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

In 2014 this course was 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.


For required readings, you submit comments on the readings by 9am Tues, and responses to your classmates comments by 30 min before the afternoon lecture (1:30pm Tue); you might use those questions as the springboard when there is in-class discussion. Depending on the final number of students who take the course, there may be individual presentations on a research paper that I assign to you based on a topic of your choice.

Final breakdown of course marks will depend on whether presentations are feasible; rough guidelines are

There will be no final examination in this course, final project presentations will be one afternoon during the final exams period (Tue Dec 12 afternoon, 1-5pm).

In many cases I'll be bucket-sorting individual subcomponents of your grade based on on a scale roughly following {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 must do the core readings before the lectures and are expected to participate in class: with in-class exercises and group work, project critiques, discussions about the main readings, and discussions following student presentations (if they happen this year). The in-class group work (design exercises, project critiques) is mandatory, and is marked on a pass/fail basis; if you participate and you're engaged, you will pass. Your mark for the level of contribution to the class discussion will depend on both your level of engagement (amount of participation) and the thoughtfulness of your remarks.

By 9am the morning of class (Tue), you must have posted your comments to the Canvas discussion board. You must submit one comment about each reading; a typical week will have four readings. By 30 min before class (1:30pm Tue) you must submit at least two responses to a classmate's comments; you will be able to see those comments only after you've posted your own. For marking I'll start with pass/fail, I may fall back on explicit marking if I see quality issues.

Please do bring a laptop or tablet to class for use in the in-class exercises, if possible. If you don't have one, then bring a hardcopy printout of your comments with you to class, so you can use them as a springboard for discussion.

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 comments should be thoughtful, and clearly show that you've done the reading and reflected on it. They may either be phrased in the form of an observation or a question. 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", or anything that you could write without having thought carefully about the reading. As with any written work that you hand in, I expect correct grammar and spelling. Do be concise: aim for between a few sentences and a paragraph for each reading.

Below are examples of graded comments from a Navigation/Zooming reading in a previous course, ranging from great to poor.

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Tamara Munzner
Last modified: Fri Dec 29 17:57:41 PST 2017