Select a topic related to the topics in the course syllabus, or ask Dr. Neuman if you would like to write on another topic that you feel is related to distributed systems. Some examples of paper topics include comparisons of approaches taken by different systems to solve distributed systems problems, surveys of the literature on an operating systems topic, and discussions of particular problem areas in distributed systems.
Prepare a reading list of the papers that you plan to look at. Your must incdlude full citations for the papers. Don't provide just a list of URL's, or paper titles. You must provide full citations to the soruces: authors, the title, and where the papers appear (i.e. the conference or the journal, etc). Don't send me the actual papers you will use as references either. The purpose of this list is to make sure you have some place to start. Most of the papers in your reading list should be beyond those that are included in the course materials. You may use the library as a resource when looking for material on your topic. You should not constrain your search to only information easily found on the web. In fact, most of the papers in your reading list should be from journals and conferences (though you are likely to find copies of many of these online). Do not use marketing literature (sometimes called white papers) or high level issues articles from trade publications as primary sources. You will be free to use additional papers if you come across them during your research.
Be sure to follow reference from relevant papers to other sources, and look up the original papers covering a topic, don't rely on summaries provided by someone else. You may also want to use the site citeseer (citeseer.ist.psu.edu) or Google Scholar to find citations TO some of the papers you start from. This will likely turn up more recent papers on the same topic.
Prepare a couple of paragraphs describing the topic, the particular issues you plan to cover, and the questions you plan to answer. Turn in this description and your reading list. This description and reading list should be e-mailed to email@example.com with the subject "CSci555 Paper Proposal" . It MUST be sent as a plain text message, NOT mime encoded, and without attachments. The instructor will respond with feedback by e-mail. The submissions that do not follow the instructions might NOT be accepted.
In general, it is NOT appropriate to focus on just a single system. Your paper should not be on a single approach to a problem but should instead cover several approaches and highlight the strengths and weaknesses of each approach. Even if you are presenting your own idea, you should compare your idea with other existing approaches that are related to yours.
Lastly, keep in mind that you are writing a paper about distributed systems.
White papers, Internet drafts, RFC's, and web pages are okay to supplement the above listed sources but these and other non-refereed publications can NOT constitute the majority of your references.
Being focused does not mean that you can pick papers from a single group or institution. For example, as is the case of a survey paper, you must have references from different sources and your presentation must be a critical assessment of one system or approach comparing aspect of it with what has been done elsewhere.