Main Course Webpage

General information


Employers consistently indicate that they expect graduating students to have strong written and oral communication skills. Because CSC 165 focuses on precise technical communication, the course is part of the Faculty of Arts & Science's Writing Instruction for TAs (WIT) Project, an initiative to provide support for student writing.

You won't have to do any more writing than usual because of our participation in WIT, but your TAs will receive special training so they can grade your writing more effectively (to help you improve your written communication skills). Also, we provide a detailed list of resources for writing support on campus (see below). Finally, you may have the opportunity to take a survey or to be part of a focus group to comment on your writing experience in the course (details will be posted if this becomes relevant).


Here are some guidelines for electronic communication (email and forum postings). These are meant to help you get answers more quickly by allowing us to better cope with the potentially high volume of email we receive.

Giving feedback

Rather than wait until the official course evaluations at the end of the term, by which point it's too late to make a difference, please feel free to get in touch with your instructor at any point during the term with any suggestion or complaint that you have about any aspect of the course. In particular, don't hesitate to let us know if there are aspects of the course that you particularly like, so that we can keep them that way, or if there are specific aspects that you dislike, so that we can make changes (or discuss with you our reasons for doing things the way we do).

If you are uncomfortable bringing your concerns directly to us, you might consider mentioning it to your TA so that they can pass them on. Failing that, feel free to use any means that makes you more comfortable to give us feedback.

Note that this does not mean that we will accept unfounded complaints! If you have a complaint or criticism that you are ready to discuss in a reasonable manner, that's great. If you are merely unhappy but you have nothing constructive to say (e.g., "this course is terrible", with no thought about why or how it is terrible), then you should wait and think it over: if you are unhappy, there must be a reason — that's what we want to know! Remember that the goal is to help improve the course, not just to vent. But in that case, please do think about it and let us know!

Contact information

Instructor: François Pitt
Email: fpitt [at]
Phone: 416–978–3707 (email is strongly preferred)
Office: BA 4264
Office Hours: TWF 2–4 [here is my full weekly schedule, in PDF]


Section Time Room
L0101 MWF 12 BA 1130
L5101 T 6–9 BA 1130


For students in lecture section L0101 (MWF12)

Section Time Room Last Names
T0101-A M 7–8 BA 2155 A–J
T0101-B M 7–8 BA 2165 K–P
T0101-C M 7–8 BA 2195(*) Q–Z
(*) On Monday 22 October, tutorial T0101-C will exceptionally take place in room BA 2135.

For students in lecture section L5101 (T6–9)

Section Time Room Last Names
T5101-A R 7–8 BA 2165 Z, A–H
T5101-B R 7–8 BA 2175 I–M
T5101-C R 7–8 BA 2185 N–Y

You must attend the tutorial section you were assigned!

There are two main reasons:

  1. Space: currently, each tutorial room is full — in fact, each room is slightly overfull.
  2. Timing: each tutorial (and its associated quiz) is designed to cover the same material as the lectures, in the week leading up to that tutorial — this is different for each section of the course.

This means that if you attend the wrong tutorial section (incorrect room or wrong day of the week), you will most likely be taking up the seat of another student who belongs in the tutorial you attended. (Also, you might end up writing a quiz on material that you have not yet seen in lecture.)

For this reason, and to ensure that students who attend the correct tutorial are not unfairly penalized, we reserve the right to ignore the quiz grade for any student who does not attend the correct tutorial.

CS Help Centre

In addition to lectures and tutorials, and my regular office hours (which you are strongly encouraged to attend whenever you have any question or concern about the course), the CS Help Centre is a nice study space with help available, run by experienced TAs, located in room BA 2230. It is open every Monday to Thursday, 4–6pm, from the first day of classes (Sep. 10) until the last day of exams (Dec. 21).

See the second page of the Course Information Sheet (L0101 / L5101) for a complete calendar of important dates and course events.

Grading scheme

Work Weight
Class Participation: 3%
4 Assignments: 32% (8% each)
10 Quizzes: 15% (1.5% each)
1 Midterm Tests: 10%
1 Final Examination: 40%

Policy on special consideration ("Petitions")

If you are unable to complete homework or if you miss a quiz or test due to major illness or other circumstances completely outside of your control, please contact your instructor immediately in order to receive special consideration. Note that special consideration will be considered on an individual basis and will not be given automatically — in other words, you risk getting a mark of zero for missed work unless you contact your instructor promptly.

