Guide to A Successful HCI Archive Submission
Considerable effort can go into preparing an HCI Archive contribution for the CHI conference. No one wants to see this effort go to waste, especially if it involves a potentially valuable contribution that could bring credit to authors and fresh insights to readers. However, CHI is very popular as a place to present work, and this inevitably means that a large proportion of submissions - typically 80 percent - get rejected. For authors such as you, this means taking special care to submit your work in a manner that guarantees the best chance of gaining acceptance. This Guide has been prepared to help you.
Like most high-profile conferences, CHI relies on a panel of reviewers to assist the selection of contributions. Your submission will be subjected to thorough reviewing by three or more experts in the relevant field. The process by which these reviewers are selected, and by which their assessments then influence the final decision, has been reworked and refined over the years in order to ensure that submissions are treated as fairly as possible. Reviewers receive guidance, too, on how to prepare their reviews. Particular care is made to ensure that the instructions issued to them are consistent with the instructions to authors in the Call for Papers and in this Guide.
A major step towards guaranteeing authors fair treatment was made prior to the CHI 99 conference. That year and every year since, reviewers have been asked to assess submissions in terms of the contribution made to HCI, and the benefit thus gained by the target audience. Some minor changes have been introduced to the review process to ensure that submissions offering strong contributions are indeed more likely to be accepted than those that do not.
The Review Form
We start this guide with a brief overview of the on-line form used by reviewers to submit their reviews of your contribution. You may have been asked to review submissions for CHI, in which case you will need to become very familiar with this form! That's not why we describe it here, however. Rather, we suggest that familiarity with the questions on the review form will help you to decide what to include or emphasize in your submission.
The questions on the review form ask the reviewer for the following:
- A rating of the reviewer's own expertise in the topic area of the submission, from 4 (expert) to 1 (no knowledge); this helps members of the Technical Programs Committee to resolve conflicting views on submissions.
- Statement of the submission's contribution to the field of HCI; this provides the Technical Programs Committee with a basis for assessing the significance of the contribution, and for judging whether all the reviewers agree on what the contribution is.
- A review of the submission in terms of the criteria laid out in the Call for Papers; more on this below.
- Any aspects of the submission's written presentation that need improvement.
- A rating of the submission's acceptability, from 5 (high) down to 1 (low). Submissions whose contribution is judged significant are rated 4 or 5, depending on whether or not they contain any non-serious flaws.
Reviewers can also add further comments that they want you or the Technical Programs Committee to see. But for you, the main concerns to keep in mind are those numbered 2, 3, and 4: you should offer the reviewers a strong, well-presented contribution to HCI that meets the criteria in the Call. If you do this, your submission should get a high rating.
Making a Significant Contribution
Your submission's reviewers will be asked to focus on the significance of the submission's contribution, the benefit others can gain from its results, the validity of the work, and its originality. Of these, the contribution and its significance are the most important. CHI Papers and Notes are expected to offer contributions that clearly and significantly advance the field of HCI. Your contribution should offer CHI attendees, and readers of the proceedings, something that adds to what they could have learned from existing publications.
HCI is a very broad field, and it opens up a correspondingly broad range of possible contributions.
The contribution you present may be one of the types listed in the Papers Call for Participation or the Notes Call for Participation . This contribution should be made clear in the abstract as well as the submission itself, outlining its direct significance to the field of HCI. Your Paper or Note's contribution may be a design briefing, a new design for an interactive technology or system, a new method or tool, an analysis of an HCI issue, results from fieldwork and ethnography, results from laboratory studies, or a theory or model. This list is not exhaustive, but it encompasses the vast majority of past CHI research contributions.
CHI asks for just one such contribution. You may be tempted to offer more than one, for example, a new design and a new method by which you evaluated it. You are advised to resist this temptation, and focus on presenting one strong contribution really well. If you offer several contributions of different types, reviewers may be confused as to which is the submission's primary focus. Furthermore, you will probably find it difficult to do justice to more than one contribution in ten pages. Should you find you have several strong contributions to offer - and you have time to spare - consider submitting them as separate contributions.
Offering Benefit to the Reader
If you are in a position to make a contribution to HCI, there will be people who stand to benefit from it. For example, if you are presenting a new interaction technique for small screens, it will be of potential use to people involved in developing handheld computers. A case study describing how you developed a new interactive product will probably catch the eye of HCI educators looking for teaching materials. The benefit thus to be gained from your contribution will be one consideration that reviewers take into account.
