Course Description - CSCI 102L, Spring 2011, Section 30349R

CSCI 102L will teach students the fundamentals of object-oriented programming and design with a focus on the representation and manipulation of data using well-known data structures. This course will use the C++ programming language.
Course Prerequisites
Familiarity with C/C++ (at the level of CSCI 101L or EE 106L)
  • Basic UNIX usage (ssh, vi/emacs/pico, g++)
  • Basic stream usage (cout & cin)
  • Control structures (if/else if/else, switch, for/while/do-while, etc.)
  • Defining & using functions (modularization of code)
  • Basic use of strings
  • Basic use of arrays & vectors
  • Basic use of structs & classes
Required: Optional:
Academic Calendar
A link to the USC Spring 2011 academic calendar is provided here for your convenience.
Syllabus / Topics Covered
This course is split into two major portions. In the first portion of the class, we'll be discussing topics that give students with a solid programming foundation in C++. This portion of the class is very programming intensive and the major topics will include:
  • Basic Data Structures
    • Strings
    • Arrays
    • Vectors
  • Memory management
    • Reference Variables
    • Pointers
    • new/delete
    • Automatic vs. Static variables
    • Stack allocation vs. Heap allocation
  • Input/Output Streams
    • Console (cin, cout, cerr)
    • Files
  • Exception Handling
  • Object-Oriented Design
    • Structs
    • Classes
    • Composition
    • Inheritance
    • Polymorphism
Once students have used the first portion of the course to solidify their programming abilities, the second portion on the course will focus almost entirely on data structures and programming efficiency. The topics for the second portion of the course include:
  • Advanced Programming Topics
    • Recursion
    • Graphical User Interfaces (GUIs)
    • C++ Standard Template Library (STL)
  • Algorithmic Complexity (Big O notation)
  • Algorithm Design
    • Search
    • Sorting
  • Data Structures
    • Linked Lists
    • Stacks, Queues, Deques
    • Binary Search Trees
    • Heaps, Priority Queues
    • Sets, Maps, Hashtables
    • Graphs
Course Themes
Certainly a large portion of the course is focused on teaching students various programming techniques, algorithms and data structures, but over the course of the semester, students are also encouraged to keep the following themes in mind:
  • Making the transition from programmer to software engineer
  • Writing software other developers can (re)use
  • The power of data representation and abstraction
  • The beauty and potential of object-oriented design
  • Writing clear, efficient and maintainable code
  • Becoming a better all-around software developer
Course Organization
The elements of the course can be viewed in a pyramid structure:

Reading Assignments: Readings from the book and other sources form the base of the pyramid. These readings contain theoretical concepts, examples and usable code that will be very helpful for all the work in this course.

Lab Assignments: The lab assignments are designed to provide you with fundamental programming techniques that important to all of your software engineering endeavors. Labs will be assigned on a weekly basis and will focus on implementing various topics discussed in lecture. It will be difficult to succeed in this class without doing the weekly labs on time.

Homework Assignments: The homework assignments will utilize the techniques, and in some cases the code, from the labs. The labs are like miniature homework assignments and students will use what they learn in labs to complete the larger homework assignments. If students neglect to do the labs, they will find the homework assignments much more difficult.

Exams: The exams are the top of the pyramid. Students will be expected to know the material from the assigned readings in the book, the labs and the homeworks. The exams are a student's chance to demonstrate that they fully understand the course material.

Course ABET Outcomes
  • Ability to choose appropriate and efficient data structures and algorithms to solve a problem
  • Ability to compare data structures and algorithms for efficiency using algorithm analysis
  • Ability to program wiith a container-class library
  • Ability to design, document, and implement classes
  • Ability to program with pointers and dynamic data
  • Ability to write recursive functions and understand when recursion is appropriate to a problem
  • Ability to use or implement linear data structures, including stacks, queues, lists
  • Knowledge of search structures and algorithms including binary search, search trees, and hash tables
  • Knowledge of sorting algorithms
  • Ability to apply tools and techniques for program correctness, such as unit testing, use of a symbolic debugger, and assert statements
  • Ability to convert a small to moderate-sized problem into a program in an object-oriented language
  • Ability to write readable and maintainable code
  • Ability to use or implement other data structures such as (non-search) trees, heaps, and graphs
Academic Integrity Policy
Please make sure you read the Academic Integrity Policy of this course.
Most class related announcements will be done through e-mail via a Google Group setup by the instructor.

