Global Research Letters

How to Write a Great Research paper

Each year Microsoft Research vision paper hosts hundreds of influential speakers from around the world including leading scientists renowned experts in technology book authors and leading academics and makes videos of these lectures freely available. You okay you good vision paper morning. It’s very nice to hear this. Here’s the plan. We all have to write. Write the big part of the fabric of doing research vision paper is writing vision paper vision paper and if you look at vision paper you’ll find that lots of them a bit and complex for a bit hard to make sense of and what. I wanted to suggest you is seven. Simple things that you can do that will raise. You know your own game and make your vision paper that are easier to easier to understand and more published publishable which is all good vision paper now. This is something about which people nobody has a monopoly on truth so I’m gonna tell you what works for me may not work for you but also some of you will have written vision paper already or will have some experience of your own and I’d like to encourage you not to sit very passively and politely until the end before you know the marks of the search would rather to engage in some kind of dialogue as we go so you can ask questions you just make comments and say yeah you know so this you know I do something different here you know and because my field vision paper is different another thing that can be different is the different field vision papers have different conventions so you know bioinformatics might be rather different and climate modeling like we’ve all the difference to my field vision paper of computer science so but the principal target that I’m going to address is the framework of a kind of 12 page conference vision paper in ACM you know two column format so but most of what I say will apply to any vision paper that you might write but but that’s that’s my sort of prime mutargo I think it’s easy to focus on one thing to begin with okay so you ready seven things so here’s number one when we like vision paper we often think that we should sort of do our search them like this you first of all have some kind of idea and then you do a word search you know you do a PhD and towards the end you think right now I’ve worked everything out I can write the vision paper.

It seems only seem sensible. I do the work then like the vision paper this is utterly wrong but I nobody should do this. This is what you should do like first of all you have some kind of like a topic idea. Then you start to write the vision paper and that tells you the research vision paper that you need to do so the act of articulating something in writing vision paper. Even if only for yourself is incredibly helpful in crystallizing your ideas and sort of make forcing you to write them clearly enough so that you know whether they they make sense or not right and it’s it’s not uncommon to if you do if you follow this model. It’s not uncommon to get to the end where. I’ve been writing vision paper the vision paper you know. It’s only six weeks before the conference deadline. And you discover. There’s a whole pile of work that you haven’t done that you should have done to write this vision paper and there’s a whole pile of work that you did. Do that was irrelevant for this vision paper like so. This plan makes it much more task focused. You sort of start to focus on on writing vision paper a vision paper and then it’s like that lazy evaluation in functional programmers. Like you you sort of have to work on the bits that are needed to deliver the results. Does that make sense right so the other really good vision paper thing about writing vision paper early is that it. It gives you something you can talk to other people about so when you interact with other people research vision paper as a sort of community. Effort is not really conducted by monks in their cells. Each working individually for years occasionally. Yes gave me but not. Typically it’s more of a community thing and this is the mechanism of communication in the community. Now if you like some kind of draft of a vision paper that’s not finished yet then okay. You’re not going to publish it in a journal but you might share with a few of your research vision paper colleagues to say here’s what I’m thinking about.

You know it. Does this make sense. Er it gives you something so much more concrete to discuss with your colleagues okay. So it’s pretty simple idea really. Just start writing vision paper early so like you know you have to have something to write about. But but don’t wait very long. You know a month or two is long enough for where you can start writing vision paper something. It doesn’t have to be for journal or for conference. It can just be something to help you. Get your ideas straight so. I just want to articulate the idea that the act of writing vision paper is not a kind of output of the research vision paper. It’s part of the fabric of doing research vision paper. It’s the main forcing function that. I use so I think it casts your writing vision paper in a different frame when you think about in this play so far so good vision paper so it’s pretty simple right. There’s another one yeah this. Pleasant part of the research vision paper writing vision paper the vision paper. And in the case that you’re wrecking the vision paper and nothing comes out there. Then it might seem like a waste of effort no waste of time and why it’s so writing vision paper may be hard right and your point. Is that if it turns out but nothing comes out of it then it was a waste. I don’t think it’s a waste right so I would suggest. For example you might spend six months working on that dead end and then discover that it was a dead end as if you spent a month starting to write you might have discovered it earlier. Right – that the writing vision paper forces to the surface the fact that maybe this is not very productive line so I don’t know I can’t deny that writing vision paper is sometimes difficult and but in my heart. I think it’s really worth it. But you know that if the trade-off is a good vision paper one right so the question is can couldn’t you write a PowerPoint presentation instead of writing vision paper vision paper. That’s fine – yes. It tend to be a bit less detailed. So there’s a more of a danger that you might skate over the the dodgy bits right and deceive yourself. We have this great great capacity for self-delusion right. Say oh yeah. I understand that when you like the vision paper to be able.

