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Writing Technical Articles

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Paper Structure Typical outline of a paper is: Abstract, typically not more than words; Introduction brief! Related Work or before summary. In the case of a conference, make sure to cite the work of the PC co-chairs and as many other PC members as are remotely plausible, as well as from anything relevant from the previous two proceedings.

In the case of a journal or magazine, cite anything relevant from last years or so volumes. Outline of the rest of the paper: In Section 2, we introduce.. Finally, we describe future work in Section 5. Also, vary your expression between "section" being the subject of the sentence, as in "Section 2 discusses The paper may or may not include formalisms. General evaluations of your algorithm or architecture, e. Architecture of proposed system s to achieve this model should be more generic than your own peculiar implementation.

Always include at least one figure. Mention briefly implementation language, platform, location, dependencies on other packages and minimum resource usage if pertinent. How does it really work in practice? Provide real or simulated performance metrics, end-user studies, mention external technology adoptors, if any, etc.

It is recommended that you write the approach and results sections first, which go together. Then problem section, if it is separate from the introduction.

Then the conclusions, then the intro. Write the intro last since it glosses the conclusions in one of the last paragraphs. Finally, write the abstract. Last, give your paper a title. Title Avoid all but the most readily understood abbreviations. Avoid common phrases like "novel", "performance evaluation" and "architecture", since almost every paper does a performance evaluation of some architecture and it better be novel.

Unless somebody wants to see 10, Google results, nobody searches for these types of words. Use adjectives that describe the distinctive features of your work, e. There are obviously exceptions, e. Even in that case, something more specific is preferable, as in "Delay measurements of X" or "The quality of service for FedEx deliveries". The IEEE affirms that authorship credit must be reserved for individuals who have met each of the following conditions: Abstract The abstract must not contain references, as it may be used without the main article.

It is acceptable, although not common, to identify work by author, abbreviation or RFC number. For example, "Our algorithm is based upon the work by Smith and Wesson. What other paper would you be talking about here?

Avoid general motivation in the abstract. You do not have to justify the importance of the Internet or explain what QoS is. Highlight not just the problem, but also the principal results. Many people read abstracts and then decide whether to bother with the rest of the paper. Since the abstract will be used by search engines, be sure that terms that identify your work are found there.

In particular, the name of any protocol or system developed and the general area "quality of service", "protocol verification", "service creation environment" should be contained in the abstract.

Avoid equations and math. Introduction Avoid stock and cliche phrases such as "recent advances in XYZ" or anything alluding to the growth of the Internet. Be sure that the introduction lets the reader know what this paper is about, not just how important your general area of research is. Readers won't stick with you for three pages to find out what you are talking about. In this way, the intro sets up my expectations for the rest of your paper -- it provides the context, and a preview.

Repeating the abstract in the introduction is a waste of space. Here at the institute for computer research, me and my colleagues have created the SUPERGP system and have applied it to several toy problems.

This system allows the programmer to easily try lots of parameters, and problems, but incorporates a special constraint system for parameter settings and LISP S-expression parenthesis counting. The search space of GP is large and many things we are thinking about putting into the supergpsystem will make this space much more colorful. A pretty good introduction, drawn from Eric Siegel's class: Write down everything that you know, in no particular order and with no particular formatting.

Afterward, organize what you wrote thematically, bringing related points together. Eventually, convert it into an outline and proceed as above. The phrases are quicker to write and less likely to derail your brainstorming; they are easier to organize; and you will feel less attached to them and more willing to delete them.

Rather than trying to write your entire document, choose some specific part, and write just that part. Then, move on to another part. Find other text that you have written on the topic and start from that. An excellent source is your progress reports — you are writing them, aren't you?

This can remind you what was hard or interesting, or of points that you might otherwise forget to make. You will rarely want to re-use text verbatim, both because you can probably convey the point better now, and also because writing for different audiences or in different contexts requires a different argument or phrasing.

For example, a technical paper and a technical talk have similar aims but rather different forms. If you wrote something once, you can write it again probably better! Early on, the point is to organize your ideas, not to create finished sentences. Make every word count. If a word does not support your point, cut it out, because excess verbiage and fluff only make it harder for the reader to appreciate your message. Use shorter and more direct phrases wherever possible.

Make your writing crisp and to the point. Eliminate any text that does not support your point. Here is one way you might go about this; it is time-consuming but extremely effective.

First, examine each section of the paper in turn and ask what role it serves and whether it contributes to the paper's main point. If not, delete it. Next, within each section, examine each paragraph. Ask whether that paragraph has a single point. If not, rewrite the paragraph. Also ask whether that point contributes to the goals of the section. If not, then delete the paragraph. Next, within each paragraph, examine each sentence. If it does not make a single, clear point that strengthens the paragraph, delete or rewrite it.

Finally, within each sentence, examine each word, and delete or replace those that do not strengthen their point. You will need to repeat this entire process multiple times, keeping a fresh perspective on the paper. Passive voice has no place in technical writing.

