How to write CHI 2019 Papers

chi writing course free courses May 04, 2019
CHI 2019 logo

This course has been taught at CHI three times and before that at CHI PLAY and SIGCHI summer schools and via invitations at several institutions. It is highly popular with young CHI researchers. The instructor is also available to teach this course at your institution and the course has been taught as part of research skills workshops across the world.



CHI 2019 banner logo in turquois and orange colours.

CHI 2019 Schedule

Some core information and materials for this course:

  1. Link to the course description of ‘How to Write CHI Papers (Third Edition)’ by Lennart E. Nacke in the ACM Digital Library
  2. The event page for ‘How to Write CHI Papers (Third Edition) at CHI 2019’ on Facebook, please join for live discussions during the conference.
  3. Sign up for free course updates now.
  4. Brainstorm your 4 questions about your paper here.
  5. Soon, there’ll be a podcast, too.
  6. Jess Korte’s course notes



CHI 2019 Course Unit 1: Structure

  •  11:00 – 11:09 Introduction and Goals
  • 11:10 – 11:49 Micro Lecture: Structuring your Introduction and Research
  • 11:50 – 12:20 Tutorial: Dissecting a CHI Paper
  • 12:20 – 14:00 Lunch Break

CHI 2019 Course Unit 2: Abstract and Intro

  • 14:00 – 14:10 Recap: Where are we?
  • 14:11 – 15:20 Exercise: Writing the Abstract and Introduction
  • 15:20 – 16:00 Coffee Break

CHI 2019 Course Unit 3

  • 16:00 – 16:29 Revision of CHI Paper Structure
  • 16:30 – 17:20 Exercise: Tutorial and Exercise: Bullet pointing the full CHI paper
CHI 2019 Scottish folklore performers in front of a crowd with CHI 2019 chairs and logo in background of the stage.
CHI 2019 with bagpipes. Image: © Lennart Nacke

Learning goals

Simplify: Become a better writer by learning how to avoid unnecessary words and give each sentence a strong meaning. Convey complex ideas through simple sentences.

Understand the goals of CHI research and what makes a strong CHI contribution

Structure: learn how to structure your paper around a compelling research narrative to emphasises your research problem and solution as main drivers

Find your why

  • What drives your research?
  • Why do you want to publish it?

Why should CHI care about my research?

  • Is it a paper that advances science?
  • Am I writing in a way that is interesting to those reading it?

“Why doesn’t CHI want me?” ? Not the way to think

  • A large part of how CHI reviewing works depends on the committee, and therefore the experts who will review the paper
    • Conflicts of interest for reviewing can mean being reviewed by people outside the “expert circle”

How to structure research

  1. Define a research question
    • Realistic
    • Measurable
    • Avoid yes/no questions
    • Talk to stakeholders: Is the answer to this question useful to you?
    • Work from a problem: What do we need to know to solve it?
  2. Test your questions against the literature
  3. Refine your research question
  4. Derive a method that answers your question
    • Newer methods
    • Updated statistics
  5. Plan out a detailed analysis
  6. Refine your method and analysis
  7. Execute your method
  8. Execute your analysis (This is your Results draft)
  9. Write your discussion
  10. Polish! Polish! Polish!
  11. Submit and wait
  12. repeat

Tutorial: Dissecting a CHI Paper


  • Define new field/key term
  • Identify the problem (“Why” of the work)
  • Contribution: Framework, spells out exactly what points are in the framework
  • Punchy finish: Our research […] is the first [… ](Why is this a good solution? It’s the only solution)

Each sentence of the CHI abstract should explain one of the following concepts:

  1. What is the research space?
  2. What is the problem/research gap? 
  3. How are we fixing this problem in this space? (“To address this, we[…]”)
  4. Results summary, key findings explained
  5. Takeaways (guidelines, frameworks, insights[…])


Lay of the land, define problem

  • Provides the real-world context
  • Defines problem/concept
  • Defines related concepts, relates back to the real-world context
  • Elaboration on the problem ? Why is this problem important? (“Awareness cues must be designed to…”)

Importance of the problem

  • Considerations, challenges, limitations for designers and players
How we solved it
  • Summary of methodology
  • Describe paper structure ? Steps to the solution
Why our work matters
  • Acknowledging prior work, identifying limitations in prior work
  • “Boom”: “Our work focuses on […]”, addressing some limitation
Contributions to CHI
  • State number of contributions. List all the contributions.
  • This is the main takeaway of the paper.
  • Can include the obvious: “we provide a starting point for future research and for informed design practices[…]”

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