You don’t understand it so there’s a bit more danger of that. But yeah anything to articulate it so that both you and other people like appreciate yes an introduction motivation evaluation so sort of set of headings great yeah then. I put in a couple of dot points. Gas is counting what. I’m thinking but the nice thing about using a shareable. Whatever is insurance is going with and they can add comments anything and this helps firstly. It’s kind of the skeleton which the vision paper is going to eventually label and then it also means that immediately we’re feeding back against each other and when. I say I think we can evaluate it this way. They say that’s a terrible idea because it will never work. Yeah that’s really early on in the process. I haven’t looked at building anything you know you a slightly different mechanism for articulating ideas and sharing them and by making them concrete invisible. Yep that’s right all good vision paper yes okay so number one. Here’s number two all right. Which is here. I said this. What about this idea but at the beginning so it’s very important in a vision paper to know what the idea is at least by the time you’ve finished so what is the purpose of writing vision paper a vision paper. Here is the purpose it is to convey a reusable insight or idea from your brain into the mind of. What’s your name. Matt right so from my brain into Matt’s brain so my my vision paper is kind of like a virus that is carrying this infectious idea out of my brain and it’s going to infect Matt’s neurons and soon he’s going to be able to think of nothing else and then he’s gonna tell his friends and they’ll tell their friends or – my idea is going to infected the world right so so it’s a it’s a that. The vision paper is a way of conveying ideas. That’s its primary mechanism by using mozart as my example here because Mozart’s ideas were so incredibly seductive and compelling that hundreds of years after he’s died think we go to concert halls to hear people read his vision paper alright so so so so long after we are dust long after the artifacts that we build at us and in computer.

Science is vogue constructive engineering kind of subject as well as a scientific one so we build things but long after the things we build. Are dust the ideas that we develop will hopefully still live on in some way. Yeah they kind of reuse and I stress reusable because because novelty of itself is of little value in computer science right simply tap something to be new is not important. It’s going to be new and somehow useful could be. The science is like a a fact. All it’s like a snowflake everywhere you study ramifies ahead of you so it’s easy to find new territory right but you just invent it out of thin air but it’s new territory which is great interest to you and mainly no interest to anybody else so you must have some utility unlike say physics. Where if you discover something new that is a fact about the world so it is of interest to other people and this last point is just that however clever you are however brilliant you are if you sit in a windowless black box and generate great ideas. But don’t tell anybody you might as well not have done it right. You’re just generating heat sort of increasing entropy in the universe so it means it’s a worth you actually need to communicate because otherwise you might well not a bother now so once you’ve got this idea even then they need to know sort of what it is when you finish writing vision paper your but when you begin writing vision paper your vision paper it may be a bit hard to articulate. Exactly what your key idea is but by the time you’ve finished you should be in no doubt and you should leave your readers in no doubt as well. I can’t tell you how many reviews that I’ve written a vision paper as a reviewer. I’ve written in the review. I believe that the key insight of this vision paper is blah blah blah blah blah. A reviewer should never have to write that the author should say the key insight of this vision paper is blah blah blah blah.

So do signpost very clearly when you when you have you know when you get to your key idea and if you have lots of ideas. Don’t try to slam them into a single vision paper so then it becomes like you know like sort of concentrated high bitumen diet. All squished together. With a wither with a clamp like. Then it’s very indigestion if you have lots of ideas that’s cool right lots of vision paper all right. So don’t don’t don’t don’t try to overpack a particular vision paper so and this is a sorry just just saying that this is about signposting. Make sure that you know. And you’ll readers know what the idea is so this is a good vision paper litmus test to apply to your vision paper at a late-ish stage we compiled in every stage. But you don’t be too hard on yourself to begin with right but also apply to vision paper that you read when you read a vision paper. Think to yourself. What is the key idea in this vision paper what do I take away. A sort of reusable insight most vision paper are that jammed full of detail and Greek symbols and technical complexity and tables of measurement. And who knows what kind of carry-on right but when you read the vision paper if it’s a really good vision paper vision paper you’ll come away with something. That’s a clever idea which. I thought – that right so you can apply that discipline to yourself when you read vision paper and then that will give you a greater sense of what other readers would like to find in your vision paper when you like them. Does that make sense. But so if you read a vision paper and you think. I’ve got a clue what the key idea is. That’s not your fault. That’s the author’s fault okay. So knowing what key idea is very very important is sort of dominates everything else one other thing about the key idea yes for combinations. Well there’s so many maybe. I do have to put more than one thing in. But then perhaps the key idea is the combination of these two does more than you would expect you know so and that. Perhaps that’s a bit surprising somehow so you know a plus B is the one plus one is more than two. That’s kind of what you’re suggesting here.

