How to Write a Great Research Paper  34'24"

- Simon Peyton Jones - Microsoft Research, Cambridge

1. Don't wait to write

- Idea → write paper → Do research

- writing paper is a primary mechanism for doing research

2. Identify your key idea

- goal is to convey an idea to reader

- can you hear the ping

  . many papers contain good idea, but do not distill what they are

  . make certain the reader is in no doubt what the idea is. be 100% explicit

    . ex1. the main idea of this paper is ...

    . ex2. in this section we present the main contributions of the paper...

3. Tell a story

- Imagine you are explaining at a whiteboard

  1) Here is a problem

  2) It's an interesting problem

  3) It's an unsolved problem

  4) Here is my idea

  5) My idea works (details, data)

  6) Here's how my idea compares to other people's approaches

  7) Structure (conference paper)

    . Title (1,000 readers)

    . Abstract (4 sentences, 100 readers)

    . Introduction (1 pages, 100 readers)

    . The problems (1 pages, 10 readers)

    . My idea (2 pages, 10 readers)

    . The details (5 pages, 3 readers)

    . Related work (1-2 pages, 10 readers)

    . Conclusions and further work (0.5 pages)

4. Introduction 

- Describe the problem

- State your contributions 

  → Evidence

   . Your introduction makes claims

   . The body of the paper provides evidence to support each claim

   . Check each claim in the introduction, identify the evidence, and forward reference it from the claim

   . "Evidence" can be: analysis and comparison, theorems, measurements, case studies

 → Contributions should be refutable


 → No "rest of this paper is..."

    . Instead, use forward references from the narrative in the introduction.

    . The introduction (including the contributions) should survey the whole paper, and therefore forward reference every important part

      (Bad ex) ‘computer programs often have bugs. It is very important to eliminate these bugs {1,2}.  Many researchers have tried {3,4,5,6.}.  It really is very important’

      (Good ex;)‘consider this program, which has an interesting bug <brief description>. We will show an automatic technique for identifying and removing such bugs.’

5. Related work

6. Put your readers first


- The idea 

  . Explain it as if you were speaking to someone using a whiteboard

  . Conveying the intuition is primary, not secondary

 . Once your reader has the intuition, she can follow the details (but not vice versa)

  . Even if she skips the details, she still takes away something valuable

7. Listen to your readers 

- Get your paper read by as many friendly guinea pigs as possible

  . Experts are good

  . Non-experts are also very good

  . Each reader can only read your paper for the first time once! So use them carefully

  . Explain carefully what you want ("I got lost here" is much more important than "Jarva is mis-spelt".)

- Getting expert help

  . A good plan: when you think you are done, send the draft to the competition saying "could you help me ensure that I describe your work fairly?"

  . Often they will respond with helpful critique (they are interested in the area)

  . They are likely to be your referees anyway, so getting their comments or criticism up front is Jolly Good.

- Treat every review like gold dust : Be (truly) grateful for criticism as well as praise

○ Summary

1. Don't wait to write

2. Identify your key idea

3. Tell a story

4. Nail your contributions

5. Related work: later

6. Put your readers first (examples)

7. Listen to your readers


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