CS150 Guidelines for Writing Assignments


As you start working through this class you’ll find that you will you have several writing assignments where you’re required to write a short research paper. The book calls the writing assignments “Case Projects” and there are several in this class. Because this is a 100 level course, I’m sure not everyone has extensive experience writing research papers, so in this section you will learn why it’s important for you to be able to write well, find a general description of the expectations and goals of the writing assignments, get details on how your papers will be graded and see the grading rubric.

The Goal of the Writing Assignments

When I talk with employers about what skills and traits they’re looking for in a prospective employee I always get an answer that surprised me at first, and may surprise you as well. They all want people with solid technical backgrounds, but what they really want are people that are strong in what are referred to as soft skills. There are various definitions and lists of soft skills, but I think of them as things like being able to play nice with the other kids (social skills and teamwork), being self-directed and being able to manage your time, and good communication skills.

These soft skills are crucial for anyone’s career, both for finding a job and then staying employed once you land a job. They’re so crucial that we integrate them into many of the Computer Science and Cyber Security classes. In this class you will have several writing assignments that will help you with two soft skills, written communication and life-long learning.

Let’s talk about life-long learning first. There are some fields of work where you can learn what you need to know in a class or three, and then never have to learn anything else. If you choose one of these fields you may never have to crack a book again after graduating. But Computer Science and Cyber Security are not like this at all. If you want a career in Comp Sci or Cyber Security you’ll quickly find that your college degree is just the starting point in your learning experience and you’ll be expected to constantly learn new skills and concepts. In other words, you’ll have to become a life-long learner.

I’m sure that as you pursue your degree and continue in your career you’ll find most of what you learn interesting. The problem with both Computer Science and Cyber Security is that there’s a lot to learn, a lot. I’ve been working in this field since 1980 and I’m constantly finding great new things to learn about. And while CBC has some excellent classes there are always more interesting things to learn and you can always dig deeper and learn more about any subject. The hope for this class is that you’ll find some aspects of Computer Security so interesting that you’ll want to learn more. If you find yourself in this position during the class, then it’s a good sign that you’re headed towards the right career. And if you take the initiative to do some extra reading or research on your own then you’re on the path towards being a life-long learner.

To “assist” you in becoming a lifelong learner this class has several writing assignments, where you get to do some extra research, using resources other than the textbook, and then write a short paper summarizing your findings. Performing the research will not only provide you with additional knowledge, it will also expose you to additional resources that may help you in both your education and your career after you graduate. Employers are looking for people that are interested enough in cyber security that they always want to learn more. One of the ways you can show this interest is to create a website or blog where you post your papers and collect various tools that you learn about or run across. If you’re not doing this already, the papers you write for this class will make a good start for your portfolio.

The second goal or purpose of the writing assignments is to provide you practice in writing technical papers as this will be a valuable skill in both your educational career and in the workplace. In other words you will learn more about various aspects of cyber security, while at the same time get practice in writing technical papers which is a skill which will help you in school and is highly valued by employers. An ability to communicate effectively is going to be a requirement for any job, and employers have made it clear that written communication is as important as verbal communication.

There are many aspects to writing. I’m sure you remember from English classes; writing requires things like grammar, spelling, etc. Luckily modern most word processing software has built-in spell checkers and grammar checkers, so in this class we’re going to concentrate on a couple other aspects of writing. The first is your ability to perform some basic research on a given subject, assimilate the information, and then write about it in your own words. The second is your ability to create proper references or citations. Details about the references are presented a little later.

Here’s a quick summary of the goals of the writing projects. Employers are looking for students that can communicate effectively with written documents, and are able to continue learning on their own. To help assist you with these soft skills you will have several writing assignments where you will be required to do some additional investigation and outside research, and then document your findings in a short paper that includes proper references. I encourage you to take advantage of this opportunity to develop and improve your writing skills as they will serve you well for the rest of your college career and into the workplace.


In this section you’ll learn about the expectations regarding the writing assignments. Understanding these expectations will help you understand what your papers should contain, as well as decide how much time and effort to put into the each assignment.