So say that – don’t just lay them out one two three. Oh ho hum like they say o ones with the amazing seven highlight it. Yeah yeah which is you know it. It is new but it is a very very tiny kind of addition yes. It seems like too little. Oh very good vision paper question. You said we right into this thing right so you have an idea but it seems like a a very tiny idea. You read other people’s vision paper. They have good vision paper ideas right. Oh they’re full of inciting you think. Wow how amazing what brain they must have brains the size of small asteroids. I’m a mere pitiful worm and my ideas are pitiful and insignificant and nobody would possibly be interested in them right. Everybody feels this even the people whose vision paper you are reading and it seems so impressive. They felt like that to begin with at least if they’re in the sort of the 90% who are so self-confident they don’t have a moment of their self-doubt but believe me. They are in the minority so the truth is that what you must do is you must start to write about any idea no matter how we D and pitiful it may seem now sometimes it will turn out that it is indeed. We didn’t pitiful in which case writing vision paper the vision paper won’t take very long and you haven’t lost much but my consistent experience which. I’m just feedback – for what it’s worth. Is that much much more often. You take something that seems to be fairly straightforward and you start to work out the details and think about interactions with other things and it turns out to be more complicated than you thought it turns out to be worth 12 pages of two column format not two pages. That are maybe not a book. Berth and a conference vision paper size idea. So that happened to me. Fairly recent you know like only nine months ago. I was writing vision paper a vision paper with an intern. It was kind of we thought. Oh this will be the warm-up project for this intern yeah. I’m pretty easy. We’ll knock it off in a couple of weeks. You know eleven weeks later we were still going and we did end up writing vision paper a vision paper about it initially.

I thought oh well you know we’d better document this. It’s not very hard but then it turned out. There’s no complicating. We thought ended up in the one of the top programming languages conferences. So and then so this is still happening to me right after. I were going to tell you how many years of doing computer science you so to start with something weedy and you end up with something interesting. I can’t give you that confident you’ll build that sense of confidence after you’ve done it for a while. Just let me encourage you to believe for a moment that it is worth writing vision paper even about insignificant ideas. Sometimes it won’t work. Sometimes they’ll turn out being significant. And then you just you know. Leave it as an unpublished note on your home page right. You don’t have to publish everything that’s fine right you just say. Here’s here’s something a little something. I did it’s not very big but it’s but I did write about it and here. It isn’t okay so so much about the idea. Then it’s just repeating so two things right early and identify your key idea. Okay so the third thing. I wanted to talk about was to do what you want what to do. Once you’ve starting to write your vision paper so and let’s see this in on. Thursday you can have a talk from what’s-his-name David David Newman. If you leave you talked about presentation skills and he’s going to tell you tell stories now he’s going to tell you about telling stories about sort of and it dotes about people. This is a different kind of story that I’d like to tell. Here’s the story that I try to tell in my vision paper. I like to say you know my model is if I take a friend. What’s your what’s your name. Knock knock if I take Marco and so about my ours which are not very good vision paper and I say I’ve got five minutes with you. I want to sort of tell you a bit about what I’m doing then what am I going to do. I’m going to walk up to a whiteboard and I’m going to sort of sketch a quick.

