Bogdan Dumitrescu, Writing a scientific article


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Bogdan Dumitrescu, Writing a scientific article

  1. 1. 1 Writing a Scientific Article Bogdan Dumitrescu “Politehnica” University of Bucharest, Romania, and Tampere University of Technology, Finland
  2. 2. 2 General contents What is a scientific article ? When do you start writing ? General structure of an article Style issues Review process Revising a paper some English and a big homework
  3. 3. 3 1. What is a scientific article ? A scientific article is a written communication presenting results of scientific research may contain theoretical results and their proofs often presents experimental data that support the theory is addressed mostly to specialists is published in a journal, typically after a peer-review process
  4. 4. 4 Types of articles There are two main types of scientific articles Research articles: dedicated to communication of original research results. Depending on the length: Regular (full) papers: length e.g. 8-10 pages double column or 20-30 pages single column (draft format) Letters (technical notes, etc.): shorter, e.g. 4-5 pages Review (survey, overview) articles: synthesis of recent results in a field, a topic, a problem. No original contribution, but typically the authors have significantly worked in the area and are recognized specialists
  5. 5. 5 Full paper or letter ? You need original contributions for both ! If theoretical contributions are minimal, probably a letter is better Letter also better if you improve on other results, without coming with an original approach If in doubt, write the paper. You’ll decide when the paper is almost ready Warning: some journals don’t accept both letters and full papers
  6. 6. 6 Comments and replies A less significant type of article: the “comments” Comments are very short Referring to a previously published article, they point out a significant error and maybe give a cure affirm that the original contribution was actually published elsewhere give a shorter or more elementary proof A “reply” is an answer of the authors of the initial article
  7. 7. 7 Terminology examples (1) Automatica Survey papers - Extensive reviews of established or emerging research topics or application areas Papers - Detailed discussion involving new research, applications or developments. [10 printed pages, i.e. 10 000 words.] Brief papers - Brief presentations of new technical concepts and developments. [6 printed pages, i.e. 6000 words.] Technical communiqués - New useful ideas and brief pertinent comments of a technical nature. [4 printed pages, i.e. 4000 words.] Correspondence Items
  8. 8. 8 Terminology examples (2) IEEE Trans. on Signal Processing Regular paper (max 30 double-spaced pages, 11pt font) Correspondence items (max 12) IEEE Trans. on Automatic Control Full paper (max 32 double-spaced pages, 12pt) Technical notes and correspondence (max 12-15 pages)
  9. 9. 9 Where do you publish ? Target: best journal that might accept the paper Why ? good audience—many potential readers more likely that your article will be cited as a researcher (even only for PhD) or professor, your publication list is primarily evaluated based on the journals (a refined evaluation is done based on the articles themselves, but you must survive the first evaluation)
  10. 10. 10 Narrow the target from the beginning Before starting to write your paper, choose at most 2-3 journals, one of which will be the final destination of the paper Check the requirements of these journals: format of the submission, length, other details Download Latex or Word templates Although they affect only marginally what you’ll write, these details provide a useful framework and free your mind for the main job—writing
  11. 11. 11 How do you tell a good journal ? Tradition and reputation: you have read many good articles from it famous researchers have published in it your professors used it for teaching or research etc. Scientometrics information: impact factor other quality measures
  12. 12. 12 Tradition vs. noname Journals edited by societies with tradition are usually good (or at least not bad) IEEE, IFAC, SIAM, IET—good labels, generally you can rely on the title of the journal to know its contents Relatively new journals: there is a risk, try to get as much information as you can Bad labels: WSEAS is a good example of low quality (but certainly not the worst)
  13. 13. Romanian journals In the latest few years, many Romanian journals managed to get indexed in major databases Before submitting, read at least the contents of a few issues Even if the quality is not the best, it is important that the contents is focused Counterexample: Metalurgia International publishes papers on materials science, management, environment, social sciences
  14. 14. Electronic journals Some journals are published only electronically They can be good or bad, as the others These journals are not necessarily free, the readers have to pay (in fact, only few are free, and not the best) At some journals, the authors are offered the “open acces” option: free access to all readers The authors have to pay a fee going from 400 to 2000 euro (?)