It obscures who the actor was, what caused it, and when it happened. Use active voice and simple, clear, direct phrasing. First person is rarely appropriate in technical writing. Never use first person to describe the operation of a program or system.

It is only appropriate when discussing something that the author of the paper did manually. And recall that your paper should not be couched as a narrative. As a related point, do not anthropomorphize computers: Avoid puffery, self-congratulation, and value judgments: And if the point is not obvious to readers who are not intimately familiar with the subject matter the way you are, then you are offending readers by insulting their intelligence, and you are demonstrating your own inability to communicate the intuition.

Prefer singular to plural number. When describing an experiment or some other action that occurred in the past, use past tense. When describing the paper itself, use present tense. The reason for this is that the reader is experiencing the paper in real time; the paper is like a conversation between the authors and the reader. In a list with 3 or more elements list, put a serial comma between each of the items including the last two.

As a simple example of why, consider this 3-element grocery list written without the clarifying last comma: I've seen real examples that were even more confusing than these. In English, compound adjectives are hyphenated but compound nouns are not. Some of the suggestions in this document are about good writing, and that might seem secondary to the research. But writing more clearly will help you think more clearly and often reveals flaws or ideas!

Furthermore, if your writing is not good, then either readers will not be able to comprehend your good ideas, or readers will be rightly suspicious of your technical work. If you do not or cannot write well, why should readers believe you were any more careful in the research itself?

The writing reflects on you, so make it reflect well. Different people learn in different ways, so you should complement a textual or mathematical presentation with a graphical one. Even for people whose primary learning modality is textual, another presentation of the ideas can clarify, fill gaps, or enable the reader to verify his or her understanding.

Figures can also help to illustrate concepts, draw a skimming reader into the text or at least communicate a key idea to that reader , and make the paper more visually appealing.

It is extremely helpful to give an example to clarify your ideas: A running example used throughout the paper is also helpful in illustrating how your algorithm works, and a single example permits you to amortize the time and space spent explaining the example and the reader's time in appreciating it. It's harder to find or create a single example that you re-use throughout the paper, but it is worth it.

A figure should stand on its own, containing all the information that is necessary to understand it. Good captions contain multiple sentences; the caption provides context and explanation. For examples, see magazines such as Scientific American and American Scientist.

The caption may also need to explain the meaning of columns in a table or of symbols in a figure. However, it's even better to put that information in the figure proper; for example, use labels or a legend. When the body of your paper contains information that belongs in a caption, there are several negative effects.

The reader is forced to hunt all over the paper in order to understand the figure. The flow of the writing is interrupted with details that are relevant only when one is looking at the figure.

The figures become ineffective at drawing in a reader who is scanning the paper — an important constituency that you should cater to! As with naming , use pictorial elements consistently. Only use two different types of arrows or boxes, shading, etc. Almost any diagram with multiple types of elements requires a legend either explicitly in the diagram, or in the caption to explain what each one means; and so do many diagrams with just one type of element, to explain what it means.

This differentiation has no benefits, but it does have a drawback: You should simply call them all figures and number them sequentially. The body of each figure might be a table, a graph, a diagram, a screenshot, or any other content. Put figures at the top of the page, not in the middle or bottom. If a numbered, captioned figure appears in the middle or at the bottom of a page, it is harder for readers to find the next paragraph of text while reading, and harder to find the figure from a reference to it.

Avoid bitmaps, which are hard to read. Export figures from your drawing program in a vector graphics format. If you must use a bitmap which is only appropriate for screenshots of a tool , then produce them at very high resolution. Use the biggest-resolution screen you can, and magnify the partion you will copture.

Your code examples should either be real code, or should be close to real code. Never use synthetic examples such as procedures or variables named foo or bar. Made-up examples are much harder for readers to understand and to build intuition regarding.

Furthermore, they give the reader the impression that your technique is not applicable in practice — you couldn't find any real examples to illustrate it, so you had to make something up. Any boldface or other highlighting should be used to indicate the most important parts of a text.

Even if your IDE happens to do that, it isn't appropriate for a paper. For example, it would be acceptable to use boldface to indicate the names of procedures helping the reader find them , but not their return types.

Give each concept in your paper a descriptive name to make it more memorable to readers. If you can't think of a good name, then quite likely you don't really understand the concept. Think harder about it to determine its most important or salient features. It is better to name a technique or a paper section, etc. Use terms consistently and precisely. While elegant variation may be appropriate in poems, novels, and some essays, it is not acceptable in technical writing, where you should clearly define terms when they are first introduced, then use them consistently.

If you switch wording gratuitously, you will confuse the reader and muddle your point; the reader of a technical paper expects that use of a different term flags a different meaning, and will wonder what subtle difference you are trying to highlight. Choose the best word for the concept, and stick with it.

Do not use a single term to refer to multiple concepts. This is a place that use of synonyms to distinguish concepts that are unrelated from the point of view of your paper is acceptable.

