Write a research paper howto - good presentation


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Write a research paper howto - good presentation

  1. 1. How to write a great research paper Simon Peyton JonesMicrosoft Research, Cambridge
  2. 2. Why bother?Fallacy Good papers andwe write papers andgive talks mainly to talks are aimpress others, gainrecognition, and get fundamentalpromoted part of research excellence
  3. 3. Papers communicate ideasYour goal: to infect the mind of yourreader with your idea, like a virusPapers are far more durable thanprograms (think Mozart)The greatest ideas are (literally) worthless if you keep them to yourself
  4. 4. Writing papers: model 1Idea Do research Write paper
  5. 5. Writing papers: model 2 Idea Do research Write paper Idea Write paper Do researchForces us to be clear, focusedCrystallises what we don’t understandOpens the way to dialogue with others:reality check, critique, and collaboration
  6. 6. Do not be intimidatedFallacy You need to have a fantastic idea before you can write a paper or give a talk. (Everyone else seems to.) Write a paper, and give a talk, about any idea, no matter how weedy and insignificant it may seem to you
  7. 7. Do not be intimidated Write a paper, and give a talk, about any idea, no matter how insignificant it may seem to youWriting the paper is how you develop theidea in the first placeIt usually turns out to be more interestingand challenging that it seemed at first
  8. 8. The purpose of your paper
  9. 9. The purpose of your paper is... To convey your idea...from your head to your reader’s headEverything serves this single goal
  10. 10. The purpose of your paper is not...To describethe WizWoz systemYour reader does not have a WizWozShe is primarily interested in re-usablebrain-stuff, not executable artefacts
  11. 11. Conveying the idea I wish I knew how to solveHere is a problem that!It’s an interesting problemIt’s an unsolved problem I see how that works.Here is my idea Ingenious!My idea works (details, data)Here’s how my idea compares to otherpeople’s approaches
  12. 12. StructureAbstract (4 sentences)Introduction (1 page)The problem (1 page)My idea (2 pages)The details (5 pages)Related work (1-2 pages)Conclusions and further work (0.5 pages)
  13. 13. The abstract I usually write the abstract last Used by program committee members to decide which papers to read Four sentences [Kent Beck]1. State the problem2. Say why it’s an interesting problem3. Say what your solution achieves4. Say what follows from your solution
  14. 14. Example1. Many papers are badly written and hard to understand2. This is a pity, because their good ideas may go unappreciated3. Following simple guidelines can dramatically improve the quality of your papers4. Your work will be used more, and the feedback you get from others will in turn improve your research
  15. 15. StructureAbstract (4 sentences)Introduction (1 page)The problem (1 page)My idea (2 pages)The details (5 pages)Related work (1-2 pages)Conclusions and further work (0.5 pages)
  16. 16. The introduction (1 page)1. Describe the problem2. State your contributions...and that is all
  17. 17. Describe the problem Use an example to introduce the problem
  18. 18. State your contributionsWrite the list of contributions firstThe list of contributions drives theentire paper: the paper substantiatesthe claims you have madeReader thinks “gosh, if they can reallydeliver this, that’s be exciting; I’dbetter read on”
  19. 19. State your contributions Bulleted list of contributions Do not leave the reader to guess what your contributions are!
  20. 20. Contributions should be refutableWe describe the WizWoz We give the syntax and semantics ofsystem. It is really cool. a language that supports concurrent processes (Section 3). Its innovative features are...We study its properties We prove that the type system is sound, and that type checking is decidable (Section 4)We have used WizWoz in We have built a GUI toolkit inpractice WizWoz, and used it to implement a text editor (Section 5). The result is half the length of the Java version.
  21. 21. No “rest of this paper is...”Not: “The rest of this paper is structured as follows. Section 2 introduces the problem. Section 3 ... Finally, Section 8 concludes”.Instead, use forward references fromthe narrative in the introduction.The introduction (including thecontributions) should survey the wholepaper, and therefore forward referenceevery important part.
  22. 22. StructureAbstract (4 sentences)Introduction (1 page)The problem (1 page)My idea (2 pages)The details (5 pages)Related work (1-2 pages)Conclusions and further work (0.5 pages)
  23. 23. No related work yet! Related workYour reader Your ideaWe adopt the notion of transaction from Brown [1], as modifiedfor distributed systems by White [2], using the four-phaseinterpolation algorithm of Green [3]. Our work differs fromWhite in our advanced revocation protocol, which deals with thecase of priority inversion as described by Yellow [4].
