Our first milestone for the final project in this course is proposing what you will work on. In addition to the requirements for this milestone, I recommend you brainstorm some ideas first, and then reach out to me once you have narrowed down the topic before you invest in writing up the entire proposal.


In this milestone we are:

  • Planning the research project we will do during the semester
  • Verifying we have the data and resources needed to complete the project
  • Explaining why the project is important and beneficial to the visualization community and society at large
  • Verifying we can build a LaTeX file

Choosing a project

There is a wide spectrum of possible visualization research contributions. For some idea of the breadth, I recommend reading Lee et al.’s Broadening Intellectual Diversity in Visualization Research Papers, which also gives some history as to how these types of contributions have evolved and recommendations for where they can go.

There are quite a few possible project types you can pick. Here is an incomplete list:

  • Building a visual solution to a particular data analysis problem
  • Developing new algorithms / data structures / techniques for visualization
  • Designing a new system to support visualization that uses existing techniques
  • Creating new visual representations for a type of data
  • Evaluating the efficacy of a particular visualization
  • Imagining new taxonomies for data/task abstraction
  • Performing a literature survey
  • Replicating and/or extending an existing experiment

I recommend you seek out an intersection between existing work of your own research or minimally seek out a type of data or visualization tool you’re interested in understanding in more detail.

Finally, if you are proposing an experiment that would require human subjects, you must have human subject training. Please see HSPP Training for more details if this interests you.


Once you’ve selected a topic for your research project, you have two required components for this assignment: (1) completing a project write-up document and (2) preparing a proposal pitch presentation. I describe each of these separately.

Proposal Write-Up (due Feb 16 at 11:59:59 PM)

This document should be written in the IEEE TVCG Journal Track Format and present a number of required elements. Aim for 2 pages in length.

  1. Project Title (be descriptive)
  2. Project Abstract: A summary of the project, why it is important, what you plan to do, and what the community may learn from this in 150-250 words.
  3. Introduction, this section should include:
    • A explanation of the problem you are trying to study or the aims of the work
    • A motivation of the project, particularly who benefits from the work being completed and once completed, what would it enable
    • A summary of your personal expertise in the area, if any. This could range from “I have no experience in this area other than it seems interesting to me” to “I’ve been working in this area for years”. If you have prior work, or it ties into another project you are doing outside of class, please state it here.
  4. Related Work
    • Discuss the work related to your project, including both visualization and domain-specific references to the problem you’re focusing on.
    • This section is the beginning, rather than the completed, discussion of related work. As such, while it may include a few citations now, the expectation is that this will grow, but you should include a few prominent works now.
    • Take the opportunity to start to think about how you will organize your bibliography and citations. Learn about .bib files.
  5. Background
    • This section should answer the question “What does someone unfamiliar with the area need to know to understand this project?”
    • This section should characterize the domain, particularly beginning to think about the data to be used in the project as well as the tasks.
    • It will also describe the context of use for any implementations you will create
  6. Methods
    • How will you approach this research question? Be as specific as possible, both about what you are confident of and areas that you have uncertainty.
    • Plans may change as you continue to progress, but this section should be written assuming everything proceeds as expected. You may discuss alternatives if you anticipate difficulties.
    • Resources:
      • If you are working with specific data, you should describe how you will obtain it.
      • If you are implementing something, you should describe the tools or programming languages you will use, particularly framed within any use cases in the motivation
      • What other elements are required for the project to succeed?
    • You plan must include mechanisms for evaluating whether or not the project is successful. These evaluation mechanisms should include short term as well as aspirational (without time constraints). There needs to be a clear way to evaluate progress and completion.
    • If you have preliminary results, include these (although likely these will be included in the write-ups for later updates).
  7. Timeline
    • Give a set of concrete milestones that you will use to checkpoint your progress on this project. These milestones should make it clear what you will have accomplished by the first and second project update steps, as well as the final project report.
    • If you are developing a new technique or visualization, you should have a preliminary idea of the design. You may want to consider developing a prototype or preliminary design by the progress update step. Any data needed to support initial findings or background work should be cited and discussed. If you are doing a literature review or taxonomy, you should have a preliminary list of papers you will review as well as an explanation of the methodology used to generate such a list. If your evaluation requires scaffolding code to run things, or human subjects to test things, you can describe when you will set these up.
    • As you will need to show progress, be sure to set up milestones that will provide you with sufficient material to develop your report and provide updates to your plan, if necessary
  8. Discussion / Impact
    • Summarize the impact completing this work will have. This ties into why the work is important and should relate to the motivation in the introduction. What would be possible if this work was completed? Why is this work of interest to the scientific community and the visualization community?

