Because cognitive science is a broad, interdisciplinary topic, we will start the semester by exploring examples of research in the field. We want each student to find one example of research in cognitive science that they find interesting and write a summary (about half a page single spaced) about the work, as well as give a very brief (2 minutes) description for the other students in the class.
The value of this assignment will be as much in your search for an interesting example of research as in the particular project you decide to report on. We want you to find an example of academic research, not just someone's blog on the web or musings about cognitive science. Research projects are quite specific. For example, the scope of a research project might be "What brain regions are involved in selective attention?" or "What information do people remember about previous conversations?", but not "How do people learn?"
Here are four ways to get started: (1) Use google or google scholar. Most academic research projects have a presence on the web, and many academic research papers are available on the web. You will have to search for more than "cognitive science"; use keywords related to your own interests (e.g., development and language, robot intelligence, theory of mind, etc.). If you're at a loss for keywords, you might look through the course readings and find one of particular interest, and use it to identify a more specific topic and keywords. (2) On the course home page, we have links to some interesting topics and references. (3) Use the library as a resource. If you connect on campus or off campus via the campus VPN, you can access journals to which the library subscribes. Just peruse the contents of recent journals for topics of interest to you. Journals relevant to cognitive science include: Cognitive Science, Trends in Cognitive Science, Journal of Consciousness Studies, Consciousness and Cognition, Nature, Science, Cognition, Mind and Language, Behavioral and Brain Sciences, and Philosophical Psychology. In particular, Trends in Cognitive Science has particularly nice review articles that are meant to be broadly accessible. (4) Look at home pages and research groups involved in our own Institute of Cognitive Science (http://ics.colorado.edu). Look not only at the tech reports and research groups, but track down individual faculty in your field of specialization. Most faculty have descriptions of their research and recent papers on the web.
Write a roughly half-page summary of the research you learned about. To convey the gist of the work, address the following: What questions are the researchers asking? Why are they interested in these questions (i.e., how does their work help us to understand the mind and/or brain)? What methods are they using? What are their conclusions?
In class, we'll ask a subset of students to present their findings to the class. We will only have time for very brief reports, so please plan what you will say. We unfortunately won't have time for everyone to present, and we will only have about 2 minutes per presenter. We will select on the basis of topics to get the broadest coverage of the field.