Summer 2015 — Information and Computer ScienceUC IrvineDavid G. KayInformatics 131


General assignment guidelines: The guidelines given below apply to all assignments unless an assignment explicitly says otherwise. Read them now and read them again once or twice during the quarter.


  1. First Homework (due by 5:00 p.m. on Friday, August 7)
  2. Second Homework (due by 5:00 p.m. on Friday, August 14)
  3. Third Homework (due by 5:00 p.m. on Tuesday, August 25)
  4. Fourth Homework (Mini-Project) (due by 5:00 p.m. on Friday, Septmber 4)

Read the assignment carefully: If an assignment asks for three examples, give three examples, not just one. This seems pretty simple, but you'd be surprised how many people just don't seem to read the assignment carefully. It's a good idea to read the assignment more than once, including one time after you think you've finished the work.

Justifying your arguments and writing clearly: As we have said before, when you evaluate or design an interface, it isn't enough just to state your conclusion ("I think this arrangement is confusing" or "I placed the Save button on the right"). You must justify your decisions in terms of the goals, principles, or guidelines that we are studying ("This arrangement is confusing because it includes unnecessary colors, which Kobsa's guidelines for general screen layout say to avoid" or "I placed the Save button on the right because it's on the right in all the dialog boxes in this system, which follows the usability heuristic of maintaining consistency with system conventions").

We expect that all your writing in this course will be clear, concise, and well organized, following the conventions of standard academic English. While the occasional misplaced comma or grammatical misstep will pass beneath our notice, work whose clear expression is obscured by multiple flaws will receive a lower score. In HCI terms, the usability principle of adhering to standards and conventions dictates that your prose writing follow these norms.

It's a good idea to have close at hand a paperback English dictionary and a writing guide (such as The Anteater Guide to Writing or the Little Penguin Handbook, which are used in lower-division writing courses at UCI; there are also online resources on the UCI Writing Center site).

Assignment submission and illustrations: Where possible, we'd prefer that you submit your work completely in electronic form using Checkmate (; see below). We also encourage you to use illustrations in your work whenever they make your point effectively. You should try, where you can, to produce those illustrations on the computer and incorporate them into your electronic documents.

For existing web pages, you can take screen shots; if you don't know how to take a screen shot on whatever system(s) you use and how to paste those images into a document, now's the time to find out. In most cases, producing a snapshot of an actual existing screen is quicker than sketching the relevant details by hand, so the screen shot is what you should use.

For newly created designs, we do not expect your illustrations to be of polished, professional quality and we recognize that few computer-based tools are as quick and convenient as a hand-drawn sketch. The best approach to this would be to take a clear photo of your illustration (on your cellphone, for example) and include it in your electronic submission. If you still think a paper submission is necessary, contact us and we'll make arrangements.

To get set up for electronic submission, go to, log in with your UCInet ID, choose "Course Listing" for Summer 2 2015, click "Go" next to Informatics 131, then click "List me for this course."

Working in groups: Some of our assignments will be done in groups of two or more.

Plagiarism—don't do it: Plagiarism means presenting somebody else's work as if it's your own. You may use whatever outside sources (books, friends, interviews, periodicals) are appropriate for an assignment, so long as you cite them: Any time you use two or more words in a row that you didn't think up and write yourself, you must put the words in quotation marks and indicate where they came from. (There could be situations where this two-word rule isn't appropriate. If you think you have one, check with us.) Even if you paraphrase (state in your own words) someone else's work or ideas, you should cite the source (e.g., "Dijkstra says that unrestricted branching is dangerous."). Plagiarism is academically dishonest, and we expect that nobody in the class will engage in it.

Turning in another person's work as your own violates the honesty policies of ICS and UCI ( The School of ICS takes academic honesty very seriously and imposes serious penalties on students who violate its guidelines. Detected violations could result in your failing the course, having a letter filed with the school, and losing a variety of other benefits and privileges. We do check for academic dishonesty both manually and automatically. It is an unfortunate fact that nearly every quarter, some students in ICS classes are found to have violated these policies; to protect the privacy of the guilty, violations are not made public, but sadly, they do occur. Compared to the consequences of academic dishonesty, one low assignment score is a minor disadvantage. If you feel as if you're falling behind or have other difficulties, see the instructor; we will help you work around your trouble. No matter how pressured you feel, don't plagiarize; it's not worth it.

Most importantly, realize that getting "the answer" is only the last part of each assignment. Equally important is the process of getting the solution—including the false starts, bugs, misconceptions, and mistakes—because the learning occurs in the doing. Completely apart from the ethical issues, copying a solution deprives you of the whole point of the assignment.