Presentation on theme: "Department of Computer Science and Engineering"— Presentation transcript:
1 Department of Computer Science and Engineering Writing for CS and CEGabriel Dos ReisAssistant ProfessorDepartment of Computer Science and Engineering
2 Types of Writing Research Papers Reports Technical Documentation Technical ReportsReportsVary tremendously in length/scopeLong report about work of a committeeShort report about a particular topicVary in purposeTechnical DocumentationDesignDevelopmentUsersWhite PapersMemosWeb Sitesetc.
3 Goals of WritingThe type of writing you do will vary depending on many factorsDifficult to give universal structureBut, there are some things common to most or all writing
5 Audience Probably the most important thing to consider. This will determine everything from structure to individual word choice.You think about this before you begin to write anything!You are writing for the audience, not for yourself.
6 Things to Think AboutWhat will be the background of those reading this work?What prior knowledge will they have?What expectations will they have?What do I need to tell them so that they can understand the paper?What is the reason someone will read this document?What information is most important to convey to the reader?What will the “life” of this document be?Will the audience change? Will the document change?
8 OrganizationThe way you structure a document can have more effect than the actual sentences it contains.Again, think about the goals of a person reading.How would they expect the document to be organized?What do they need to do with the document?
9 How Papers are Read Technical papers are not novels. With rare exceptions of short memos, people will not just sit down one day and read your document from beginning to end.
10 How Research Papers are Read First: Read TitleSecond: Read AbstractThird:a. Browse figures/captionsb. Review citationsFourth: Read small portions to get main ideaOnly if someone is really interested do they sit down and read the whole paper from start to finish.
11 How Documentation is Read Look at the TitleCheck either:IndexTable of ContentsFind section with the specific material neededFind relevant subsection within that sectionThen, read the material of relevance.
12 Your organization should: Make it easy for someone to understand the structure of the documentFollow conventionsClearly label/section documentFind information they want within the document
13 Organization Use White Space Keep paragraphs short IndentationLine breaksPage breaksKeep paragraphs shortUse lists, bullet pointsMaintain clear section headings.
15 General Presentation Advice There are three stages of presentation:Attract AttentionCreate InterestConvey InformationImportance:You don’t get to stage 2, unless you satisfy stage 1You don’t get to stage 3, unless you satisfy stage 2Although stage 3 is the most important, it’s pointless unless you meet the first two stages.Applies to posters/presentations, but also to papers
16 The Most Important Thing The RESEARCH!You have to have some purpose for writingHowever, people will not learn about the research unless they actually read your paperThis also has implications for how and where you publish your paper
17 If Time AllowsWe will discuss some specifics for writing research papers.This is commonly done in graduate school.Material developed for graduate studentsBut, many principles carry forward to other writing
20 Paper Sections Title Abstract Introduction Describe the problem including background informationMain Work (ideas/theory/exposition)Possibly in several sectionsImplementationIf neededResultsPossibly combined into main work sectionRelation to Previous WorkSituate your workConclusionWith future workAcknowledgementsReferencesAppendices
21 Title Don’t underestimate title importance Memorable titles can help people remember the paperThe title will be used for searching, laterRemove unnecessary wordsWatch for misleading words
22 Introduction Motivation and Summary By the end of the introduction, someone should be able to tell someone else what you did, and why.But probably not give any details about howKeep the introduction short, relative to the rest of the paper.
23 MotivationEarly on in the paper, you must make the case for why you are doing thisThis should not be too longIf you have to spend too long to say why someone should read the paper, then there’s probably not a good reasonThe motivation is not why you are writing the paper, it’s just there to get people to read itSometimes this is more important than other times – sometimes motivation is obvious
24 Summarizing Main Results You want to make it clear what the main results of your paper are.Don’t “hide” them or make them a “surprise” at the endRemember, most people will not read your full paper – you still want them to know the main resultsShould always be in the abstractShould be in the introduction of the paperMain Results, Contributions, Thesis StatementCan be in the conclusion
25 A “Main Results” Section Could be a subsection, a paragraph, a bulleted list, or a sentenceShould be easy to find/locateShould make clear what is the new, unique contribution of this workIt is not a summary of everything you’ve done, or even a summary of the paperJust list the key point(s) that are new to your work.
26 The Thesis StatmentA short statement that summarizes what the focus of the paper isCan help to focus your writing, presentation, and researchThe goal of the paper is to show why the thesis statement is important and true (or false…)
27 Previous Work Section Provide references to relevant material What are the key papers that someone should read to understand this?What are the most relevant related papers/alternatives?Demonstrate that you are familiar with the main research in the areaEnsure you cite all the relevant workEspecially the papers of those who will read yours…Can’t cite everything; cite the most important thingsUsually, citations to textbooks aren’t neededUnless that textbook provides a unique derivation, a particular summary, etc.
28 Previous Work SectionIf necessary provide background summary of prior workFor example, if you are building on your own prior workMake sure that prior work is separated from new workYou want to clearly delineate what is new vs. what is old.When giving citations to previous work, it is good to show how your work fits in with that prior work.
