We should not judge people by their peak of excellence; but by the distance they have traveled from the point where they started.

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Some tips on writing a research paper

Some steps in writing a good paper / article describing your research.

1. Think on the structure of the content and layout of the writing
2. Work on the abstract
3. Work on the introduction
4. Work on the conclusion
5. Work on writing what you did and how you did it, in the rest of the paper

This is how the individual section goes ahead. 

1. Abstract - Why is this problem important? What is the uniqueness of the solution that you are providing to this problem? Why others fail? What is your contribution? What are you going to describe in the paper.

2. Introduction - What context is needed to understand the problem? Why is the problem so much important? What is the solution that you are providing based on this context? What are some important characteristics and contributions of your approach? How is it better than other approaches?

3. How you do it, and what you do it. Description of architecture, components, algorithm, methodologies, work-flows etc.

4. Conclusion - What is the main contribution your solution provides, why this approach important, how this approach benefits, what are some future directions of thought.

Different iterations of paper writing -

1. Generate the entire content of the paper in the structure described above. Get the template Latex file for the paper and start writing in it directly. Keep placeholders for diagrams. When writing a paragraph, the first sentence of the paragraph should be an introductory statement, which gives crux of what the paragraph is about. Then describe the contents of the paragraph around this statement. Write long sentences which convey your thoughts and shorten them in the next review cycles.

State problem first and define the solution later.

2. Check if the paper reads like a story. Give it for a review to your adviser / friend. Ask for feedback. Do this as much as possible to have the final first version of paper.

3. Make corrections in the arrangement of the statements, paragraph structures, the way thoughts are expressed and story is told.

4. Shorten the statements and make them concise to convey the same point. Work on the tense and grammar to remove unnecessary words.

5. Check if some paragraphs do not fit in the story and re-write them,  add new paragraphs. Read the story again.

6. Work on fitting the paper in the given page number format and optimizing space. Lets assume the page restrictions is 4 in size. Start by looking at paragraph ends. Try to remove standalone words which create a new paragraph. Play with latex word rearrangement to rearrange words so that they are placed with minimal space. Replace long words with same meaning short words. Check grammar. Do this for each sentence in the entire paper.

8. Work on abstract, introduction and conclusion again to see if it introduces story line correctly and makes the correct impact. Try to understand what is the central message that your paper gives to the reader. Are you guiding him correctly in his reading process?

9. Once a good content is ready. Give the paper for peer review to couple of people. Remember, new people will have a new perspective to look at the paper and would provide you with critical feedback such as if story line is not clear, if some sentence is not fitting well and needs rephrasing / reordering / restructuring etc. Chose the peers to review in such a manner that some would give a technical feedback whereas the others would provide a language based story feedback. Improve on the feedback.

The central idea of a scientific paper is to convey the novelty of your research. Make sure your paper talks that loud and clear in best way in the abstract, introduction and conclusion section prominently.

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