In the case of illness, medical documentation must be supplied on the standard University of Toronto Student Medical Certificate (PDF). You can also obtain a paper copy of this certificate from your college registrar or in your registration handbook. (A simple "note" from your doctor is unfortunately not acceptable.)

Policy on remarking requests

All remarking requests must be received within two weeks of the date when the homework, quiz or test was returned. It is your responsibility to check course announcements regularly (for work returned electronically) or to pick up your work in lecture, tutorial, or from the instructor during office hours (for work returned on paper).

Please be specific when you write up your request: either clearly demonstrate that the marking scheme was not followed correctly, or ask questions about specific elements in the marking scheme. Note that marks are awarded based on merit, not on need — that is the only fair way to award marks — so statements like "I worked really hard" or "I really need those marks" are unfortunately not good reasons.

If you are comparing your work to that of another student, hand in both tests or include both usernames in your request.

If you are still not satisfied after getting back your remarked homework or test (or after having a meeting with the marker), contact your instructor to discuss your situation.

Textbook and references

Required textbook

[Creative Commons License] Course Notes for CSC165H (PDF)
by Gary Baumgartner and Danny Heap and François Pitt.
(Licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution, Non-Commercial, No Derivatives 3.0 Unported License.)

Recommended reference

The following textbook served as an inspiration for our "structured proof" approach and covers most of the course topics (except for the material on algorithm analysis towards the end of the course).

Additional materials

Resources for writing support

You will be asked to do lots of writing at UofT, and you will find lots of resources for developing your skill and confidence as an academic writer. Here is some key information for students in Arts and Science. Reformatted version of a document prepared September 2011 by Dr. Margaret Procter (UofT Coordinator, Writing Support), with a few additions.

Common errors in CSC 165 (PDF)
A list of errors that students make regularly in this course, and how to avoid them.
Math Resource Center
Advice and documents directly related to the technical aspects of writing proofs.
Writing Centres
Each college has a writing centre, where specialized instructors are available to work with you individually as you plan, draft, and revise your writing in any subject area. Make appointments early if you can, using the online booking system (log in with your UTORid); there's a wait list function too.
Writing Plus group sessions
Demonstrates university expectations for written work in many genres and offers sensible advice to get you past common pitfalls. Choose the sessions and times that suit you and enjoy lively talks by experts. No registration is needed.
Online Advice Files
Gives university-level answers to questions like how to read critically, how to give references to your research sources, and how to organize a paper without relying on unsuitable high-school formulas. The site also covers practical topics like vocabulary building and note-taking, and it recommends relevant handbooks and other online resources.
English Language Learning
Offers guided practice to all Arts and Science students on the kinds of reading, writing and speaking you need to do in your undergraduate courses. For the first five weeks of term, the Communication Café invites you to group meetings to discuss, debate, and practice critical thinking and argumentation — and have fun while doing it. In the online program Reading eWriting, you can develop your critical writing skills and your ability to read effectively by participating in email discussions with an instructor. Join any time. All activities are free of charge. An intensive non-credit course ELL010H is also offered in the summer.
Academic Success Centre
Can't figure out how to organize your time, or meet deadlines, or stay motivated? Stress and overload hitting you at mid-term, or exam time, or all the time? Then the counselling and support at the ASC are what you need. This service provides a mix of group and individual instruction, and also a drop-in centre for personal help when you need it.
Accessibility Services
If you have a learning disability that affects your writing or your ability to read effectively or follow discussions, be sure to contact this service. Eligible students can get specialized tutoring and accommodations such as extra time for exam-writing.
UofT Library system
Besides a world of journal articles, millions of books, and excellent computer labs and study space, the amazing UofT Libraries offer classes and individual help on finding the research sources you need. Librarians will show you how to find and use online material efficiently, and can help you decide which sources are suitable for specific projects. Don't be shy about asking! Get to know your college libraries as well as the central ones.
Writing Resources
The starting place for many of the resources above.

LaTeX links

LaTeX is a general-purpose typesetting system that makes it easy to generate high-quality documents, particularly when formatting mathematical formulae.

Source files

Tutorials, guides, references, etc.

Useful links