, and your attendance. If you find yourself unable to voice your opinions during class, you should email me your thoughts on a particular topic before the end of the day in order to earn participation points.


  1. Presentation/leading the class discussion of your article: 30% (i.e. 30 points). See the sections “Presentation” and “Discussion” in the Review-Present-Discuss document on Blackboard for more info
  2. Written review of your article: 20%
  3. Revision of the written review of your article: 10%
  4. Participation: 40%. Since this is a "seminar" class, it is run in the style of a journal club, and participation is the most crucial component of a seminar. The goal of this class is to analyze and think critically about some classic and hot topics in the field. Even if you don't plan on continuing in the field of cognitive science, this class utilizes skills that are important for every productive member of society: critical thinking, analyzing arguments, talking coherently about your ideas on a topic, and presenting your thoughts logically in writing. Your participation grade is based on 3 major components, each of which demonstrates that you thought critically about the articles and the reviews written by your peers:
    • up to 10 points can be earned for the required discussion board posts across the semester. Late posts do not count.
    • up to 10 points can be earned for your review-of-the-review.
    • up to 20 points can be earned for "in-class" participation. Here, I will count any substantive participation during class, email discussions, after-class discussions, or any other interaction regarding the course material.
    Please keep in mind that just showing up is not enough to earn participation credit, and not showing up (or showing up late) results in losing points. Details of what counts as "participation" will be covered during the first day of class, and are also included in the in the Review-Present-Discuss document on Blackboard.

Late policy: Due to the nature of the course, late assignments will be heavily penalized. Failure to do your presentation on the scheduled day without an excuse will lead to you receiving a zero for the assignment. Turning in written assignments late will result in a 25% grade reduction per 24-hour period after the assignment is due.

Attendance is required for this class. If you know that you cannot make it to class or if you become ill, let the instructor know BEFORE class and, if appropriate, to arrange a makeup assignment. Additionally, it is disruptive to class if you come late. For each time you are more than 10 minutes late, you will lose 1 point from your participation grade. If you miss class entirely without a medical or university excuse, you will lose 5 points from your participation grade.

Academic Honesty: You are expected to uphold the highest standards of academic honesty. Don’t cheat; don’t plagiarize; don’t expect others to do your work for you. Cases of suspected misconduct will be immediately referred to the College Board on Academic Honesty. The University of Rochester’s policy on academic honesty is described in detail online

For BCS311

For BCS 311, you will adhere to all requirements listed for BCS 310. However, the following will be different:

  1. Your presentation and review must be related to the work of your honors thesis. You will pick ONE classic article that is related to your research. You do not need to pick a recent research article (your undergraduate research serves that purpose). I will need to approve your choice of a classic article.
  2. You will review the classic article (as described above).
  3. Although your research may not be completed when you give your presentation, you should still follow the format for presentations given for BCS310. You should still be able to give a good background and methodology for your work. If you do not have any results, you should give your presentation with potential/predicted results and discuss the possible pitfalls that may lead to alternative results. You should also discuss the relevance of your work and possible future studies.