On Research and Writing Research Papers


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A firm grasp of scientific method and ability to write clearly and convincingly is a great assert to any professional in sciences.
Conducting research and publishing peer reviewed papers train professionals in both scientific method and writing. Moreover, having research papers in your resume is considered a huge plus in both industry and academia. However, conducting research and getting them published requires professionals to approach the problem and present their solutions form a unique angle. The talk will address research in general and writing research papers. Specifically, the talk will cover peer review process, what is a contribution?, and basic composition of
a research paper, describing potential pitfalls.

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On Research and Writing Research Papers

  1. 1. On Research and Writing Research Papers Srinath Perera. Ph.D.
  2. 2. Outline ● What is Research? ● Writing: How Research Works? ● Contributions ● Literature Survey ● Outline of a Paper ● Closing Remarks •
  3. 3. What is Research?
  4. 4. What is Research? ● The search for knowledge ● Any systematic investigation to establish facts ● Discovering, interpreting, and the development of methods and systems for the advancement of human knowledge on our world and the universe.
  5. 5. Scientific Method ● You can research with any way, but for scientific method, you have to follow the scientific method ● Scientific Method ● Observation ● Formulation of an hypothesis ● Predict a outcome based on hypothesis ● Experimental tests
  6. 6. Scientific Method(Contd.) ● When you use above steps follow ● Empiricism: The Use of Empirical Evidence -evidence that one can see, hear, touch, taste, or smell ● Rationalism: The Practice of Logical Reasoning - Logic allows us to reason correctly ● Skepticism: Possessing a Skeptical Attitude – questions your beliefs and conclusions
  7. 7. Doing Research ● So you want to add to the knowledge? ● Do you know the current knowledge? ● No point reinventing the wheel
  8. 8. Dissemination of results ● Humans advance by building on the results of ancestors. ● There should be a way to disseminate research findings. ● “Frogs on the Well” model does not work
  9. 9. How to Disseminate results? ● Will word of mouth works? ● How about talks, presentations? ● Writing is the only way! Research publications Disseminate results. ● Writing down and publications are considered a integral part of doing research.
  10. 10. Question of Quality? ● Does any writing is Knowledge? ● We need quality control ● How about 1, 10 people to quality control? ● Will they be impartial? ● Who is going to pay for them? ● Will that scale?
  11. 11. Peer Review ● Peer review does not always work, but that is the best we have. ● So no point crying over it, learn to survive
  12. 12. So every paper suppose to add to Knowledge
  13. 13. Contribution ● We call this addition to the knowledge as “contribution”. ● A contribution should be ● New ● Significant ● Useful ● Verifiable/refutable ● Typically paper should be explicit about the contributions it make.
  14. 14. Types of Research Papers ● Problem-Solution Papers ● Present a problem, propose a solution, and defend it ● Survey Papers ● Out line or synthesis on a work done on a topic ● Position Papers ● Present a problem, propose a solution, and argue ● Experience Papers ● Describe a concrete usecase in detail.
  15. 15. Types of Research Papers & Contribution ● Each of these types have a contribution ● Survey Papers – survey and synthesis existing work ● Position Papers – public brain storm ● Experience Papers – share useful experiences
  16. 16. Figuring out Contributions ● Well what I said might scare you, it might sound like, if you do not add knowledge do not bother writing. ● In truth most work has contributions, it is up to you to bring them to focus. Ideal Case: ● Joan et. al. proposed this algorithm, we proposed this variation to the algorithm .. ● Kumar et. al. Proposed this architecture, we propose a variation to this algorithm ..
  17. 17. Figuring out Contributions (Contd.) ● Other Cases: ● This is a architecture for solving this problem that occurs in this real world scenario ● It is hard for a new comer to find related work in this area, here is a survey ● We use the algorithm proposed by Frank et. al. to solve a new problem ● We implemented an algorithm/specification proposed by Chen et. al. This is how we realized it, and these are problems and solutions ● This is a comparative performance study on approaches A, B, and C to solve the problem X.
  18. 18. Figuring out Contributions (Contd.) ● Talk to your Project advisor, he can give you some ideas ● Read related work, see what are the contributions they have claimed. ● Brain Strom ● Keep in touch with IT @ real world
  19. 19. Negative Results ● You can not publish negative results: Edison could not have published 1000 ways how not to make a light bulb!
  20. 20. Literature Survey ● Google Scholar, IEEE, ACM sites – actually last two much weaker compared to #1 ● References make a tree, that how you trace ● Papers are ranked by incoming links (well page rank was invented long ago ;) ) ● Look for related work for related works ● Look for who has cite related work (Google scholar give that as well) ● Know well know people, groups, and conferences on the topic, know their papers
  21. 21. Literature Survey (Contd.) ● Use abstract, intro, and discussion to remove out of scope papers ● Read, and Reread ● Make notes, that will save you trouble next time ● I use mind mapping tools (e.g. Freemind) ● Synthesize your notes, be lookout for what is missing or connections, that how you get new ideas. ● Before you know it you might have data for a survey paper
  22. 22. Following are Guidelines Only! For first time writers, they will help a lot. When you are experienced you should know when to break them
