How to write a great research paper
By Simon Peyton Jones
This talk offers seven simple, concrete suggestions for how to improve your research papers. You may also find my talks on how to write a great research proposal and how to give a great research talk useful.
- Powerpoint slides of the talk: PDF PPT (you should feel free to repurpose these slides for your own use as long as you acknowledge ownership)
- Another video of the talk (shorter: 34 mins), Cambridge Computer Lab, Spring 2013, with thanks to Neil Dodgson for the editing and production.
- Slides translated into Arabic (Suzan Alkhodair) and Japanese (KADO Masanori)
- I have also collected a set of links to other useful material about technical writing, on the Other Resources tab
Writing Technical Articles by Prof. Henning Schulzrinne
Derek Dreyer’s excellent PLMW’16 talk
Teach Technical Writing in Two Hours per Week
Many students at American universities have trouble with technical writing. To help students over this trouble, we often use inefficient methods. These methods, like other aspects of graduate education, sometimes remind me of medieval apprenticeships. For example, I have known smart, capable teachers who were reduced to “teaching a student to write” by taking that student’s first paper and rewriting it from start to finish. This booklet describes better methods.
Instead of spending most of my “student time” working on writing—teaching the same material to seniors, graduate students, and postdocs—I now teach writing in a weekly group. The group uses my time more effectively, and it shows students that they are not alone in their difficulties. The problems they have are problems that everyone has, and they see these problems even in published papers. But we do not emphasize problems; instead we emphasize useful principles and practices that students can learn to apply to their own manuscripts.
- I emphasize principles that can be applied successfully by a beginning writer. Especially for students in science and engineering, a principle is easily applicable when there is a simple, experimental way to decide if the written words obey the principle. (For example, I do not try to teach “omit needless words,” because I know of no simple way to decide if a word is needless.) In this approach, I have been greatly influenced by Joseph Williams.
- I emphasize practices that have been shown, again by experiment, to lead to productive writing. For example, I explain the difference between “binge writing” and “brief, daily sessions.” In this approach, I have been greatly influenced by Robert Boice.
What both approaches have in common is that even a beginning student can apply a simple test to see whether he or she is applying a given principle or following a given practice. This focus on testable ideas seems to work especially well for engineering students.
If this kind of approach appeals to you, you can explore materials that I have prepared for both instructors and students.
Open online courses (MOOC) on academic writing
The MOOCs in academic writing are intended to be a resource for students and teachers at Lund University, but are open to everyone. See below for more information about each course.
Access to all the course material is obtained by enrolling in the course on the Coursera platform. To create an account all you need is an e-mail adress. The courses have flexible enrolment, so sign up today!
About the Writing in English at University course
The MOOC Writing in English at University is a resource for university students who are currently involved in writing assignments or degree projects as well as for students who wish to learn about academic writing in order to prepare for future writing tasks at university. Although the course provides guidance to all student writers, it targets specifically those who are writing in second language learner contexts and whose native language is not English.
As well as helping learners to put together their own “toolbox” of academic writing skills, Writing in English at University will give participants a chance to test out some of these tools, and to reflect on their own development as writers. With flexible enrolment, learners can spend as much time as they need on a module or they can speed up the pace of their studies, depending on what suits them and their particular learning styles.
The course is divided into four modules:
1. Writing in English at university: An introduction
2. Structuring your text and conveying your argument
3. Using sources in academic writing
4. The writer’s toolbox: Editing and proofreading
Satu Manninen, Ellen Turner, Cecilia Wadsö Lecaros, Nicolette Karst, Fredrik Vanek