  15. 15. Databases Good journals are indexed in databases Reciprocal is not true: databases contain also lower rank journals, conference papers Main databases: ISI web of science (maintained by Thomson Scientific's Institute for Scientific Information)—the most used Scopus (Elsevier)—emerging and quite good, but very accurate only for data after 1995 Google scholar—free, very extensive, but many “gray” area papers (i.e. “garbage”)
  16. 16. 16 Do you have to pay ? Publishing is free in good journals ! However, some journals impose a maximum page number (usually big enough) You’ll have to pay for the extra pages, if your article is very long (>10 pages at IEEE TSP, >12 pages at IEEE TAC, in the publishing format) If money is a precondition for publication, go to other journal
  17. 17. Copyright issues At most good journals, the authors transfer all rights to the journal So, the article becomes property of the journal If you’ll want to reuse pieces of text or figures (e.g. in a book), you have to ask permission to the journal If you want to protect the methods or the devices described in the article, you must apply for a patent before publishing 17
  18. 18. 18 Conference upgraded to journal ? Some conferences promise to publish your article twice in the proceedings in a journal (sometimes only selected papers) This is not exactly good practice… An article can be published only once ! A few decent journals publish special issues with conference papers; however, this is clearly stated
  19. 19. 19 Impact factor Impact factor in 2009 is IF = N_cites / N_papers N_papers: number of papers published by the journal in 2007 and 2008 N_cites: number of citations to these papers, in articles appeared in 2009, in all indexed journals For engineering journals IF>1 is good Max values are typically 3-4
  20. 20. 20 Impact factors 2008 (ISI) IEEE Trans. on Automatic Control 3.293 Automatica 3.178 International Journal of Control 1.130 IET Control Th & Appl 1.070 IEEE Trans. on Signal Processing 2.335 IEEE Signal Proc. Letters 1.203 Signal Processing (EURASIP) 1.256
  21. 21. 21 Other measures Impact factor on 5 years Immediacy index: N_cites/N_papers from the same year—not relevant in engineering Cited half life: median age of articles from a journal, cited in the current year Eigenfactor Warning: different databases give different values of the performance indices
  22. 22. Hirsch index (h-index) Appropriate for researcher evaluation Basic idea: it’s important that articles are cited, not only published A researcher has Hirsch index h if h of his papers are cited at least h times (and the other papers are cited less than h times) Good especially for researchers with some experience Advantage (and drawback): it’s a single number
  23. 23. h-index illustration Order the papers on decreasing number of citations Plot citation numbers Draw the bisector Count points above bisector Graph source: wikipedia
  24. 24. Timeliness Sometimes you are interested in a (relatively) quick publication It’s difficult to find proper statistics on the time taken by the publication process Browse the journal and see for a few articles the relevant dates: “received March 3, 2008; revised January 12, 2009” Compare with publication time and you’ll estimate the duration of the publication process
  25. 25. Examples Journals dedicated to letters may offer a publication time of about 6 months, e.g. IEEE Signal Processing Letters Some journals are slower, but post on their site a first electronic version of the article right after acceptance A few reputed journals are very slow, e.g. IEEE Transactions on Information Theory, publication time 2 years
  26. 26. 26 2. When do you start writing ? Different schools of thought: you should start writing when you had a presumably good idea gathered evidence seeming to show the idea is good completed all proofs, experiments, etc., that will be included in the article
  27. 27. 27 Early start Write as soon as you start an investigation Pros: writing notes or even whole sections helps to clear your mind, set up a single system of notations it will be much easier to write the final paper Cons: writing too many details may get you confused you’ll throw away most of the texts Good if you are able to organize your notes
  28. 28. 28 Middle start Write when you know the general contents of the paper This will make writing easier and will lead to fewer versions and corrections In the process of writing it will become clear if there are some gaps in the paper It is also possible to discover that in fact you have all necessary material
  29. 29. 29 Late start Write when you have no other choice Pros: you have all the material you can dedicate full time to writing you should expect no surprises Cons: it may be difficult to structure the information you may be under the pressure of a deadline
  30. 30. 30 So, when to start ? Start as early as you can, especially if you have coauthors The time lost by throwing away some of the old versions is compensated by the quality of the final paper Sometimes, you actually gain time, by gaining more insight to the problem and hence finding easier good results
  31. 31. 31 How to start ? Most people have troubles when starting a paper Remember that anything you write releases some pressure—you have less to write No matter when you start, it’s better to start with the most familiar part Easy starts statement of the problem proof of some technical results figures and tables
  32. 32. 32 What first, what last ? Other starting points notation section a general bibliography tentative paper and section titles Where not to start introduction (maybe few notes are good) abstract conclusions
  33. 33. 33 Editing tools: Latex or Word ? Word: articles with text, tables and figures Latex: (much) better for formulas Personal preference: Latex, by far; the papers simply look better ! Articles are submitted typically in pdf form However, when the article is accepted, you’ll have to give the sources Most journals accept both Latex and Word, but it’s better to check from the beginning
  34. 34. 34 3. General structure of an article Title, authors, affiliation Abstract Introduction The problem Solution Experimental evidence Conclusions Bibliography Body of the paper }
  35. 35. 35 Good titles The title is first read in an article It must be informative and, if possible, attractive A good title is a very short abstract of the paper It contains the main keywords that describe the problem your original contribution or at least your approach Basic title: “Method X for Problem Y” One or two eye-catching words or a good acronym help
  36. 36. 36 Good titles: max information The following titles tell everything about the paper Root Locations of an Entire Polytope of Polynomials: it Suffices to Check the Edges Edge Theorem for MIMO Systems Protein is Compressible A Plurality of Sparse Representations Is Better Than the Sparsest One Alone
  37. 37. 37 Good titles: catchy Some catchy titles Greed is Good: Algorithmic Results for Sparse Approximation A WISE method for designing IIR filters The period three means chaos 19 dubious ways to compute the exponential of a matrix However, a bad paper with a catchy title is easier to reject—unsupported arrogance is punished
  38. 38. 38 Bad titles: too general These titles just give the general problem, but don’t say anything about the solution “On Factorization of Trigonometric Polynomials” “On Distributed Averaging Algorithms and Quantization Effects” May be good only if it’s the first article on that topic, but even then they can be improved
  39. 39. 39 Words to avoid in the title Avoid the words “new”, “novel”, “improved” “New Results on Stability of Discrete-Time Systems With Time-Varying State Delay” “A Novel Method for Designing…” You have an original contribution, so of course the results are new and the method is novel When you’ll improve on the “novel method”, how will you call it: “an improved new method” ?
