Research Methods for
Human-Centered Computing

HCC 8330.001

This is the syllabus website for Clemson University Fall 2019 course HCC 8330.001: Research Methods for Human-Centered Computing.

Meeting information:

Credit hours: 3

Room: Daniel Hall 213 (Zoom option provided)

Day and time: Monday & Wednesday, 2:30 – 3:45 pm

Instructor information:

Prof. Bart Knijnenburg


Office hours: Wednesday, 4:00 – 5:00 pm, via Zoom

Important: The information below may change!

Changes will be announced in class and through email.

Course description

This course is an introduction to research principles and methods, particularly those used in Human-Centered Computing research. The goal of the course is to introduce you to:

  • the scientific method of answering questions
  • the evaluation of information from a scientific perspective
  • the design of experiments
  • non-experimental methods of HCC research
  • how HCC research is conducted
  • how HCC findings are communicated

The goals of the course will be accomplished through the combination of textbook and supplemental readings, lectures, projects, assignments, and exercises. In addition, students are encouraged to participate in the class to discuss their relevant research interests and HCC research in general. Upon completion of this class you should have the knowledge and skills to enable you to:

  • Consume and critique scientific research in HCC
  • Use tools of HCC research (e.g., ACM database, Zotero)
  • Work in an HCC lab
  • Write a scientific research proposal
  • Propose and conduct a scientific evaluation of an HCC system

Course modality and masks (due to COVID-19)

In a meeting with campus leadership on Aug 11, our Provost predicted that there would be a “short sharp spike” in COVID-19 cases on campus. All evidence so far points to this prediction being a severe underestimation. Despite this predicted spike in cases, the university has mandated that instructional activities must take place in person and cannot be held online, even temporarily. This makes me very worried for my own safety, the safety of my family, and your safety (whom I also consider family).

With the university‘s inability/refusal to take adequate measures, protection against COVID has unfortunately become a personal burden and responsibility. To give everyone the flexibility to be as safe as possible, I will have Zoom running during my class, and I will allow everyone to choose whether they want to join the class via Zoom or in person. Since some people in class (including myself) have unvaccinated children, I strongly prefer that you are masked and fully vaccinated if you join the class in person. The adoption of basic public health measures is entirely consistent with the exemplary role we embody as academics. This includes:

  • Getting the vaccine if you have the opportunity
  • Wearing a mask when you are indoors (and outdoors if distancing is impossible)
  • Respecting each others’ (extended) personal space

The assignments involve meeting with 1-2 partners to develop a research plan, and to present one of the lectures. These activities can be easier and/or more rewarding in person—if you are able to do them in person safely, you may do so. However, I will not penalize you for doing any of these activities via teleconferencing software. Decide for yourself how you want to do it... just consider your safety above all else!

What are we going to do?

Course content and structure: As this is likely to be your first introduction to research methods in HCC (or in general), this class will be a lot of work. However, it will form the basis of your PhD career! This course roughly consists of 4 parts:

  • Part 1 (week 1-4): Introduction to HCC and research
  • Part 2 (week 4-9): Conducting user experiments
  • Part 3 (week 10-14): Other HCC research methods (presented by you!)
  • Part 4 (week 15-17): Feedback on your research proposal

Course materials: This course uses the following resources:

  • Harris, D. (2011) “Writing Human Factors Research Papers: A Guidebook” (available for free download from Clemson library)
  • Baxter, K., Courage, C. & Caine, K. (2015). “Understanding Your Users: A Practical Guide to User Research Methods.” (recommended, NOT required)
  • Additional readings as mentioned in the course schedule, which are provided via Canvas

You may also make use of Clemson‘s training about library resources and in person assistance on effective writing.

Software: You will write a research proposal using the ACM SigCHI conference template, which is available for Word, LaTeX, and Overleaf (an online LaTeX editor). I will introduce Zotero, but you are free to use any other tool.

