547 Structure

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This course will cover the computer-based visual representation of abstract data sets, designed to help people perform some task more faster or more effectively. In many cases these representations are interactive.


There are no enforced prerequisites. Grad students from other departments are very welcome. If you're a 4th year undergraduate, email me and we'll discuss whether your background is a good fit. Either or both of HCI (human-computer interaction) and computer graphics are very helpful but not required. It is possible to for students in other disciplines to take this course without a programming background, by picking an analysis or survey project.

Number change

This course has been finally renumbered to the more sensible "547: Information Visualization" rather than "533C: Special Topics in Graphics: Information Visualization". It is now in the interdisciplinary category rather than the graphics category for PhD breadth purposes. These changes were long overdue, and more accurately reflect the course content.


The course will start with nine weeks of required readings, where you submit questions/comments on the readings in the morning before the afternoon lecture, and you can use those questions as the springboard for in-class discussion. The last part of the class will be presentations by individuals on a topic of your choice based on an additional reading.

Grades in the course will be determined by

There will be no final examination in this course, final project presentations will be one afternoon during the final exams period (Fri Dec 12, 12pm-TBD).

I will send you email with detailed feedback on your work over the course of the term as it is completed. In many cases I'll be bucket-sorting individual components of your grade based on on a scale of the sort {great 100%, good 89%, ok 78%, poor 67%, zero 0%}, although the exact weighting may vary. Note that poor is not a passing mark in a graduate class.


Students should do the core readings before the lectures and participate in class discussions during both lectures and student presentations. 18% of your total grade is based on the required reading questions you submit before class. 12% of your total grade is based on class discussion - not only during the readings discussions, but also during your classmates' presentation.

By 12pm (30 minutes before class starts), students must send me email with a set of questions about the material being covered that day. Each class has one long reading (book chapter) and one short reading (research paper). You must submit two questions/comments for the long one, and one for the shorter ones. Update: You must submit three questions in total, at least one from each of the readings. I encourage you to also bring these questions with you to class as hardcopy or on a laptop, and use them as a springboard for discussion. Your email must have the subject line

Subject: 547 submit Q XXXX
where XXXX is the day's topic.

I expect you to attend class. If you must miss class you should send me email with an explanation; this email should be in advance not after the fact, unless the problem is illness or emergency. In this case, you may send your questions to me via email, but you will only be given credit if they arrive by usual time on the day of class.

Your submitted questions/comments should be thoughtful, and clearly show that you've done the reading and reflected on it. They do not all have to be phrased in the form of a question, a comment is fine. If you genuinely are confused by some aspect of the reading, then it's useful and legitimate to ask for clarification. However, simply asking something that you could trivially look up yourself is not a good question. Neither are vague statements like "I liked it" or "I learned a lot". As with any written work that you hand in, I expect correct grammar and spelling. Do be concise: a few sentences per question is good, with a maximum of one paragraph per question.

Below are examples of graded questions from the Navigation/Zooming week in a previous course, ranging from great to poor.

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Tamara Munzner
Last modified: Tue Sep 9 22:31:37 PDT 2014