  1. The first expectation is that you will do some investigation and research outside of the textbook or textbook resources. Unless you’re already an expert, or well versed in a particular subject, you’re going to have to do some searching and reading. In the old days this would have meant going to the library, but today you can obviously do a great amount of research on the Internet.
  2. The second expectation is that the writing assignments will result in very short papers. The papers you write are not meant to be extensive or time consuming. You should be able to complete each paper in an hour or less, and that includes your research time as well as the time it takes to actually write the paper. The amount of time you actually spend depends on your current research and writing abilities, so it may take you more or less time. But if you find that you’re spending an inordinate amount of time on the writing projects you may be writing too much. You can always write as much as you wish, but most papers only require a few paragraphs to demonstrate that you understand the topic. On the other extreme, try and spend a little time on the research. I know that some people are procrastinators and wait until 15 minutes before an assignment is due to even start.

    Here are a two example papers that you can look at to help provide you with an idea of what is expected. These papers are both examples of good papers that received full points.
    Sample1 Injection Attacks.pdf
    Sample2 Denial Of Service.pdf
  3. The third expectation is that any resource you use or paraphrase will be properly referenced at the end of your paper. The use of references is critically important in an academic environment and this course is no exception. If you’re going into a career in politics it’s apparently acceptable to just make up your own facts, or use “someone told me” as a reference. But thankfully this is a Computer Science / Cyber Security class.

    There have been several cases of famous and semi-famous people who have lost their jobs or been highly embarrassed because they were caught publishing work they called their own when in fact they had copied large sections from other people. The standard excuse is that they “forgot” to provide proper citation, but that doesn’t seem to be an acceptable explanation. In case you’re interested in reading more about famous or infamous people that have been caught plagiarizing and the problems it has caused them, here are a couple of websites that list some of the more infamous cases:


    Proper citation not only ensures that you are doing original work, it also prevents you from making stuff up. For example I could state that on average 55% of CBC students find jobs that pay over $200 per hour, 23% find jobs that pay at least $75 per hour, while the other 43% make at least $90,000 per year. You might assume that these numbers are correct since I’m an instructor at CBC and I may have access to this data. But wouldn’t it be great if I could provide a citation to the document containing the original data so that you could verify this for yourself.

    Citation Format – As stated above you must include proper references in all of your papers, at least one per paper. The references go at the end of your paper and must be formatted correctly. There are actually several different formats with main ones being APA, MLA, or Chicago Style; however to receive credit for your references you must use the APA format for any assignments in this class. With APA you only need to add a list of references to the end of each paper, you do not need to add subscripts to your text and footers on pages using referenced text.

    Building the the reference list in APA format can be a little confusing, even painful at first. This is especially true if you’re using a variety of sources like books, magazines and websites, and trying to build each reference manually. However there are two things that can make building the citations much simpler. The first is to use an online tool like the Citation Machine website to build the citations. The link for the page for building APA format citations for websites is:


    All you need to build a citation for a website using the Citation Machine is the URL of the web page and the date you accessed the site. The Citation Machine website is easy to use, just type in the URL of the site you’re using as a reference. You can then add other information like the publication date or author if it’s available, or leave it out if you can’t find it.

    Once you click the Create Citation button the tool will build a citation in the correct format. For example, the APA format citation for the web page:



    Bailey, J. (2014, December 17). Top Plagiarism Scandals of 2014. Retrieved January 01, 2018, from http://www.ithenticate.com/plagiarism-detection-blog/top-plagiarism-scandals-2014

    I know that building citations can seem like torture, but there’s apparently a reason for that feeling, at least with the APA format. It turns out that portions of the CIA’s torture program were designed by executives of the APA. Yes, this is the same APA. So the APA is very experienced with torturing people. (This may be one of those times that you should be asking for some references so you can verify this information yourself. You can either do your own research or check the references I included at the end of this document.)

    My second hint is if you’re using the web for research, you should create the reference for each site before moving on to another web site. If you wait to create the references when you’re done with your paper and after looking at a bunch of sites you’ll have to go back to each site to retrieve the URL. At this point it can be hard to remember exactly which sites you used, so take a tip from me and make the references as soon as you find a web site you want to use.