It is your responsibility to make sure that your mailbox is not full. If you miss some important announcements because your e-mail service provider is dropping your messages on the floor, it cannot be used as an excuse.

Lab Assignment Grading
Unless otherwise specified, each weekly lab will require a design writeup to be written and turned in at the start of the lab for that week. These are worth 3 points. You cannot get the 3 points unless you turn in your writeup at the beginning of lab. You can find a template for your design documents here.

If you don't finish your lab during your lab session, you can go to a later lab session and demonstrate it to the TAs there. You may also demonstrate the lab assignment to one of the TAs or the instructor at their office hours. If you don't get your lab graded during the week it is assigned, you will receive a 50% deduction penalty. Labs MUST be demonstrated to the instructor or TAs by the end of day Friday. You should strive to have your labs finished by the end of your lab session. Labs will only be graded up to one week late. After that, you will get no points.

Homework Assignment Grading
All of the homework assignments will require students to prepare a design document. You can find a template for your design documents here.

IMPORTANT: All assignments will be graded on the aludra/nunki UNIX systems. Before you submit your code, MAKE SURE that your code compiles and runs properly on aludra/nunki because that's where it will be tested and graded. An excuse such as "It runs just fine on my computer!" will not be accepted. Please also note that you must submit your code using the USC Blackboard System since the Blackboard System timestamps you submission.

Late Policy

All homeworks must be turned in on time. Late submissions will receive severe penalties. Due to clock skews, electronic submissions of homework assignments will be accepted within 15 minutes after the specified deadlines without penalties. If you submit within the next 24 hours, you will receive 80% of your grade. Although right after midnight, you will lose 1% every 5 minutes. When the penalty reaches the day limit, it flattens out. For example, if your submission has a timestamp that is 32 minutes after the grace period, 7% will be deducted from your assignment after grading; if your submission has a timestamp that is 1 day, 6 hours, and 41 minutes after the grace period, you will receive a score of zero (and your assignment will not be graded). The figure below summarize the deductions.

If you are unable to complete a homework assignment due to illness or family emergency, please see the instructor as soon as possible to get an extension. A doctor's note is required as proof of illness or emergency. In general, when you get sick, it's best to see a doctor and get a note just in case you may need it later.

[BC: next few paragraphs copied from the homeworks page 3/3/2011]
Modifications after Deadline

You are allowed to submit modifications via e-mail to the instructor, within 24 hours of the submission deadline.

One line (128 characters max) of change is defined as one of the following:

  • Add 1 line before (or after) line x of file y
  • Delete line x of file y
  • Replace line x of file y by 1 line
where x is a line number and y is a specified file. The first 3 lines of modifications are free of charge. Additional modifications cost 3 points per line.

Afterwards, additional modifications cost 12 points per line until 7 days past the submission deadline. After 7 days past the submission deadline, an additional modification costs 30 points per line.

Please note that this applies to source code, Makefile, and README files.

Please note that the number of points deducted mentioned above is based on a 100-point scale.

Two midterm examinations and a final examination will be given. They will cover the lectures, readings, labs and homeworks. The coverages of the two exams will not overlap. The dates for these exams are posted near the top of the class home page. Any scheduling conflicts regarding the midterm exam date must be resolved with the instructor at least two weeks before the exam date. The date of the final examination is firm and cannot be changed.

The exams are usually closed book, closed notes, and closed everything (and no "cheat sheet"). Also, no calculators, cell phones, or any electronic gadgets are allowed. There will be assigned seating.

