Summer 2024 UMass Amherst CS 571 Data Visualization and Exploration

CS 571 Data Visualization and Exploration 

Data is everywhere. It helps us to make informed decisions. However, it is always overwhelming to interpret the “raw” data. Visualizations are tools that translate the raw data into meaningful graphics. They take advantage of the powerful human visual system to summarize data in a cognitively efficient way, making them popular in science, analysis, and the media.

Information visualization is an area of research that helps people analyze and understand data using visualization techniques. The multi-disciplinary area draws from other areas of science, including human-computer interaction, data science, psychology, and art, to develop new visualization methods and understand how (and why) they are effective.

Time: Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday 10:00-11:45am US Eastern Time
Location: Zoom

Instructor: Cindy Xiong
Office Hours: Tuesdays from 11:45-12:30pm US Eastern Time
Location: Zoom (see CANVAS)
Email: cindy.xiong[at]

TA(s): Hamza Elhamdadi
Office Hours: Thursdays from 11:45-12:45pm US Eastern Time
Location: Zoom (see CANVAS)
Email: helhamdadi[at]


There are no required textbooks for this course.

Course Objectives and Learning Outcome

  • Learn the principles involved in designing effective information visualizations.
  • Understand the wide variety of information visualizations and know what visualizations are appropriate for various types of data and for different goals.
  • Understand how to design and implement information visualizations.
  • Know how information visualizations use dynamic interaction methods to help users understand data.
  • Learn to apply an understanding of human perceptual and cognitive capabilities to the design of information visualizations.
  • Develop skills in critiquing different visualization techniques in the context of user goals and objectives. Learn how to implement compelling information visualizations.


  Monday Tuesday Wednesday Thursday Friday
Week 1 May 20 May 21 
Introduction  + Overview
May 22
No Class

May 23
Visual Encoding, Basic Charts + Perception
May 24

Week 2 May 27 (Holiday)

May 28

User Tasks and Sensemaking +  Storytelling 
May 29
Multivariate Data + Unit Charts and Infographic
May 30
Design Principles + User Interaction
May 31
Week 3 June 3
Quiz #1 Due
June 4
D3 Workshop #1
June 5
Uncertainty + Animation

June 6

Graphs, Networks, Hierarchies, and Trees
June 7
D3 Workshop Assignment 1 Due
Week 4 June 10
Quiz #2 Due
June 11
Text Visualization + Visual Analytics
June 12
Time Series and Temporal Data

June 13
Cognitive Bias in Data Decision-Making

June 14

Week 5 June 17
Quiz #3 Due

June 18
Data Humanism, Bias, and Ethics

June 19 (Holiday)
No Class
June 20
No Class

June 21
Week 6 June 24

June 25
D3 Workshop #2
June 26

June 27
Natural Language Interfaces for Visualization
June 28
D3 Workshop Assignment 2 Due
Week 7 Jul 1
Quiz #4 Due
Jul 2

Jul 3 Last Class
Trust and  Visualizations
Jul 4 (Holiday) Jul 5


All quizzes are due at 11:59 pm on Mondays. The content tested will include all the lecture materials prior to the quiz. No late submission will be accepted. 

All D3 assignments are due at 11:59 pm on Fridays. Late work will receive a 10% per day penalty. After 5 days, a 0% will be given and no submission will be accepted. Too much other work, being gone for the weekend, running out of paper etc. are not emergencies.

Advance notification to the instructor and TAs is expected in all but the most severe emergency situations.

Details on HW assignments are on the CANVAS site for this course.


Final course grades may be curved (but not always). Grades of individual assignments will not be curved. If a curve is given, it will only be curved up (not down). Grading distributions for this course are:

Component Weight
Quiz #1 15%
Quiz #2 15%
Quiz #3 15%
Quiz #4 15%
D3 Workshop Assignment 1  20%
D3 Workshop Assignment 2  20%

Accommodation Statement
The University of Massachusetts Amherst is committed to providing an equal educational opportunity for all students. If you have a documented physical, psychological, or learning disability on file with Disability Services (DS), you may be eligible for reasonable academic accommodations to help you succeed in this course. If you have a documented disability that requires an accommodation, please notify me within the first two weeks of the semester so that we may make appropriate arrangements.  

Academic Honesty
ince the integrity of the academic enterprise of any institution of higher education requires honesty in scholarship and research, academic honesty is required of all students at the University of Massachusetts. Academic dishonesty is prohibited in all programs of the University. Academic dishonesty includes but is not limited to: cheating, fabrication, plagiarism, and facilitating dishonesty. Appropriate sanctions may be imposed on any student who has committed an act of academic dishonesty. Any person who has reason to believe that a student has committed academic dishonesty should bring such information to the attention of the appropriate course instructor as soon as possible. Instances of academic dishonesty not related to a specific course should be brought to the attention of the appropriate department Head or Chair. Since students are expected to be familiar with this policy and the commonly accepted standards of academic integrity, ignorance of such standards is not normally sufficient evidence of lack of intent. Further details can be found here:

Inclusivity Statement
In this course, each voice in the classroom has something of value to contribute. Please take​ care to respect the different experiences, beliefs and values expressed by students and staff involved in this course. We support UMass Amherst’s commitment to diversity, and welcome individuals of all ages, backgrounds, citizenships, disability, sex, education, ethnicities, family statuses, genders, gender identities, geographical locations, languages, military experience, political views, races, religions, sexual orientations, socioeconomic statuses, and work experiences.  

Title IX Statement
UMass is committed to fostering a safe learning environment by responding promptly and effectively to complaints of all kinds of sexual misconduct. If you have been the victim of sexual violence, gender discrimination, or sexual harassment, the university can provide you with a variety of support resources and accommodations If you experience or witness sexual misconduct and wish to report the incident, please contact the UMass Amherst Equal Opportunity (EO) Office ([email protected] | phone: 413-545-3464) to request an intake meeting with EO staff. Members of the CICS community can also contact Erika Lynn Dawson Head, director of diversity and inclusive community development ([email protected] | 860-770-4770).  

Learning Support
There are also a range of resources on campus, including:

UMass Libraries:
Writing Center –
Learning Resource Center –
Assistive Technology Center –
Disability Services –
Student Success –
Center for Counseling and Psychological Health (CCPH)
English as a Second Language (ESL) Program –
CMASS Success Coach Program –
Single Stop Resources –