    Note – you only need to use the APA format for your references. The APA actually defines specifications for pretty much everything in a document, like headings and titles, page numbers, etc. But for this class you only need to use the APA format for your references. The format for the other sections of your papers is discussed in detail below.
  4. The fifth expectation is that you will do your own work. Unless you already have extensive experience in a subject you will need to do some research before writing your paper. This will involve seeking out additional resources and then synthesizing the work of others into your own papers, without copying. Plagiarism in any form will not be tolerated and will be a violation of the CBC Academic Honesty Policy. The main way to avoid charges of plagiarism is to do all of your own writing, that is don’t do any copying and pasting. You can synthesize the work of others but you must write any concepts or ideas that you use in your own words.

    CBC uses a system called TurnItIn which automatically checks for plagiarism, and does a surprisingly good job. TurnItIn provides a percentage score which shows how much of your paper is identical to other work(s). For example, a TurnItIn score of 20% means at least 20% of your paper is identical to another paper in the TurnItIn database. A high copy percentage score from TurnitIn usually happens when you copy and paste sections from other sources without putting the information into your own words. In this class, if your TurnItIn score is 30% or greater your paper will not be graded. This means you need to check your TurnItIn score after you submit any written assignment and if it’s higher than 30% you will need to rewrite it and then resubmit it. TurnItIn will show you the sections of your paper that are causing problems, which makes it easier to decide what you need to rewrite.

    You can quote other sources but extended quotations are not acceptable. That is, you may be able to quote a sentence or two, but once again don’t copy and paste large sections. And be aware that any material you quote will raise your TurnItIn score. So if you have a short paper even quoting a single sentence may be too much. If you have quite a bit of content and the TurnItIn score is high, it just means that TurnItIn is probably doing what it’s supposed to do. That is, it’s telling you that you copied too much material. In this case you’ll just need to rewrite portions of your paper using your own words.

    The “no copy and paste” policy also applies to tables or charts. There are a couple of assignments that require that you build a table, so keep this in mind. If you copy an entire table or section of a table without changing the wording it will raise the TurnItIn score.

    Another problematic area with TurnItIn can be your citations or references. At least it was for me when I wrote papers for my Masters degree. That is, if you format your references correctly they will most likely match references already in TurnItIn’s database, raising the score. If this happens to you there are two ways I can think of to remedy the problem. If your work is all original but you don’t write much, your references can make the TurnItIn score high. The solution in this case is to write more. And in reality, if just your references make the TurnItIn score over 30% you probably didn’t write enough content in the main section of your document. The second thing you can do is to try and use some different references. Although this may not fix the problem as almost any website you use will most likely have been used previously and stored in the TurnItIn database. Plus, this is just gaming the system. And realistically, you should be able to list the references you actually used.

    I know that this might make it seem like it’s impossible to to write a short paper that’s original enough to pass. But if you do original work you should be fine. In practice I’ve never seen papers with high TurnItIn scores unless large sections were copied verbatim.
  5. The sixth expectation is that your paper will have the correct format, or maybe it would be better to say that your paper has the correct sections. Each paper you submit must start with a Header/Title section, followed by the main body of the paper, and ending with your references.

    The Header/Title section must contain your name, and the Case Project number and Case Project title. For example, if your name is Anita Car and the writing assignment is Case Project 12-21 The Effects of Thunderstorms on Cloud Security then you would need the following header:

    Anita Car
    Case Project 12-21 The Effects of Thunderstorms on Cloud Security

    The main body of your paper will typically contain a short introduction, a few paragraphs where you write about the main concept, and close with a brief summary. There may be a few assignments where you are asked to build a table instead of writing about a subject. If this is the case you will still need the Header and Reference sections, but the main body may just consist of the table.

    The Reference section must contain a text header that says “References“, followed by your references in APA format.

Example Papers

When you start a class like this, or start the first writing assignment with instructions to “write a good paper” it can be a little confusing. After all “good” is a subjective term, and grading papers isn’t like grading true or false questions. What’s a good paper? How much should you write? Even after all of the previous explanation it might not be clear. One of the things that I found during my Masters program was it was really helpful to see some examples. So to help provide you some guidance, here are two examples of fairly well written responses. In addition to having good content, they also demonstrate the different sections and how to properly reference the research sources. They also give you an idea of the longest length and complexity expected. (These are the same examples linked above.)


