Practical Course – Contributing to an Open-Source Project

Chair for Logic and Verification


Course assessment will be divided into 4 parts:

Students are expected to assess and reflect their project experience according to their acquired theoretical knowledge.

Class Participation

You will receive mandatory reading material in the first few weeks of the course that will then be discussed in class. We ask for active participation from every participant.

Moreover, we will host a variety of guest speakers. Again, participation is mandatory and active engagement will count positively to your final grade.

Preliminary Report

The preliminary report is a moderately detailed study of your chosen FLOSS project (6–8 pages). The study should cover all of the aspects of FLOSS development covered in the theory part of the course that are relevant to the project of your choice. In the study, you should seek to demonstrate your understanding of the reading material and show that you are able to present your findings in a clear and concise manner. The study should cover at least:

If possible you should try to document the discussions and background that led to the choices the project made. You should try, where possible, to research the answers through publicly available materials. If you can’t find the answers that way, then you can contact project members, but you should make it clear that you are working on a university project. Including a link to the lecture website in your first contact with a project member is a good way to do this.

You are expected to give a short (10 minutes) presentation in one of our sessions presenting your findings.

Biweekly Meetings

Students are expected to meet biweekly with their supervisors and submit a short report (around half a page) answering the following questions:

  1. Which actions did you take?
  2. Which interactions have happened since your last meeting?
  3. Describe your progress! Did you face any problems?
  4. What are you planning to do in the next 2 weeks?

Project Work and Final Report

The main part of the course comes from you working on a FOSS project of your choice. There are no strict rules on what form that work should take, but you should try to choose something that demonstrates your ability to work with the project, and demonstrates your understanding of the principles of FLOSS collaboration.

Assessment for this portion of the course will be based on a report (10–13 pages) that you write that describes your involvement with the project. In the report, you should critically assess your involvement. You should reflect on both your communications and contributions. Moreover, we expect you to describe how you interacted with the community and maintainers of the project. To assist you in writing that report, it might be useful to keep copies of email exchanges with the project, plus logs of chat interactions and copies of relevant web pages (for example bug submissions).

It is important that the work you do for this part of your assessment is not done in isolation from the other contributors to your chosen FLOSS project. You should not work alone on a patch or contribution and then submit it to the project at the last minute. Instead, you should discuss your contribution as soon as possible, and actively participate in a cycle of review and improvement, with the aim of producing a useful contribution to the project.

It is not a requirement that the project accepts your contribution to get a good mark for this part of your assessment. What you should aim to demonstrate in your report is that you are following the established practices for your chosen project, and that you have been working towards a useful contribution.

You also do not need to restrict yourself to a single contribution to the project. For example, you may wish to make contributions to several different areas of the project. Contributions to the documentation, web pages, test suites, and bug handling can be just as important as contributions to the projects source code.

Finally, you are again expected to give a short (10 minutes) presentation in one of our sessions presenting your most intriguing experiences.

Guidelines for the Project Report and Final Presentation

The main objective of your final report is to

  1. describe the work you have done in the project phase on a high-level,
  2. summarize the lessons you learnt during the semester, and
  3. critically reflect on your project work including communication with the community.

The text should be written in a scientific style, i.e. you should abstract from irrelevant details, back up your claims with references, and use succinct language. For both the level of detail and focus you can imagine your fictive reader to be familiar with computer science and the basics of FLOSS (e.g. your fellow lab course students). The report should not be an aggregation of your biweekly reports nor be of a technical nature (don’t get into technical details!). Instead, it should contain a more general and high-level summary and reflect on your work and experiences.

Here is a list of necessary aspects that should be covered in a good report:

Some nice-to-haves for a very good report:

While the above list suggests a rough structure, you may very well deviate from it. Once again, we remind you that it is not a requirement that your pull-requests were already merged by the community nor that you necessarily wrote many lines of code. You should explain what your contribution was, what the problems you encountered were, how you tackled them, and what can be learnt from that effort.

The final presentation should talk about the final report in the sense that it should summarize what one would find when one reads it, highlight the main learnings, and motivate the audience to read the report. You will have to explain the necessary context for the audience to understand what you are explaining. The talk should be no more than 10 minutes, and there will be 5 more minutes for questions.