Prelims feedback from examiners

The two professors who examined me for my Prelim test have graciously given consent for me to post their detailed notes from the actual exam here. I’m sharing it here in the interest of supporting future students in the program and for documenting my own experience. As you can see, their expectations are clearly spelled out. Professor Paulos has also provided a more complete copy of all of his planned questions here.

Professor Canny requested that I remove all the parts of the document that capture my responses. He was concerned that students preparing for the exam would read too much into it. I can see his point, and encourage interested students to contact me directly (or any upper-level graduate student) to discuss how the test actually unfolds. You can also read my post about the test from my perspective to get a sense of how it went.

Molly Nicholas



Q1. Multitouch

SCORE: 7/10

Good high-level description of FTIR good discussion of some advantages didn’t mention hover did discuss sensitivities to moisture etc

Immediately recalled term FTIR and drew sketch.

Recalled need for camera away from screen

Incorrectly said individual people could be identified as well as some speculation (incorrect) that individual hands/finger could be identified (did propose heuristic of handiness that could be used). Also that objects and stylus could be detected.

Returned to drawing but internal reflection was still not draw correctly … did not draw internal reflection as part of sketch but but did have projector behind with camera


Q2. Parallel Prototyping Leads to Better Design Results, More Divergence, and Increased Self-Efficacy


Summarize High-Level results of this paper?

Parallel Prototyping during design of a web banner ad leads to:

What is parallel prototyping? A process whereby designers produced prototypes in batches (two in this study consisting of 3 then 2 prototypes respectively) vs a traditional method of sequential design and feedback on prototypes one-at-a-time (control condition).

What were the high-level findings of the study?

What theoretical rationale did the authors gives for these findings?

Were there any obvious weaknesses in the study?

The mean and standard deviations of viewing time for the two cases were:

Parallel          Sequential
31(143)            13(80)

Sketch possible distributions for those times (What qualitative shape did they have)? The experimenters used a t-test for this comparison. Was that a sound choice?


Q3:Beyond Being There

SCORE: 7/10

Correctly recognized core idea of BBT paper. Listed by name Anonymity, semi-synchronous (Asynchronous), Archive, and Clarity…we did not hear about Feedback directly

Was able to describe the mechanism to focus on the communication part rather than the distance … struggled with actual term but identified the concept describing it as social presence (and a few others). Articulated nice story from paper story about improved phone audio quality actually removed sense of distance which problematic.


Q4. Creativity Support Tools, BEN SCHNEIDERMAN, 2002 CACM.

SCORE: 8/10

Recall the 4 activities in the author’s framework for creativity?

The author then included an example of family history generation comprising photo annotation, comments from family, and then collation and editing of the comments into a web site. What tools potentially support this kind of activity today?

The authors rationale and examples led him to construct a longer list of tasks for creativity (dont need to recall this):

1) Search 2) Visualize data or processes 3) Consult peers 4) Think (ideate) 5) Explore 6) Compose artifacts 7) Review/replay 8) Disseminate results

I’d like you to express your critical reactions to these choices. This is an open-ended question. Examples of reactions are: contrast with what was expressed in this paper in 2002 and what has happened since? What design choices in the paper were justified by argument and what were more arbitrary? What choices might reflect the author’s personal biases?

Criteria for evaluating responses:

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