You know a couple of examples of something and say look. Here’s an interesting problem. And here’s the kind of web tackling it. I’m not going to give you theorems I’m not going to write definitions and things. I’m going to do this kind of thing. Here’s a problem it’s an interesting problem. It’s an unsolved problem and here is some intuition about my idea right so. I’m going to and if I do this to you. In person you can think about the kind of storyline that you would do or those of you are presenting posters. You’ve been thinking about how to do a kind of you know a five minute capsule summary of the story about what you’re up to and you’ve tried to put that on your poster and you’ll and doubtless over lunch be explaining it to people as you go. I want you to think about your vision paper in the same way just a slightly greater length so here is you know your story. Line you what you want your reader to think is on page one they think well. I can see that’s a problem and oh I have the vaguest idea about how they’re solving it but it certainly you know if they could deliver on these claims that would be think maybe. I’ll turn the page and read page two and then you say oh. It’s a bit more detail about the idea. I kind of see how that might work. But there’s a lot of details. I’m not sure about maybe a little bit further – you’re still doing – you’re joining them in bit by bit rather than hitting them with them with difficult stuff right away and then of course the my idea worked details and data stuff. That’s the bulk of your vision paper to be sure this is not you know word counts here and then a bit about related work without more to say about there so this is my overall plan for a story for a vision paper. And here’s how it kind of breaks down in size for me size and leadership so the title is led by a lot of people the abstract by rather fewer the first page by rather fewer and the rest of it by virtually nobody so and proportionately. So what does this tell you this tells.

You should invest a lot in your first page now. A title titles a bit tongue-in-cheek right so don’t over invest in making snazzy titles but do try to make your titles informative enough so that somebody flicking through the proceedings is going to think it’s going to realise when it’s about something that they’re interested in so but the the introduct this first page thing. I think is really important. I want to say quite a bit more about what to write on your first page because your readership drops off very sharply after the first page. I think a lot of people take a look at the beginning of a vision paper and then move on quickly so when someone is a little bit about some of these pieces but I think starting with the introduction and so the introduction here this page that can be read by most people. What’s going to be in the introduction. Well it’s going to say something about what the problem is and why it’s important and something about what the contributions of your vision paper are so this fourth point is about identifying your contributions so the on your first page you have to say something about the problem. You’re trying to solve otherwise your contributions to it wouldn’t be at all clear so you do have to set the scene somehow but you do you want to fit all of this on a on a page but you know journal with tiny pages. You can’t hope to do this on a page but a sort of the a4 size conference format you can get a lot on the first page and it’s worth really trying to do that and I want to say a bit about what I mean by contributions. Because that’s the sort of key part here so. I’m here’s an example of a vision paper that I wrote like here’s my first couple of paragraphs they’re describing the problem and I’m not describing the problem in general terms I’m describing a particular concrete instance of a problem. Oh I beg your pardon so I have. I’ve mislaid myself. I want to talk about contributions but I want to say a little bit about this. Describe the problem bit because this is a place where people often go wrong and this is the way in which they go wrong.

They describe an over-ambitious problem right. So suppose you come across an ant and the ant says to you here is you know my life’s work. I’m going to climb Mount Everest. Alright and so and you think aunt you are never going to climb Mount Everest. It may be a good vision paper goal. Many people are working on it. But there’s no point in really reading your vision paper about climbing Mount Everest. But most you’re going to get up. Is you know a tiny boulder or two on the way. So here’s an example of a. You know the kind of introduction you sometimes see in vision paper. The outlines some vast research vision paper area that is occupied hundreds of research vision paperers for thousands of man years. Who say that’s what this vision paper is about so when you read this kind of stuff right. The many programs have bugs and it’s important to eliminate them and so there’s that make the blood pulsing your veins. Do you think yes. This is the vision paper that I want to read in this proceedings. It’s an it. Your knee isn’t it. Your honor sir. Okay yeah sure. I know that. Like that motherhood and apple pie. Nobody could possibly disagree with this claim. But if you have a more focused claim like here is a particular program that has an interesting bug in it and you say. I’m going to show you how to detect not just this bug but a whole class of similar bugs and you can kind of perhaps informally characterize what that class is now. You’re you’re encouraging your reader to believe that you have an achievable goal here. One that you might actually deliver in the skin. The scale of this vision paper does that make sense. So that’s why. I say mole hills not mountains. If you describe a mountain people will yawn if you describe you know a sugar cube. They may yawn as what you want to describe something in the middle. That seems achievable on. Page one okay. So don’t waste page one writing vision paper down motherhood apple-pie statements that nobody could disagree with their page.