When the papers are graded they will be checked to see if you have done the following:

  1. Content – Your paper should demonstrate that you understand the topic(s). You can demonstrate this by using well written and cohesive sentences. It may also help to have illustrative examples. Some people want to know exactly how many words, paragraphs and sentences are required, but the content is not graded on quantity, it’s based on quality. But, to try and help I suggest that at a minimum you’re going to have to write two paragraphs of three to five sentences each. The content is worth a maximum of 7 points.
  2. Grammar, Spelling and Syntax – Your submissions must use proper grammar and proper syntax; with no typographical errors. I know English is a terribly constructed language, it uses words with bizarre spellings and uses super inconsistent conjugation. But even though it’s horrible we still need to use it to communicate, so proper grammar and spelling are important. Luckily there are many different text editors, such as Microsoft Word or Google Docs, that will point out any errors and in most cases provide suggestions for correcting them. If you choose to turn in a paper without correcting any spelling or grammar errors you will lose 1 point for each error.
  3. Headings – all papers must include a heading section which includes your name, the case project number, and the case project title. The heading must go at the top of the paper and is worth 1 point.
  4. Citation/References – Once again, unless you already have extensive experience in a subject you will need to do some research before writing your paper. This usually means doing some Internet searching, but you can also use magazines, books, etc. However you must provide proper citations for any works you paraphrase or use as research. You have to provide at least one citation, and theoretically you should provide citations for any work you quote, paraphrase, or gather data from. But of course I won’t be able to tell if you provided citations for every magazine or website you use in your research, I’ll just be checking to ensure you have at least one citation. References are worth 2 points. This isn’t 2 points per reference, it’s 2 points total for a correct reference section. You will receive 2 points and no more than 2 points as long as you have at least one citation in the APA format. If you have more than one citation you will still receive 2 points.
  5. Wikipedia References – There will be many times when you’re using the web for research that the first search result will be a Wikipedia page. While Wikipedia may be a great reference and have all of the information you think you need to write your paper, it is not considered a proper source of information. This means you cannot use Wikipedia pages in your references. If choose to ignore this warning and use wikipedia as a reference you will not receive credit for your references. However, remember that Wikipedia will have a great list of references at the end of their page. So you can use Wikipedia as a jumping off point by checking the references at the bottom of the Wikipedia page and using those pages to create your citations.

Late Work Policy

Case Projects, or written assignments must be submitted by 11:59 PM by the due date to receive full points. Any work submitted within 7 days of the original due date will have an automatic 3 point deduction. Work submitted later than 7 days after the original due date will receive no points.

Late Policy For the Last Week of Quarter

The late work policy applies for all assignments except those due during the last week of the quarter. Since grades must turned in at the end of the quarter and calculating them takes some time all assignments must be turned in by the due date, which is typically the last day of regular classes for the quarter. Please be aware that this is typically the last day of regular classes, not the last day of finals. This means that any assignments due during the last week must be turned in on time to receive credit. They cannot be turned in late.

Acceptable File Formats

All of your submissions must be in either .txt, .doc, or .docx format. Files in a different format it will not be graded as TurnItIn may not be able to process them, and I may not be able to read them without converting the file first. Yes, I have had students try to side step TurnItIn by taking a picture of their paper and submitting the jpg file. And I also have students who use Mac or Linux computers, and try to submit papers in some funky editor format. Don’t get me wrong, I love Linux, (not so much love for Apple), but I need the TurnItIn score to do the grading. If you submit a paper in an improper format you’ll get one warning and a chance to resubmit that assignment. But you’ll only get one warning for the entire quarter. If you decide to ignore the warning any further submissions in an improper format will receive a score of 0.

Grading Rubric

Each Case Project (writing assignment) can earn 10 points total. You’ve already seen detailed explanations for how points are awarded, but sometimes it easier to understand the grading by looking at a simpler table, as opposed to searching through pages of text. The following grading rubric provides a simple to use breakdown showing how points will be awarded. Please read the rubric carefully, and ask the instructor if you have any questions.

Grading Rubric for CS150 Papers
Grading Rubric for Writing Assignments