The grading breakdown is as follows:
Assignment % of Final Grade
5 Homeworks 30%
12 Labs 20%
3 Exams 50%
Final grades for the course will follow this scale:
Percentage Letter Grade
95% or higher A
90-95% A-
87-90% B+
83-87% B
80-83% B-
77-80% C+
73-77% C
70-73% C-
67-70% D+
63-67% D
60-63% D-
below 60% F
We use a fixed grading scale in this course so that we can encourage cooperation and friendly association amongst students.

Pleaes also note the following:

  • Your assignments are your own work! No group assignments are allowed or will be tolerated. You are free to talk to other students about assignments but no actual material (files, code fragments, etc.) should be shared or copied. We will act harshly at any sign of copying.

  • We will not assign incompletes unless it is for a documented medical reason (in accordance with USC policy).
Note From A Doctor
Recently, there has been a change in the policy at the Student Health Center regarding giving a "note from the doctor" to you to bring to a faculty member so that you can be execused from deadlines. Basically, they will not give you such a note any more. What they would give you is an Authorization for Disclosure of Medical Information form. With this form, you give them permissions to discuss your illness with me.

So, if you visit a doctor at the Student Health Center, please make sure you fill out one of these forms, check the "limited discussion with faculty" checkbox, get it stamped, signed, and dated by someone there (a clerk/receptionist would sign at the "witness" line), and bring it back to me. This would satisfy the "note from a doctor" requirement so that you can get an extension.

If you visit a doctor somewhere else, please either bring a "note from the doctor" or a similar authrozation letter so I may contact them.

Regrading Policy
All requests to change grading of homework or exams must be submitted in writing within two weeks of the time the initial grade was given. Requests must be specific and explain why you feel your answer deserves additional credit. A request to re-grade an assignment can result in the entire assignment being re-evaluated and as a result the score of any part of the assignment be increased or lowered as appropriate.

For exams, in order to be eligible for regrades, you must write your entire exam in ink.

Office Hours
The instructor's office hours are held several times a week for one hour each. If you are not available during the designated time for office hours, you are always welcome to make an appointment (and reserve a timeslot) to see the instructor.

You are strongly encouraged to come see the instructor if you are stuck with the a programming assignment. Don't wait till the deadline gets close.

Extra Credits
No extra credit assignments will be given for this class. So, there is not need to ask. Try your best from the beginning!
Implicit Student Agreement
All work including homeworks, programming assignments and exams must be that of the individual student. It is often productive to study with other students. However, if any portions of homeworks or programming assignments are found to be shared between two (or more) students, zero credit will be given to all students concerned and all students will be disciplined. This policy is in the interest of those students who do their own work, which hopefully applies to all of you in this class.

In this class, we will use sophisticated automated program checkers to detect cheating. Be aware that the program checkers have demonstrated very good results and are widely used within the academic community. Any student caught cheating will be given zero credit and will be disciplined.

It is the students responsibility to submit their assignments in time.

Students are expected to be familiar with programming in C/C++ on the UNIX platform. No special assistance or consideration will be offered if your background is inadequate.

The instructor must treat all students equally and cannot give special treatment to any particular student. Therefore, please do not ask special favors from the instructor because of your circumstances. This may seem unfair to you because you believe that your circumstances are special (understandably, everone does). But the rule the instructor must follow is that whatever he offers you, he must offer to the entire class.
Auditing is not permitted for this class.
Additional Resources
(The resources below are provided for your information. Please note that the instructor has not read most of them. Please use these resources at your own risk!)


  • C Programming (by Steve Holmes at the University of Strathclyde in Glasgow, England) - includes notes on make, separate compilation, file I/O, etc.
  • Makefile tutorial (at Indiana University)
  • Steve's Software Trek (by Steve Karg) - includes some useful C/C++ source code for string manipulation, INI file manipulation, etc.
  • C Examples - lots and lots of sample C code for basic stuff.
  • C/C++ at USC from USC ITSWeb

[Last updated Sat Sep 19 2020]    [Please see copyright regarding copying.]