  40. 40. 40 What is wrong in these titles ? Titles taken from IEEE Trans. Auto. Control, 2009 New Expressions of 2x2 Block Matrix Inversion and Their Application On the Value Functions of the Discrete-Time Switched LQR Problem Efficient Routing Algorithms for Multiple Vehicles With no Explicit Communications Some Properties of Conservative Port Contact Systems
  41. 41. 41 What is wrong in these titles ? From Continuous-Time Design to Sampled-Data Design of Observers Data Transmission Over Networks for Estimation and Control Modified Anti-Windup Compensators for Stable Plants New Results on Modal Participation Factors: Revealing a Previously Unknown Dichotomy Further Results on Incremental Input-to-State Stability Some graph-theoretic approaches to certain facilities layout models
  42. 42. 42 Authors—names Consider adding a middle initial, like in “Bogdan A. Dumitrescu” It’s helpful in differentiating authors in databases, especially if you have a common last name Use the initial of your second forename, of your father’s name Women: consider continuing using you maiden name for publishing after marriage
  43. 43. 43 Authors—order If there are several authors, what’s the order ? Normal procedure: authors are listed in decreasing order of contribution Alphabetical order is used in mathematics Team leader or supervisor is often last First position in authors list is important: don’t give it away if you made most of the work
  44. 44. 44 Corresponding author The corresponding author submits the paper and is the liaison with the journal in all matters regarding the article In some journals, the corresponding author is indicated Typically, the corresponding author has the most significant contribution to the article or/and is the team leader
  45. 45. 45 Affiliation Give all details of your professional address Avoid giving home address instead Avoid yahoo or gmail email address Remember: a bit of your status is given by the institution for which you work However, a good paper gets to be published, no matter the authors and their affiliation
  46. 46. 46 Abstract The abstract has usually 100-200 words It must contain only essential information the problem (1 sentence) the nature of your contribution (1-3 sentences) the benefits of your contribution (1-2 sentences) Aim to short, precise sentences Many people decide reading the article based on the abstract: state clearly your contribution Write the abstract when the paper is almost ready
  47. 47. 47 Abstract—example 1 An example (Mahmoud 2000), minimalist The problem: In this paper, we address the problems of robust H∞ performance analysis and control synthesis for a class of discrete-time systems with norm-bounded parameter uncertainty and unknown constant state delay.
  48. 48. The contribution: Through finite-dimensional algebraic Riccati equations, we provide a necessary and sufficient condition for designing a memoryless state-feedback controller which stabilizes the discrete time-delay system under consideration and guarantees an H∞-norm bound constraint on the disturbance attenuation for all admissible uncertainties and unknown delays. An example is worked out to illustrate the developed theory. No benefits !
  49. 49. 49 Abstract—example 2 A bit too long and too emphatic (Stoica et al 2000), but good The parameter estimation of moving-average (MA) signals from second-order statistics was deemed for a long time to be a difficult nonlinear problem for which no computationally convenient and reliable solution was possible. In this paper, we show how the problem of MA parameter estimation from sample covariances can be formulated as a semidefinite program that can be solved in a time that is a polynomial function of the MA order. Two methods are proposed that rely on two specific (over)parametrizations of the MA covariance sequence, whose use makes the minimization of a covariance fitting criterion a convex problem.
  50. 50. The MA estimation algorithms proposed here are computationally fast, statistically accurate, and reliable. None of the previously available algorithms for MA estimation (methods based on higher-order statistics included) shares all these desirable properties. Our methods can also be used to obtain the optimal least squares approximant of an invalid (estimated) MA spectrum (that takes on negative values at some frequencies), which was another long-standing problem in the signal processing literature awaiting a satisfactory solution.
