Writing a scientific paper


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  • Hopefully, by the end of the seminar you will have a clearer understanding ofWhat goes into a research paper or thesisHow to structure your paper overall, how to structure each section and subsection, and how to structure your paragraphsAnd how to present a compelling story in your paper or thesis
  • There is no magic way to become a great writer. The only way to get there is to practice. But you can also get tips from others through a variety of ways. Give your draft to someone to read and critique. If you come across a paper that is well written, sit down and look at how that person wrote their paper. And of course there is the tried and true method of reading books about writing. There are plenty out there.
  • Today I am going to review the different parts of a paper and try to present what should go in each of these sections
  • If you are describing a system, app, software, etc., that you built, things will be somewhat different. That kind of paper will still have an introduction but then it will have a description of your system, possibly followed by some tests of said system. The discussion or conclusion can contain a discussion of how your system differs from/improves upon other options out there, or how the system can still be improved, or where future work will be done, or how it will be or is being deployed. Sections in parentheses are optional
  • These are the first sections that people will come across so this is where you will be selling your research to people.
  • It’s important that you make the title clear as to what the content of your paper is so that those people who are working in the same area as you are will be motivated to read your paper. How do you this?
  • Independent variable: the factors you manipulatedDependent variables: the parameters you measuredThe population you sampledBy putting in your paper what it was you studied and who you studied. You may even add your results in your title.
  • These are all papers that either won best of or received an honorable mention for CHI this year.
  • An abstract in a thesis can be fairly long but it will be limited for a conference paper and for a journal paper. Here is where every word counts. It will possibly be the last thing you write because it is a tiny version of your paper
  • The introduction is the place where you explain how you got the idea for your study, based on what other people have done in the past in the same area or in similar areas. And of course it is where you will present either your question or your hypothesis. If you are just presenting a new technology rather than a study, then you will replace the hypothesis section with a short introduction to your technology and how it solves the issue(s) that you mentioned before in the introduction section.
  • Use the first sentence to establish what this paper is going to be about and why it is important.Papers in the introductory part should be presented in a funnel shape: you begin with the papers that are the most remote with regards to your hypothesis and end with the papers that are the closest to what you are going to study. Finally, and this is true of all of the sections, not just the introduction, you should try to adhere to the structure mentioned here:* start with telling people what you are going to talk about (e.g., research has shown that people who see red get angry)Present what you want to say (e.g. Jones found that red makes people angry when they had to read text on it; Davies found that people who had to make a choice were angrier if they were in a red than in a green room)Resume your argument and link to the next part (if red makes people angry, research suggests that green makes people mellow)
  • In your hypothesis or your question, you will present the variables that you are manipulating and the variables that you are measuring, and you will either predict the direction of the changes that you expect (for a hypothesis) or you will just say that you expect that your IV will have some sort of impact on your DV (for a question).If you are presenting a technology in a paper (not in a thesis), you will give a short explanation of how this technology is aimed at solving a specific problem that either has been encountered in the past or has not been taken into account by other researchers (e.g., this eye-tracking technology can be worn by mobile users with minimal loss of accuracy).
  • The methods section is the easiest part to write because it is just a description of what you have done in such a way that other people will be able to redo your experiment if they want to.
  • When you describe your participants, you present just what is pertinent about them to the study. The minimal amount of information that is required is their age distribution, their gender distribution, and some minimal information about their cultural background (that is, are they university students and if so, in what country). Then you expand from there depending on what is pertinent to your study. Are you using experts in a field? Athletes? Nobel prize laureates? Are you using people who have motor skill limitations? Who are blind?
  • In the materials section, you will describe what you used to support or create the experiment. If you are using a method created by someone else, you need to mention it here. If you built the questionnaire yourself, you need to say so. If there is something special about where you did the study (it was in a lab, it was in the field), this is where you say it. If you built a special computer program for your study, this is where you describe it.
  • The procedure is really the place where you explain the step-by-step procedure. How many groups did you have? What did each group do? What was the order of presentation of the tasks? What did you tell your participants and when did you tell it to them?
  • Finally, you should describe the type of analysis you are using, whether it is statistical or qualitative. If it is some statistics and is well known, you just have to give the name and any details needed (a 2 X 4 anova). If it is an obscure stats, then you will have to go into some detail about what it is and how it works.If it is qualitative, again, depending on how well known it is, you will have to give more or less detail about it.
  • This is the section where you will be telling everyone how you advanced science, or as we know it, the FUN part of the paper.
  • Even if you just mentioned your analysis approach in the previous section, you should remind people what approach you used here, especially if it is something exotic, because (1) people may read your paper in disorder (2) people may take a break between reading the two sectionsWhen you present your results, always start with the most important first, that is the ones that answer your hypotheses or your questions. And clearly note what the results mean (e.g., do they support your hypothesis). In second place, you will present things like if there are results that either support/contradict a theory in the area, or results that support or contradict other researchers’ studies, or if you get unexpected but interesting results for the area under study. And in third place, you will present anything else that you found. And when you present results, do so in a way that makes it clear what the results are. For example, if you are presenting quantitative data, then clearly say that Group A was faster at typing their answers than Group B; don’t just say that they were different. And present your statistical results in the appropriate shorthand. If you are presenting qualitative data, then you could indicate for example how many people talked about this issue out of the total group. Tables and figures are there to make it easier to understand your results. Use them!
  • Present your hypotheses/questions in order, with the pertinent results. Do your results support or contradict your hypothesis? Do they support or contradict research done by other people? It is important to link your results to what other people have found. What do these results mean, practically speaking? This is where you can make suggestions to practitioners, for example. Your study cannot cover every possible combinations of variables and user populations. You may also have noticed something that you should have measured during the study or that you should have controlled. Now is the time to list your study’s limits. Was your sample too small? Was your population a group of students?Finally you will suggest possible studies in the future.