As you write your submission, therefore, keep in mind the kinds of people you think might benefit from reading it. Think also about how this might happen - what kinds of problems might readers be facing to which your contribution could provide the solution. Try to make sure that the submission explains the contribution in sufficient detail for the full benefit to be extracted.
This is an appropriate point in our guide to mention an item you will need to provide with your submission: a 30-word statement of contribution and benefit. This statement is not part of your submission, but is included to help the reviewers give due credit for its contribution. We suggest it may be useful to draft this statement before you begin writing your submission, to help keep the contribution and benefit in sharp focus. Examples showing how to write such statements will be found in Note at the end of this guide.
Ensuring Results Are Valid
The validity of your submission's contribution must be adequately supported by appropriate arguments, analyses, evaluations, or data. Otherwise readers will find it hard to judge whether they can confidently take up your ideas, and thus gain the benefits you are claiming to offer. Reviewers are therefore asked to assess the validity of the results you are presenting.
Demonstrating validity is one of the most troublesome aspects of writing CHI Papers and Notes. Reviewers often cite problems with validity, rather than with the contribution per se, as the reason to reject a submission. For this reason it is risky to leave validity issues (for example, evaluating a design) until the last minute. Instead you should consider, when planning the work and certainly before embarking on the submission, how you will demonstrate your contribution's validity. There are many ways to do this; they mostly fall under two headings:
- Showing that you used sufficiently sound methods to arrive at your contribution
- Conducting an evaluation of your contribution that provides sufficient confirmation of your claims about it
Your choice of how to demonstrate validity will depend on what kind of contribution you're offering. Is it some kind of empirical result - a finding or some guidelines, for example, drawn from analyzing experimental data? If so, you will almost certainly want to demonstrate "sound methods" validity by showing that the experiment was sufficiently well designed, and the data sufficiently carefully analyzed using appropriate methods, to back up the results you're presenting. Alternatively, does your contribution take the form of a design for a new interface, interaction technique or design tool? If so, you will probably want to demonstrate "evaluation" validity, by subjecting your design to tests that demonstrate its effectiveness.
You must also decide how far to go towards demonstrating validity. How rigorous and painstaking should you be? Of course it usually pays to err on the side of thoroughness, but this can lead you into short-changing other aspects of the work, because all your time is going into gathering extensive data under carefully controlled conditions and subjecting it to thorough analysis. Where should you draw the line?
A guiding principle here is to consider the benefits that lie in your contribution, and confirm to your own satisfaction and your colleagues', that these benefits are really there. Again, the steps you take depend on the contribution. For example, if you have developed a new type of menu, capable of reducing errors in selecting menu items, you will probably run a careful experiment to measure error rates with this and other types of menu. If you have come up with an innovative system to support collaborative writing, you may try to evaluate it in real-world conditions, offering it to a group of co-authors for use in a joint writing task, and conducting studies to determine how the system helps them - and what problems it introduces. If you have developed a new system design methodology, you may find it hard to compare with other methodologies, but you will probably want to report on your experiences in using it. Any evaluations like these, conducted to convince yourself that you've got something of benefit to the HCI community, can appropriately be adopted and extended to convince your reviewers and readers.
Bear in mind that reviewers of HCI Archive submissions often mention issues of an obvious or important nature that have not been addressed by the authors. They often criticize authors for conducting studies without adequate theoretical basis, or for not providing enough evidence or sound reasoning for claims. A further concern is lack of justification for design choices and not explaining why certain design features have been included. In summary, you should explain not only what you did, but also why you did it, so that readers (including reviewers) can be convinced that you made appropriate choices. Explaining your choices can also stimulate more research by helping others see alternative approaches.
Finally, remember that where you have collected data for analysis, appropriate methods should have been selected and correctly applied to support the work. You should provide sufficient data or well-supported arguments, explain what analyses were made and why, cite relevant work, and cover the important issues at the appropriate level of detail.
Gaining Credit for Originality
Originality in your submission will help it get accepted in two ways. First, it is not just helpful but essential that the submission's contribution be original, going beyond any work already reported in other journals or conference proceedings. Second, reviewers will often give credit for original approaches adopted in conducting the work, particularly if these contributed strongly to the work's success.
To demonstrate the originality of your contribution you should make sure to cite prior work (including your own) in the relevant area. If possible, explain the limitations in this work that your contribution has overcome. Make sure also to cite publications that have had a major influence on your own work. Lack of references to prior work is a frequent cause for complaint - and low rating - by reviewers. Note that reviewers are being asked to set the context for their review by identifying relevant past work; you can help them do this. You can also make it easier for them to check your references by concentrating on papers in easy-to-find publications. Allow adequate time for this part of your submission's preparation.
