Reports and Papers

How to write papers?



It is important before committing to a revolution to educate ourselves. That makes the literature review section in your papers very important. Next, you should know, before committing to writing your paper, what your message is. That is why you need to prepare. The forms below are meant to help you in that process through critically questioning your work and your message.

Master project check-list.

Before you start writing, make sure you have an idea what you are going to do!


Writing procedure

Think well what you want to say. Identify about three main messages around which you want to focus your paper. Then, writing the paper should be done in three major steps:

1. Propose a title, abstract, conclusions, chapters and sub-chapters. The goal of this step is to fix the general flow of the story. Write one or two sentences about the contents that you want to put in each chapter, what their purpose is and what their mutual links are. Keep focused! Always question how each unit that you put contributes to the three main messages of your paper.

2. Add all figures, tables, and formulas that you want to use. If a figure is not ready, put a placeholder. Now your should become clear only by looking at the figures. Make sure that at page one you have a signature figure. Write the Introduction chapter, which will be usually the first chapter. The introduction chapter should provide the application context, optionally a review of literature, explicit problem definition (and research question), and research approach (the approach that you follow in the paper in order to answer your research question).

3. Add all the text and complete your paper. So far, the structure of the paper is supported by the chapters and the figures. The text comes in-between to facilitate the reader in understanding. Use present simple tense and active voice. Avoid passive voice, past tense and future tense. Note that facts are valid always and hence are written in present tense. Avoid too long and complicated sentence, which you can usually identify by the presence of three or more verbs.

Abstract and conclusion

You may write the abstract and conclusions in the beginning of the writing procedure. Writing a paper is different, then reading a paper. The writer should know a-priori what to say, while he reader knows the messages only a-posteori. However, first think about what an abstract and what a conclusion is.

The abstract is all your work put in a paragraph. Put in the abstract what this paper is about, what you do in your work and what your key results are. Give a reason to the readers why they should read your paper. What are your main novelties? What are your main contributions?

The conclusion is all important lessons that can be learnt from your paper. What do you want the reader to remember? What are your key results and where they will head us to?

Figures, tables, formulas

Then, add the key figures, tables and formulas that you want to use. But write no text!!! At this stage the text would only blur the logical flow of the paper. So, no text - add only the data, e.g. figures, tables and formulas together with their captions. Now, you will have a title, a structure (the chapters) and the illustrative arguments (figures, tables and formulas). The paper is already taking a form. An expert in the field should be able now to infer what your message is.

Body text

Finally, you can write down the text. You have the structure of the paper, you have the key illustrative material and you have the abstract and the conclusions - you are ready to write your story about these. Try using short sentences in present simple tense. Avoid past and future. Once the paper is written it loses the dimension of time. Prefer short clear sentences, e.g. using only one or two verbs, but maximum three verbs in a sentence! If you reread a sentence and you realize that removing parts of it still communicates the intended message, then remove these parts. Facilitate the reader by providing an easily digestible text. Try using active voice, i.e. in a sentence it should be clear who the actor is. Avoid passive voice.

Conclusions vs summary

Conclusions are the lessons learned. Summary is a recap of the work done. Both should be very concise and students should avoid mixing these up.

When you write conclusions, think about the three-four main messages that you want the reader to remember from your paper. For example, the first one can be associated with the problem definition and the other two with the solutions that you propose. To keep focus, at least one of the conclusions should be quantitative, e.g. performance numbers, comparison data, figure-of-merit relations to others. Write the conclusions in present simple tense.

When you write a summary, think about the main things that you do in your paper. Think about what the differences should be between your abstract and your summary. Emphasize the links between the different parts of your work.

Abstract vs executive summary

The abstract is your paper in a single paragraph. The executive summary is a very short version of the results from your work.

What to put in the paper body and what in the appendix of the paper

Sometimes parts of the work do not directly contribute to the main messages of the works but nevertheless contain useful detailed information that my help reproducing the results of the work. Then, these parts belong to an appendix. The main body of the paper should contain only the information that is essential to understanding the paper. The appendix may contain information that is needed for reproducing the results of the paper.

Literature review and comparison against the state-of-the-art

In order the reader to be able to appreciate your work, you need to provide the reference for a judgement. A useful reference is the comparison against the others, i.e. the state-of-the-art. Such a comparison is also useful for the purposes of the literature review in your paper. However, it is not straightforward sometimes. If this is the case, you need to think out a way to provide a reference for judgement the level of your work.

Criteria for evaluation

Qualitative grading scale for the assessment of a paper
Qualitative grading scale for the assessment of a paper