  51. 51. 51 Keywords Some journals require a few keywords after the abstract Start with keywords defining the topic, then narrow the scope to keywords related to the problem and your specific contribution Example: Discrete systems, robust control, uncertain parameters, delay factors, H∞ performance
  52. 52. 52 Introduction First section of the paper should contain historical perspective problem statement previous work original contribution paper outline, notations Each of these may have 1-3 paragraphs The order may be different, some of the points can be merged
  53. 53. 53 Introduction—historical perspective Show how your problem has appeared Stress its importance for the potential readers Cite a few landmark papers in which the problem was defined and shaped You may start with a general sentence on the field, then narrow the description to your problem
  54. 54. 54 Introduction—problem statement Purpose: clear, but short description of your specific problem Very few formulas, only those strictly necessary to describe the problem Don’t describe in detail the problem if it takes too much text Illustrate with a scheme or figure, if possible: this helps the reader to understand quickly
  55. 55. 55 Introduction—previous work List the main existing solutions to your problem Try to organize the previous articles into classes Cite relevant articles for each class Hint at possible deficiencies of the cited methods, especially if you improve them However, praise previous work: being generous is often rewarded Have the cited articles at hand, to refresh your memory
  56. 56. 56 Introduction—original contribution This is an essential part of the introduction saying what is new suggesting why it’s better Describe your contributions clearly, referring to previous work to show the improvements Use mainly words, no formulas Don’t anticipate the technical results, especially the experimental ones You may organize the contributions in list form
  57. 57. 57 Introduction—outline, notations The last paragraph of the introduction may contain a brief outline of the paper It’s a substitute for a contents Letters may not need an outline You can merge the outline with the previous paragraphs, describing each section as you advance in the introduction Main notations can be grouped here, but also given later
  58. 58. 58 Introduction—some rules Be careful not to repeat sentences from the abstract or the conclusions You can repeat the ideas, but try to vary the form Be less technical—more plain language (but don’t make it trivial !) Write the introduction after you have shaped the paper Work more on the introduction, here is where your “literary” skills are most needed
  59. 59. 59 Body of the paper It contains mainly your original contribution, so you are free to choose the best way to express it Try to find the simplest way for the reader to understand your ideas Don’t describe how the idea came to you, the reader does not want to replicate your efforts, but to understand as quickly as possible
  60. 60. 60 Make a plan When attacking the first “final” version, you must have a presentation plan Decide what is the exposition order how the ideas flow from one to the next where do you place the proof of each idea how to organize experimental evidence (tables, figures) Don’t be afraid to throw away some of the old text if it does not go according to the plan
  61. 61. 61 The skeleton-flesh technique Write first a skeleton of the paper section-subsection titles sketches of main results figures and tables notes, comments, etc., Write informally, only for remembering Try to put all main ideas there, even if formulated in a very short form Then…
  62. 62. 62 Add flesh Replace the short notes with full text versions, in the order you feel easier Don’t polish too much Try to have the plan in mind all the time and check occasionally if you still follow it Whenever you consider fit, add “bones” to the skeleton
  63. 63. 63 Theorems, propositions and lemmas If you have theoretical results, it is helpful to structure them formally as theorems, etc. Ideally, a theorem is self-supported, i.e. all necessary information is in its body Structure the result upon importance lemma: technical auxiliary result, used e.g. for demonstrations proposition: standalone result, not especially important theorem: standalone significant result, non trivial proof
  64. 64. 64 Comments, remarks Significant results should be commented Elaborate on their significance ! The comments can be structured formally as “comments” or “remarks” Dedicate a comment to each aspect, don’t mingle them Try to be precise, even though some comments refer to intuition offered by the result
  65. 65. 65 Use examples Illustrate your results with simple examples, they help immensely Simple does not mean trivial or artificial ! The best type of example is a typical model, to which you apply your method It is especially nice if you can carry an example in several stages, adding features as you advance
  66. 66. 66 Experimental results At least two purposes: to illustrate your theoretical results to show their benefits Compare the results obtained with your approach with previous methods It should be clear that your method is better at least in some scenarios Organize the experimental results such they are easy to understand
  67. 67. 67 Design examples A detailed design example is almost always a good illustration of a method Get design data from previous literature or from a practical application Show clearly that your design is better Try to find simple comparisons, based e.g. on few numbers (criteria, performance indices, other quality measures)
  68. 68. 68 How much data ? How much experimental data should you give ? enough to support your claims, but not so much that it’s hard to follow How to organize ? relevant values (average, deviation, etc.) in the case of many runs depending on some arbitrary factors (e.g. simulated noise) typical scenarios: one representative scenario out of many you have tried (always mention the extent of your experiments, even if you present only a few)
  69. 69. 69 Graphs and tables Graphs and tables are best means for presenting experimental results Ideally, each graph or table should illustrate a single property/behavior of your method Aggregate information is acceptable if unitary in some way (e.g. errors and execution times for approximation methods solving a problem) At most 4-5 curves in the same graphs, with easily distinguishable lines (and legend !)