As regards originality in conducting your work, remember that acceptance of your submission doesn't depend on this. If the submission's contribution is a strong one, it should gain acceptance however you arrived at it. However, reviewers do appreciate novelty and elegance in conducting the work, particularly if they can see how it simplified the work, or could help others conduct work of a similar kind, or both. Thus they will probably give credit for an original way of collecting data during a study, or of choosing a means of evaluating a design, or of overcoming a weakness found in a new design. A few examples of such originality in your work will probably strengthen your submission; however, a plethora of them could drown out the central contribution - so go easy!
Describing the Work Clearly and Concisely
You might be surprised at the number of reviewer complaints about written presentation. Describing your work involves not only writing good prose, but also providing a good structure that helps the reader follow the explanation. The text should be supported with figures, tables and even videos where appropriate; these should be clear and easy to understand. Papers and Notes may use color figures, but they should be usable when printed in black and white in the paper proceedings. In summary, try to write clearly and concisely, avoid jargon, organize the submission to flow logically and smoothly, provide the right level of detail, and make good use of figures to support the text.
Although all presentations at CHI are made in English, CHI is a conference with an international audience - and an international panel of reviewers. Submissions must be written in a language that effectively communicates across national and cultural boundaries. When authors are not native speakers of English, reviewers try to assess the quality of the work independent of language issues, but good English always helps. If you are not a native English speaker but have access to those who are, it is a good idea to ask them to proof-read your submission before you submit it.
Even if your first language is English, keep in mind that non-native English speakers will be reading and reviewing the submission. Avoid long, complex sentences as well as regional colloquialisms, jokes, or puns that could be difficult for someone outside your culture to understand.
A couple of final and important points: first, CHI Papers and Notes are reviewed on an 'as-is' basis, and cannot be accepted conditionally upon making changes. This is unavoidable given the tight schedule of the reviewing process: there is no time for a second review after the author has made changes, so reviewers must make a decision whether the submission in its current form is acceptable for CHI. Note, however, that reviewers often do make suggestions for further improvement, and authors of accepted contributions are encouraged to make minor revisions to their work before a final draft is required.
Also, when writing your submission you should resist the temptation to describe future work, or work expected to be completed before the final submission or conference. Although these planned activities are often interesting, you cannot rely on them to get your submission accepted. On the contrary, they may be seen by reviewers as evidence that the submission is premature, and you may be advised to resubmit when more of the work has been completed.
With its large number of submissions, CHI's review process is bound to be highly competitive. The intent of the review process is to provide the conference with a program of submissions offering significant contributions of high potential benefit to attendees and readers. Writing such a submission for CHI is a lot of work, but it is rewarded with the visibility and influence that only high-profile publications like the CHI Proceedings can offer. We hope this document has helped give you some clear and concrete guidance on how to write a successful CHI submission. If not, feel free to send feedback and questions to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Best wishes, and we look forward to seeing a good collection of successful submissions this year.
Note: Examples of Contribution and Benefit Statements
A contribution/benefit statement describes the contribution made by the submission to HCI and the benefit that readers can gain from it. These are stated in two sentences, the first sentence making clear what type of contribution (technique, system, guideline, etc.) is offered. See the following examples:
- Case study describing development of a physical environment that allows young children to program stories. Can assist designers in understanding how to involve users, especially in formative design stages.
- Describes a sound-enhanced system based on Instant Messaging, supporting presence awareness and opportunistic interactions among mobile, distributed groups. Can help mobile people stay connected in a lightweight, enjoyable way.
- Describes an adaptive technique for improving focus-targeting in distortion-based visualizations, that flattens the view based on pointer speed. The technique can significantly reduce targeting times and targeting error.
- Describes an implementation of CPM-GOMS in the Apex modeling platform that automates many steps in model development. Requires less modeling knowledge and saves interface designers time when conducting CPM-GOMS analyses.
- Extends the Cognitive Walkthrough method to group situations by treating individual and collaborative tasks separately. Presents practitioners with a clear method for evaluating groupware usability.
- Presents guidelines for designers of learner-centered tools based on a case study of a scaffolded software environment. Can assist in developing effective scaffolded tools.
Please follow the style of these examples in composing your statement. And please try to keep it to 30 words or less.
Written by William Newman, with contributions from Kate Ehrlich, Robin Jeffries, Jock Mackinlay, Fred Sampson, and John Tang. Originally from the CHI 2006 website.