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Research Writing Prof. Shrisha Rao, Revised May 2008.

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1 Research Writing Prof. Shrisha Rao, Revised May 2008

2 Basic Points Management guru Peter Drucker said that an organization has only two basic functions— innovation and marketing. In the same vein, we can say that a researcher has two basic tasks: fact discovery (or problem- solving) and communication. Almost anyone can discover facts (or solve problems), but few can communicate effectively.

3 Communication Communication by a researcher can be to three types of audience. The first, and easiest, is to communicate with other specialists. Less easy is to communicate with non- specialists with technical training. Communicating with a lay audience is most difficult.

4 Communication—cont’d The most common (and possibly the most significant) communication is with technical non-specialists. For such communication, it is necessary to be aware of the background and expectations of the specific audience.

5 Written Communication This is by far the most important form of research communication. It has to be work of similar quality as found in world-class journals in its area. Norms applicable to the field (e.g., CS) and the relevant area within the field (e.g., distributed computing), must be carefully followed.

6 Written Communication—cont’d Use Standard English, without colloquialisms or informal jargon. There is a very low tolerance for errors of grammar, usage, or style, when it comes to peer reviewers (editors, referees). Prevailing standards in India are woefully inadequate (think NY Times, not the Times of India).

7 Some Mistakes to Avoid Do not use the present continuous tense in place of the present tense (“I am having a pen” suggests you are giving birth to a pen). Likewise with the future continuous. Use articles (a, an, the) appropriately but not unnecessarily. (Hint: Indians tend to leave out `the’ at the start of a sentence, and add it in the middle.)

8 How Research is Judged A paper submitted to a research conference/journal is judged by one to three anonymous referees. The referees judge not only the value of the work, but also its clarity. Referees are known to harshly reject poorly written papers, with no thought to their value.

9 Types of Writings Research can be presented in writing in the form of papers, technical reports, white papers, and monographs. Of these, papers and monographs are generally the most important, as they are peer-reviewed.

10 Research Papers Research papers themselves can be of two kinds—conference papers and journal papers. Conference papers tend to have page- length restrictions (usually 6-10 pages), but can be a little more preliminary (“extended abstracts”).

11 Research Papers—cont’d Journals are much more generous in terms of allowable page length. Journal papers are considered “archival” material, and are written (esp. for tier-1 journals) to a much higher standard. The cycle time for a paper to be published can range from months to years.

12 Writing Research Papers It is necessary to have some research in hand when starting to write a paper, but the process of writing is for the most part concurrent with the conduct of research. Be very clear about the exact type of paper (conference, journal, white paper, tech report) and its audience, from the start.

13 Research Problems Research problems are “fundamental” problems, often needing mathematical or algorithmic analyses, which are publishable in peer-community publications. Non-research problems are those involving technology (e.g., J2EE, Siebel,.Net) and its applications.

14 Research Problems—cont’d Sometimes, a seemingly mundane technology or application area may contain difficult research problems, but only if approached in the right way. For instance, software testing is a common application domain, as well as a field with research problems needing thought leadership.

15 Parts of a Research Paper Title Abstract, Keywords Introduction Literature Review > Conclusions References

16 Title This should concisely describe the field/problem, as well as the important innovation/improvement in the paper. Sometimes, a brief “running title” (printed at the top of every page after the first) is also required.

17 Abstract and Keywords The abstract is a summary in 50-200 words (usually 150 words) of the results in the paper. After reading just the abstract, a reader should know what is new and significant in the paper. Keywords are 3-6, to aid people who may be interested in the subect matter of the paper.

18 Introduction This is an introduction to the work in the paper. It is typically 1-2 pages in length. It is not an introduction to the world, or even to the general principles of the subject, so should be kept focused. After reading the intro, a reader should clearly understand the research presented, except for the details.

19 Literature Review This is a concise summary of the important prior work that forms the context of the research presented. All relevant prior work must be noted and carefully mentioned; referees are known to reject papers for missing mention of some prior work known to them.

20 > The main body of the paper should be broken up into relevant sections and subsections. Each section/subsection should address one point/topic. Logical ordering of sections is very important.

21 Conclusions This is usually the final section, and summarizes the work and describes possible further work and improvements. This section must be written with care, not just as an afterthought.

22 References References must be given in some appropriate format (IEEE, ACM, APA, Chicago Manual of Style). Refereed and published work, and original (rather than secondary) sources, are preferred.

23 References—cont’d References must be given for all prior work mentioned in the paper. The number of references depends on the length and type of paper (journal vs. conference). A conference paper typically as 10-15 references, whilst a journal may have 30 or more.

24 How a Paper is Read Title Abstract Introduction Conclusions All the rest

25 General Do’s Do be keenly aware of the standards and trends in the peer community where your paper will be read. Do make a special effort to be aware of similar earlier work in the same journal/conference, and to mention the same.

26 General Don’ts Do not plagiarize ideas/text, even by accident. This is virtually a “death penalty” offense for a researcher. Always give credit where due. Do not write/submit a paper with no knowledge of the peer community, and expect it to be accepted by them.

27 Related Resources Recent issues of the the Journal of the Association for Computing Machinery (JACM), and other ACM journals Recent issues of the IEEE Transactions on Software Engineering (IEEE-TSE), and other IEEE journals Recent issues of the SIAM Journal on Computing (SICOMP), and other SIAM journals Links sent, handouts

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