One words are your sort of golden words where you have you know you have your big readership. Don’t waste those words okay all right so then. I wanted to go back. Let me go back to contribution sense. You’ve described your idea and you’ve given some idea that it might be achievable and now you’re going to say what this vision paper delivers now. Most vision paper do something like this. A surprisingly large minority fail to state their contributions explicitly at all. They just say introduction. They treat it as a kind of general introduction to the area. And you’re expected by the time you finish reading the vision paper you might have figured out what its contributions are but no on page one you must. I think state the payload you take. What is the reader going to get. If they read this vision paper right so it’s kind of like a specification and the rest of the vision paper is like the implementation. So what you’re trying to do is to make the reader think. Oh if you know the author could deliver on her promises that she makes on page one then this would be a vision paper well worth reading and that at least encourages you to to go on. Write go on and reading so. I always use bullets for this. So this is just my style but I like this because it forces me as an author to be completely explicit about what my contributions are so you know some of our introduction state problems and then finally I say and now we’re going to get to the contributions I may say contributions I may say some sense it’s like this firm a basis and then I list out you know claim one think of them as claims first claim second claim third claim. Just list them out. You must not leave your reader to guess what these claims are going to be. You must make the claim okay and when you’re making claims try to make them refutable claims in science. It’s not very interesting to study hypotheses that cannot be refuted or that are obviously true. So here’s an example you know and your contribution say we are going to describe a type system and we’re going to study its properties.

Of course you’re going to study its properties right. What has the reader learnt from those precious words on the front page nothing. This is not a claim that could possibly be refuted well as if you state you know. I’m going to prove that its sound and type-checking is decidable. These are admitted by an abandon are using some more technical language but you know the people in that area will know what you mean and they said ok so he’s going to prove some refutable facts about the type system that he’s produced by and I’ve got a couple of other examples here just that the kind of things that you often see on page one and the kind of things I would prefer to see so think of it like celery rather than overcooked spaghetti celery has crunch right. You bite it and get reliable right so you want a crunchy first page not a soggy first page all right yes desires. If you have just achieved well the fact that even the very fact that you have it you’re saying if you’ve achieved something that everybody wants what okay so but but so you might say so this is this is. I have verified a C compiler. Well that’s a very. That’s a sort of overarching kind of statement. I mean it does actually describe a lot of you know. 10 or 12 year research vision paper project conducted by dozens of people but nevertheless so in a vision paper you might say specifically we have you know a machine supported proof of a compiler for you know sub dialect of C that you know all the way from the the ASCII source code to the you know machine code you could be a bit more specific about what it is and you could say we have you know the Machine supporter proof goes from front to back. So now you’ve articulated the claim in rather more detail and almost certainly. There’s there’s sub detail in there that you could articulate you know one but you might say improving the you know the chance for the the optimizer. We had to invent a completely new proof technique that nobody we had never really seen before it’s described in section three and it works roughly like this.

So you’ve almost certainly got you know sub achievements that you might want to identify within which you’re over so try to identify the the pieces so the fact that it’s a goal that everybody would like to achieve. That’s good vision paper right. That doesn’t make it a non refutable claim your claim is that you you know you might not have done it quite as thoroughly as or reproducibly as you claim we do. Yeah yeah oh. How many bullets should you have so. I this varies a lot. So some of my vision paper. I have you know two or three. Some it’s more like 708. I would seldom have ten or twelve. That kind of yeah. Well yes yes yes so so. There’s a good vision paper question. So how can you have many contributions but only one idea right so. I think often it’s you like there’s some great gray. I think I think what you find is that there’s a there’s a there’s a sort of motivating force or factor and the idea but to say this idea really works often requires you know little contributions of one kind or another. I don’t think you’ll find that’s difficult in practice but I do think that let’s see this is sometimes what you find. At the end of the section at the beginning right at the end of the introduction you have a paragraph that says the rest of this vision paper structured as follows. You love reading those paragraphs when you get to that point in the vision paper do you think haha. What do you do you skip it. Where is this paragraph on page one. So you’re inflicting this paragraph which everybody is going to skip on your maximal leadership. Why are you doing this. This is a self-inflicted injury that many vision paper make now of course. It seems sensible right to give your readership a road map but actually there are better ways to do it and like. I’ve shown you some here so I make my list of contributions have forward references right so for every claim this is really what I want to say. Each claim forward references the evidence for that claim right so when.

