How to Write Good Research Articles



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How to Write Good Research Articles

  • Prof. Xiaohua Jia

Publication Requirement

  • MPhil Degree
  • PhD Degree
  • Full time researcher

Kinds of Scientific Publications

  • PhD/MPhil Thesis
  • Aspects to be Assessed for a Thesis:
  • background knowledge
  • original contributions (amount of work)
  • methodology
  • presentation (writing)
  • Conference Publications
  • Focus on a piece of work with limited discussion
  • Journal Publications
  • More complete (extensive) discussion
  • Monographs / Book chapters / Text books

Where to publish your work

  • Journals
  • Ranking of journals
  • Review process of journals
  • Publication cycle
  • Conferences
  • Ranking of conferences
  • Review process of conferences
  • N.B. a good journal / conference tends to have rigorous review process and long review time

SCI Journal Citation

Important journals & conferences

  • Database
  • IEEE Trans on Knowledge and Data Engineering
  • ACM Trans on Database Systems
  • Int’l Conf on VLDB
  • Software Engineering
  • IEEE Trans on Software Engineering
  • ACM Trans on Software Eng. and Methodology
  • IEEE Int’l Conf on Software Engineering
  • Distributed Systems
  • IEEE Trans on Parallel and Distributed Systems
  • ACM Trans on Computer Systems
  • IEEE Int’l Conf on Distributed Computing Systems
  • Computer Networks
  • IEEE/ACM Trans on Networking
  • IEEE INFOCOM
  • ACM Mobicom, etc.
  • …….

Plan your writing

  • Ask two questions before starting:
  • What is new in your work?
  • What are you going to write?
  • Emphasize on the originality and significance of your work.
  • Organize your thinking and decide the structure (outlines) of your paper.
  • Stick on your central points throughout the whole paper and remove all unnecessary discussions.

Reader-oriented Writing

  • Purpose of your writing: disseminating your research results.
  • Don’t write if there is nothing to write
  • Don’t make a simple problem complicated to fool people
  • Don’t hide technical details
  • Reader-oriented writing: Write in a way that would lead readers to follow your thinking, NOT in the way of your thinking.
  • Well-organize your thinking
  • Give enough and clear explanation (never leave reader to guess)
  • Try to present your idea in an accurate way (no ambiguous)
  • Always think how readers would interpret your writing (assume you’re a reader)
  • Use simple/ plain English
  • Purpose of technical writing: express your idea correctly & clearly.

A Typical Review Form of a Journal

  • From TKDE@computer.org Fri Mar 9 01:42 HKT 2001
  • Section I. Overview
  • A. Reader Interest
  • 1. Which category describes this manuscript?
  • ___Practice/Application/Case Study/Experience Report
  • _X_Research/Technology
  • ___Survey/Tutorial/How-To
  • 2. How relevant is this manuscript to the readers of this periodical?
  • Please explain your rating.
  • ___Very Relevant
  • _X_Relevant
  • ___Interesting - but not very relevant
  • ___Irrelevant
  • B. Content
  • 1. Please explain how this manuscript advances this field of research
  • and/or contributes something new to the literature.
  • ………….
  • 2. Is the manuscript technically sound? Please explain your answer.
  • ___Yes
  • ___Appears to be - but didn't check completely
  • _X_Partially
  • ___No

A Typical Review Form of a Journal (cont’d)

  • C. Presentation
  • 1. Are the title, abstract, and keywords appropriate? Please comment.
  • _X_Yes
  • ___No
  • 2. Does the manuscript contain sufficient and appropriate references?
  • Please comment.
  • ___References are sufficient and appropriate
  • _X_Important references are missing; more references are needed
  • ___Number of references are excessive
  • …………..
  • 3. Does the introduction state the objectives of the manuscript in
  • terms that encourage the reader to read on? Please explain your answer.
  • _X_Yes
  • ___Could be improved
  • ___No
  • 4. How would you rate the organization of the manuscript? Is it
  • focused? Is the length appropriate for the topic? Please comment.
  • _X_Satisfactory
  • ___Could be improved
  • ___Poor
  • …………..
  • 5. Please rate and comment on the readability of this manuscript.
  • ___Easy to read
  • _X_Readable - but requires some effort to understand
  • ___Difficult to read and understand
  • ___Unreadable

