Home > Academic, Tips > Formula to Write a Paper

Formula to Write a Paper

September 9th, 2007 Leave a comment Go to comments

I want to share the lessons I learned recently when writing a paper. These were some revelations that helped me get over the procrastination hump and really set me on the writing fast-track.

  1. Start with a thesis
  2. Do all the experiments next
  3. Recursive outlining
  4. Finish it up

Read on for an explanation of each of these steps:

Start with a thesis

Before you do anything else, write a short, to the point thesis topic. It should be one or two sentences and the entire paper should be written to prove that thesis. I stuck mine to the wall above my desk to help keep me focused. They tell you to do this in grade school, and when you’re all grown up, the same rule applies. This will forever-on be the first thing I do when I sit down to write a paper.

Do all the experiments next

All of your experiments should be designed to support your thesis, and completed before you do anything else (so that you know your thesis is right). If your thesis turns out not to be right, then you have to go back to the beginning and pick a new thesis!

When I say experiments, here I mean the work that you’re writing about. In my case ‘experiments’ are figures showing the results of my computer vision algorithms. For someone else it may be analysis of a client’s financial data or a computer simulations of particle movement through a turbulent fluid field.

In any case, doing these with the thesis in mind, and before writing ensures that the experiments are relevant, and help to prove the thesis.

Recursive Outlining

In recursive outlining I start with an outline of sections: Introduction, Background, Novel Algorithm, Results, Conclusion. This takes no time because its the same for almost every paper. Next, go though and add sub-sections, then sub-sub sections.

At this point, most typical ‘outlining’ stops. However, keep going. Add sentence ideas to each sub-sub section, and start making rough guesses about where graphics will go. Add key words to those sentences ideas. All the time, keep the thesis in mind.

Now your paper has all of the ideas you want to present in a very rough form. Inevitably some sections will be sketchier than others, but now the process of refining the text can become very compartmentalized without sacrificing overall idea of the paper.

Finishing it up

What the process until now has done is to take apart the paper into these little tasks. The final steps are to turn your sketch for each sub-sub section into an concise, eloquent-sounding, finished piece of writing. Once you have done this for all the sections, give it a final read-over and its done.

Keep in mind that some of these steps may take days, but by following this process you always know what your next action is, and you don’t have to waste a lot of time doing pointless things or re-doing things that were directed towards the wrong point.

It’s true that I have precious little paper-writing experience, but these revelations have helped my writing considerably. I plan to post updates to this as my experience grows and my method evolves. If you have any good tips along these lines, please share them in the comments!

Categories: Academic, Tips Tags: ,
  1. andrew corrigan
    September 10th, 2007 at 13:11 | #1

    I need to remember this.. I often forget the first one and lose focus.

  2. December 13th, 2009 at 22:39 | #2

    For me, a Chinese, the biggest problem is the writing. I must always search the standard english for my Chinese-English.

  3. Xin
    June 9th, 2010 at 11:08 | #3

    There are many useful materials in your website, It’s really useful.
    Thanks for your sharing.

    XinHK

  4. August 24th, 2013 at 20:37 | #4

    I’m really impressed along with your writing skills as smartly as with the format in your blog. Is this a paid subject or did you customize it yourself? Either way stay up the nice high quality writing, it is uncommon to look a nice weblog like this one today..

  5. April 30th, 2014 at 17:02 | #5

    Today, while I was at work, my sister stole my iPad and tested to see if it
    can survive a 30 foot drop, just so she can be a youtube sensation.
    My apple ipad is now destroyed and she has 83 views. I know this is completely
    off topic but I had to share it with someone!

  6. April 30th, 2014 at 23:31 | #6

    I do believe all the ideas you’ve introduced on your
    post. They are really convincing and will certainly work.
    Still, the posts are too brief for novices. May you please prolong them a little
    from subsequent time? Thanks for the post.

  1. July 26th, 2014 at 09:19 | #1
  2. July 28th, 2014 at 15:45 | #2