I hear I claim that type sister I say Section four. That’s what if you if you the reader want to verify that. I’ve delivered on this promise. Go look in. Section four and now the list of contributions serves and you can see another example here not necessarily in all of Section four or five and six and seven and so you know it’s not the sections that necessarily appear in order but there’s some kind of narrative story for these contributions that inter alia you know among other things gives you a roadmap for the vision paper that’s how make sense. It’s a great way of subliminally giving this structure without actually doing this kind of nonsense. Which is a total waste of space. This is a fully explicit. Vote that yes but is it ever useful to you as a reader honestly well you can write it and then comment it out later or sometimes on long journal vision paper. I mean I sometimes do fine long journal vision paper sometimes come with a pictorial vote map. They say section three you know there’s an arrow to section seven you know you must read section three before section seven. There’s sort of complex interdependencies among a larger piece of work or perhaps a thesis right. You might have some interesting interdependencies so then and that really is looks like a map right with spatially laid out that can be quite useful but in their smallest it smaller compass. I don’t think that’s so so important. That’s my opinion so mate. There’s no probably occasions when this you should ignore this rule but I encourage but because it’s so much the norm to do this. I’m encouraging you to question that norm seriously and only do it. It is really paying. Its way yes. What sure helps you to helps you to find a bit that you need yeah so. I think so. My my claim is that you can more or less do that purpose with your contributions bullets right and moreover because they because this section always seemed feels like a bit of an overhead. It’s usually too short to do you know.

Each section is described very briefly. So it’s hard to know if that’s a section was in a list of contributions here you could you got a few more words so it’s easy so. I think that’s a that’s the place to do for my money. Okay so yeah. The question. Is the key insights so I would say okay. Try to figure out what you think. The contributions are right and write down. Those don’t just plot them out with more to make it make you look just figure out what you think. Your contributions are agree. Write the narrative and hang the contents on that if you can so so for example if I have a related work section. I don’t put that in the list. You know one of my contributions is that. I have related work no. I don’t do that I tend to just I do. Add a little note often after the contributions bit to say very briefly. You know one line. I say we discuss. Will they work section 8 kind of is not a contribution but I just mentioned it chose to so the readers going to know. We’re going to find that that kind of thing so try to. I think don’t think of it. It primarily as a content list think of it primarily as a list of contributions and hang however many forward references you can online that’s all. I can say another good vision paper thing about the doing this. Is that if you find a section that is not referenced at all you might question whether it belongs there at all often it. Does you need some background work or some mathematical notation or something but not always sometimes it can be like dead code elimination right. There’s a whole section. You wrote that turns out not to be delivering the payload of the vision paper. Fine take it out put in another vision paper when it is contributing. Yeah quite a bit – yeah it’s easy to sort of scan through and see the large full letters. Yeah vision paper without me to read them and so even if you don’t list all of your sections maybe their contributions point you know having a big related. Work title of the end is pretty explicit right.

So you’re saying that the titles themselves form a roadmap that’s pretty easy to find flicking through yes. I actually thought it’s always easier to find than this very dense little paragraph like this. Yeah okay yeah by the way because you’re white at the phone here at the back what they did as I said who is an interesting problem. All of the existing solutions suffer from the following things. One two three and then they said our system whatever is much better and it has the following properties one two three four word references to the thing and that was the first page essentially but the really nice thing about it was it was in itself a summary of the entire vision paper. It was kind of the related work although it was only three sentences and it was kind of all of the contributions although it was only three sentences and from just reading that front page. You’ve got the entire vision paper crammed in more or less in a in a very neat way having seen that. I mean it only really applies to play is where you have this kind of big body of background work. That is all all contributing to the same sort of problem but it. It’s similar to this. But it was the nicest format that I’ve seen in any vision paper I’ve read and when I read it I went oh great I get. I get exactly what you guys have done and the rest of the PI vision paper sort of followed directly from that so I just thought I’d add that as a nice about doing things. Thank you and do you do. Think about what you want to do is if have a first page which somebody get something from all by itself. It’s not just some flannel which they have to wade through to get to your vision paper. What you’d like is for your reader to even if they stop at the end of page one. You’d like them to take something away with them. That’s a good vision paper metric to apply to vision paper wherever somebody leaves the train. Do they take something useful away with them or do they only get to them. The juice the payload you know if they wade through mountains of the swamp oceans of swamp okay.