  70. 70. 70 Captions Each figure or table must have a caption Ideally, the caption is self consistent: it explains completely the figure/table However, the caption should be not very long Refer to the text if needed: “Execution times for the three methods compared in Example 2” Conversely, each figure/table must be referred to in the text; the discussion in the text is normally longer than the caption
  71. 71. 71 Interpretation of the results Sometimes you can draw some conclusions out of the experimental results, other than the simple “my method is the best” Try to go from specific to general Do not attempt to explain unexpected results, if they are scarce, just state their existence Do not make far-fetched claims
  72. 72. 72 Conclusions The final section of the paper is another abstract However, now the reader has gone through your article, so don’t repeat sentences from the abstract or the introduction Point out your main contributions, referring to specific results given in the article (theorems, experiments, etc.) Give a general conclusion resulting from the experimental evidence
  73. 73. 73 Conclusions ctd Point out the major advances with respect to previous work, as resulting from the article Last sentences can be dedicated to future work that you have in mind This is good for claiming your interest and showing that the problem has more research potential However, don’t forecast any results, just outline the direction of the future research
  74. 74. 74 Bibliography You must do a thorough bibliographical research and the article must show it A good bibliography may contain 10-40 entries Take care to cite papers that started the problem most recent papers on the topic all articles that are relevant to your approach Cite journal articles instead of conference papers Cite books only for standard results
  75. 75. 75 Sources Most of the bibliographical search must be done before the writing You must make sure that your idea is original Bibliographical sources: article databases Scopus (subscription needed) ieeexplore (IEEE members can search, subscription needed for articles) Google scholar (free search) other databases…
  76. 76. 76 Informal sources After finding interesting titles and (maybe) abstracts google the title, maybe the authors have put the article on their web page ask a friend from a university with subscription to databases find the email of an author and ask a pdf of the article: you’ll be surprised how many authors reply kindly
  77. 77. 77 How to search ? Search combinations of relevant keywords After finding an interesting article, search the articles in its bibliography articles by the same authors articles citing this article In the beginning it’s difficult to see quickly if an article is relevant, but you’ll get it in time Try to organize the articles in categories, it will be useful later
  78. 78. 78 Citation rules You must refer in the text to all entries in the bibliography: you must show that you have used those papers, not that you have read them Cite whenever you take a result from another article. Never say “it is well known…” Give details if possible: “it is shown in [4, Th.3] that…” “we take the data from [7], Example 1”
  79. 79. 79 Other citation rules Avoid copying sentences or paragraphs, even if you quote and give the source Avoid grouping many citations “there are many methods for designing filters [1-25]” “there are many methods for designing FIR [1-14] and IIR [15-25] filters” If you cite papers in groups, put at most 2-3 papers in a group
  80. 80. 80 Final citation rules Golden rule: you cite a paper because it contains information that is important for your article You don’t cite a paper because it’s famous, but you haven’t read it it’s recent, and you need recent citations otherwise your article may look outdated it’s recent and its authors might be your reviewers it’s fancy to cite that old German or Russian paper it’s cited in other papers you have used
  81. 81. 81 Acknowledgments Short section or paragraph in which the authors mention a source of financing for their research thank to other researchers that have helped making the article better by suggesting bibliography, proof reading, even giving raw ideas thank to students or other personnel for running experiments or for other non-creative jobs thank to the reviewers, if they indeed contributed with good suggestions—only in a revised version
  82. 82. 82 Appendices Appendices come at the end of the article They may contain Long or technical proofs that can be skipped at a first reading Short reviews of known results, usually from another field or topic, that are used in the article
  83. 83. 83 4. Style The purpose of a scientific article is to convey information directly and explicitly Writing should be clear and unambiguous Hence, articles should be “style-less” However, a personal touch, not impeding on clarity, is welcome We discuss here only a few issues regarding basic problems of writing style
  84. 84. 84 Style golden rules (Hengl & Gould 2002) TAKE A READER'S VIEW: write for your audience not for yourself TELL A STORY: keep a clear focus in the paper and present only results that relate to it BE YOURSELF: write like you speak and then revise and polish MAKE IT SIMPLE: use simple(st) examples to explain complex methodology MAKE IT CONCRETE: use concrete words and strong verbs, avoid noun clusters (more than three words), abstract and ambiguous words
  85. 85. MAKE IT SHORT: avoid redundancy, repetition and over- explanation of familiar techniques and terminology TAKE RESPONSIBILITY: make a clear distinction between your work and that of others MAKE STRONG STATEMENTS: "We concluded... “, not "It may be concluded... " BE SELF-CRITICAL: consider uncertainty of conclusions and their implications and acknowledge the work of others
  86. 86. 86 Personal vs. impersonal Who is telling the story ? “we” (first person) “the authors” (third person or impersonal) There are journals and conferences recommending to avoid the use of “we”, as showing a subjective position “Science is impersonal” ! Science is about truth, not opinions
  87. 87. 87 Example Which one do you prefer ? we prove Johnson’s conjecture Johnson’s conjecture is proved the algorithm was implemented in Matlab we implemented the algorithm in Matlab it results from the experiments that… we conclude from the experiments that…
  88. 88. 88 Why “we” ? Common sense is for “we” “we” shows clearly that the action was performed by the authors it is a claim of responsibility, so it is stronger in a mathematical proof there is hardly place for “we”, but in experimental sciences there are choices to be made “we” is warmer—more appeal to the reader
  89. 89. 89 When is “we” ok ? Use “we” whenever referring to an action performed by the authors we have implemented the test… we have obtained the following results we have proved the theorem using… When “we” is not proper ? “from (4) and (6), we have a=b” (the equality holds and that’s all, we don’t “have” anything)
  90. 90. 90 Participative “we” Sometimes “we” is meant to include the reader “We” = authors + reader It is debatable if this helps the reader may feel more involved it may be confused with “we, the authors”
