Writing Scientific Papers. Antoni Martínez Ballesté - PDF

Writing Scientific Papers Antoni Martínez Ballesté Introduction... 4 Goals Scientific texts The scientific paper Other scientific texts Writing a scientific paper... 11

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Writing Scientific Papers Antoni Martínez Ballesté Introduction... 4 Goals Scientific texts The scientific paper Other scientific texts Writing a scientific paper Title Authors Abstract Introduction Background and related work Describing your work Presenting results Discussion and conclusions Bibliography Acknowledgements Appendices Style of writing General considerations Language and numbers Summary Activities Bibliography Glossary 3 Introduction During centuries, the advances of scientific research were out of reach for almost everybody. From the first civilisations to some centuries ago, the vast majority of people were more interested in surviving or in earning some nourishment to feed their families. The ancient Christian Church almost monopolised every field of knowledge. Sorcery was the keeper of the secrets of Medicine and scientists, inventors and philosophers discussed their advances with rhetorical speaks in front of their disciples. That was in case of being lucky: a plethora of inventions were buried with their discoverers. It was not until the XVII century that scientific knowledge started to be the basis of higher education. Naturally, only a few were able to attend lectures from renowned scientists and inventors. In that sense, scientific societies started to write down lectures and discussions so as to provide colleagues and students from other scientific institutions with a source of knowledge. Scientific texts were not only used for knowledge diffusion, but also for allowing other scientists to repeat experiments to improve or just assess the described results. At the beginning of scientific publishing, scientists sent their works in a manuscript form. Currently, the use of software to publish scientific writings is mandatory. There are also thousands of institutions which produce thousands of scientific papers, which are selected and published by a large number of scientific journals. Moreover, the Internet is used by publishers and scientists themselves as a repository: scientific papers can be found in publishers websites, or in scientists home pages. This results in a huge quantity of scientific literature being produced day by day, which is as far as two mouse clicks from any scientist in the world. This module is devoted to scientific writing in Engineering disciplines (for example, Computer Engineering, Electronics, etc.). In the first section, we describe the types of scientific papers. The main section of this chapter elaborates on the writing of each part of the scientific paper. The chapter concludes with a section containing some hints on language and style. 4 Goals The goals to be achieved by studying this module are the following: Know the different kinds of scientific texts. Understand the structure of a scientific paper. Elaborate paper titles. Elaborate paper abstracts. Understand the importance, meaning and writing of each paper section. Know some hints on scientific writing. 5 1 Scientific texts There is a large variety of scientific texts: from reporting the results achieved during a long term research project, to briefly discussing on specific results published in a journal. Although different types of scientific texts do have specific length or purpose, they all have a quite similar structure. For instance, almost all scientific texts include a bibliography section, an introduction or are summarised by means of the abstract. Moreover, authors make use of some language conventions when writing scientific texts. Brevity and clarity are the basis of scientific writing style: the goal in writing is to achieve objectivity, which is far from using language artifacts and pomposity. In this section, we briefly introduce the scientific paper and other kinds of scientific texts. 1.1 The scientific paper Research results have to be published as soon as possible. It will clearly allow other researchers to know the newest advances on a topic. In that sense, scientific results are published in form of scientific paper. In general, the goal of a scientific text is to describe processes and results which take place when doing research: the results of a new method to control cancer growing, the results in terms of processing time of an improvement in a greedy algorithm, etc. A scientific paper or article is a scientific text with a well established structure, whose goal is to describe a research advance. As in most of scientific texts, papers must justify the reason for the described research (i.e. why need their authors present a new proposal) and must demonstrate the soundness of the research (in terms of experimental results or analytical proofs). Conferences and scientific journals. Authors may present their works in a conference or may try to publish them in a scientific journal. During the publishing of a paper, the editor of the journal will make a final decision on the paper to publish; in a conference, the programme committee chair makes the same function. Finally, the publisher will typeset the accepted papers and print the journal. Regarding conferences, the papers are usually published in a book of proceedings. We will elaborate on these topics in Module X. Scientific papers follow a conventional structure: An abstract to briefly summarise the whole paper. An introduction to the problem to be tackled (pointing out what will be done and what will be achieved) A background including a review of existing proposals. A section explaining the new proposal. A section assessing the method and/or comparing the new proposal with existing ones. All the goals said to be achieved must be assessed. A section concluding the paper (summarizing what has been done and what has been achieved). 6 A bibliography section. There may be some other parts in a paper (for example, an acknowledgements section). Later in this module we will describe the structure and the writing of a paper. Figures 1 and 2 show a 4-pages example paper with its different sections. The example paper is structured as follows: The mandatory title, authors and abstract. A section introducing the topic and technology the paper elaborates on (Section 1). A section with background information on previous work in location privacy (Section 2). A section where the new proposal is described (Section 3). A section discussing on the validity on the new proposal is presented (Section 4). A section concluding and pointing out new research lines (Section 5). Some acknowledgements and the bibliography section (Acknowledgements section and References section, both unnumbered). Title, the authors and their affiliation Abstract Section 1: Introduction Section 2: Background section. It includes a picture to graphically classify the proposals described. Section 3: Methods section The reference of the example paper P. A. Pérez-Martínez, A. Solanas and A. Martínez- Ballesté Location Privacy Through Users Collaboration: A Distributed Pseudonymizer. Third International Conference on Mobile Ubiquitous Computing, Systems, Services and Technologies - UBICOMM 2009, pages Sliema, Malta. Oct It can be obtained from OMM Figure 1. Structure of the example paper. 