Writing for CS and CE CSCE 481

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Dr. Scott Schaefer. Acknowledgment – Prof. John Keyser & Aakash Tyagi. Specific Writing. We will discuss some specifics for writing . research papers. .. This is commonly done in graduate school.. ID: 648344 Download Presentation

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Writing for CS and CE CSCE 481

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Writing for CS and CE

CSCE 481Dr. Scott Schaefer

Acknowledgment – Prof. John Keyser & Aakash Tyagi


Specific Writing

We 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

Other topics:


Technical documents (E.g. Algorithm description)Executive summaries



Sections of a Research Paper

Title (Executive Summary, Proposal, Algorithm Description)Abstract


(Executive Summary, Proposal, Algorithm Description)

Previous Work (Executive Summary, Proposal)

Possibly including background information

Main Work (ideas/theory/exposition)

(Algorithm Description)Possibly in several sectionsImplementationIf neededResultsPossibly combined into main work sectionConclusion (Executive Summary, Proposal, Algorithm Description)With future workAcknowledgementsReferences (Executive Summary, Proposal, Algorithm Description)Appendices




Don’t underestimate title importanceMemorable titles can help people remember the paperThe title will be used for searching, laterRemove unnecessary words

Watch for misleading words




Motivation and SummaryBy 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.




Early 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 it

Sometimes this is more important than other times – sometimes motivation is obvious



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 abstract

Should be in the introduction of the paper

Main Results, Contributions, Thesis Statement

Can be in the conclusion



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 paper

Just list the key point(s) that are new to your work.



The Thesis Statment

A 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…)



Previous Work Section

Provide references to relevant materialWhat 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 area

Ensure you cite all the relevant work

Especially the papers of those who will read yours…

Can’t cite everything; cite the most important thingsUsually, citations to textbooks aren’t needed

Unless that textbook provides a unique derivation, a particular summary, etc.



Previous Work Section

If 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.



The New Work

This is the main, core part of your paperIt 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.



Things to Look Out For

You 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 path

You research is evaluated on


, not process.



Things to Look Out For

You want to develop your material clearlyUsually, someone will read this section in orderDon’t pull ideas/material from nowhereMake sure that information is presented in a logical order

Think of it as telling a (technical) story:

Keep the story moving

Don’t refer to things that the reader has no knowledge of

Make sure the reader understands what has happened!



Things to Look Out For

Avoid tangential topicsMake the section about the main results, not the interesting “side” itemsUse appendices if necessary

Make sure there is a clear overview

Avoid going directly into details

if the person doesn’t have the overall pictureOften, overview sections or figures are helpful




You 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 situations

Ones that allow comparison

Ones that allow evaluation of parts of your technique

Ones that simulate “real world” casesYou need to provide comparisons to other work, whenever possible

This lets people evaluate your work




Now 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.



Future Work

Usually part of the conclusionNot 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.



Future Work

Avoid using “throwaway” future workIn 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/opportunities

Why will that be worthwhile?

What are some obstacles that will be faced in that extension?



General Comments on Paper Writing


Don’t use many words when fewer will do Worse:

The function utilizes a looping structure to iterate over the list while analyzing whether or not one element is larger than the next. Better: The function checks if the list is sorted.Shorter is Better


Don’t use unqualified pronouns… particularly “it” and “this” Worse: The source code produced an error due to the input. Therefore, it was re- written.

Better: The source code produced an error due to the input. Therefore, the test case was re-written.

Avoid Indefinite Pronouns


Avoid passive voice Worse: The source code was a mess. So the code was rewritten.

Better: The source code was a mess. So John rewrote the code.Active Voice


Paragraphs should have a “theme” or “idea” associated with them. Paragraphs are not jumbles of sentences.Avoid stream of consciousness writing.

You know what you were thinking while you were writing… no one else does.Organization



Make sure you are writing to the appropriate audienceUsually, this is to others 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 work

Not to experts in all areas – they may not be familiar with simpler concepts from other fields

Some papers (e.g. literature

reviews, user manuals) are for more general, less expert, audiences




Give them the background they need to understand your workParticularly 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 do

Notation might


be standardizedExplain the notation as neededThe concepts might already be known



“After declining for days, John reconfigured the algorithm to improve performance.”Examples of Writing


“After declining for days, John reconfigured the algorithm to improve performance.”“His algorithm had to process alot of data.”

Examples of Writing


“It becomes the ethical responsibility of companies and programmers to implement that highest standards they can and discover designs that convey information in a way that ensures public safety. Applications for this can include short range wireless systems for vehicle safety, using machines to gauge the parameters of oil wells, and cloud-based resource systems for government agencies that improve protection

.”Examples of Writing



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


only to find it didn’t do what was promised.




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 flaw

If necessary, point out why problems might not be so bad



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



Overcoming Objections

Think: “If I were a reader, 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 them

What examples should be included?

What tests should be provided?



Figures and Captions

People 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.



Comparisons to Prior Work

Always a tricky propositionYour goal may be 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 them

If you implement another method for comparison, be sure to do your best with it

If not, be sure to clearly state what you did not do, and why.



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.




If possible, get someone else to read your workThey should be willing to give direct, honest feedbackTake their evaluations to heartWhen readers reply with objections, don’t blame the


If the

reader didn’t understand it, it’s probably your


Make sure that you address their concerns

Sometimes 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 readers are way offAlways be polite and respectful in your responses, anyway



Sections of a Research Paper

Title (Executive Summary, Proposal, Algorithm Description)Abstract


(Executive Summary, Proposal, Algorithm Description)

Previous Work (Executive Summary, Proposal)

Possibly including background information

Main Work (ideas/theory/exposition)

(Algorithm Description)Possibly in several sectionsImplementationIf neededResultsPossibly combined into main work sectionConclusion (Executive Summary, Proposal, Algorithm Description)With future workAcknowledgementsReferences (Executive Summary, Proposal, Algorithm Description)Appendices



Chapters 5 – 8, for general technical writing

There may still be overlap, but this will be a good guide.


Executive Summary




Chapter 2Getting Started (Research Planning)Chapter 3Reading and Reviewing(Literature Review)Chapter 4Hypothesis, Questions, & EvidenceChapter 10Algorithms

Chapter 11



, & Tables

Textbook Guidance


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