Considerable effort can go into preparing a paper 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 75 percent – get rejected. For authors, 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.
The Review Process
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. The more you understand about the review process, the better equipped you will be to make a strong case for your work. Therefore, you should familiarise yourself with the Papers Review Process and the Guide to Reviewing Papers.
Papers are reviewed by subcommittees that each focus on a subset of topics in Human Computer Interaction. As an author, you decide which subcommittee best matches the contribution of your research. See Selecting a Subcommittee for additional details.
The Review Form
Here is a brief overview of the 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 emphasise in your submission.
The questions on the review form ask the reviewer for the following:
- A statement of the submission’s contribution to the field of HCI; this provides the Program Committee with a basis for assessing the significance of the contribution, and for judging whether all the reviewers agree on what the contribution is;
- An overall rating for the paper based on the contribution it makes to the field of HCI, from 1 (Reject) to 5 (Strong Accept);
- A rating of the reviewer’s own expertise in the topic area of the submission, from 1 (No Knowledge) to 4 (Expert); this helps members of the Program Committee to resolve conflicting views on submissions;
- A review of the submission in terms of the criteria laid out in the Call for Papers:
- Significance of the paper’s contribution to HCI and the benefit that others can gain from the contribution: why do the contribution and benefit matter?
- Originality of the work: what new ideas or approaches are introduced? We want to emphasise that an acceptable paper must make a clear contribution to Human Computer Interaction
- Validity of the work presented: how confidently can researchers and practitioners use the results?
- Presentation clarity
- Relevant previous work: is prior work adequately reviewed?
Reviewers can also add further comments that they want you or the Program Committee to see. But the author’s main goal should be a strong, clear contribution to HCI. If you do this, your submission should get a high rating.
Making a Significant Contribution
The reviewers of your paper 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 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 contribution types. This list is not exhaustive, but it encompasses many past CHI research contributions. This contribution should be made clear in the abstract as well as the submission itself, outlining its direct significance to the field of HCI.
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 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. Ask yourself: if I’m a researcher or practitioner working in this space, why should I read this paper?
Ensuring Results are Valid
The validity of your submission’s contribution must be adequately supported by appropriate arguments, analyses, evaluations, or data as best fit the contribution type. 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 challenging aspects of writing CHI Papers. Reviewers often cite problems with validity 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.
Your choice of how to demonstrate validity will depend on what kind of contribution you’re offering, and suggestions for how to do this are listed in the contribution type page. No matter what method you chose to show validity, you should let the reader/reviewer know why that method is appropriate for your situation.
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 type. For example, if you are providing an incremental improvement to a well-known technique, such as a new or refined type of menu capable of reducing errors in selecting menu items, you will probably run a careful and convincing experiment to measure error rates with this and other types of menu. If you have come up with a system to support a new way of 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 design or evaluation methodology, you may compare with other methodologies, or you may want to report on your experiences in using it. If you are developing a theory that contributes principles, concepts, or models on which work in HCI might be based, you will probably what to argue or demonstrate the value of that theory, e.g., by using it to describe, analyse, predict and/or influence HCI applications or settings. If you are contributing systems, tools, architectures or infrastructure, you will want to demonstrate how it makes systems authoring, development and/or use better, more efficient, and/or more expressive. 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 Papers submissions often mention issues of an obvious or important nature that have not been addressed by the authors. They often criticise 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.
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. At the same time, long lists of reference does not show engagement with previous scholarship. As a rule of thumb, citations should be well integrated with the narrative of the paper. 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.
CHI papers should strive for research transparency regardless of the contribution type and methodology. Different contribution types, (e.g. technical contributions, quantitative studies, and qualitative studies) use different criteria for assessing transparency.
Contributions that are technology-oriented (e.g., a new technique or algorithm) and contributions that are quantitative studies (i.e., experiments with statistically analyzed results) are expected to be verifiable, reproducible (e.g., others should be able to rerun the interactive system or rerun the analysis code with the original data) and replicable (e.g., others should be able to independently recreate the interactive system or rerun the same experiment with different participants). Papers with these contributions should include enough detail for an independent researcher or practitioner to (1) independently evaluate the correctness, validity, and reliability of your software and/or analyses and (2) reproduce and replicate both core technology and experimental methods.