7 Section 5: Conclusion, and future research lines. Section 3: A picture and some tables complement the information. Section 4: Discussion on the results Some acknowledgements to the funding institutions. The bibliography section Figure 2. Structure of the example paper. The first thing an author should have in mind when writing a paper is the motivation of the paper itself. Hence, authors should ask the next questions before starting to write, since they implicitly describe the meaning of the scientific paper: Why do we write the paper? Have we come up with a new idea? Have we improved any existing proposal? How shall we explain our work? Can we prove we are right? Has anybody published the same idea before? If so, can our approach improve the published one? In the next lines, we discuss on the previous questions. If you have a new idea (for instance, using data perturbation for location anonymity) you should search for similar existing proposals. In that sense, you should take a look at the scientific literature to know if anybody has already published the same idea. You can use search engines (or even scientific literature search engines) to look for similar proposals. You could start writing something like location anonymity, and you will presumably receive a list of scientific contributions dealing with location anonymity. You have to collect any reference concerning the same topic of your proposal: when writing a paper you have to show that, as far as you know, no one has come up with the same idea before. Google Scholar The Google s search engine for academic publishing can be a good starting point to find out if someone already had the same idea than you. If no one has come up with the same idea, you can write your method and do some experiments or formal proofs to assess its validity. If there are some existing proposals on your topic, read them carefully: maybe your approach is better than all the existing ones! Describing your approach and trying to assess its validity is a tricky part. On the one hand, you may not have plenty of time to implement a prototype for your idea or processing thousands of output data. On the other, your proposal can present some flaws 8 which cannot be seen at a first glance. Hence, you can look for a co-author among the personnel in your research group. If you discuss your proposal with a colleague, it will be free of flaws or even will improve considerably. Moreover, if this colleague helps you with the implementation or the analysis of results, the work will be done in a half of the time. Note that there may be someone else writing the same idea on a scientific paper. Consequently, time is crucial. During the rest of this module, we elaborate on writing scientific papers. However, we must pay attention to other kind of scientific texts. 1.2 Other scientific texts There are some other kinds of scientific texts. They all have a quite similar structure. However, according to the length, there are long scientific texts (such as books or thesis, that will be divided into chapters and/or parts), and short scientific texts (such as papers). Report. It is usually longer than a research paper and may contain preliminary work. Hence, a report may be used for reference in a research group or community of researchers, but not considered for publication in form of scientific paper. However, if the content of the report is to be published as paper, some parts may be suppressed in order to accommodate a specific length. Research projects involve the writing of long research reports in order to describe the results achieved within the research project. If reports are long, they are usually divided into chapters. Information Processing Letters To illustrate what is a letter, we refer to the aim of the Information Processing Letters Journal The aim of Information Processing Letters is to allow rapid dissemination of interesting results in the field of information processing in the form of short, concise papers. Survey paper. It reviews and compares the work of other scientists in order to come up with future trends in their research fields. Hence, they do not include real new proposals, but objectively compare previous ones. When there are several proposals on a topic, it may be interesting to compare them. The contribution sections of a survey paper deal with the deep analysis of the literature surveyed. The results section must provide the reader with an accurate comparison between the studied proposals. Position paper. These papers are shorter than survey papers. The existing proposals are just briefly reviewed (without a methodic comparison between them) and authors point out the research lines on the topic that scientists should follow. Letter. It is a very short paper, usually written to communicate a proposal that does not need the extension of a paper. Moreover, letters may review other papers which are already published. Scientific book. It consists of a set of chapters elaborating on a specific research field. A researcher expert in a field asks for contributions to other colleagues which are researching on the same field. The researcher acts as editor of the book and selects which contributions will appear in it. The final 9 result is a compilation of the recent advances in the research field, and can be of utility to researchers willing to have a general picture of the topic the book focuses on. Another typical book in scientific writing is the book of proceedings of a conference: it is composed by all the papers presented in a conference. If only the abstracts of the contributions are to be published rather than the whole papers, the book is then a book of abstracts. Ph.D. thesis. A thesis or dissertation is a usually large and deeply-elaborated text which is mandatory for obtaining a M.Sc. or Ph.D. degree. It synthesises the work that the candidate for the degree has been developing. A M.Sc. thesis elaborates on a very specific topic and will presumably involve the work of several months. On the contrary, the thesis for obtaining the Ph.D. is the result of a long