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On Writing High Quality Technical Papers. VLDB Database School ( China ) Suzhou University, October 3, 2002 Lu Hongjun Hong Kong University of Science & Technology Email: luhj@cs.ust.hk URL: http://www.cs.ust.hk/~luhj. Assessing the Quality of Papers.

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On Writing High Quality Technical Papers

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On writing high quality technical papers

On Writing High Quality Technical Papers

VLDB Database School (China)

Suzhou University, October 3, 2002

Lu Hongjun

Hong Kong University of Science & Technology



Assessing the quality of papers

Assessing the Quality of Papers

  • The most common measure today is its suitability for publication in the best journals or conferences in its area.

  • The top conferences


  • Regional database conference

    • EDBT (Europe, even years), DASFAA

  • For specific areas


  • National database conferences

    • ADC (Australia), COMAD (India), …

Acceptance rate of vldb

Acceptance Rate of VLDB

Acceptance rate of icde

Acceptance Rate of ICDE

Acceptance rate of sigmod

Acceptance Rate of SIGMOD

Acceptance rate of cikm

Acceptance Rate of CIKM

Difficulties in writing high quality papers

Difficulties in Writing High Quality Papers

  • High quality papers come from high quality research work. However, writing style matters a lot also.

    • The intense competition in computer science, especially in DB related areas, has set high­quality standards that we must follow

      • The acceptance rate for good conferences < 20%

  • Junior researchers and Ph. D. students with high-quality work may fail to produce high-quality papers

    • poor English skills

    • lack of proper training

    • lack of method.

Possible solutions

Possible Solutions

  • A quick and easy solution

    • produce a first draft, find a researcher with good writing skills to improve or entirely rewrite the paper

    • can produce an excellent paper that you may not recognize

    • you will not learn how to produce the paper yourself

  • Find a good advisor

  • Learn to write yourself

    • Practice makes it perfect

The life cycle

The Life Cycle

  • Starting

    • Make sure you have a real, significant contribution before going to the next step.

  • Planning.

    • Produce a detailed outline of the entire paper as a good basis for discussion and improvement before writing.

  • Writing.

    • Starting with the abstract and introduction to fix the motivation and structure of the paper

    • Writing the other sections

    • Finishing with the conclusion

    • Building the bibliography in parallel with writing.

The life cycle cont d

The Life Cycle (Cont’d)

  • Checking

    • Use standard tools (speller, dictionaries, cross­referencing checker, etc.) to correct all mistakes. Failing to do this will be interpreted as unprofessional

  • Rewriting

    • Circulate the paper internally to get rapid feed­back. Then revise and rewrite according to suggestions

  • Submitting the paper

    • Choose the right place to submit

  • Receiving the review reports

    • To have a party

Choosing a right topic

Choosing A Right Topic

  • High quality papers come from high quality research work. The most important thing is to choose a right research topic

  • As a student,

    • There are research issues in implementation

    • Quite a lot of good papers are generated from system implementation

  • Define your scope appropriately

    • Decompose a topic into phases

Design your paper

Design Your Paper

  • Design a scheme for the paper that best conveys the idea

  • Planning the main elements of the content (formalism, algorithms, examples, etc.) for overall consistency

  • Appropriate formalism

    • at the suitable level of abstraction to avoid being too close to your environment or prototype implementation

    • algorithms must be described in a suitable way,

    • with pseudo­code or graphics, depending on their complexity

      • avoid low­level languages or over­detailed graphics unless absolutely necessary.

    • Planning a common example to be used consistently throughout the paper

Writing with good style

Writing with Good Style

  • Brevity

    • avoiding unnecessary words and ideas more precise.

  • Precise

    • Contents: defining all concepts and terms of interest the first time they appear and referring to them with the same word

    • Citations and claims: do not over-stating the contributions

  • simple

    • American people prefer simple sentences: avoid complex sentences by breaking them into simpler, connected ones

    • People do not like complex formalisms unless absolutely necessary, especially DB people: Do not make simple concept difficult to understand

Paper organization

Paper Organization


  • summarize the paper, and clearly stating the context, the contribution, and the main results of the paper

  • Introduction

  • Contents

  • …………..

  • Conclusions

    • summarize the paper contribution and emphasize the main result

    • can also address application of the result and open issues

    • give future research directions



  • Introduction


    • Convince the reader that the paper is worth reading,

      • Identify the selling points

      • A good paper should addresses an important problem

      • A good paper should provides an exciting, solid solution

    • It is usually structured as:

      • context of the paper,

      • precise problem definition,

      • limitations of existing solutions (if any),

      • goal of the paper,

      • key ideas

      • a short outline



    • The content provides the substance of the paper

      • develop the key idea and results

      • Organize them in a good ay so that the reader is convinced of its significance and validity.

    • The key idea must be clearly stated and identified

      • Trying to convey too many ideas, even related, may obscure the main idea and confuse the reader.

      • Fixing a size limit for the paper, e.g., 20 double­space pages, is a good way to encourage focus

    • Ease the task of the reader (understanding the contribution) with good organization, brevity and illustration.

      • Plan appropriate number of sections, subsections and paragraphs.

      • They must be self­contained and consistent, i.e., avoid forward and backward references that make reading unpleasant.

    Algorithm descriptions

    Algorithm Descriptions

    • Algorithm description is not your C++/Java program

    • Algorithm description should neither be too simple, (2-3 lines), nor too complex (50 lines)

      • Decompose complex algorithm in a number of functions

      • No need to give the details for simple, well-known functions

      • Explain algorithms in English words

    • State clearly data structures used in your algorithm

    • Using diagrams and examples to help readers to understand your algorithm

    Demonstrate the result

    Demonstrate the Result

    • formal paper,

      • theorems with their proofs are necessary.

      • But proofs should be understandable and not too long, 0.5-2 pages

    • system­oriented paper presenting a new technique

      • simulation or implementation results are more convincing than analytical models.

      • Performance study/Experiments

    Experiment design result presentation

    Experiment Design & Result Presentation

    • Experiment design is critical part of research

      • Environment: machine, OS, language

      • The objective of your experiment

      • The sets of experiments conducted and parameter setting

    • Result presentation is an art

      • Choose right form: table, chats

      • Ensure good format



    • It is important part. Appropriate citations show that you know exactly what you are doing

      • Cite important papers that addressed the related problem

      • Do not cite unrelated, or remotely related papers

      • Do not cite too many of your own papers

      • Do not cite inaccessible papers

    • Formatting the references carefully

      • Using the standard format, e.g. name abbreviations, conference venues, page numbers

      • Make sure what cited is correct



    • High quality papers come from high quality research

    • Paying attention to your paper writing can help you maximize your research result

    • It is more difficult to teach how to write good papers than to learn how to write good papers

    • Only way to learn is to write more

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