Algorithms and statistical analyses should be described with significant detail. Wherever possible, it’s fine to save space by referring the reader to prior work for particular steps in your analysis, so long as the overall approach remains readable. Pseudocode is extremely helpful where algorithmic contributions are involved.
Transparency is often a great area for “beta-testing” your paper with a colleague or friend. Ask a colleague to read your paper and list back the important steps you used in data collection and analysis. Did he or she leave any steps out? If so, you may need to add more detail or appropriate references.
While some independent researchers may have difficulty fully replicating your work — e.g., if the work requires access to unique user populations or rare or expensive hardware — an independent researcher who has access to these resources should ideally be able to reproduce your work.
Contributions that follow a qualitative research approach (i.e., which most of the time incorporate researchers' subjective interpretation as part of the method) should be transparent about the various decisions made, and the procedures followed in the design of the research study and reporting of findings. This should include clear explanations of and justifications for the theoretical or conceptual basis for the study, choice of methods employed in every stage of the study, participant-selection process, and procedures followed for data collection and analysis. Researchers should also describe their considerations of the ethical concerns in the study, such as those pertaining to participant anonymity, privacy, and consent, their roles in the study, and data gathering and use. In cases where necessary prior permissions have been obtained to disclose any of the collected data (e.g., observation notes and interview transcripts) and documented researcher notes, making these data available would be welcome additions but not a requirement to the contributions.
The reporting of qualitative research findings should strive to show the “big picture” while also sufficiently contextualizing individual findings. The authors should make explicit how the themes were identified or constructed from the data, and whether each conclusion was drawn from outstanding instances or general trends among participants. They should also articulate any assumptions, preconceptions, or potential biases of the researchers. Communicating the research process in sufficient detail will enable reviewers to assess the quality of the work and empower others researchers to adopt the approaches, extend the work, and transfer the findings to other similar settings.
Sharing research material: While the paper should provide as much information as possible to enable verification, reproduction, and replication, some details such as source code, analysis code, detailed hardware specifications, interview protocols, and collected data may not be shareable within the paper itself. Reviewers welcome and even expect all such material to be available. These resources are most reliably shared by posting to a publicly available open-access repository with a persistent identifier (e.g., a registration on the Open Science Framework, an open-access university repository, or an independent repository listed on www.re3data.org). Note that the ACM policy does not limit the use of specific repositories for the purpose of archiving supplementary materials, and that some repositories, including the Open Science Framework, allow anonymous posting of materials for reviewers. In some situations, you may not be able to share material such as sensitive data or proprietary code. In these cases, we advise you to share as much as possible and explicitly state in your paper why the rest cannot be shared. For example, while code for novel algorithms or designs may be protected by intellectual property, code for analyzing study data rarely requires protection, and access to this analysis code can be crucial for assessing the validity of your study's conclusions. While we don't expect you to share sensitive data or proprietary code, we encourage you to share as much non-sensitive and non-proprietary code as possible to help reviewers scrutinize, replicate and reproduce your results. This will increase the chances of your paper getting accepted.
Research transparency is of utmost importance in a CHI paper. It allows reviewers to understand and assess submitted work thoroughly, and it allows members of the research community to understand, analyze, and build upon the work in published CHI papers. As such transparency is taken into account very seriously in the review process.
Describing the Work Clearly and Concisely
Try to write clearly and concisely, avoid jargon, organise the submission to flow logically and smoothly, provide the right level of detail, and make good use of figures to support the text. 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 and tables where appropriate; these should be clear and easy to understand. Papers may use colour figures, but they should be usable when printed in black and white.
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 proofread your submission before you submit it. Professional proofreading services are available as well: if you are a non-native speaker, consider that the cost of a proofreader is likely vanishingly small compared to the cost of the time you and your colleagues have put into your work.
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, and avoid regional colloquialisms, jokes, or puns that could be difficult for someone outside your culture to understand.
Remember that unlike journal papers, CHI Papers are reviewed mostly on an ‘as-is’ basis. While your paper may be accepted conditionally upon making changes, the allowable changes at this stage tend to be minor. 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.
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.
Send feedback and questions to firstname.lastname@example.org or to the chairs of your preferred subcommittee (see Selecting a Subcommittee)
Best wishes, and we look forward to seeing your successful submissions at CHI 2021.