CPSC 371 Exploring Data with Visualization Spring 2010

CPSC 371 Assessment

Assignments and Evaluation

Blogs and journals will be used to encourage reflection and critical thinking.

Reading Journal: To encourage thoughtful reading, a journal entry is expected for each reading. See the "Reading Journal Entries" section below for more information.

Visualization Blog: One of the goals of this course is to develop graphicacy. To this end, everyone will contribute to a course blog discussing visualization. See the "Visualization Blog Entries and Comments" section below for more information.

Homework: Homeworks are designed to reinforce topics covered in class, and to allow you to explore concepts on your own. There will be a variety of types of homework assignments; some will be writing-based (such as critiques of visualizations), while others will be more technical and hands-on (such as using particular tools to explore data sets or construct visualizations).

Projects: A major component of the course will be two projects in which you will apply the skills you've gained to real problems. One project will involve a realistic scenario in which the goal is to use visualization to explore the data and uncover the truth of the situation. In the second project, you will act as a consultant working for a client who has a data set and some questions to investigate - you'll interview the client to discover their needs, design and implement a way to answer their questions, and produce a report.

Exams: There will be two take-home midterm exams. The final project will take the place of the final exam. More details will be provided closer to the date of the exam.

Final Grades: Final grades in this course will be computed as follows:

  • Reading Journal: 10%
  • Blog: 15%
  • Homework: 25%
  • Projects: 30% (15% each)
  • Exams: 20% (10% each)

Participation: You are also expected to participate in class. This does not mean that you have to volunteer for everything, but you should be actively engaged in class - i.e. you are paying attention and contribute meaningfully to the class on a regular basis. Note that you will be counted absent - even if physically present in class - if you are not paying attention for significant portions of the class. You should not hesitate to ask questions about the course material, either in class or outside of class via email or office hours - if you remain confused about something, it will make the next topic that much harder.

Coding Standards

Following reasonable conventions for naming, commenting, and the use of whitespace is important for readability of your code. You may follow the convention of your choice, but you should be consistent.

Reading Journal Entries

The goal of the reading journal is to encourage reflection on the reading. Sometimes there may be specific questions to address in the response; other times the choice of topic is more open. A reading response is not a summary of the material - assume your reader has read the same thing. Instead, it should be your response to some specific aspects of the reading. Do you agree with claims the author makes? Why not? Did the author overlook something? What? Can you link something in the reading to something from your own experience? What's the connection? What's the most important point? Why? What relevance does that point have outside of the reading? etc

A good reading response - whether or not you are answering a specific question - has some kind of thesis statement backed up by evidence supporting your point. You should aim to write a couple of paragraphs, though you may write more if you wish.

Reading journal entries will be graded on the following 4-point scale (√, √-, –, 0):


thoughtful response
  • a true reading response (not simply a summary)
  • thesis statement backed by evidence/justification
  • displays understanding of the reading
  • evidence of thinking beyond what is directly stated in the reading
  • nuances and subtleties are noticed and considered
√- superficial or inaccurate response
  • a true reading response (not simply a summary), but falls a little short of a thoughtful response
  • weak evidence/justification for thesis
  • generally displays understanding of the reading
  • little evidence of thinking beyond what is directly stated in the reading
  • nuances and subtleties are omitted
unsatisfactory response (incomplete or incorrect)
  • summarizes rather than responding to the reading
  • answer demonstrates significant confusion or misunderstanding
0 no answer
  • question is not answered
  • response is way off base

A particularly insightful response can earn a √+.

Approximate letter grade equivalents are as follows:

Amostly √
Bmostly √ and √-
Cmostly √-
Dmostly √- and –
Fmostly –

More than an occasional 0 will lower the grade.

Visualization Blog Entries and Comments

A blog provides a convenient forum for presenting and discussing visualizations. (See, for example, visualization blogs such as EagerEyes, Junk Charts, and Pictures of Numbers.) This course will make use of a blog as a forum for thinking critically about visualizations, for brainstorming about ideas for presenting data visually, and for connecting this course to what is out there in the world.

This blog is a class project - everyone is expected to contribute entries and comments. Possible topics for entries:

  • A poor visualization. What's bad about it? What would you do better? Show us!
  • A really good visualization. Why is it so excellent? What could be learned from this good example?
  • Explorations of a data set. What insights can you gain and convey? Why are your visualization(s) effective?

If you have another idea that you think might be relevant and interesting to write about, let me know.

Over the course of the semester, you are expected to contribute a total of six entries - at least one entry on each of the three topics listed and at most three entries of any one type. For full credit, entries should be thorough.

You are also expected to make at least six meaningful comments on other students' entries. A meaningful comment makes some point and backs up the point with an explanation; simply saying "Nice job" or "I disagree" is not sufficient.

Entries and comments should be spread throughout the semester. You do not need to post each week like clockwork, but you shouldn't post lots of entries all at once (such as at the end of the semester). Lots of clumping will result in some reduction of your grade, particularly if the clumping reduces the effectiveness of the conversation (e.g. you post a bunch of stuff early and then don't participate further, or you wait until late in the semester to post so that others cannot comment on your posts).

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