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.

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