Building a Successful Research Program

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Presentation for Doctoral Symposium at ICSM (International Conference on Software Maintenance), Timisoara, Romania, Sept 13, 2010

Presentation for Doctoral Symposium at ICSM (International Conference on Software Maintenance), Timisoara, Romania, Sept 13, 2010

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  • For the ICSMPreDoc Symposium, Sept 2010
  • Agile and iterative development applies to Research too- Start with low-hanging fruit- Keep notes!- Depth or Breadth?- PhD must show depth, but you will need depth after- Cannot start with depth- Proceed iteratively to map out your topic
  • - See what has been done- Where do you fit?- Where are the holes?- What is in scope or out of scope? Maintain an *agenda* of topics to work on; switch to avoid exhaustion
  • - "Creative thinking is a skill; it is not a matter of individual talent"- Break out of set patterns- Brainstorming- Po- Random input- Explore "wrong" and "childish" ideasSee De Bono
  • - might have to build itDon't waste time in the wrong community!
  • - Start writing early- Avoid "least" publishable unit- Upgrade work as it proceeds (workshop -> conference -> journal)- Always have (at least) one paper in the pipeline- PhD as "junk sculpture"
  • - Writing is packaging- Tell a story; But don't try to build suspense- Say what you're going to say - Then say it; then say what you said- The reviewer is your audience! (Don't be boring!)- Be complete while focussing on *one* key point- Don't say too much or too little- Be clear about the contribution!Ingredients: problem is real and interesting; contribution is novel
  • - Be interestingYour audience is the reviewer!
  • - Aim for impact; pay attention to tenure- Select well your publication venues- Quality varies!- TR/workshop/conference/journal- Don't ignore journalsBe careful with workshops; can be good for community building, but can also be dead ends
  • - make use of colleagues for internal reviews!- Look for good co-authors- Don't be afraid of losing intellectual property
  • - Web presence- Have all your publications on-line!- ReviewingPCs etc
  • - Problem too tough (reset goals; switch topic)- Wanderlust (needs crisis)- Impatience (slow down!)- Perfectionism (needs deadline)No progress (need checkpoints)
  • - There is a fine art to procrastination- Time-sharing for effective time managementBe careful with teaching and other duties


  • 1. Building a Successful Research Program
    Oscar Nierstrasz
    ICSM PhD Symposium, Sept 13, 2010
  • 2. PhD Research Patterns
    The Research Plan
  • 3. The Research Plan
    Be Problem-Oriented
    Use a Spiral Research Model
    Make a Research Map
    Exercise Lateral Thinking
    Identify your Research Community
  • 4. Be Problem-Oriented!
    Avoid being “solution-oriented”
    Look for research at the border of two fields
  • 5. Use a Spiral Research Model
    Agile and iterative applies to research too!
    Start with low-hanging fruit
    Keep notes!
  • 6. Make a Research Map
  • 7. Exercise Thinking
  • 8. Identify your Research Community
  • 9. Publishing
    Write “One paper at a time”
    Package your Research
    Aim high
    Include One Startling Sentence
    The Reviewer is your Friend
  • 10. Write “One paper at a time”
    Take baby steps
    PhD as “junk sculpture”
  • 11. Package your Research
    • Say what you’re going to say …
    • 12. One key point
    • 13. Emphasize the contribution
    • 14. Write for the reviewer
  • Include One Startling Sentence
  • 15. Aim high
  • 16. The Reviewer is your Friend
  • 17. Focus
    Beware of Distractions
    Be Visible
    Avoid Common Pitfalls
  • 18. Be Visible
  • 19. Avoid Common Pitfalls
  • Procastination
    Hard work often pays off over time,
    But laziness always pays off now
    Beware of Distractions