COMM 4242: Course Policies and Logistics

Weekly Workload

Before each class, I will assign two readings– usually one newspaper article and one academic article that I expect you to read before class. As part of class participation, you will submit a reaction comment on one of the readings to Element and respond to at least one other student's comment by 9pm Eastern the night before class.

Since this is a discussion course, attendance in Zoom conversations is expected. Class sessions will be recorded.

In lectures/discussions, we will discuss a topic within experimentation and the ethics/governance of behavioral research.

In workshops, we will focus more on technical topics, statistical methods, and discussions about your final projects.

Assignments in the class unfold in three parts, which each have a distinct workload. In the first part of the class (Feb-March), you will do individual or pair assignment each week. This will sometimes involve writing, sometimes analysis, and sometimes both. In the second part (March-Apr), you will form teams of 3-4 students and get your team project started. In the final part (April-May), you will work with your team to complete the final project. For special topics, I may assign you to work in your pairs again.

Weekly assignments are due on Tuesdays at 9pm Eastern unless otherwise noted.

I will occasionally offer short quizzes to gauge inform how quickly we go through technical topics in workshop sessions.

Final Project

This class has a two-part final:

The final project will either be an analysis of data from the Upworthy Archive or a new design for a field experiment that you have developed with a community partner (such as The Lab of Ornithology).

In the final personal essay (1200-1500 words), you will pick one of the questions about ethics and governance of behavioral research that we have discussed in class and write about your group project from that perspective. The essay should be your own work and should include a list of references.

The midterm for this class is group project proposal and a proposal for your personal essay.

Participation in Discussions and Workshops

Please post discussions about readings and questions about the course to our chatroom in #discussion. Please use your Cornell University email address when requesting to join the workspace.

Whenever the course has assigned reading for a session, you are expected to post at least one top-level comment and one reply to the chat. Participation will be 20% of your course grade.

Here is how we will use channels:

Data Analysis

Since there will be a few times that we're doing analyses that exceed some laptops, we're using the CoCalc system, which is a bit like Google Docs for data analysis. I'll introduce the system in class before we start using CoCalc and will make sure everyone has an account.

Team Progress Reports

During the project period of the class, teams will submit on Canvas a weekly progress report no more than one page long, as group homework. This progress report will be graded. Reports should include the following details (a sample template is available here):

Group Work and Academic Integrity

I expect students to follow the Cornell University Code of Academic Integrity. You should submit your work as your own, cite sources and outside assistance, and credit people for their contributions.

This class includes group work and individual assignments. On group projects, you are encouraged to work together on the activities for the class, but you are only only able to put your name on projects to which you made an intellectual contribution. If you have any doubts about what is appropriate, ask me.


I use the following grading scale, derived from Matt Salganik's grading practices.

All grades are final. There will not be any make-up or extra credit assignments offered.

Per university procedures, I will only give a grade of A+ in exceptional circumstances.

Letter Grade Numeric Grade
A 93 - 100
A- 90 - 92.99
B+ 87 - 89.99
B 83 - 86.99
B- 80 - 82.99
C+ 77 - 79.99
C 73 - 76.99
C- 70 - 72.99
D 60 - 66.99
F 0 - 59.99

Grace Period

Late Submissions: All assignments have an automatic one-day grace period. On time and early papers are always encouraged and will be graded the same week. Students can turn in the assignment up to a day late, no questions asked, with the expectation that it could take substantially longer to receive a grade and feedback. After that, an automatic one grade (A to B, B to C, etc) is dropped on the assignment.


Please let me know as soon as possible if you need accommodations (e.g. for disabilities).

Counseling Resources

It is common for students to experience stressful events at some point during graduate school. Students sometimes experience depression, anxiety, family stress, the loss of loved ones, financial strain, and other stressors. It is perfectly normal for students to seek the service of mental health professionals to provide them with support and skills to cope with these experiences. Below I have provided the contact information for some of the mental health services available to Cornell University students so that you will know where you can go if you or a friend would like to take advantage of these resources.

Cornell Health: 110 Ho Plaza, Ithaca NY. Phone: 607-255-5155.

If you require a short term accommodation, please let me know as soon as possible.


Several sections of these policies have been inspired by syllabi from Matthew Salganik, Adrienne Keene, and Neil Lewis Jr.