  • If you have more than one experiment, in your paper you will present the results followed by the discussion for each of these experiments one after the other. For example, results exp1, discussion exp1, results exp2, discussion exp2…If this is the case, you will write a conclusion. In this conclusion, you will again review the major results you obtained from all of the studies. You will discuss how these results compare to each other and to studies by other people. And you will explain what your results mean practically. You may keep the limits to the studies and the future studies for the conclusion part.
  • Finally,there are a few sections that don’t require too much thought to create.
  • Say your thanks to the people who helped you do this study. In a thesis, the acknowledgements will actually be at the beginning of the paper.
  • The reference section is not a bibliographic list.
  • The appendix section is to add anything that will help people understand your study.
  • Writing a scientific paper

    1. 1. Research papers and theses: The writing thereof 10 aprile 2013
    2. 2. We will be reading:• Writing Science: How to Write Papers That Get Cited and Proposals That Get Funded, Joshua Schimel, 2011
    3. 3. Learning goals• Understand what should go into a research paper• Understand how to structure the paper and its sections• Understand how to write a compelling story
    4. 4. Tips to become a better writer• Rewrite, rewrite, rewrite• Get feedback from others• Read other writers and analyze what they do• Read books about writing
    5. 5. Practical books for writing in English• Thesaurus• Strunk and White, The Elements of Style
    6. 6. Review of paper/thesis sections
    7. 7. Sections of a thesis or paper• Title • Results• Abstract • Discussion• Introduction • (Conclusion) – Hypothesis/Question • Acknowledgements• Method • References – Participants • (Appendix) – Materials – Procedure – Analysis
    8. 8. Sections: Your Advertisement• Title• Abstract
    9. 9. The Title• The first, and probably the only thing that most people will read of your paper
    10. 10. A Title May Include• Your independent variable(s)• Your dependent variable(s)• Your group sample
    11. 11. Actual Titles from CHI2013• Analyzing user-generated YouTube videos to understand touchscreen use by people with motor impairments• Extracting usability and user experience information from online user reviews• Predicting users’ first impressions of website aesthetics with a quantification of perceived visual complexity and colorfulness
    12. 12. What is Your Title?
    13. 13. The Abstract• The second thing people will read• Most people who see your paper will stop here• Many people who quote you will only have read the abstract !!!
    14. 14. The Abstract• It is a tiny version of your paper – What you studied – How you studied it – What your results were – What those results mean
    15. 15. Sections: Your Justification• Introduction • Hypotheses or Questions
    16. 16. The Introduction• Overall area or problem under consideration• Funnel• Section construction: – Overview of your argument – Your argument – Summary of the argument – Link to next section
    17. 17. The hypothesis/question• Your independent variable: what factor are you manipulating? – Background color, text order presentation…• Your dependent variable: what parameter are you measuring? – Typing speed, pulse, number of errors…
    18. 18. Hypothesis vs. Question• H: A red colored background should result in more typing errors than a green colored background• Q: Will the color of the background affect the number of errors during typing?
    19. 19. What is your hypothesis or question?
    20. 20. Sections: Your Recipe Booklet • Method • Participants • Materials • Procedure • Analysis method (quantitative or qualitative)
    21. 21. Method: wet ingredients• Participants – Age (range, mean, standard deviation) – Gender distribution – Cultural background, language – Anything else that is PERTINENT to your study (controlled or manipulated variables like expertise in the area, physiological problems, preferences…)
    22. 22. Method: dry ingredients• Materials – Computer, program, smartphone, tablet… – Questionnaire, survey… – Lab room, lighting, sound levels…
    23. 23. Method: Mix in a bowl…• Procedure – Where? When? – What did you say before? – What were the groups? How many in each? – What did the groups do? In what order? – What did you say during? – How long was it? What marked the end? – What did you say after? – What did you give them as a reward or thank you?
    24. 24. Method: Stick a toothpick in it• Analysis – Quantitative: • What statistical analysis did you use? Why? • If not well known, describe it in some detail – Qualitative: • What qualitative analysis approach did you use? Why? • If not well known, describe it in some detail
    25. 25. Sections: Your Contribution to Science • Results • Discussion • Conclusion (if needed)
    26. 26. Results• Your analysis approach• Most important to least important results• Indicate the results clearly• Give the statistical results, if applicable (e.g., F(1,22) = 25.1, p<0.01)• Figures and tables make for easier reading
    27. 27. Discussion• Summarize your results, again in order of importance – How do they compare to other studies? – What do your results mean, globally?• What are the limits of your study?• Future research
    28. 28. Conclusion• For a thesis or a research article published in a journal• Usually because you have several experiments
    29. 29. Sections: Addenda• Acknowledgements• References• Appendices
    30. 30. Acknowledgements• Did an agency finance this research?• Did other students help with running the studies or analyzing the data?• Did somebody help shape the research or the paper through really good suggestions or reviews?
    31. 31. References• Include only the papers you mentioned in the text
    32. 32. Appendices• Questionnaires or surveys• Illustration of study set-up, if pertinent• Stimuli used, such as images or text• Raw results if not too voluminous• Figures or tables too long for the main text
    33. 33. Sources• http://www.colby.edu/biology/BI17x/writing_ papers.html• http://www.psych.upenn.edu/~baron/labrep. html
    34. 34. For next week, read• The science of scientific writing, George Gopen and Judith Swan, American Scientist – http://www.americanscientist.org/issues/pub/the -science-of-scientific-writing/1• 21 suggestions for writing good scientific papers, – http://course1.winona.edu/mdelong/EcoLab/21% 20Suggestions.html