A Typical Review Form of a Journal (cont’d)

  • Section II. Summary and Recommendation
  • A. Evaluation
  • Please rate the manuscript. Explain your choice.
  • ___Award Quality
  • ___Excellent
  • ___Good
  • _X_Fair
  • ___Poor
  • B. Recommendation
  • Please make your recommendation and explain your decision.
  • ___Accept with no changes as a short paper
  • ___Accept with no changes as a regular paper
  • ___Accept if certain minor revisions are made
  • _X_Author should prepare a major revision for a second review
  • ___Revise as a short paper
  • _X_Revise as a regular paper
  • ___Reject
  • Section III. Detailed Comments
  • Public Comments (these will be made available to authors)
  • Comments to editors (these will not be available to authors)

Structure of a Paper

  • Title
  • Abstract
  • Key words
  • Introduction
  • Related Work
  • System Model & Problem Statement
  • Methods / Solutions
  • Simulations / Experiments
  • Conclusion
  • Acknowledgement
  • References
  • Average number of pages of a journal paper
  • Average number of pages of a conference paper

Choose a Right Title

  • The title should be very specific, not too broad.
  • The title should be substantially different from others.
  • “Topology control for multihop wireless networks”, IEEE Trans. on Comm, 93.
  • “Topology control of multihop wireless networks using transmit power adjustment”, infocom’00.
  • “Distributed topology control for power efficient operation in multihop wireless networks”, infocom’01.
  • Avoid general / big titles, e.g.,
  • “Research on data mining”,
  • “Some research on job assignment in cluster computing”,
  • “A new framework for distributed computing”,
  • ……

Write a concise Abstract

  • The use of an abstract:
  • for search purpose.
  • giving readers a paper-summary before getting into details.
  • An abstract should tell:
  • the problem that the paper discusses.
  • the work that has been done, or method being used.
  • original findings / achievements.
  • An abstract usually does NOT have:
  • reference numbers
  • multiple paragraphs

Choose a right set of keywords

  • The use of keywords:
  • database search,
  • categorizing your work (for editors to choose reviewers).
  • The keywords must be specific and, as a whole, represent the main topic of the paper.
  • Avoid using the words that are not the main topic, such as “calculus”, “simulations”, etc.

Examples of an abstract / keywords

Organization of your Paper

  • Top-down writing method
  • Planning sections and subsections
  • Sketching: use a sentence to represent the points (paragraphs) in each subsections
  • Writing details: expend a sentence in the sketch into a paragraph
  • Adjustment: break / merge paragraphs, add / merge sections
  • N.B. keep a logical flow from section to section, paragraph to paragraph, and sentence to sentence.

Introduction: the most difficult part

  • Purpose of introduction:
  • Introducing readers to your problem / work.
  • An introduction usually contains:
  • Brief background of the topic-area
  • Existing work, which would lead to the importance / originality of your work
  • Description of your problem
  • Achievement / significance / brief-methodology of work

Related work and Reference list

  • Proper selection of references:
  • Show your knowledge in the related area,
  • Give credit to other researchers (reviewers are usually chosen from the references),
  • Cite good quality work (particularly when citing your own work) and up to date work.
  • Related work should:
  • Be organized to serve your topic,
  • Emphasize on the significance / originality of your work (Introducing your work out).
  • Format of references:
  • Consistent with the format, ordering, etc.
  • Standard format of books / journal papers / conference papers, e.g,
  • X. Jia, X.D. Hu and D.Z. Du, Multiwavelength Optical Networks, Kluwer Academic, 2002.
  • J. Li, Yi Pan, and X. Jia, “Analysis of Dynamic Location Management for PCS Networks”, IEEE Trans on Vehicular Technology, Vol. 51, No. 5, Sep 2002, pp.1109-1119.
  • X. Jia, D. Li, X.Hu and D. Du, "Placement of Read-Write Web Proxies in the Internet", Proc of IEEE Int’l. Conf. on Distributed Computing Systems, Phoenix, USA, Apr 2001, pp.687-690.
  • Do NOT use non-standard abbrev.

Examples of reference lists

Writing Tips: carry you to a long way

  • Reader-oriented writing (good organization, logical flow, etc).
  • Standard and consistent formatting (professional and neat looking).
  • Learning from other people’s writing.


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