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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: [email protected] URL: http://www.cs.ust.hk/~luhj. Assessing the Quality of 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

Email:[email protected]


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), …

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