  91. 91. 91 Single author: “I” or “we” Following the logic of “show clearly who performs the action”, “I” should win However, “I” is seldom used “I” is maybe too strong and too personal My opinion: I have used “we”, partly because I didn’t dare to use “I”
  92. 92. 92 Active vs. Passive Voice Active: subject does action Passive: action is done by subject Passive: action is done Examples the passive voice should be avoided avoid the passive voice it is shown in Figure 3 that… Figure 3 shows that…
  93. 93. 93 When passive voice is good Use active voice: sentences will become clearer and shorter it is easier to understand usually, it does not decrease objectivity Passive voice may be good when the agent is not important and may be omitted to emphasize the object of the action However, most passive constructions have a good active equivalent
  94. 94. 94 Tenses Follow your common sense in choosing tenses Present is the time of writing (and of reading !) You have to use present for whatever you think is perennial Present perfect is used to describe your actions that have led to the results Past is for actions before the time of your research (so, mostly other peoples’ actions)
  95. 95. 95 Time scale Past Near past Present Future Time of other people’s research Time of your research Time of your writing and of others reading ? tt
  96. 96. 96 Tenses—present Present is the basic tense: “Our main goal in this paper is…” “The algorithm provides a solution…” “Let R denote the covariance matrix” “The OS algorithm derives from (27) and consists of the following steps” “The second example investigates the parameter estimation performance”
  97. 97. 97 Tenses—present perfect For your actions when conducting the research “We have also considered MA signals with zeros well inside the unit circle” For other actions, when appropriate “Assume that N data samples have been collected” In the conclusions “Two novel methods for the estimation of the parameters of a moving average signal have been introduced”
  98. 98. 98 Tenses—past For referring to other research “A similar idea was used in [14]” “This idea, which was utilized in [18] and [21] for FIR filter design…” However, use present perfect if you refer to collective efforts (still going on, possibly) “To “factorize the unfactorizable,” researchers have tried to correct the estimated MA covariance sequence”
  99. 99. 99 Tenses—future Easy rule: use future only about “future work” Occasionally, you may use future with reference to actions that appear later in your article m is an integer whose choice will be discussed shortly such an assumption means no restriction for the second-order statistics that will be considered throughout this paper Otherwise, avoid future Hence, we will obtain estimates of the MA parameters by minimizing the following criterion: …equation…
  100. 100. 100 Words Avoid long sentences Use the right word Don’t use fancy words Be consistent: name each notion in a single way If you give a “method”, name it “method” in the whole paper, not “procedure” or “algorithm” If a is first referred to as “coefficient”, don’t name it later “constant”, “element” or “value”
  101. 101. 101 Hyphenate to avoid confusions Many qualifiers before a noun may be confusing A gradient descent bounded region method Hyphenate to make it clearer A gradient-descent bounded-region method Alternatively, change topic A bounded region method using gradient descent Or change topic and hyphenate A bounded-region method using gradient descent
  102. 102. 102 British vs. American English Many small differences (see wikipedia: American and British English differences) optimization vs. optimisation color vs. colour Ph.D. vs. PhD Try to be consistent However, it’s much more important to use proper English—many grammar or spelling mistakes will make your paper look bad, no matter the contents
  103. 103. 103 Comma A comma can change completely the sense Such errors are spotted easier when rereading a whole paragraph or section Which is correct ? “The authors wish to acknowledge their co-workers, Superman and Batman.” “The authors wish to acknowledge their co-workers, Superman, and Batman.”
  104. 104. Formulas Punctuation in formulas: like formulas would be words. Example: ”taking into account that it results that...” Some journals avoid punctuation in formulas, which is a pity 104 1 ( ) ( ) ( ), N i i y t h y t i e t = = − +∑
  105. 105. Symbols as words In the beginning of a proposition, don’t treat symbols as words of their own Write ”The velocity v was measured” instead of ”v was measured” Write ”Equation (3) shows”, not ”(3) shows” In the middle of a sentence, it can be accepted However, it is good to write sometimes ”the velocity v” just to remind what the symbol denotes 105
  106. 106. 106 Judgment words Avoid judgments not supported by doubtless evidence Think twice before writing “obviously”, “clearly”, “it is well known”, “easily” You must keep an objective position
  107. 107. 107 Acronyms Acronyms are helpful, but don’t abuse Define the acronym at its first occurrence Redefine if used much later (or don’t use at all) Try to make acronyms easier to remember by changing words order, adding or omitting letters WISE—weighted integral of the squared error RoC—region of convergence
  108. 108. 108 Other writing issues See excerpts from Kristin Cobb’s course at (Cobb_Sciwri_style_notes.ppt)
  109. 109. 109 Plagiarism Plagiarism is not only punishable, but also stupid You’ll be caught, especially in a good journal, and punished with publication interdiction for a certain period, plus bad publicity A few rules for paraphrasing (from Cobb !) Use your own words Work from memory Draw your own conclusions Do not simply re-arrange the original author’s words Do not mimic the original author’s sentence structure
  110. 110. 110 Other sins Self plagiarism: to copy paragraphs from your previous papers easy to detect, reviewers tend to search your old papers; your paper will be probably rejected Fabrication: to invent data supporting your theory hard to detect, but once detected, you’re normally out of the research community: red card Omission: not to report data against your theory easier to detect, but you may claim not making that class of experiments: yellow card
  111. 111. 111 Is the paper ready ? A paper can be always improved, but at some point you have to submit it Even if the paper is not perfect, try to eliminate ALL typographical, mathematical and grammatical errors Take a break (2-3 days at least), then read the version you want to submit as coldly as you can If you made many corrections, then take an other break and repeat
  112. 112. 112 A good quote M.A.Morrison, “Tips on Scientific Writing”: Professionals do not submit error-ridden documents. You can almost guarantee that your paper will antagonize readers, reviewers, and editors by leaving technical errors in it. Eliminating technical errors from a paper requires time, effort, patience, and persistence. It is hard work that you must do. Run each draft through a spell checker. Check your figures. Check your tables. Check your references. Get a friend or two to proof it for you. Do whatever is necessary. But never submit a sloppy, error-ridden paper. You've invested precious time and energy in your work; your work deserves the best presentation you can give it.
