Conversational Agents has become increasingly integrated with our everyday lives. This graduate course will explore recent HCI research on conversational agents. The course is also a methodology course---we will study different HCI methodologies (e.g., experiments, diary studies, interviews, etc) and analysis techniques (e.g., statistical modeling, grounded theory analysis) and apply them to research questions related to conversational agents. There are three main components: Paper Critique, Presentation, Project.

1. Paper Critique

For the first half of the course, on alternate weeks, students will learn about a particular type of HCI methodologies through lecture and group work. Students will get into groups to discuss how prior work has applied the methodology to research questions, identify the methodological shortcomings and brainstorm ways to improve upon them. Each group will submit a summary of their discussion. Prior to each class, students must do the assigned reading in preparation for their group work.

2. Presentation

For the first half of the course, on alternate weeks, designated students will each give a 20-minute presentation on a paper that employs a particular type of methodology to tackle research questions relatd to conversational agents. The presenter will lead a short (10 minute) discussion with the class about the novelty/relevance of the research questions that the paper addresses and the validity/rigor of the methodologies.

For the second half of the course, students give short (5 minutes) presentations to demonstrate the progress of their project, with the goal of soliciting quick feedback from the class.

3. Project

The class project is the most important component of this course. Students will work on an individual project to answer research questions related to conversational agents, and apply at least two of the methodologies we learned in class to answer the questions. As part of the project, students will learn about and be exposed to a variety of human subject experiments by participating in the studies designed by their classmates. Students are encouraged to choose topics that are closely aligned with their own research area. The project will have four deliverables: (a) writeup and presentation of related work, system description, study design, pilot test 1 and (c) a 10-page final paper (with results from pilot test 1 and 2), and (d) a project poster and demo (see examples). The intermediate writeups and final paper must be in SIGCHI format. Students are encouraged to submit their work to conferences as a short or full paper. The project will be judged by its research impact (in terms of novelty of the research questions and the significance of the results) as well as the soundness and clarity of the employed methodologies.

Attendance and Classroom Etiquette

Students are expected to attend every class. Special consideration can be made for a few exceptions (e.g., academic travel, illnesses and family emergencies). However, students must discuss their anticipated absence with the instructor, and provide the necessary justification and documentation. During class, students are strongly discouraged to use their laptops and mobile devices unless instructed to do so.


Students will be evaluated on the quality of their participation (in-class discussions), as well as their paper critique, presentation and project.


Deliverables and Late Penalties

All deliverables are due 08:59 pm on the due date. Late penalties for all deliverables: -5% for each additional day (9:00 pm to 8:59 pm).

IMPORTANT: If a deliverable was not submitted before the next deliverable due date, you will get 0% for this assignment. Furthermore, you are not allowed to submit the next deliverable if the previous deliverable was not submitted. Failing to submit all the deliverables by the end of the term may result in failing the course.

Academic Integrity

In order to maintain a culture of academic integrity, members of the University of Waterloo community are expected to promote honesty, trust, fairness, respect and responsibility. See for more information.


A student who believes that a decision affecting some aspect of his/her university life has been unfair or unreasonable may have grounds for initiating a grievance. Read Policy 70, Student Petitions and Grievances, Section 4. When in doubt, please be certain to contact the department’s administrative assistant who will provide further assistance.


A student is expected to know what constitutes academic integrity (check to avoid committing an academic offence, and to take responsibility for his/her actions. A student who is unsure whether an action constitutes an offence, or who needs help in learning how to avoid offences (e.g., plagiarism, cheating) or about “rules” for group work/collaboration, should seek guidance from the course instructor, TA, academic advisor, or the Undergraduate Associate Dean. For information on categories of offences and types of penalties, students should refer to Policy 71, Student Discipline. For typical penalties, see the Guidelines for the Assessment of Penalties.


A decision made or penalty imposed under Policy 70 (Student Petitions and Grievances) (other than a petition) or Policy 71 (Student Discipline) may be appealed if there are grounds. A student who believes he/she has grounds for an appeal should refer to Policy 72 (Student Appeals).

Note for Students with Disabilities

AccessAbility Services (formerly the Office for Persons with Disabilities), located in Needles Hall, Room 1132, collaborates with all academic departments to arrange appropriate accommodations for students with disabilities, without compromising the academic integrity of the curriculum. If you require academic accommodations to lessen the impact of your disability, please register with AccessAbility Services at the beginning of each academic term.