29 The New Work This is the main, core part of your paper It should be the part that you are most confident in, and have the most to say aboutIt is important that you are clear and accurate.
30 Things to Look Out ForYou are not just presenting a list of what you did.Every piece of research has lots of “infrastructure” work that goes on behind it – you don’t need to go into this, unless it is criticalYou don’t need to discuss “dead end paths” that you pursuedOne exception is if it is very likely someone else would follow that dead end pathYou research is evaluated on results, not process.
31 Things to Look Out For You want to develop your material clearly Usually, someone will read this section in orderDon’t pull ideas/material from nowhereMake sure that information is presented in a logical orderThink of it as telling a (technical) story:Keep the story movingDon’t refer to things that the reader has no knowledge ofMake sure the reader understands what has happened!
32 Things to Look Out For Avoid tangential topics Make the section about the main results, not the interesting “side” itemsUse appendices if necessaryMake sure there is a clear overviewAvoid going directly into details if the person doesn’t have the overall pictureOften, overview sections or figures are helpful
33 ResultsYou want to demonstrate all of the core ideas that you discussed in practiceIf you discussed something, show the resultsIdea is to show that what you presented works, and give some sense of how well it worksPick good test cases, that cover a range of situationsOnes that allow comparisonOnes that allow evaluation of parts of your techniqueOnes that simulate “real world” casesYou need to provide comparisons to other work, whenever possibleThis lets people evaluate your work
34 ConclusionNow that we have seen the work in the paper, what can we conclude?What has been the “contribution” of this work?What insights does this work offer?What does this now allow us to do?Conclusion should not be just a summary of what was in the paper – that is obvious.
35 Future Work Usually part of the conclusion Not always included, but a good idea if possiblePeople want to know that the paper is not a “dead end”What more could be done? If I like this area, what could I work on next?Is this likely to stimulate future work?Can be a “defense” against reviewers.
36 Future Work Avoid using “throwaway” future work In computer science, you can always say you want to improve performance, port to a new system, or integrate with something else.Better to have one or two solid areas for future work than 10 that aren’t developed.Don’t just state areas, give some indication of the challenges/opportunitiesWhy will that be worthwhile?What are some obstacles that will be faced in that extension?
38 Audience Make sure you are writing to the appropriate audience Usually, this is to other researchers in the fieldNot to novices – they will know the basics of the fieldNot necessarily to just the foremost experts in the area – they will not be familiar with every bit of prior workNot to experts in all areas – they may not be familiar with simpler concepts from other fieldsSome papers (e.g. literature reviews) are for more general, less expert, audiences
39 Audience Give them the background they need to understand the paper Particularly if you rely on another technique; don’t make them read other papers before they can read yoursNot always possible – sometimes there is too much to doNotation might not be standardizedExplain the notation as neededThe concepts might already be known
40 Overstating/Understating Do not oversell your workDo not promise more than you deliverDo not try to make your work have more impact than it reasonably doesYou probably have a higher opinion of your work than others do or ever will.Readers are annoyed if they spend their time reading your article, only to find it didn’t do what was promised.
41 Overstating/Understating Do not undersell your workDon’t put in so many disclaimers that you discourage someone from reading/following itPoint out problems, especially key ones, but:Your goal is not to point out every conceivable flawIf necessary, point out why problems might not be so badYou are writing the paper because you have something new to present, that others should find valuable.
42 Overcoming Objections Those reading the paper will often have questions/objections.You want to answer/address these in the paperThis is key to getting the paper accepted through review, but also for getting the paper accepted after publication
43 Overcoming Objections Think: “If I were a reviewer, what would I have questions about?”Find a way to address those directlyIf they are technical concerns and you have not addressed them in the work, show that you’ve thought about themWhat examples should be included?What tests should be provided?
44 Figures and CaptionsPeople will usually look at figures before they read the textYou want the figures to stand on their own as much as possibleBe sure that your captions clearly describe what is in the figure. Do not rely on the text to describe the figure.
45 Comparisons to Prior Work Always a tricky propositionYour goal in the paper is to show how good your work is. You have spent a great deal of time on your own approach.You must be fair to prior work, but you probably can’t devote as much effort to replicating it.If standardized comparisons can be made, use themIf you implement another method for comparison, be sure to do your best with itIf not, be sure to clearly state what you did not do, and why.
46 Comparisons to Prior Work It is not OK to just present your material and assume it should be acceptedThat does not show any new contribution over the state of the artException: if it is truly the first time someone has accomplished somethingIf you cannot provide comparisons, at least provide concise, clear arguments that evaluate your method vs. other methods.
47 Feedback If possible, get someone else to read your work They should be willing to give direct, honest feedbackTake their evaluations to heartWhen reviewers reply with objections, don’t blame the reviewerIf the reviewer didn’t understand it, it’s probably your faultMake sure that you address their concernsSometimes it is only a style/writing issue!Sometimes they have found more fundamental flawsEven these can sometimes be addressed by writing differently.There are (very rare) exceptions where reviewers are way offAlways be polite and respectful in your responses, anyway