  24. 24. No related work yetProblem 1: describing I feelalternative approaches gets tiredbetween the reader and yourideaProblem 2: the reader knowsnothing about the problem yet;so your (carefully trimmed)description of various technical I feel stupidtradeoffs is absolutelyincomprehensible
  25. 25. Instead...Concentrate single-mindedly on anarrative that Describes the problem, and why it is interesting Describes your idea Defends your idea, showing how it solves the problem, and filling out the detailsOn the way, cite relevant work in passing,but defer discussion to the end
  26. 26. The payload of your paperConsider a bufircuated semi-lattice D, over a hyper-modulated signature S. Suppose pi is an element of D.Then we know for every such pi there is an epi-modulusj, such that pj < pi. Sounds impressive...but Sends readers to sleep In a paper you MUST provide the details, but FIRST convey the idea
  27. 27. The payload of your paper Introduce the problem, and your idea, using EXAMPLES and only then present the general case
  28. 28. The Simon PJUsing examples question: is there any typewriter font? Example right away
  29. 29. Conveying the ideaExplain it as if you were speaking tosomeone using a whiteboardConveying the intuition is primary, notsecondaryOnce your reader has the intuition, shecan follow the details (but not viceversa)Even if she skips the details, she stilltakes away something valuable
  30. 30. EvidenceYour introduction makes claimsThe body of the paper providesevidence to support each claimCheck each claim in the introduction,identify the evidence, and forward-reference it from the claimEvidence can be: analysis andcomparison, theorems, measurements,case studies
  31. 31. StructureAbstract (4 sentences)Introduction (1 page)The problem (1 page)My idea (2 pages)The details (5 pages)Related work (1-2 pages)Conclusions and further work (0.5 pages)
  32. 32. Related workFallacy To make my work look good, I have to make other people’s work look bad
  33. 33. The truth: credit is not like moneyGiving credit to others does notdiminish the credit you get from your paperWarmly acknowledge people who have helpedyouBe generous to the competition. “In hisinspiring paper [Foo98] Foogle shows.... Wedevelop his foundation in the following ways...”Acknowledge weaknesses in your approach
  34. 34. Credit is not like money Failing to give credit to others can kill your paperIf you imply that an idea is yours, and thereferee knows it is not, then either You don’t know that it’s an old idea (bad) You do know, but are pretending it’s yours (very bad)
  35. 35. Making sure related work is accurateA good plan: when you think you are done,send the draft to the competition saying“could you help me ensure that I describeyour work fairly?”.Often they will respond with helpfulcritiqueThey are likely to be your referees anyway,so getting their comments up front is jollygood.
  36. 36. The processStart early. Very early. Hastily-written papers get rejected. Papers are like wine: they need time to matureCollaborateUse CVS to support collaboration
  37. 37. Getting help Get your paper read by as many friendly guinea pigs as possibleExperts are goodNon-experts are also very goodEach reader can only read your paper for thefirst time once! So use them carefullyExplain carefully what you want (“I got losthere” is much more important than “wibble ismis-spelt”.)
  38. 38. Listening to your reviewers Every review is gold dust Be (truly) grateful for criticism as well as praise This is really, really, really hardBut it’s really, really, really, really, really, really important
  39. 39. Listening to your reviewersRead every criticism as a positivesuggestion for something you couldexplain more clearlyDO NOT respond “you stupid person, Imeant X”. Fix the paper so that X isapparent even to the stupidest reader.Thank them warmly. They have given uptheir time for you.
  40. 40. Language and style
  41. 41. Basic stuffSubmit by the deadlineKeep 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 appendixAlways use a spell checker
  42. 42. Visual structureGive strong visual structure to yourpaper using sections and sub-sections bullets italics laid-out codeFind out how to draw pictures, anduse them
  43. 43. Visual structure
  44. 44. Use the active voice The passive voice is “respectable” but it DEADENS your paper. Avoid it at all costs. “We” = you and the NO YES reader It can be seen that... We can see that... 34 tests were run We ran 34 tests These properties were We wanted to retain these thought desirable properties “We” = theIt might be thought that You might think this would authorsthis would be a type error be a type error “You” = the reader
  45. 45. Use simple, direct language NO YES The object under study was The ball moved sideways displaced horizontally On an annual basis Yearly Endeavour to ascertain Find outIt could be considered that the The garbage collector was really speed of storage reclamation slow left something to be desired
  46. 46. SummaryIf you remember nothing else: Identify your key idea Make your contributions explicit Use examplesA good starting point: “Advice on Research and Writing” http://www-2.cs.cmu.edu/afs/cs.cmu.edu/user/ mleone/web/how-to.html