When you present a list, be consistent in how you introduce each element, and either use special formatting to make them stand out or else state the size of the list. Second, I am bright. Also, I am clever. Finally, I am brilliant. First, I am intelligent. Third, I am clever. Fourth, I am brilliant. Some people worry that such consistency and repetition is pedantic or stilted, or it makes the writing hard to follow. There is no need for such concerns: Choose good names not only for the concepts that you present in your paper, but for the document source file.

Don't name the file after the conference to which you are submitting the paper might be rejected or the year. Even if the paper is accepted, such a name won't tell you what the paper is about when when you look over your source files in later years. Another benefit is that this will also lead you to think about the paper in terms of its content and contributions.

Here is a piece of advice that is specific to computing: Instead, use one of the standard terms fault, error, or failure. A fault is an underlying defect in a system, introduced by a human. A failure is a user-visible manifestation of the fault or defect. Do not confuse relative and absolute measurements. You could report that your medicine's cure rate is.

I would avoid these terms entirely. Given the great ease of misunderstanding what a percentage means or what its denominator is, I try to avoid percentages and focus on fractions whenever possible, especially for base measurements. For comparisons between techniques, percentages can be acceptable. Avoid presenting two different measurements that are both percentages but have different denominators.

Your paper probably includes tables, bibliographies, or other content that is generated from external data. Your paper may also be written in a text formatting language such as LaTeX. In each of these cases, it is necessary to run some external command to create some of the content or to create the final PDF. All of the steps to create your final paper should be clearly documented — say, in comments or in a notes file that you maintain with the paper — and, preferably, should be automated so that you only have to run one command that collects all the data, creates the tables, and generates the final PDF.

If you document and automate these steps, then you can easily regenerate the paper when needed. This is useful if you re-run experiments or analysis, or if you need to defend your results against a criticism by other researchers. If you leave some steps manual, then you or your colleagues are highly likely to make a mistake leading to a scientific error or to be unable to reproduce your results later.

One good way to automate these tasks is by writing a program or creating a script for a build system such as Make or Ant. A related work section should not only explain what research others have done, but in each case should compare and contrast that to your work and also to other related work.

After reading your related work section, a reader should understand the key idea and contribution of each significant piece of related work, how they fit together what are the common themes or approaches in the research community? Don't write a related work section that is just a list of other papers, with a sentence about each one that was lifted from its abstract, and without any critical analysis nor deep comparison to other work.

Unless your approach is a small variation on another technique, it is usually best to defer the related work to the end of the paper. When it comes first, it gives readers the impression that your work is rather derivative. If this is true, it is your responsibility to convey that clearly; it it is not true, then it's misleading to intimate it.

You need to ensure that readers understand your technique in its entirety, and also understand its relationship to other work; different orders can work in different circumstances. Just as you should generally explain your technique first, and later show relationships with other work, it is also usually more effective to defer a detailed discussion of limitations to a later section rather than the main description of your technique.

You should be straightforward and honest about the limitations, of course do mention them early on, even if you don't detail them then , but don't destroy the coherence of your narrative or sour the reader on your technique. Finish your paper well in advance, so that you can improve the writing.

Even re-reading your own text after being away from it can show you things that you didn't notice. An outside reader can tell you even more. When readers misunderstand the paper, that is always at least partly the author's fault! Even if you think the readers have missed the point, you will learn how your work can be misinterpreted, and eliminating those ambiguities will improve the paper. Be considerate to your reviewers, who are spending their time to help you.

Here are several ways to do that. As with submission to conferences, don't waste anyone's time if there are major flaws. Only ask someone to read a part of your paper when you think you will learn something new, because you are not aware of serious problems. If only parts are ready, it is best to indicate this in the paper itself e. It is most effective to get feedback sequentially rather than in parallel. Rather than asking 3 people to read the same version of your paper, ask one person to read the paper, then make corrections before asking the next person to read it, and so on.

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Tips for Writing Technical Papers Jennifer Widom, January Here are the notes from a presentation I gave at the Stanford InfoLab Friday lunch, 1/27/06, with a few (not many) revisions when I reprised the talk on 12/4/09, and no revisions for the 10/19/12 revival.

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To write the body of the paper without knowing its broad outlines will take more time in the long run. Another way of putting this is that writing the paper first will make writing the abstract faster, and writing the abstract first will make writing the paper faster.

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How to Write a Technical Paper: Keywords: writing guides, writing technical papers, format guides 1 Introduction The introduction serves a twofold purpose. Firstly, it gives the background on and motivation for your research, establishing its importance. Secondly, it gives a sum-. Technical paper writing And have no previous knowledge, you have an technical paper writing abstract. If there is a professor who knows how to write this overfamiliar subject matter were treated the scientic method conclusions may forestall the criticism that comes from a b-, or telling a story, it still is extremely useful.

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Technical Paper Writing As a research scholar, your goal is to change the way the reader think of the research problem or to convince them to use a new approach. As a general rule, your technical paper needs to convince the reader of three key points: 1) The problem is interesting. A Guide for Writing a Technical Research Paper Libby Shoop Macalester College, Mathematics and Computer Science Department 1 Introduction This document provides you with some tips and some resources to help you write a technical research paper.