Dr. Guido David hosted his annual research paper writing seminar yesterday. I was supposed to attend last year but I was uninformed of the schedule for some reason. Fortunately I was able to create my thesis paper simply by observing the format of several thesis papers of graduates and with some guidance from him. Being a professor who produces scientific papers for a living, he insists that years of experience merits him enough credibility to give a lecture on it, haha. Anyway, for the benefit of students who weren’t able to attend the seminar, and for those who want to have a general idea of the research paper writing process, here are the main points of his talk (made 1000% more fun with some writing humor and my go-to gallery of academic woes, PhD Comics).
RESEARCH PAPER FORMATS
- Research proposal
- Journal publication
- Conference proceedings
- In full detail: in-depth literature review, definitions & description of all formulas, even basic ones used in the study
- Around 40-100 pages, self-contained (built with necessary background, so that even lay-academics can grasp it)
- Proposal for research funding
- Includes only the most important parts (problem statement, objectives, clearly-outlined methodology, significance, etc)
- The investigator must prove that he/she knows how to approach the problem and has a clear plan (i.e., the research grant will not be wasted). Preliminary results are helpful.
- Contains brief related literature review (what has already been done about the problem/using the method) -> put everything very related or similar to your work
- Required for masters and dissertation
(Scientific) Research Paper
- New results. Publication-worthy. Content/findings must be strong enough
- Concisely written. Well-known results/technologies/models should not be explained. Even derivations may skip details.
- Usually 5-10 pages, sometimes more (for full research paper)
- Same parts as research paper
- Not as strong/in-depth. Meant for laypersons in the field
TYPICAL RESEARCH PAPER LAYOUT
- Results & Discussion
- Concise, describes research well enough, distinguishes it from other studies/papers on the same topic
- Title is specific enough (which model is used, the exact problem being solved)
- The searchable part/quick description of the paper, 200-300 word limit
- Brief introduction of concepts (1-2 sentences)
- Short overview of methodology
- Summary of major results
- If topic is obscure/not well known, terms must be defined
- Defines the problem, significance of the study, scope & delimitation
- Background of the study: brief review of relevant literature to highlight the distinguishing features of the present study. usually just 1-2 paragraphs on relevant lit.
- Necessary terminology is defined
- Significance: from a scientific standpoint (you’re contributing new knowledge), not necessarily in terms of societal contribution
- Scope: limitations of the paper, restrictions of the models, assumptions
- Theoretical framework: methods/theorems that are fairly well known (but not well known enough to be excluded)
- Defines steps/approach to solving the problem
- Most applicable to empirical/experimental studies
- May use equations/theorems that lead to your main problem
Results and Discussion
- Include most important results
- Graphs, plots, figures, tables are the preferred way of presenting multiple data
- Highlight findings that are new or surprising. Discuss in sufficient detail.
- If thesis: you can put as much non-redundant results as possible
- Captions: under figure, above table
- Repeat most important parts of the study. Include significant findings, pioneering techniques or methods
- Highlight limitations & future work (extensions)
- Avoid Wikipedia & other online references not based on publications (no accountability or authorship, could’ve been edited by anyone)
- References should be in the prescribed format (APA, MLA, etc.)
- Refer to books and articles from research journals. Unpublished research articles/personal communication may be included too if based on a relatively new topic
- Condensed thesis as guide for the examiner, with preliminary results (deadline usually on defense week)
- Intro usually not in past tense. Result is never in future tense.
THESIS WRITING TIPS
Before anything else, here’s a useful infographic I found about plagiarism. Pretty scary. D:
- Never copy-paste. Quoted phrases that are cited are acceptable but usually not used in scientific papers
- Paraphrasing other papers without citation is considered plagiarism
- Do not plagiarize even your own work (self-plagiarism)
- Safest way to go is to always cite sources
- Tip: read something, put it down, write from memory and own understanding (your writing will formulate itself!)
- Don’t start with introduction. It will give you writer’s block.
- Start w/ methodology (try to connect the equations and theorems used ) & results (numerical results, plots, derivations, etc) first.
- Write in a very factual and formal way.
- A boring way of writing is okay. It’s not a crime, lol
- Keep tense consistent.
- Scientific papers: usually all in past.
- Thesis: intro & method in present, results & conclusion in past (his general approach)
- Intro & methodology could be in future
- After methodology & results, write the intro. Since there are already results, you should have a better idea on which objectives & significance you want to emphasize in the study.
- Define relevant terms that aren’t general knowledge in the field
- Review of related literature should be short. Stick to the most relevant references.
- Write the conclusion. highlight important results. by describing the limitations, you already propose how the study can be extended.
- Write the abstract last. Compress entire paper in one paragraph, should be readable from layman’s perspective
- Doesn’t necessarily present results, just mention that the paper was successful was successful in obtaining results.
- No citations & related lit. No equations.
- Spell-check it, have it proofread
- Note: not explaining well/writing well could be grounds for rejection of paper
- Write formally. No shortcuts (&, etc) and abbreviations/acronyms should be defined
- Numbers 1 to 10 must be written in words, unless numerical value is being highlighted
- Concise but clear and factual. remove unnecessary lines, words, or redundancies.
- Avoid vague words that serve no purpose (e.g.: The process was quite fast. The thing that was most relevant…)
FOR JOURNAL SUBMISSIONS
Choosing a journal for publication
- If high quality work, try high quality journals (known in the field)
- Index of journals: Scopus, Thomson Reuters, etc
- Local: Matimyas, Phil. Journal of Sciences(?), Phil. Computing Journal(?), etc
- Multidisciplinary work: choose where the work will be more appreciated (e.g.: for math finance work, submit to applied math journals)
- Try the journals where the papers you referred to were published
Condensing Thesis to Journal format
- Include very main result. Choose representative values for multiple similar data
- Ask adviser to help you remove inessential stuff (most likely what I’m going to do, haha)
- Paraphrase your own writing!
- 20-40 is a good number for research papers. (thesis papers usually around 10)
- Shows that the author did their homework and are very familiar with the topic
I’ll work on transforming my own thesis into a journal submission soon. I hope I’m ready! XD