Kevin Cheng  

Confessions of a CHI Paper Submission

February 25th, 2005 by Kevin Cheng :: see related comic

As with last year, OK/Cancel will be attending the ACM-CHI conference as press representatives. This year’s theme is Technology, Safety, Community. Tom will be talking more about what we’re going to do there or rather what you’d like us to do.

Unlike last year, I will be attending the conference with another hat - that of a presenter. I’m pleased to say that my paper, “Behaviour, Realism and Immersion in Games” has been accepted in the Late breaking Results Short Paper category.

This is my first published work and most likely, in strictly academic circles, will be my last for a little while as I focus more on the industry side of things for awhile. I don’t claim to be an expert of any sort with this one submission and clearly with the number of submissions that go through annually, I don’t feel any more qualified than the next person - it’s really quite a crap shoot. However, I thought I’d share my submission experience with everyone, brief as it was. I will not discuss the thesis itself, though, as that’s to be saved for the conference itself.My paper was based in part on my Masters thesis that I conducted in UCLIC. This thesis was conceived of, executed, and written up in the span of approximately three months - as most theses are in one year MSc programs. Come November, my supervisor, Paul Cairns, had finished grading all the papers and was thus, prepared to assist me in turning this paper into something digestible - 4 pages to be exact.

We discussed the strategy with which we would approach the paper. There were plenty of areas we could discuss and even more background material that was relevant for a reviewer. Much as one might plan their school papers with an outline, we did the same for this submission. The difference was that this outline was very concise in its approach, making a very clear plan on how and what would be conveyed within the 4 page limit.

My supervisor thankfully has had more experience than I in these matters and in fact, the paper upon which mine was based, supervised by him, was also published at the previous year’s CHI. The key things I learnt in the drafting and iterating process of the paper included:

Purpose: why the experiment or paper was being done in the first place. What background is necessary to understand the purpose and potential ramifications.

Methodology: not all HCI methodology need to be stacked with statistics. Being largely influenced by Psychology, qualitative techniques are also acceptable but regardless, the methodologies need to be sound. This point may sound obvious but I had to remember that communicating the methodology’s soundness is also important.

Implications of Results: this seems to be a fairly important aspect of the paper - applying the results to how these are impactful to practitioners and researchers alike. In particular, I was told that it’s useful and important to get the reader excited about potential further avenues of research or applications of the results.

These are by no means comprehensive in things to watch out for but they were the things that I kept in mind the most. Different people have different writing and collaborative styles. For us, we went through about three very fast iterations to get a near finished product which was then further polished.

The submission process itself was fairly straightforward. A word document template (or other word processor templates if preferred) is available on the CHI website with clear instructions on the types of style to use. So I just took this template and started work on the submission directly from it rather than deal with it just prior to submission. Submissions are done electronically with PDF files and cannot exceed a certain file size either.

Once submitted, I played the waiting game for nearly two months before I was e-mailed my acceptance, along with the four reviewers’ comments - anonymous of course. All I can say about this part is that it takes a bit of a thick skin to read those reviews. I’m not sure if the rejected papers also get their reviewer feedback but I can only assume they do. In my case, most were positive but I had one particularly … shall we say “difficult” reviewer. Saying this person did not like my paper would be an understatement as it seemed the person felt the paper wasn’t fit for any sort of consumption nor was any use to anyone in the field - academic or otherwise.

Such is the way it works with criticisms, though. However harsh the review may have been, there are certainly valid discussion points upon which I can improve. Sadly, editing the paper based on feedback is not possible before sending the paper to the printers - which is of course the next step.

As for the final step, presenting the dang thing … well I’m not there yet and when I get there, I’ll hopefully have more to say than reciting my paper that’s already in the proceedings.

If anyone else has experiences or tips to add on submitting papers for journals or conferences, please feel free to comment and share!

One Response to “Confessions of a CHI Paper Submission”
Ron Zeno wrote:

Congrats again on getting your paper accepted. I have been on both sides of the process: writer and review (obviously, not at the same time). It’s been a few years since I’ve reviewed CHI short papers, so just a couple of notes (speaking for myself only):

All writers will get the reviewers’ comments and ratings as you did, whether their paper is accepted or not. This is especially important since there is no chance to edit a submission. If the paper is good, but just needs some editing or a little more work, most reviewers will say so. I’ve been very happy to see past submissions that I rejected appearing at other conferences or even at CHI the following year after being revised.

Cases such as yours, where a paper is accepted though one reviewer strongly objected to acceptance of the paper, are rare, though more common with the late-breaking categories because there isn’t time for an additional round of reviewing. There are however multiple levels of reviews, usually indicated by comments from a “meta-reviewer” who not only reviews the paper, but reviews the other reviews. The meta-reviewer usually consults with other meta-reviewers as well, especially when deciding between papers that are borderline to being accepted.

Hopefully, you’ll address the important criticisms in your presentation. Good luck!


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OK/Cancel is a comic strip collaboration co-written and co-illustrated by Kevin Cheng and Tom Chi. Our subject matter focuses on interfaces, good and bad and the people behind the industry of building interfaces - usability specialists, interaction designers, human-computer interaction (HCI) experts, industrial designers, etc. (Who Links Here) ?