Office hours: Office hours will be after class on Wednesday (4:00-5:00 pm). If you want to meet outside of office hours, please send me an email with a few times you are available and the topic you want to talk about. As per university guidelines, I expect to do all office hours via Zoom this semester, but I am willing to meet with you in person if you prefer it. In that case, I would strongly prefer it if you would wear a mask, since I have a small child at home who cannot get vaccinated yet.

Slides: Presentation slides are linked in the course schedule below (topics listed in orange are clickable and link to the slides).

Assignments and Grading

Your course grade will be determined by:

  • Quizzes and assignments: 20%
  • Project proposal + IRB docs: 20%
  • Proposal presentation: 10%
  • Proposal peer review: 10%
  • Method presentation: 20%
  • Final: 10%
  • Class participation: 10%

In unusual circumstances these percentages could change, but I do not expect that to happen. Your final grade will be calculated by multiplying the percentages with the points you achieve on each aspect. In my default grading scheme, 90+ is an A, 85+ is an A-, 80+ is a B+, 75+ is a B, 70+ is a B-, 65+ is a C+, 60+ is a C, 55+ is a C-, 50+ is a D, and less than 50 is an F. I reserve the right to apply a curve to lower some of these thresholds.

Quizzes and assignments: All assignments are due at the beginning of class. Assignments handed in more than 5 minutes after the scheduled beginning of class will not be accepted. Quizzes will be administered in class on the listed dates. There will be no makeup quizzes or assignments, but your lowest grade will be dropped.

Project proposal: Together with 1-2 other students, you will write a research project proposal proposing an original approach to answering an HCC research question. Short outlines of some sections (e.g., Research Questions, Methods) will be due throughout the semester (as part of quizzes and assignments). Feedback on your outlines will be provided to ensure that you are on the right track. The final manuscript will propose a research project, provide a brief review of relevant literature and be complete with a bibliography that is formatted to ACM standards.
Note: Final papers will be penalized 20 points for each calendar day late. You are collectively responsible for the quality and integrity of your proposal. Plagiarism in the final paper results in automatic failure of the course for the entire team.

IRB docs: Any research that involves human subjects needs to be approved by Clemson’s Institutional Review Board (IRB). As part of your project proposal, you will write the documents required by the IRB to review your proposal. You do not have to actually submit your IRB proposal. (but you are welcome to!)

Proposal presentation: Each team will present their motivation, research questions, hypotheses and methods during class. Students will be evaluated on presentation quality and style, rather than the quality of research question, since this is an opportunity to get feedback about the research question.

Proposal peer review: You will review your classmates‘ project proposal. You will be expected to provide a written conference/journal style review for each project proposal.

Methods presentation: Groups of students (quasi-randomly assigned by the instructor) will present a how-to session on a non-experimental method to the class.

Final: The final exam will be cumulative. Exam questions will reflect the material covered in the lectures and assigned readings. The exam will consist mostly of short answer, some multiple-choice, and essays.

Class participation: You are expected to participate in the class discussions by sharing your discussion questions and by participating in the general discussion. In addition, you are expected to treat your instructor and fellow classmates with respect. Respect in the classroom environment includes attending class, being on time for class, paying attention, taking notes as needed, silencing cell phones prior to the beginning of class, reading assigned readings ahead of class, and sharing your experiences and opinions during class discussions. I expect everyone to be respectful and to receive full credit for this portion of the grade.

Course schedule

For your convenience, you can add the course schedule to your calendar (ICAL or HTML).

