Writing and reviewing essays

This page provides general instructions for writing and peer reviewing essays for the courses Introduction to Cyber security, Securing Software, and Advanced Topics. Read the instructions before submitting any essays, as not following the instructions will most likely lead to having your essay rejected.

In addition, the two project courses have their own instructions for writing the reports.


To pass an essay you must return an essay and provide at least 3 peer reviews for each essay.

When essay receives 3 peer reviews, it will also go through verification phase.

Receiving good peer-reviews does not mean that your essay will be automatically accepted. This is especially the case for Project I essays as there are often issues that need to be fixed.

At the very beginning of the course there may be not enough essays in the system for reviewing. If this happens, then wait. It this takes long time, contact the staff.

What may happen is that the course deadline is passed, and you have not received enough feedback. In that case the course staff will check the essay regardless.

Writing essays

Essays are worth of 5 points. You will get only 1 chance to submit an essay, so submit only when you are ready.

Essays must be within the limits dictated by the system. If they're not within this limit you will not be able to submit your answer. We may also reject your answer if it's flagged too many times as spam or if it doesn't contain deep enough discussion. Also, we may reject your peer reviews if you haven't put genuine effort into them.

Please write the essays carefully and with thought. Other participants in the course will review them and give you feedback. Essays should be written individually and using your own words. Copy-pasting from other sources is not allowed. Copy-pasting text from other sources, such as Internet, other student answers, or text generating tools, and pretending it to be your own counts as plagiarism. Plagiarism is not allowed under any circumstances, and will have consequences when caught. See here for more detailed descriptions. The courses will use automatic plagiarism detection.

Citation instructions

If an assignment asks you to cite sources, then you should cite sources, otherwise your essay will be rejected. If an essay doesn't explicitly ask for sources, then citations are not needed but can be added. Generally speaking, opinions do not need citations but factual statements do.

The references must be as follows:

  1. Each reference must have an url.
  2. References must be precise: https://cnn.com is not a valid citation but an url to a specific news article is a valid citation. If a reference is a large pdf (book etc.), then you should provide additional information on what is actually being cited.
  3. Reference should be cited in the essay. There should not be any references in your list that are not cited in the essay. For citing references you can use numbers in brackets, for example [1].
  4. Rerefences should be relevant. The factual statements in your essays should be backed by your citations.
  5. References should be credible.
  6. Ideally, reference should not be behind a paywall.
  7. Do not use wikipedia as a reference. The reason is that wikipedia articles are missing a responsible author.
  8. Avoid using course material as a reference (though the external links are fine).
  9. References should be in English. In emergency case, Finnish is also allowed but only if the same information cannot be found in English. No other languages are allowed.

Add a list of references to the end of the essay in the following format:

[1] url1
[2] url2

There is no need for other information than url in the reference. You can add other information (author name, the title, etc.) if you want to but in this course this is optional. Make sure that

  • each url starts with the protocol (http:// or https://)
  • there are no commas or periods at the end of the url as they can be interpreted as a part of the url. If such is needed, then add extra space between the url and the symbol.
  • Do not put any parentheses, brackets, etc around the url. Do not use any markdown format.
On the usage of LLM

Large Language Models (LLM) are a suite of currently developing tools that can be used in different ways. While some usages may be useful, others may clash with the intended learning outcomes of an individual course. Therefore, the allowed usage depends on the course, and below is listed what usage is allowed and what is not. Not every use case is listed as some uses are not relevant for the CSB courses.

General LLMs, such as ChatGPT, are known to produce incorrect, misleading, or irrelevant statements. Therefore, it is students' responsibility to verify the correctness and the relevancy of such statements. Moreover, often a dedicated tool will provide better results.

If a student decides to use LLM, they need to provide a report on their usage. The instructions for such a report are stated below. Note that presenting generated text as your own is plagiarism. See https://studies.helsinki.fi/instructions/article/what-cheating-and-plagiarism for additional information about plagiarism.

During CSB courses using LLMs

  • to generate text for reports or essays or peer-reviews is not allowed.
  • to polish/rewrite text is not allowed.
  • to spellcheck the text is allowed (grammarly is an option here). Provide a statement in the essay if a tool was use to spell check.
  • to search for information or explain or summarize concepts is allowed. Note however that essay needs to be based on cited sources, and LLM is not a valid source.
  • to generate code is not allowed.
Peer reviewing essays

Once you submit an essay, you will have to provide 3 peer reviews.

Peer reviewing consists of general comments and 4 criteria which are graded on a scale 1-5. In addition, if an essay requires citations, there is an additional criterion for grading citations. For this criterion use only 1 or 5 (do not use 2-4 even though the system allows you to).

You should justify your grading in the general comments. Be specific, constructive, and polite.

Writing improper peer reviews will lead to your essay being rejected.

The general explanation for the grades is as follows:

  • 1: failed, the essay should be rejected
  • 2: passable, the essay is still acceptable but barely
  • 3: average, main points are presented but there are obvious ways to improve the essay
  • 4: good, minor issues, but otherwise excellent work
  • 5: excellent, no issues or only cosmetic issues

The more detailed criteria-specific rubric is given below. When providing feedback take into account length limitations on essays.

CriteriaGrade 1Grade 2Grade 3Grade 4Grade 5
comprehensiveplagiarized, unrelated, copy-paste, or otherwise inappropriatemost important points are presented, an obvious point that should have been discussed is missingall major points are mentioned but obvious connections are not describedall major points are described but some (subtle) connections that could have been mentioned are missingno issues or only cosmetic issues
on-topicplagiarized, unrelated, copy-paste, or otherwise inappropriatethe essay answers the asked topic but contains portions of unrelated, unjustified discussionmost of the essay stays on topic but contains some unrelated discssionthe essay stays on-topic but contains some minor, unrelated pointsno issues or only cosmetic issues
easy to followplagiarized, unrelated, copy-paste, or otherwise inappropriatethe intention of the author is understandable from the essay but the presentation leaves room for improvementmeandering sentences, not grouped properly into paragraphsminor grammar issues but otherwise excellentno issues or only cosmetic issues
well-reasonedplagiarized, unrelated, copy-paste, or otherwise inappropriatethe essay requires significant effort from the reader to infer the missing stepsfew gaps in logic but they can be read between the linesminor gaps in logicno issues or only cosmetic issues
citationssome or all citations do not follow the given instructionsdo not usedo not usedo not useall citations follow the given instructions