  113. 113. 113 Last details before submission Prepare pdf file in required format Prepare a few keywords, often from a list given by the journal. Choose carefully, they determine who will manage the review process Fill copyright transfer form, if needed Write a cover letter, if required Usually only: “Dear Editors, please consider our article ‘Title’ for publication in journal X”. Signed: Y, author Maybe also: a sentence or two regarding your original contribution or a claim on the benefits
  114. 114. 114 After submitting the paper… Once the paper is submitted, you should be prepared to wait 2-4 months, even more, for the results of the review process You can work on the same topic or another, the only forbidden act is to submit the same paper or a slightly different version to another journal
  115. 115. 115 Double submission Do not send similar manuscripts to different journals, hoping that one is accepted they may go to the same reviewer ! if one is accepted, you’ll withdraw the other ? Can you send a shorter version to a conference ? yes, but better before submitting the article cite (or mention) the conference submission in the article take care that the article contains significant new information
  116. 116. 116 Upgrading rules example From the rules of IEEE Signal Processing Society “It is acceptable for conference papers to be used as the basis for a more fully developed journal submission. Still, authors are required to cite related prior work; the papers cannot be identical; and the journal publication must include novel aspects”
  117. 117. 5. Review process You have sent the paper to a journal What happens there ? A member of the editorial board (AE—associate editor) chooses reviewers; this takes a week or so The reviewers evaluate the paper and send their reports to the AE (6-8 weeks normally, but often more) The AE makes a decision and sends it to you, together with reviewers’ reports (one more week) You will usually know who is the AE, but the reviewers are anonymous
  118. 118. 118 Editorial board The typical editorial board Editor-in-chief (usually one) Associate editors (many: 20-50, even more) Administrative staff Your paper goes to an AE, chosen by the EIC or by a publication manager Choice is dictated by keywords, title, abstract, author affiliation Sometimes you may send paper directly to an AE
  119. 119. 119 AE activities The AE reads quickly your paper, then either starts the review process or proposes immediate rejection, if the paper does not meet the technical standard of the journal (it’s visibly bad) or the topic is not appropriate The AE chooses 2-3 reviewers, even more (I had 5 reviewers at a paper and know of a max of 6) Based on reviewers’ reports, the AE makes a decision
  120. 120. 120 Reviewer report Each reviewer writes a report containing a general assessment of your paper objections to the method, the planning of the experiments, the organization of the paper improvement suggestions The reports may be extremely diverse, see the two examples Also, the reviewer grades your paper on originality, technical merit, writing, English
  121. 121. Grading example (IEEE TSP) Suitability of topic 1. Is the topic appropriate for publication in these transactions?: Yes / Perhaps / No 2. Is the topic important to colleagues working in the field?: Yes / Moderately so / No
  122. 122. Grading (2) Contents 1. Is the paper technically sound?: Yes / No 2. Is the coverage of the topic sufficiently comprehensive and balanced?: Yes / Important information is missing or superficially treated / Treatment somewhat unbalanced, but not seriously so / Certain parts significantly overstressed 3. How would you describe technical depth of paper?: Superficial / Suitable for the non-specialist / Suitable for the generally knowledgeable individual working in the field / Suitable only for an expert 4. How would you rate the technical novelty of the paper?: Novel / Somewhat novel / Not novel
  123. 123. Grading (3) Presentation 1. How would you rate the overall organization of the paper?: Satisfactory / Could be improved / Poor 2. Are the title and abstract satisfactory?: Yes / No 3. Is the length of the paper appropriate?: Yes / No (If not, recommend how the length of the paper should be amended) 4. Are symbols, terms, and concepts adequately defined?: Yes / Not always / No 5. How do you rate the English usage? : Satisfactory / Needs improvement / Poor 6. Rate the Bibliography: Satisfactory / Unsatisfactory
  124. 124. Grading (4) Overall rating 1. How would you rate the technical contents of the paper?: 2. How would you rate the novelty of the paper?: 3. How would you rate the "literary" presentation of the paper?: 4. How would you rate the appropriateness of this paper for publication in this IEEE Transactions?: All these are graded on a scale from 1 to 10, with Excellent 8-10, Good 5-8, Fair 3-5 and Poor 1-3.
  125. 125. 125 AE decision Typical decisions (IEEE style) A (accept as it is) AQ (accept with minor changes) RQ (revise and resubmit) R (reject) AE decision is usually an “average” of reviewers’ recommendations What do you do in each case ?