WeekDateTopic and contentsWork
1.2Wednesday Aug 18

Welcome and organization

Read BEFORE class: Syllabus

2.1Monday Aug 23

Pre-test, developing Research questions

Wobrock & Kientz (2016)

Harris (2011) chapter 1

2.2Wednesday Aug 25

Scientific ethics


CITI training materials

ACM code of ethics

Dunifon (2005)

3.1Monday Aug 30

Literature review & citation management

ACM assignment DUE

Clemson Libraries literature review tutorial

Caine (2016)

Harris (2011) chapter 6

3.2Wednesday Sep 1

HCC Theories

Rogers (2012) chapters 4–5

4.1Monday Sep 6

HCC Theories

Rogers (2012) chapter 6

4.2Wednesday Sep 8

Experiments and hypotheses

Research questions DUE

Terrell (2012) chapter 1

5.1Monday Sep 13

Experimental design

Gergle & Tan (2014)

Weisberg (2010) section 4.3

5.2Wednesday Sep 15



Literature outline DUE

Field (2012) chapter 1

6.1Monday Sep 20


Harris (2011) chapter 2

6.2Wednesday Sep 22

Statistical Evaluation

Method outline DUE

Field (2012) chapter 2

7.1Monday Sep 27


Devellis (2013) chapter 5

7.2Wednesday Sep 29

Proposal presentations: Patient triage, Anti-phishing screenreaders

Harris (2011) chapter 3

8.1Monday Oct 4

Proposal presentations: Explainability in human-AI cybersecurity tasks, VR game explanations

Harris (2011) chapter 4

8.2Wednesday Oct 6

Proposal presentations: Gender stereotypes in virtual humans, Information retention in physical and virtual learning, Cybersituational awareness

Study participation report DUE

Harris (2011) chapter 5

9.1Monday Oct 11

No class – Fall Break

9.2Wednesday Oct 13

Feedback, reporting research results

Measurement scale DUE

Bem (2002)

10.1Monday Oct 18

In-class work on method presentation

10.2Wednesday Oct 20

In-class work on method presentation

11.1Monday Oct 25

Review, methods overview

11.2Wednesday Oct 27


Müller et al. (2014)

12.1Monday Nov 1


In-class quiz on Experiments

12.2Wednesday Nov 3

Students: Think-aloud and other usability tests

UCD&T Unit 3, sections 3.1.1 and 3.2

13.1Monday Nov 8

Students: Contextual inquiry and other field studies

Holtzblatt et al. (2004) chapters 4–6

13.2Wednesday Nov 10

Students: Diary studies and experience sampling

Proposal paper DUE

Czerwinski et al. (2004)

Larson & Csikszentmihalyi (2014)

14.1Monday Nov 15

Students: Participatory design and design research

Sanders (2002)

Zimmerman & Forlizzi (2014)

14.2Wednesday Nov 17

Students: Grounded Theory and other interview studies

Charmaz (2006) chapters 1–3

15.1Monday Nov 22

Effective reviewing

In-class quiz on Methods

Hinckley (2015)

Feamster (2013)

Elmqvist (2016)

15.2Wednesday Nov 24

No class – Thanksgiving

16.1Monday Nov 29

Research Methods in industry

16.2Wednesday Dec 1

Instructor evaluation, summary and wrap-up

Peer review DUE

examThursday Dec 9

Final exam, 3-5:30pm

Attending class, etc.

All students are required to attend the first scheduled day of classes. Students who cannot attend the first class are responsible for contacting the instructor to indicate their intent to remain in that class. If a student does not attend the first class meeting or contact the instructor by the second meeting, the instructor has the option of dropping the student from the roll.

Beyond this, attendance is the student‘s responsibility. Things discussed in class are part of the course materials, and although the slides will be put on this website, the instructor cannot guarantee that no additional material are discussed in class. In case of absence, you are responsible for all material covered and the academic consequences of your absence.

Please notify the instructor (before class, if possible) in case of an excusable absence. Excusable absences include emergency medical treatment, family emergencies (such as death in the family), approved institute activities (such as student athlete travel) and job interviews. Quizzes can be made up in case of excused absence only! Moreover a student with an excessive number of unexcused absences may be withdrawn at the discretion of the instructor.

