CS 725/825 - Information Visualization
Fall 2017: Fridays, 8:30-11:00am, E&CS 2120

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CS725 @ GitLab

Paper Presentations



Tableau's data visualization software is provided through the Tableau for Teaching program.

Semester Project

Demo Video and Paper Due: Friday, Dec 15, 2017 before 8:30am

Project Ideas


The idea of the project is to take the knowledge and background that you are learning this semester about Information Visualization and put it to good use in a new, creative effort.

A real key to the project, however, is to select a data set that people will find interesting and intriguing. Even better would be to select a data set with a clearly identified set of users or analysts who care deeply about that data. Select a topic that people want to know more about! I cannot emphasize strongly enough the importance of your topic and data set.

Software Requirement: Although you may use tools like Excel, Tableau, Google Charts for your own analysis, your final visualization product must be web-based visualization using some JavaScript library. Note that the best projects are ones that allow the user to look at data in multiple ways, through linked charts, for instance. D3 will likely be your best option for creating linked charts.

Your project may not allow users to just "explore" the data. You must have some specific tasks or goals in mind for the visualization. Credit to Eytan Adar, "Banning exploration in my infovis class" (read this), for articulating this. Here are some highlights from that article:

  • "If youíre not seeking anything in particular, any tool that lets you meander through data is perfectly reasonable. It makes the job of deriving insight completely the responsibility of the end-user. In that world, any decision is a reasonable one, evaluation is unnecessary, and there is no grade but an A. But thatís not the real world and so Iíve banned 'explore.'"
  • "Forcing students to tell me what they want the end-user to find and/or what decisions they want to enable has led to better projects."
  • "What I think is going on is that the students are confusing their own exploration of the data with what the end-userís exploration will look like. That is, they are mistaking the design task of familiarizing themselves with the data with what the analyst might do."

Forming Groups

Students should work on a project in groups of 1-2 people. I will accept an odd number of single student groups, but there will be no 3-person groups.

Choose your group members carefully. We will not have enough time to allow for splitting groups once they are formed. Each team will have to describe the contributions of each team member, and each team member will submit evaluations of their fellow team members.

Important Milestones

  • Sep 29 - Milestone 1 - Project group members, initial datasets to be used, initial questions/tasks to be addressed
    • indicate your group and project topic in groups.md in GitLab.
  • Oct 6 - Milestone 2 - Abstract tasks to be addressed
  • Oct 20 - Milestone 3 - Design of your approach using the Five Design-Sheet Methodology
    • we'll start work on these in class on Sep 29
  • Oct 20 - Milestone 4 - Project proposals presented in class (see below)
  • Oct 23-Nov 30 - Check-ins - I strongly encourage you to meet with me periodically between Milestone 4 and Milestone 5 to get feedback on your project. Send an email to set up an appointment. We can setup WebEx/Skype/Google Chat meetings as well.
  • Dec 1 - Milestone 5 - Project status updates presented in class (see below)
  • Dec 15 - Project demo videos and final project paper due (see below)


Milestone 4 - Project Proposal Presentation

  • 5 minutes
  • PDF or Powerpoint format (i.e., make slides)
  • Required elements:
    • group members
    • topic
    • motivation behind your topic choice
    • description of the dataset
    • abstract tasks
    • simple sketch or mockup of a potential design -- ideally based on realization sheet from FdS
    • list of development tools you plan to use
    • initial task list and proposed timeline for completing the project (example)
  • Bring a hard-copy of your slides (6 slides/page is fine) to submit to me

Milestone 5 - Project Status Updates

  • 5 minutes
  • PDF or Powerpoint format (i.e., make slides)
  • Required elements:
    • group members
    • brief reminder of your project topic
    • screenshots of current implementation status
    • task division among group members
    • current status -- items completed, tasks remaining
    • updated timeline for completing the project
  • Bring a hard-copy of your slides (6 slides/page is fine) to submit to me
  • Submit your slides in Blackboard before class

Demo Video

  • 5-7 minute video or screencast -- not a live demo
  • The video should briefly describe the problem and data you're visualizing.
  • The video should highlight the main features of the visualization by walking through a scenario (or multiple scenarios).
  • The video should demonstrate that the visualization provides effective representation of the data, uses appropriate colors, and supports multiple tasks through interactivity.
  • Be prepared to answer questions about your visualization after the demo.


Note: template links updated - Dec 8, 2017

The final project paper must be formatted according to guidelines and templates (US Letter paper size) for IEEE Transactions on Visualization and Computer Graphics. (It should look similar to the InfoVis paper you presented.)

  • required heading elements: Title, Author Names, Author Affiliations (dept, university), Abstract (Index Terms are not required)
  • teaser image on pg 1 is encouraged
  • 5-10 pages
  • must be written in LaTeX and produce a PDF
    • paper-template.zip
    • vgtc.cls -- class style file
    • paper-template.tex -- LaTeX template file
    • paper-template.bib -- BibTeX example file
    • TEMPLATE.pdf -- generated PDF file
    • latex-pdf -- script that runs on ODU-CS linux machines to compile LaTeX, BibTeX, and produce PDF (change pathnames in the script to map it to another location)

Treat this as you would a conference paper - the paper you presented will likely have an appropriate general outline (ask me if you have questions).

The following sections are required (add other sections as needed):

  • Introduction
    • Provide an overview of the problem that you are addressing with your visualization
    • Discuss the questions that a user will be able to answer or explore with your visualization, including the abstract tasks
  • Related Work
    • Describe and cite any papers or other visualizations that have influenced your work.
  • Data
    • Describe the data used in your visualization, including citations and links to where it was obtained
  • Visualization
    • Describe the main features and idioms used in your visualization
  • Design Decisions -- this may be a subsection of the Visualization section
    • Discuss any design decisions made, including those made at the data/task abstraction level and the visual encoding/interaction idiom level (as done in Chapter 4).
  • Analysis
    • Analyze your system using the what/why/how framework, including creating a table as in Chapter 7. If you use multiple idioms, you may need to include multiple tables.
    • There are some nice examples of how to frame this in Chapter 15. For each of the visualization tools in that chapter, there's a table that describes things like "what: data", "what: derived", "why: tasks", "how: encode".
    • I would encourage you to start putting this table together as soon as possible. The "what" and "why" tasks should be driving how you develop the "how". Remember that the "why: tasks" need to be general, as described in Chapter 3.
  • Insights or Case Study
    • Show a concrete example of how the visualization addresses the abstract tasks proposed
  • Conclusions
    • Give a summary of the problem and how your visualization has addressed it.
  • Final Thoughts
    • Describe your experience working on the project. What were problems you faced? What things did you learn?
  • References
    • This includes resources consulted when developing your visualization

Remember that all figures and tables must include appropriate captions. This paper must be in your own words. Especially when describing related work, you must resist the urge to copy (either directly or indirectly) from the paper you are referring to.

See Process and Pitfalls in Writing Information Visualization Research Papers by Tamara Munzner

Project Submission

One member of the group must submit on Blackboard a PDF version of the paper, URL of your demo video, URL of your live project, and a URL to a JPG or PNG image of some interesting part of your visualization (suitable for posting in my InfoVis-Gallery) before the deadline.


This project is 40% of your final grade.

  • Milestones - 20%
  • Demo Video - 40%
  • Paper - 40%

Notice that your paper is a significant portion of your project grade. Start working on it early -- don't leave this until the last minute.

Previous Projects