Class Discussion

Through in-class discussion and its associated activities, the course will develop everyone's abilities as research scholars. To make the most of the discussions, everyone should be prepared. The class will have read the paper and prepared a summary to start the process of contextualizing and analyzing the reading. The discussion leader will prepare a presentation as well as questions for discussion. In class, the leader will give their presentation and lead the discussion. Another student will scribe the interesting parts of the discussion.

Presenting the Paper

Each paper and presenter is different, so much of what follows are guidelines rather than strict requirements. In general, the presentation should summarize the paper in about 25 minutes. In the presentation, you may also want to consider including:

- Additional background on the workload the paper is accelerating or the context it is operating in.

- Characteristics of the target workload.

- Additional background on an architectural technique or evaluation method used.

- Highlight the workload assumptions they are targeting and how the accelerator architecture exploits them.

- Evaluation methodology and workload.

- If you had to re-read portions to understand the paper's contribution, consider taking the opportunity to think of a better way to explain it and clarify it for your classmates.

For the presentations, you may copy figures and results from the paper, but you must produce the slides yourself. You may not use slides from elsewhere, even if they are the paper's original slides. The process of thinking about what are the key points and how to explain them is the learning value of the assignment. Additionally, not all papers may have pre-existing slides available, so it would be unfair to allow some to have drastically less work than others.

The discussion leader does not need to write a reading summary for the paper they are presenting (automatic score of 2). The discussion leader will submit a PDF copy of their slides (via Canvas) within one week of presenting. The grading will primarily focus on the preparation apparent for the presentation and discussion.

Leading the Discussion

When leading the discussion, think of prompts you can use to seed the conversation. A good prompt exposes a question for which the answer is not obvious, or at least debatable. The goal is to encourage the entire class to participate in the discussion. Ideally, by talking things over as a class, we can discover new things together. In addition to the prompts you have prepared, during the discussion, a new prompt may occur to you or a classmate may even suggest one. At the start of the discussion, it is a good idea to allow the class to ask questions and clear up any confusion about the technical aspects of the paper. 

Here are some generic prompts you may be able to specialize for your paper, but they are by no means an exhaustive list:

- Does the accelerator have any significant limitations?

- Which workload properties did the accelerator exploit and how?

- How hard is the accelerator to program? For its usage context, is that a problem?

- Would you choose a different tradeoff between programmability and specialization?

- Would you accelerate the target workload with a different architecture?

- Do you believe there is a large enough market to justify making the accelerator?

- Is there an interesting comparison or contrast between this work and a paper the class has read?

- What is the most general and reusable lesson from the paper?

- How might you improve the paper's research ideas?

- Is there anything (detail on contribution, evaluation workload, evaluation metric) the paper is missing?

- Do you find any parts of the paper unconvincing?

- Would you have explained or evaluated the idea differently?

- Does anything stand out to you when reading the paper? Perhaps that can be developed into a thoughtful prompt.

Scribing the Paper

The scribe will attempt to summarize the main points of the discussion. Following the discussion, the scribe will revise the notes to make them more clear, and even use an outline format as appropriate. The scribe will submit a PDF copy of their revised notes (via Canvas) within one week of the discussion. Typically, the scribe will be the project partner of the discussion leader.