As a main goal for this course is to immerse students in visualization research, we will largely function as a reading group throughout the semester. This page documents how we will select and organize our reading.


An essential part of research is investigating what the state-of-the-art is, in any field. Literature reviews will be integral to this effort, and will rotate throughout the semester to lead discussions on recent papers. The purpose of this is to give practice reading / analyzing research papers and presenting analysis in a clear way.

For sessions where you are not presenting, students will be expected to read papers prior to each literature review session, think critical on them, and come prepared to discuss.

Paper Selection

We will hold four rounds of literature review (“LRs”) throughout the semester. Within each, students will select one paper to present, and prepare a concise mini-lecture to seed discussion on it.

To identify papers, the instructor has shared an archive of the last three years (2019-2021) of the IEEE VIS conference. Any full length main track or short paper is eligible to be presented. You may also select papers from additional years of the conference, or even additional conferences/journals provided they are visualization-related. Check with the instructor if you are unsure if a paper meets the necessary criteria.

Note that, the archives only include the PDFs for the paper. Many visualization research papers include supplemental material, often in the form of a short video, demo, source code, or datasets. Check online to see if you can find such material. Often, it will be hosted on the author’s website and sometimes on IEEE’s publication site, IEEE Xplore. When logged in from a campus IP address, or campus VPN, you should have full access through the library’s proxy (

As you will be focusing your efforts on a visualization research project throughout the semester, you are encouraged to look at this task as seeding the background / related work sections of the eventual write up you will produce at the end of the semester. Thus, while the class is generating a list of papers we will all read, you should select yours strategically to benefit your project.

While the minimum requirement is to present a single paper in each LR, occasionally it might be valuable to present 1-2 additional, related papers simultaneously. If such a case is identified, we will include such papers as recommended (but not required) reading for the class.

Presentation Scheduling

The four LR sessions for the semester run as follows:

  • LR1: Jan. 26 - Feb. 9 (selections due Jan. 19)
  • LR2: Feb. 16 - Mar. 2 (selections due Feb. 9)
  • LR3: Mar. 16 - Mar. 30 (selections due Feb. 28)
  • LR4: Apr. 6 - Apr. 20 (selections due Mar. 28)

Paper selections for each session are due at the dates listed above by at 11:59pm (e.g. Jan. 19 for LR1, Feb. 9 for LR2, etc.).

Selections should be sent to the instructor via Piazza, with a private post tagged with the folder “lr-selection”

After all selections have been made, the instructor will update the website to specify the schedule of papers we will cover, so as to give at least a minimum of one week’s time for the student to prepare their presentation.

In the unfortunate case of two students selecting the same paper to present, conflicts will be resolved on a first-come-first-serve basis. Thus, in addition to making scheduling easing, making your selections early is also encouraged to avoid conflicts.

While no portion of your grade is directly assigned to submitting your paper selection, failing to do so will result in either (a) the instructor assigning you a paper to present or (b) ineligibility to give a presentation during that LR. Please do strive to have this completed, possibly ahead of time. My expectation is that after LR1, you will already have started to investigate your research project, and you will have multiple possible options for papers to present.

Paper Presentation

Your presentation should not simply outline the papers. You will need to present the critical ideas in the paper so that your colleagues in the class have a basis for participating and understanding your subsequent discussion. Part of this assignment is to use your judgement on what those critical ideas are and how to concisely present them.

Aim for your mini-lecture to be 10-15 minutes, with absolute maximum time of 15 minutes allocated (the instructor will end any presentation that goes longer). This will be followed by 10-15 minutes of discussion among the class, which the presenter will lead.

You should prepare slides or other visuals to accompany your talk. You may use the software platform of your choice to present these slides, as long as it’s also possible to create a PDF version of your talk for the course web site. Most people will use PowerPoint, Keynote, Google Slides, or latex/beamer.

While the instructor anticipates live presentations, please discuss with the instructor if you require options for a recorded presentation. In such a case, we would record the lecture in advance and hold the discussion after the class views the presentation.

Asynchronous Discussion

By 3:00pm on the day of an literature review (2 hrs before lecture), all students who are not presenting that day are required to post a question/comment about one of the selected readings for the day to the class Piazza. Questions should be tagged for the specific lecture and each students’ post should be a separate, unique thread.

The goal of these questions/comments is to both demonstrate that you’ve done the reading ahead of time as well as to stimulate the discussions during that day. Thus, while the instructor will use these posts to check that the reading has been completed, the class will also use them as a jumping off point for the day’s discussion. The presenter is not required to address these questions exactly, but should take note of them in case they want to make any last-minute additions to their presentation.

Starting followup discussions (during or after class) are encouraged. After lecture, both the presenter and the class should use these threads to continue discussion (which will be factored into your overall participation grade).

What sorts of topics make sense to discuss? 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”. That said, not all asynchronous discussion needs to be questions though, insightful comments are also appreciated, particularly if they lead to critical discussion.

These posts should be no more than a short paragraph in length, with the ideal being only a few sentences. Try to distill your comments as much as possible to the key issue/idea/thought/observation.

Example Comments/Questions

Below are examples of graded comments from a Navigation/Zooming reading in a previous course, ranging from Excellent to Poor (source: Tamara Munzner)

  • Excellent
    • I’m curious as to what would have happened if the authors had simply preselected the values of the free parameters for the participants in their user study, and then had the users compare their technique to the standard magnification tools present in a ‘normal’ application (much like the space-scale folks did). Could it be that the users are `manufacturing’ a large standard deviation in the free parameter specifications by settling for values that merely produce a local improvement in their ability to manipulate the interface, instead of actively searching for an optimal valuation scheme?
    • In a related vein, the speed-dependent automatic zooming met with mixed success on some applications. Isn’t this success related to how “compressible” some information is? i.e. because zooming must necessarily throw out some information, it isn’t obvious which information to keep around to preserve the navigable structure.
  • Good
    • It would be interesting to compare the approach in this paper to some other less-mathematically-thought-out zoom and pan solutions to see if it is really better. Sometimes “faking it” is perceived to be just as good (or better) by users.
    • The space-scale diagrams provided a clear intuition of why zooming out, panning then zooming in is a superior navigation technique. However, I found the diagram too cumbersome for practical use, especially for objects with zoom-dependent representations (Figure 11).
  • OK
    • This seems like something fun to play around with, are there any real implementations of this? Has a good application for this type of zooming been found? Is there still a real need for this now that scroll wheels have become prevailent and most people don’t even use the scroll bar anymore?
    • Playing with the applet, I find I like half of their approach. It’s nice to zoom out as my scroll speed increases, but then I don’t like the automatic zoom in when I stop scrolling. Searching the overview I found the location I wanted, but while I paused and looked at the overview, I fell back in to the closeup. I think they need to significantly dampen their curve.
  • Poor
    • Well, what exactly Pad++ is? Is it a progarmming library or a set of API or a programming language? how can we use it in our systems, for xample may be programming in TCL or OpenGL may be ?
    • I learned some from this paper and got some ideas of my project.


Requirement Value
Paper Presentations (4)

Quality of presentation/materials, staying within time, presentation style20%
Overall Summary of the content50%
Synthesis/critique of the work30%

6x4 = 24 total
Asynchronous Discussions (16)

Graded using the following scheme: Excellent: 1.0, Good: 0.88, OK: 0.75, Poor: 0.65, Incomplete: 0.0 1

1x16 = 16 total
Total 40/40

Cumulative Relationship to Final Grade

Worth 40% of your final grade, with 24/40 being allocated to presentations and 16/40 being assigned to asynchronous discussions.