term research (usually several years). The structures of both theses are similar to that of scientific papers. It includes an introduction, a review of the relevant literature on the field, a set of chapters describing the research done (since the Ph.D. involves more research than an M.Sc., the author is expected to write several chapters), a summary of results, conclusions and a bibliography. M.Sc. and Ph.D. M.Sc. stands for Master of Science and is the first academic degree a postgraduate can earn. Ph.D. stands for Philosophiae Doctor and is the highest academic degree one can earn. The hints and techniques explained during the rest of the module are not only valid for scientific papers but also for any kind of scientific text. 10 2 Writing a scientific paper In this section we describe the parts of a scientific paper. We elaborate on their writing, and give several examples. The structure of a scientific paper, which includes the parts introduced in section 1.1, follows the IMRAD convention, where: I stands for Introduction (Section 1 and 2 of the example paper). M stands for Methods (Sections 3 of the example paper). R stands for Results (Sections 4 and 5 of the example paper). And D, that stands for Discussion (Sections 4 and 5 of the example paper). The final number of sections and their titles are not mandatory (except for some specific publishers) and hence the IMRAD structure does not exactly fit the structure of the example paper. However, the basic idea of the IMRAD structure is that a paper must be structured as any other story: opening, development and conclusion. In this section, we elaborate on describing the parts of the scientific paper. 2.1 Title The title identifies the paper. Hence, it must be complete and original enough to avoid new papers having the same title as existing literature. Moreover, your title should provide as much relevant information as possible. For instance The literature The word literature is often used for generally describing the set of all scientific papers. Privacy Preserving Techniques is likely to be a bad title for a paper, since it does not give many details. With this title, one will expect a paper about all the methods for privacy preservation. On the contrary, the title Privacy Preserving Techniques in Statistical Databases gives the reader more information. However, do authors present a new technique for privacy preservation in statistical databases? Or is it just a survey of existing methods? Next, we show the two options: Comparison of Privacy Preserving Techniques in Statistical Databases A New Method for Privacy Preservation in Statistical Databases 11 The latter is likely to deal with a new algorithm for privacy preservation but, what happens if there already exist tenths of different proposals that achieve the same privacypreserving goal? Authors should specify in the title why their approach is important. In other words, the title must summarise your proposal. For instance, the title A New Method for Privacy Preservation in Statistical Databases Based on Improving Microaggregation tells the readers that the proposal improves microaggregation. However, if authors present their work in a conference about privacy in statistical databases whose attendants are really experts and are aware of all the microaggregation techniques, the next title seems more suitable for the paper: An MDAV Based Approach for Near-Optimal Microaggregation in Numerical Databases Now, we can examine the title of the example paper: Location Privacy Through Users Collaboration: A Distributed Pseudonymizer MDAV Certainly, MDAV is a microaggregation technique: Maximum Distance to Average Vector. Hence, is there any problem with using abbreviations in the title? If the abbreviations are wellknown to your audience, there should be no problem. It gives us the following information: It is a novel approach whose goal is location privacy. It is achieved by means of the collaboration of the users. The protocol presented acts as a pseudonymiser and it is a distributed architecture. Finally, regarding the example title, it is often interesting to use compound titles. A simple title would perhaps result less commercial : A Distributed Anonymizer for Location Privacy Through Users Collaboration 2.2 Authors You have an idea and you write a paper, hence you are an author. However, if you ask other colleagues for help, which is the frontier that defines who has earned appearing as coauthor? First, we can think of a list of tasks involved in writing a paper: Having the main idea. This is important, since without idea there is no paper. Doing some experiments. In disciplines such computer science, this will involve some programming. 12 Doing an exhaustive search of the literature in order to find proposals similar to yours and summarise them. Writing the paper. This is a difficult skill, especially for those researchers not having English as their mother tongue. Writing the paper also involves drawing pictures, typesetting some tables, etc. Reviewing the paper. It is usual that you request a reading to your colleagues: this is useful not only for finding writing mistakes, but also to assess that our idea is perfectly transmitted with the reading of the paper. Certainly, all these tasks can be carried out by a single researcher. However, research tasks are usually a group work (at least, a work between Ph.D. students and their advisors!) Moreover, when you explain your idea to other members in the research group, some colleagues may come up with fresh ideas and improvements. As a result, the final number of authors depends on several facts. On the one hand, in some disciplines, all the researchers working under a research project collaborate in doing an experiment and, thus, they all generally become authors of the papers. However, it is possible that the importance that a paper has in your curriculum depends on the number of authors: in that sense, you may not be interested in sharing authorship with all the colleagues of your research group! Hence, deciding authorship is always tricky. A usual tradeoff consists of becoming author if and only if you have worked hard in the paper (that is, have got the idea and written it down or have developed the experiments) and the colleagues who may have reviewed the paper may appear in an acknowledgements section. Acknowledgements We elaborate on this section below. If deciding who becomes an author is not straightforward, deciding the order of the authors is not either an easy task. Hence, the alphabetical order is commonly used when all authors have contributed in a similar way. The name of each author should be accompanied by his or her affiliat
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