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How to write a research paper

An Experimental Research Paper [default structure]
  • Title
  • Abstract
  • Introduction
  • [Literature Survey
  • Background
  • Notation + Preliminaries
  • Theory
  • Specification
  • Implementation
  • Evaluation
  • Related work
  • Further work
  • Conclusion
  • Appendices

“defined as the fewest possible words that adequately describe the contents of the paper”

Good title is precise and inviting


“an abstract is a succinct and stand alone description”

Reading the rest of the paper should not be necessary to get the gist

The Abstract should

  • State the principle objectives and scope of the investigation
  • Describe the methodology employed
  • Summarize the results and
  • State the principle conclusions.

“motivates the contribution of the paper, places it in context”

Questions to be addressed in succinct and informal manner:

  • What is the problem?
  • Why is the problem important?
  • What has so far been done on the problem?
  • What is the contribution of the paper on the problem?
  • Is the contribution original? Explain why.
  • Is the contribution non-trivial? Explain.

– ends with a short summary of the rest of the paper.

Good Introduction

“First chance of making first impression”

– writing style – overall quality – analytical skills – confidence in idea

  • More details of motivation and problem statement from general to specific, supported by concrete examples contextualizing the problem
  • Importance of the problem:Significance of the outcome
  • Intellectual challenge, other difficulties
  • An overview of the proposed work:A sketch of main proof, algorithm, key idea
  • Novelty of the approach
Literature Survey

“is a broad and shallow account of the field, which helps to place the contribution of the paper in context”

  • What are the other (rival) approaches?
  • What are the drawbacks of each?
  • How as the battle between different approaches progressed?
  • What are the major outstanding problems? [this is where the aspirant researcher comes in]

describes previous work in more technical detail, as far as needed for a paper understanding of the contribution of the paper


describes the underlying theory of techniques or system – where appropriate uses a mathematical style of definitions


formally specifies techniques that underlie the implementation – states the requirements of the implementation

  • describes only the final state of the implementation
  • identifies the major design decision and gives their reasons
  • describes the overall structure of the system and key algorithm in abstract form
  • illustrates the main algorithms with simple but meaningful examples

gathers evidence to support or refute the research question – compare on dimensions typically of Behaviour, Coverage, Efficiency, Dependability, Maintainability, Security, Usability – experimental results are often best presented graphically


“Represents the moral of the story” Not a summary – different from abstract and introduction

The importance of the conclusions is indicated by the fact that they should be said thrice: in abstract introduction and in the discussion

  • “is the last chance to highlight importance”
  • “a high level description of the significance of ideas, what they could further lead to”
  • “analysis of strength and limitations”
  • “what the readers have to remember after they have forgotten the details
Presenting evolution of ideasRight choice of Content
PerspectivesMotivation, Background, Challenge
Problem DefinitionWhy is this an important problem?
Key IdeasBasics of the hope of a solution, Approach of the solution
Key ContributionsResearcher’s claim to fame
Development of the key issuesThe researcher has succeeded if readers reach here
ConclusionsHonest analysis of work done. The moral of the story
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