You will get an email notification in the event that class is cancelled. If the instructor is more than 15 minutes late, you can assume a last-minute cancellation. Hopefully this will not happen!

Collaboration policy

Collaboration between students on many assignments in this class is permitted. Collaboration includes students working together to gain an understanding of course concepts, active discussions with the instructor and other people to learn about course material, and other activities in which a student is actively seeking to learn and understand the topics covered in the course. I do expect that you understand and can explain any work you submit for credit, no matter how you worked on it.

Taking assignments from other classmates or downloading completed assignments from websites is considered plagiarism, and results in automatic failure of the course. These are activities that are simply meant to earn a score, not understand the course material.

If you collaborate with other students in class or use sources other than those provided for everyone in the course (e.g., instructor, recommended textbook, the course web site, or the lectures) to help yourself learn and understand, then you must give appropriate credit to those collaborators and/or sources. As long as you acknowledge the collaboration that occurred, your grade will not be affected nor will you be charged with academic misconduct. On the other hand, a failure to acknowledge collaborations or give appropriate credit to sources of help (other than course materials or personnel as noted above) will be treated as plagiarism.

Laptop policy

You are allowed to bring your laptop or tablet for note-taking. For the pre-test, quizzes, instructor evaluation, and the final you will work on your laptop or tablet, so make sure to bring it with you!

Policy on multiple submissions

Multiple submissions are the submissions of the same or substantially the same work for credit in two or more courses or paid positions.

Students may not normally submit work in more than one course and/or paid position for academic credit of any sort. This applies to submissions of the same or substantially the same work in the same semester or in different semesters. Multiple submissions include the use of any prior academic effort including coursework, paid work, thesis and/or dissertation work previously submitted for academic credit at this or a different institution.

If you would like to submit and/or resubmit prior work with substantial improvements, you must obtain permission from the instructor and the instructor or supervisor of the prior work prior to the submission. Request permission by email, and include in your request the original work and a thorough description of proposed changes/improvements. Failure by the student to obtain the written permission of each instructor shall be considered a multiple submission.

Academic integrity

Please refer to the following official statement on academic integrity:

As members of the Clemson University community, we are supposed to have a mutual commitment to truthfulness, honor, and responsibility, without which we cannot earn trust and respect of others. Futhermore, we are supposed to recognize that academic dishonesty detracts from the value of a Clemson degree. Therefore, we should not tolerate lying, cheating, or stealing in any form.

Practically speaking: Do not cheat. For more information, see:

Disability access

Students with disabilities requesting accommodations should contact the Office of Student Disability Services in Suite 239, Academic Success Center building 864-656-6848, to discuss specific needs within the first month of classes. Students should present a Faculty Accommodation Letter from Student Disability Services when they meet with instructors. Accomodations are not retroactive and new Faculty Accommodation Letters must be presented each semester.

Title IX (Sexual Harassment) statement

Clemson University is committed to a policy of equal opportunity for all persons and does not discriminate on the basis of race, color, religion, sex, sexual orientation, gender, pregnancy, national origin, age, disability, veteran‘s status, genetic information or protected activity (e.g., opposition to prohibited discrimination or participation in any complaint process, etc.) in employment, educational programs and activities, admissions and financial aid. This includes a prohibition against sexual harassment and sexual violence as mandated by Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972. This policy is located at Mr. Jerry Knighton is the Clemson University Title IX Coordinator. He also is the Director of Access and Equity. His office is located at 111 Holzendorff Hall, 864.656.3181 (voice) or 864.565.0899 (TDD).

Course evaluation

Course evaluations are an important part of how we improve the educational experience and evaluate teaching. I and my supervisors take your feedback very seriously, and use it to improve classes for future years. In the same way you expect a grade for your performance in the class, I expect an evaluation of my performance as an instructor. If you take this class, you agree to complete an evaluation at the end of the term. To ensure everyone has an opportunity to participate, class time will be provided for the course evaluation.