  23. 23. Paper should Look like this ● Describe a problem ● Show it is an useful problem to solve ● Show it is an unsolved problem ● Show how you plan to solve it (contribution) ● Defend my idea ● Here is my idea compared to others ● And this is why you should care
  24. 24. Archimedes and Lever as an Example ● Topic: Lever: A tool to defend your Country ● Introduction – Problem = Roman Army, why stopping the roman army is good? ● Problem : Roman Army ● Contribution: Lever ● Results: Empirical Demonstration and mathematical analysis ● Related Work: Naval Battle, Blockades ● Discussion: Other use cases of Lever, like Trebuchet
  25. 25. Paper should Look like this ● Abstract ● Introduction - Describe a problem (example) + Show it is useful problem + unsolved problem ● Problem + Background ● Here is how I plan to solve it (contribution) ● Results: Defend my idea ● Related Work: Here is my idea compared to others ● Discussion: And this is why you should care
  26. 26. Abstract ● Typically it is suppose to written last, personally, I write it first, and then revise and edit on the way. ● Used by others to decide weather the paper is relevant ● Typically using a sentence each [Kent Beck] ● State the Problem ● Say why it is interesting ● Say what does your solution achieves ● Say what follows from the solution ● Think how would you use other's abstracts in your Literature Survey, match yours to that.
  27. 27. Role of Introduction and Discussion
  28. 28. Introduction ● Big Picture ● Try to give a motivating use case ● Describe the Problem briefly ● Establish that the problem you want to solve is important. ● State you contributions ● Outline of the paper
  29. 29. Problem and Solution ● Describe your problem and proposed solution in detail. ● You may have to give some background. ● Make sure you give an example or an motivating usecase. Try to use examples from the application domain of venue. ● Try to describe the intuition across to the user ● Cite related works when relevant, but leave the discussion to the end.
  30. 30. Defend the Claims ● Four ways to defend ● Citing other papers ● Empirical analysis ● Theoretical results (Proofs) ● Analytical discussions ● If it is Empirical analysis or Theoretical results, make sure you state clearly what do they mean ● You should tie back each result to contributions ● Make sure you have covered each claim you had in the introduction.
  31. 31. Presenting your Resulting ● Know performance indicators of your field, design tests such that they are relevant to what you demonstrate. ● Describe the experiment carefully ● Draw Graphs whenever possible ● Make sure you analyze your results Remember: Picture is worth 1000 words ● http://www.visual- literacy.org/periodic_table/periodic_table.html
  32. 32. Related Work ● Provide a small introduction on what each related work did ● Compare and contrast with relevance to your contributions ● Be generous to your competition, give them credit that are due, and often they are your reviewers (remember peer review)! You do not have to make them look bad. ● Acknowledge any weakness, often there are trade-offs, and try to bring them out.
  33. 33. Discussion ● Outline the motivations ● Outline the main flow and solutions ● Restate contributions ● Present potential applications of your solution. ● Try to look at the bigger picture. Make sure you answer “So what? question” ● Finish with future works
  34. 34. On English and Style ● Bad writing is sure way to get the paper rejected. ● Work on your English, that will save you lot of trouble in the future. ● e.g. The Elements Of Style [Strunk & White] ● Use active voice at all cost ● It is ok to use “We” and “You” Photo from http://www.flickr.com/photos/confetta/
  35. 35. On English and Style (Contd.) ● Many people can write different parts, but one guy has to edit it and make it consistent. ● Focus: avoid going in to irrelevant details ● As I said, it takes few rounds to get it right. ● Most good works goes through lot of proof reading ● Leave 1-2 days to proof read ● Get others to read your paper ● Proof read, Proof read, Proof read ...
  36. 36. Find Friendly Guinea Pigs to Read your Paper ● Try to Proof read before you give them, you do not need them to show you grammar mistakes. ● You want them to tell “I do not get what this mean?” etc. ● Finally There is no point of having expert's help unless you are ready to listen
  37. 37. Know Your Tools ● Latex – learn Latex, and feel the power ● Gnuplot – visualizing results ● Inkscape + Open Clipart/ Xara exteme – Vector graphics ● Freemind – mind mapping tools ● Google Scholar – Literature survey ● http://www.websequencediagrams.com/ - sequence diagrams ● http://www.visual-literacy.org/periodic_table/period - Data visualization
  38. 38. Finding a Venue ● Publishing papers takes time ● Decision takes 1-2 months ● Conference is 5-6 months away ● Typical CFP time is November to April ● Conferences are held in the summer ● Most conferences expect you to come in- person and present, plan accordingly.
  39. 39. Sure ways to Get Rejected ● Do not Submit by deadline ● Ignore formatting instructions ● Merge the paper at last minute ● Obscure, make it very hard to find what your paper do ● Write poor English ● Do not add related work
  40. 40. Finally ● Writing a good paper needs you to do a good work on the problem as well as tie it well to the bigger picture. ● You have to keep in touch with latest and greatest ● Keep your eye open for current and potential usecases of Computer science ● Having said that you need something to write so learn to think Remember Socrates's words
  41. 41. Wisdom begins in Wonder --Socrates
  42. 42. Resources/ Reading ● A scrutiny of the introduction By JON F. CLLERBOUT Stanford University ● A Scrutiny of the Abstract by Kenneth K. Landes ● The Elements of Style by William Strunk, Jr. ● Efficient Reading of Papers in Science and Technology by Michael J. Hanson ● Developing Writing Skills in Computer Science Students by Dr. Marguerite Hafen ● How to write a great research paper by Simon Peyton Jones, Microsoft Research, Cambridge [Slides]
  43. 43. Questions?