What Is Computer Science?

So you want to know more about Computer Science. Maybe you even think you want to study it. Let's get the easy bit out of the way: computer science is not just computer programming (although it certainly can involve that). Similarly, it is not using computer applications, creating games or web pages, or taking apart and putting together computers. Well if computer science is not those, then what is it?

Information

Computer science is the disciplined study of information and how information can be organized and communicated. ...

We want to understand the nature of information and distinguish (if possible) data, information, knowledge and wisdom. How are these related and how are they moved from place to place -- either between physical instantiations or between people's heads (perhaps also physical instantiations)? How can we organize information in data structures so as to efficiently use space in memory and facilitate subsequent access? These questions and others are of interest to computer scientists.

Computation

Computer science studies algorithms -- what can and cannot be computed, how to compute what can be computed, and the properties of algorithms that perform such computations. ...

An algorithm is a formal model of how to accomplish some task. It turns out that our models can be couched in terms of information and operations that process information. But as humans are the quintessential problem solver, these models are not about computers per se but rather hold the promise of providing insight into how people can accomplish the tasks we face, which leads naturally to, ...

Application

Computer science explores the application of the principles of information and computation to problems of practical import. ...

From the recognition of a problem that needs solving, to the deployment, maintenance and retirement of an implementation, computer science addresses how to accomplish each phase most effectively. Because applications are built to solve problems that people care about, computer science considers how systems can best be designed to facilitate interactions with humans. Furthermore, software today is written by teams of people and hence an area of study in computer science considers how people work together to collectively accomplish tasks.

Computer Science Is

Perhaps the best way to summarize or integrate all of the above is to say that computer science is the formal study of abstract problem solving. If you enjoy or are good at solving problems, you will probably enjoy or excel in computer science. Every discipline is organized around solving a particular set of problems using a particular set of tools. Computer science studies problem solving in the abstract and explores methods that can be flexibly applied to any given problem.