Consider the above document as a first step towards a working document you will use throughout the semester. You’ll likely start with this document and edit it for each of the project updates and also the project final report, so be thoughtful about documenting elements that can be re-used and easily updated.

As you are completing this proposal, you may find the following references helpful to consider:

  • Heilmeier’s Catechism (wikipedia.org).
  • You and Your Research Proposal - Nick Feamster (greatresearch.org). Note that this link is written from the perspective of a Ph.D. dissertation proposal, but many of the same ideas hold for a project proposal too (albeit at a different scale).

Proposal Pitch (presented in class on Feb. 14)

Your proposal pitch should briefly describe your project to the entire class. Pitches are required to be 2-3 minutes, followed by an anticipated 4-5 minutes of class discussion. These time limits are firm: pitches that go beyond 3 minutes will be cut off by the instructor and penalized in grading.

Slides are required and other visuals may be used. The main purpose of this presentation is to solicit feedback on your overall idea, rather than to get caught up in a specific detail. As such, you should present your research idea in a way that maximizes the ability to make connections with (and solicit feedback from) your classmates and instructor. Secondary goals are to practice your presentation skills at a different granularity than the other longer-form presentations we are doing throughout the semester.

In the event that unforeseen circumstances prevent you from attending class in person, the instructor will consider options for pre-recorded presentations.

You may find many of the links, particularly in the optional reading of L03, of use for thinking about how to organize your talk.


You should use git to submit all source code files for your (1) write-up and (2) a copy of your presentation slides. The expectation for this and future assignments is any work you submit will be graded by cloning your repo.

Please follow this link to create your repo.

You should submit your proposal as a .pdf file named proposal.pdf. In addition, you must submit all .tex files and anything necessary to build them (images, .cls files, etc.). I will grade whatever is submitted in the .pdf, but these other files will be used for cross-checking the work.

Help with git

If you haven’t already, you need to create an account on GitHub. You should also enable academic access if you haven’t already by “Requesting a discount” for your “Individual Account”.

If you aren’t comfortable yet with git, please try out some tutorials online! try.github.io is great, as is http://rogerdudler.github.io/git-guide/, https://www.atlassian.com/git/tutorials, and https://git-scm.com/docs/gittutorial.

We will use git the entire semester, and this assignment is meant to get you started. Feel free to use a GUI client for git, but you may also want to consider learning how to use it from a terminal. Since I will managing the repositories, you likely will only need to learn four commands:

git clone
git add
git commit
git push

An important advantage of git is that you can do multiple commits (and pushes) to track your progress and backup your work. I recommend that for documents you are drafting, you start using git as early as possible (I am a fan of the idea of micro commits, both for source code and writing). If you can get in the habit of working on documents iteratively, there are numerous benefits (not the least of which is that this is the easiest way to share early drafts with me).

Help with LaTeX

If this is your first time using LaTeX, I recommend googling for tutorials, such as the one on overleaf.com.

The IEEE VGTC-style template includes a bit of tutorial for how it works once compiled. You may find this additionally helpful for working with LaTeX constructs.

Finally, you may also find it helpful to consider the LaTeX template used in my recent offering of CSC 544, Project Milestone 01. Please note that the outline for that project is a different, please make sure you complete all elements I request above. While it is not necessary to write a separate .tex file for each section of the document, many find this easier to maintain rather than putting all content into a single master .tex file.



Requirement Value
Submitting the proposal write-up (due Feb 16 at 11:59:59 PM)

Graded using a pass (5/5) / fail (0/5) system, with instructor (written) feedback provided to help with formative planning.

Presenting the proposal pitch (in class on Feb. 14)

Graded using a categorical system: Excellent: 3.0 (100%), Good: 2.64 (88%), OK: 2.25 (75%), Poor: 1.95 (65%), or Incomplete: 0.0
Additional feedback will be provided in-person during class

Total 8/8

Cumulative Relationship to Final Grade

Worth 8% of your final grade