  126. 126. 126 Accept A after the first round of review means that either you’re a genius or it’s a bad journal (since reviewers are careless) You may have to correct few details or typos, but the paper is practically published From now on you’ll have only to send all files corresponding to the final version transfer copyright correct the proofs when they will be ready (after some months)
  127. 127. 127 AQ AQ means that your paper is essentially good, but may be improved, especially in form rather than in contents Usually, AQ means some of the following few paragraphs should be slightly reformulated some equations, proofs, etc., need minor corrections new experiments have to be made, but basically with the methods you have already used new bibliography should be added, but without much impact on your method
  128. 128. 128 RQ RQ means that your paper is basically correct, but your proof (theoretical and/or experimental) is doubtful or can be significantly improved RQ may mean that the structure of your paper has to be changed some proofs have to be reformulated new experiments, involving new methods, are needed new bibliography is required, which may put your methods in a new angle
  129. 129. 129 Reject Several types of reject paper is flawed (don’t dream of resubmission) paper is not acceptable now, but may be reconsidered if authors work hard (you’ll have to resubmit it) If you’ll resubmit, the paper will probably go to the same AE, who will probably get the same reviewers So, try to answer ALL reviewers’ suggestions The resubmission is treated as a new paper
  130. 130. 130 Reject DON’Ts Even if the reviews seem blatantly unfair, don’t complain immediately to the AE. Cool off first ! Don’t hope that the AE will trust you more than the reviewers. You must have a hard case to change AE’s mind Don’t challenge the reviews in matters of opinion, but only if you can prove them wrong with facts Don’t complain to the EIC—he will support the AE
  131. 131. 131 Reject DOs Take the good part of it: you have 2-3 expert opinions on your paper Remember that reviewers would be happy to read a good paper, so, if they didn’t like your paper, there must be some reason Try to take maximum advantage from reviewers’ comments: improve the paper !
  132. 132. 132 6. Revising a paper See how much time you are allowed for revising Start by understanding what the reviewers want Print the paper as it was seen by the reviewers Print reviewers’ comments Read the comments one by one, marking the affected paragraphs in the paper Tag the comments: very important/not so important, difficult/easy Don’t get angry if the comment seems stupid: try to get the reader’s viewpoint—maybe your text is not so clear
  133. 133. 133 Preparing a revision—the hard work After getting reviewers’ points, do first the difficult tasks Read new bibliography and see how it relates to your contribution Complete/change proofs Run new experiments, compare with other methods Think how all these will affect the structure of your paper Don’t touch the paper in this stage
  134. 134. 134 Preparing a revision—the revised paper You are now ready to write the revised paper Write the new text with a different color: the reviewers will spot it easily Each time you have made the modifications that answer a comment, mark it as solved Try to make the modifications in a logical order, e.g. from the beginning of a section to its end Don’t be afraid to make corrections/modifications not required by the reviewers, but keep them rather small
  135. 135. 135 Take a break—2-3 days
  136. 136. 136 Preparing a revision—the reply Write a letter to the AE describing the changes Structure: many paragraphs of the form Copy of reviewer comment (or clear reference to it) Description of modification, arguments, etc. Be specific: give page, eq. numbers, describe modifications as clearly as you can Try to modify the paper as an answer to that comment. Reviewers appreciate even small steps taken to implement their suggestions
  137. 137. 137 Strategies for satisfying the reviewers Best strategy: answer all comments by making modifications in the paper If you cannot answer to a comment (because it’s difficult or it ruins your theory), you may gamble try to refute the comment, without modifying the paper answer thoroughly the other comments, trying to get the approval of two reviewers hope that, with 2 AQs and 1 R, the AE decides publication (it’s not necessarily so)
  138. 138. 138 Reply DOs and DON’Ts Thank the AE and the reviewers Don’t use lengthy arguments Don’t try to look smarter than the reviewer Be polite, be polite, be polite Don’t be overly polite, it might look strange Remember that the best reply is a correct one
  139. 139. 139 Preparing the revision—the end Check that you have answered all comments and read again the paper Submit the new version, taking care to see where to upload the reply A new review round starts The outcome will be again an AE decision Take care: some journals don’t accept RQ twice. They reject the paper at the second RQ
  140. 140. 140 Withdrawing a paper At any point in the review process you can withdraw a paper by writing to the AE Reason ? You have discovered a major flaw You cannot do what the reviewers request In both cases, think again ! In the second case, think twice more
  141. 141. 141 You have published a paper ! What next ? Be happy ! Let people know that you have published put the article in your publication list on your web page put also a preliminary version there (beware of copyright issues !) or a link to the journal website cite it in future papers, if appropriate (a reviewer feels safer if the author is not a “nobody”) Don’t forget the writing experience, but don’t rely completely on it for the next paper
  142. 142. 142 Improve your style When reading articles, keep an eye for the style and writing technique Imagine how you would tell the story Grade writing in other papers When you say “this is nicely/badly written”, try to realize what are the reasons of your grade Write on a regular basis, not necessarily for immediate publication
  143. 143. 143 However… never forget: You can write a good scientific article only if you have something new to say
  144. 144. 144 Online bibliography Search these (among others) K.Cobb, Scientific Writing, E.R.Firestone, S.B.Hooker, ”Careful Scientific Writing: A Guide for the Nitpicker, the Novice, and the Nervous”, 2001 T.Hengl, M.Gould, ”Rules of Thumb for Writing Scientific Articles”, 2002 M.A.Morrison, “Tips on Scientific Writing”, 2004 M.E.Tischler, “Scientific Writing Booklet”