Thursday, 14 April 2011

Research Paper Writing

"If any man wish to write in a clear style, let him be first clear in his thoughts; and if any would write in a noble style, let him first possess a noble soul".
- Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

Writing a research paper is an art. Some people get it right in the first go and some don't even after several attempts. My readings have educated me to a couple of simple facts. I will share them with you in these paragraphs. These facts are quite simple and straight forward. If you like them and make them a part of your writing, I have a feeling that it will make life easier for you and for all those who read your papers.

First of all, there is no right or wrong way of writing a paper. Consider the motivation for writing the paper. Why do you want to write. Is it because, you have an idea, you would like to talk about or maybe you have done some research and you want to present your results. That's good enough. Start writing, but keep in mind that not everyone who will read your paper, especially the reviewer is NOT as brilliant as you. Keep it simple, in word and in expression. Next, maintain the flow. It is very easy to get carried away and jump from one idea to another, without them being connected. If you are not sure of what I am saying. Write a couple of paragraphs and ask your friend to read it. If he or she can relate the last paragraph to the first, well then that's a start.

Diagrams and Tables. Someone has said, A picture is worth a thousand words. True, I agree but if the picture has no meaning in the general scheme of things, then it has no business being there. Introduce your picture before you put it in. That will protect your readers from the abruptness of coming across it unannounced. Look at your picture. Is it descriptive or too descriptive. I have seen pictures with information crammed into it. You would like to avoid falling into that trap. A diagram or illustration is meant to simplify things, not to further complicate them. Explain your illustration in the paragraphs following it, and remember you have to move with the flow of the paper.

I have often come across the use of non-standard wording. Well, what is standard and what is not standard terminology is often difficult to decide. But one rule of thumb could be, when describing scientific experiments or situations try to use technical terms which are recognised by the academia, you are aiming your paper at. If ever you decide to introduce a term, use it consistently. If it occurs regularly, give it a place of honour in the key words section of the paper. Okay, so now you have written your paper. Read it.
Is it good ? Probably not. Rewrite it in parts. Keep your sentences short and easier to understand.

Finally, last but not the least is referencing. There are some well known forms of referencing. Follow any style but be consistent in it. Reviewers on receiving papers switch straight away to the reference section as it is a good indication of how well the paper has been researched and of the writers understanding of the subject. Finally, something which I believe in is, enjoy your writing. If it is a drag, then you are not doing it 'write'. A composition should have life of its own. It should breathe. It should have a meaning for its existence. It should be able to sing and dance and make others do the same. I close this monologue by putting together a few links, which I came across in my meanderings. I hope they help. Please refer to some good books on research paper writing.

Referencing and Citations
Monash University's Page on Referencing Styles

DBLP Computer Science Bibliography : Quite Comprehensive
Cite Seer Home Page & Search CiteSeer

Thesis Writing : Some Ideas
How to Write a PhD Thesis : By Joe Wolf :-A good article. You can read it in French, as well as in Spanish. At the end of the article there are a few other useful links.

Purdue University's Links: Writing a thesis statement, Writing a research report.

to IEEE, ACM Digital Libraries through Monash (Need to be a current Monash Student with a valid Authcate account to access theses links)

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