Monday, December 26, 2011

Coverting Your Outline to a Paper

Once you have an outline for a paper, it is not hard to convert it to a paper. Just start to build up on any section of the outline (other than the abstract and introduction).

Usually, it is easier to start from the system description or methodology. This section contains what you did yourself. So, it should be easier to write. If you have presented some of your work in lab meetings, use those slides as a starting point. If something gets hard to describe, consider using a diagram. If you re reporting lots of boring data, consider using a table.

After you finish writing about what you did, the experiments, and then the results, you can write a rough conclusion based on your results. Having done that, it is time to fill in the related research section. I will cover that in a separate section, for good reasons (you will find out later :-p).

Now have a good break, and read all of what you have written so far. Write a god introduction that prepares people to read all of that. A god introduction is like a funnel. It starts wide, with a sentence that describes something connected to a real-world problem. It ends narrow, with the readers knowing what they are going to read about.

If you have done all these, you can now write a good abstract. Write only WHAT YOU DID. An abstract is not an introduction or a survey. Be clear and brief. Present your best result in a concise manner. One way to do this is to end the abstract with a numerical result (Example: the proposed algorithm recognized 95% of the suspects in the FBI Most Wanted List).

You might have noted that I did not mention the paper length anywhere. If you follow the instructions, you will end up with a paper with a length that is not far from the page limit set by the conference. If there is a difference, it is time to edit the paper. I will cover that in the next section.

Friday, December 9, 2011

Creating an Outline for Your Paper

The best way to start writing a paper is creating an outline. But then, most students think that an outline is some thing like:

Related Work
System Description
Future Work

This is an outline for MOST papers that have been written and can be written, but it is not an outline for YOUR paper! The reason; it will not get you started.

What you want is a more specific outline, which you can build up with time in to a good paper. Let me explain this with an example.

Suppose you are working on designing ways for disabled persons to use computers. You want allow the user to control the computer by moving their head and face. After a lot of reading, programming, coffee etc, you design a program that can:

1. Recognize if a person is sitting in front of the screen and wants to use the computer
2. Move the mouse cursor on computer when the user moves his/her head
3. Click the mouse button when the user opens and closes his/her mouth.

You also want to evaluate this to see if it is accurate, and easy to use. You design an experiment, and the results show that it is good. So, now you have enough work to write a paper. How do you prepare an outline for this paper?

This is a possible outline that I would have come up with

Title: Something like "Evaluation of a Computer Vision-based User Interface for Disabled Users"

Abstract: Write last

Computers are widely used now. But disabled users cannot use keyboard and mouse easily

So it will be good for disabled users if they have alternative interfaces

Computers are getting more powerful, cameras are getting cheaper; so, we can sue computer vision.

Face and neck have lots of muscles, so can specify lots of fine movements. If facial movement can be used to control a computer, more precise control is possible.

In this paper we present a way to control a computer with facial movements. the proposed system recognizes a user wanting to use the computer. it tracks the face, and controls the cursor. We evaluated this system and report results.

2. Related Work
Computer Vision
User interfaces
Vision based interfaces
Nobody has done an interface based on facial movement that is good enough.

3. System description

Overview (need figure)
Face detection (Figure)
Face tracking (equations)
Cursor control (Figure, equations)

4. Evaluation
Experiment design (screenshots etc.)

5. Results
Table of typing speed, clicking speed
Discuss why the error is high for the third set of results.

6. Conclusion
Write after the body finished
Add double clicking as future work

Thank Roberto for lending the ISO standard documents.


This took me less than 10 minutes to write, you won't take much longer than that for any outline. Now, all you have to do is fill parts of this outline. I will get to that in my next post.

Note: I actually wrote a paper on a very similar topic, that is why I selcted this example. You can see it here.

Monday, December 5, 2011

Paper Submission Tips - What to Write About

Suppose you have to submit a paper to a conference, or a journal. There can be many reasons for this:

1. You did something new and it works
2. There is this conference that you want to attend, for whatever reason
3. Your supervisor asked you to submit
4. You need publications for graduation, progress review, qualifier, etc.
5. Any other reason

The ideal situation is that the reason is the first. In this case, you can just write what you finished. In case of a conference, you might even write part of what you did so that you can later write a longer article to a journal.

If you want to write because of one or more of the other reasons, things are a bit tricky. To write a research paper, you need to know and/or have done the following:

1. Have a problem to solve
2. Read about whether and how others tried to solve that problem
3. Suggested a method to solve that problem
4. Tried to solve the problem using that method
5. Tested whether your method works
6. Obtained results

If you have done all of the above during the past few months and haven't written about it yet, you are all set. You can start writing.

If you have done only 1 and 2, you can still write a survey paper (preferably to a journal). But for this, you should have read at least 100 papers. This option is for your first year in PhD.

If you have done 1, 2, 3, and 4, you can still write a "short paper," "poster paper," or "work in progress paper" as they would call it. Another option is to start writing while you work on the steps 5 and 6. I don't recommend this, though.

So much for today. My next post will tell you how to make an outline of the paper, using the work that you selected.