Compilers (CSC-362 98F)

Debate Guidelines

As you know, when designing an algorithm or developing a computer program, it often becomes necessary to decide between different design options. These decisions can be quite large, such as which programming language to use, or quite small, such as which hashing function to use. In many cases, it is imperative that these design decisions be made carefully, with analysis of the costs and benefits of the competing options within the context of the current project. In both research and industrial settings, project teams need to be able to successfully discuss these options, with different team members arguing for different points. Even when the team contains only one member, that member must find ways to anyalyze and weigh the options. Unfortunately, the decisions we make are often quick and casual, with little real analysis.

The design of a compiler and corresponding language presents many design decisions, particularly in class situations in which the requirements may be less formal. For example, one might consider

To ensure that we analyze these issues in sufficient depth, I will be assigning you to teams of three to debate selected issues. Each student will participate in two debates during the term, one at the beginning of the semester (when we make our initial and global design desicions) and one at the end of the semester (when we consider both specific and global issues). While I will evaluate your work in the debate at both parts of the semester, I will only grade you on your work in the second debate.

Debates will not be the only way in which we discuss design alternatives. They are an exercise to examine one technique of evaluating alternatives. You are expected to participate in other, more regular, forms of discussion throughout the semester.

Debate Format

Your primary goal should not be to ``win'' the debate. Rather, the primary goals of these debates are (1) to ensure that we think carefully about these design decisions and (2) to improve our skills in thinking about such design decisions.

Preparing for the debate

New guidelines

Given our experiences in the first debates, we are going to make a few changes to the guidelines.


The debate format is taken from a handout labelled "Tutorial-Debate" distributed by Jan Czechowski at the Summer 1998 Faculty Oral Skills Seminar. The original author of that handout is unknown. The section on preparing for the debate is loosely based on another anonymous handout from the same session.

Disclaimer Often, these pages were created "on the fly" with little, if any, proofreading. Any or all of the information on the pages may be incorrect. Please contact me if you notice errors.

Source text last modified Mon Sep 7 12:21:57 1998.

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