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How to write papers, part 2 process of writing

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  • 1. How to Write Research Papers Part 2 – The Process of Writing Xiao Qin Department of Computer Science and Software Engineering Auburn University http://www.eng.auburn.edu/~xqin [email_address] These slides are adapted from notes by Simon Peyton Jones (Microsoft Research, Cambridge)
  • 2. The process
    • Start early. Very early.
      • Hastily-written papers get rejected.
      • Papers are like wine: they need time to mature
    • Collaborate
    • Use CVS to support collaboration
  • 3. Getting help
    • Experts are good
    • Non-experts are also very good
    • Each reader can only read your paper for the first time once! So use them carefully
    • Explain carefully what you want (“I got lost here” is much more important than “Jarva is mis-spelt”.)
    Get your paper read by as many friendly guinea pigs as possible
  • 4. Getting expert help
    • A good plan: when you think you are done, send the draft to the competition saying “could you help me ensure that I describe your work fairly?”.
    • Often they will respond with helpful critique (they are interested in the area)
    • They are likely to be your referees anyway, so getting their comments or criticism up front is Jolly Good.
  • 5. Listening to your reviewers
    • This is really, really, really hard
    • But it’s really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really important
    Treat every review like gold dust Be (truly) grateful for criticism as well as praise
  • 6. Listening to your reviewers
    • Read every criticism as a positive suggestion for something you could explain more clearly
    • DO NOT respond “you stupid person, I meant X”. Fix the paper so that X is apparent even to the stupidest reader.
    • Thank them warmly. They have given up their time for you.
  • 7. Language and style These slides are adapted from notes by Simon Peyton Jones (Microsoft Research, Cambridge) Xiao Qin Auburn University http://www.eng.auburn.edu/~xqin [email_address]
  • 8. Basic stuff
    • Submit by the deadline
    • Keep to the length restrictions
      • Do not narrow the margins
      • Do not use 6pt font
      • On occasion, supply supporting evidence (e.g. experimental data, or a written-out proof) in an appendix
    • Always use a spell checker
  • 9. Visual structure
    • Give strong visual structure to your paper using
      • sections and sub-sections
      • bullets
      • italics
      • laid-out code
    • Find out how to draw pictures, and use them
  • 10. Visual structure
  • 11. Use the active voice The passive voice is “respectable” but it DEADENS your paper. Avoid it at all costs. “ We” = you and the reader “ We” = the authors “ You” = the reader NO YES It can be seen that... We can see that... 34 tests were run We ran 34 tests These properties were thought desirable We wanted to retain these properties It might be thought that this would be a type error You might think this would be a type error
  • 12. Use simple, direct language NO YES The object under study was displaced horizontally The ball moved sideways On an annual basis Yearly Endeavour to ascertain Find out It could be considered that the speed of storage reclamation left something to be desired The garbage collector was really slow
  • 13. Summary
    • If you remember nothing else:
    • Identify your key idea
    • Make your contributions explicit
    • Use examples
    • A good starting point:
    • “ Advice on Research and Writing”
    http://www-2.cs.cmu.edu/afs/cs.cmu.edu/user/ mleone/web/how-to.html
  • 14. How to Write Papers Dr. Xiao Qin Auburn University http://www.eng.auburn.edu/~xqin [email_address] These slides are adapted from notes by Dr. Nitin Vaidya (UIUC)
  • 15. How to write a paper
    • When you have truly exceptional results.
      • Probably doesn’t matter how you write, people will read it anyway
    • Most papers are not that exceptional
    • Good writing makes significant difference
    • Better to say little clearly, than saying too much unclearly
  • 16. Readability
    • If the paper is not readable, author has not given writing sufficient thought
    • Two kinds of referees
      • If I cannot understand the paper, it is the writer’s fault
      • If I cannot understand the paper, I cannot reject it
    • Don’t take chances. Write the paper well.
    • Badly written papers typically do not get read
  • 17. Do not irritate the reader
    • No one is impressed anymore by Greek symbols
    • Define notation before use
    • If you use much notation, make it easy to find
      • summarize most notation in one place
  • 18.  
  • 19. Do not irritate the reader
    • Avoid Using Too Many Acronyms
      • AUTMA ?!
      • To save space?
      • Guarantee Ratio or GR
    • You may know the acronyms well. Do not assume that the reader does (or cares to)
  • 20. How to write a theory paper
    • Unreadability is not the same as formalism
    • Reader should be able to understand contributions without reading all details
    • If some proofs are not too important, relegate them to an appendix
      • Proofs are not as worthy as new proof techniques
  • 21. How to write a theory paper
    • If some proofs are not too important, relegate them to an appendix
    [Ref] Response time analysis of parallel computer and storage systems-IEEE TPDS2001 Before references
  • 22. How to write a systems paper
    • Provide sufficient information to allow people to reproduce your results
      • people may want to reproduce exciting results
      • do not assume this won’t happen to your paper
      • besides, referees expect the information
    • Do not provide wrong information
    • Sometimes hard to provide all details in available space
      • may be forced to omit some information
      • judge what is most essential to the experiments
      • cite a tech report for more information
      • Provide source code
  • 23. Discuss related work
    • Explain how your work relates to state of the art
      • Summarize pros and cons of existing approaches
    • Discuss relevant past work by other people too
    • Remember, they may be reviewing your paper.
      • Avoid: The scheme presented by Qin performs terribly
      • Prefer: The scheme by Qin does not perform as well in scenario X as it does in scenario Y
    • Avoid offending people, unless you must
  • 24. Tell them your shortcomings
    • If your ideas do not work well in some interesting scenarios,
      • Tell readers
      • Explain why the ideas do not work well
      • May point out how to improve
    • People appreciate a balanced presentation
  • 25. How to write weak results
    • If results are not that great, come up with better ones
    • Do not hide weak results behind bad writing
      • Be sure to explain why results are weaker than you expected
    • If you must publish: write well, but may have to go to second-best conference
      • Only a few conferences in any area are worth publishing in
      • Too many papers in poor conferences bad for your reputation
      • Just because a conference is “IEEE” or “ACM” or “International” does not mean it is any good
    • If results not good enough for a decent conference, rethink your problem/solution
  • 26. Miscellaneous
    • Read some well-written papers
      • award-winning papers from conferences
      • organization
    • Avoid long sentences
    • If you have nothing to say, say nothing
      • don’t feel obliged to fill up space with useless text
      • if you must fill all available space, use more line spacing, greater margins, bigger font, bigger figures
  • 27. Technical reports
    • Useful to get early feedback from other researchers
    • Puts a timestamp on your work
    • Can include more information / results than might fit in a paper
  • 28. Download the slides from
    • A good starting point:
    • “ Advice on Research and Writing”
    http://www-2.cs.cmu.edu/afs/cs.cmu.edu/user/ mleone/web/how-to.html http://www.slideshare.net/xqin74/how-to-write-papers-part-1-principles
  • 29. http://www.slideshare.net/xqin74 Google: slideshare Xiao Qin
  • 30. Questions