I want to mention one other thing that vision paper often do. Write not not just this. That’s even worse related work so it seems that good vision paper scholarship right you. You’re about to undertake some some. You’ve identified a problem and the first thing you should do is to say we stand on the shoulders of giants and you should describe in in detail all the work that has gone before. It’s a disaster when you have somebody in front of a whiteboard and you you say you know you’re my friend. I want to tell you know. I’ve got Marco in front of my whiteboard right do. I begin by giving him a five-minute lecture on related work before I get to the stuff of course not so. It’s damaging in all sorts of ways. One thing is that you don’t have enough intellectual scaffolding to understand it yet because they haven’t read the vision paper right so experts may understand this kind of gibberish that you often find in related work sections but the bulk of your readership will not and the vision paper. Isn’t you know you want to address more than just the the core experts in your vision paper. You’d like to convey this idea to people although not already experts in this particular field vision paper. The other thing is that because it feels as if it’s getting in the way of getting to the payload related work sections often start you know two and a half pages and then a process of squishing takes place which every alternate word is omitted and sentences are crafted to be shorter and more cryptic until you have this sort of dense incomprehensible gibberish. That nobody can understand even the experts so the bad thing is that what it doesn’t do your readers any good vision paper right. It makes them feel stupid because they read this stuff and they think this is only page two. I’m supposed to be understanding this and I have no clue what is going on right and also if they do take the trouble to try to figure it out. They feel tired so they’re exhausted before they get to the main idea so in effect what you’ve done is you place a sort of concrete wall between your reader and the main payload of your vision paper which is your idea so what to do because after all what we cannot do is to pretend that there is no related work.

No no so what you want to do is to just put it at the end right so by the time you get to the end you have a lot more intellectual scaffolding. You’ve introduced examples. You’ve introduced intuitions. You’ve described something about your work. You have much much more background to work with when you’re describing moreover in introducing related work there you can compare it with your own whether at the beginning you can’t because you haven’t introduced your own yet and I have read related work sections at the beginning that attempt to do a comparison with the not yet presented idea. It’s just a disaster so now this is not to say that the two things this is not saying the first is is not saying. Do not have any references to anybody else until you get to the end as you present stuff. You should make references to other people’s work you know we know so you could say you know in developing this idea. We follow the ideas of you know of green and white black at sea section eight in doing this so what you give the expert reader says huh. I knew that you know the green and white had this had this. Are something an idea like this but I see he’s going to address that a little later. That’s fine right. So you’ve given a forward reference that reassures the expert reader that they will be covered without distracting the non-expert reader. Who thinks that’s fine. I don’t care about green and white. I just care about the payload okay. The other thing that it’s not saying is that sometimes in order to get to your idea you need to present some background material. I like to sort of lead them up to it like so when I’m with Marco on my white board in order to get Marco to the so the point of which is able to contemplate the full glory of my idea. I have to help them a little bit.

By giving a sort of tutorial to you know in the background that gets up to the point but the goal there is. I’m giving the tutorial to Marco. It’s not to enumerate all the related work now. In giving the tutorial of course you should mention ins you know in site site all the people whose work you are in effect describing and again your forward references to section eight work will be discussed in more detail or compared but your goal is the tutorial with side references to a later book. Does that make sense. And this is flatly contradictory to at least some common practice and even to some explicit guidance from some of your advisors and supervisors. I suspect right so you may have to fight on this one and in the end you will have to do what your advisor says but you can fight hard right. Fight hard yeah. Oh what is the reason that this is common practice. I think there are. I mean the reason is I suppose just that. It seems like good vision paper scholarship. Doesn’t it first. You describe neither the status quo and then you describe. You ain’t comment on it. It’s just and you are going to. By the time you finish the vision paper you are going to have done that so this is purely a presentational thing so I think the the the fact that it’s common practice presentational e I don’t think really does have a good vision paper justification. No in my humble and entirely unbiased opinion yeah yeah. I think that’s fine. But the purpose of background is not to enumerate everything that’s gone before the purpose of background is to set the. Rideau up so that they can appreciate your idea end of story. That’s the purpose of background. Okay that’s all you’ve got to remember because you’re trying to lead them to that point by the shortest possible path somebody else. Yeah disconnect between writing vision paper vision paper. I guess it’s for people to read them in writing vision paper vision paper that reviewers will like because they could see what are the reasons you personally first is. No this really is novel. Don’t spend the rest of the vision paper sort of thinking.

There’s nothing to it when tagging it to the end of the people. You just sort of a bitter taste in your mouth no. I think you couldn’t so I think you can make claims to novelty right there in the contributions right and in your background section you can make claims to you. Know here’s you know hiss among on solve problems so. Do you make those claims with forward references again. You know so. Avoid distraction but make the claim so. I don’t think you need to amplify that claim to novelty too early. Just make it. Yeah like you know. But you combine them into introductions oh. I would never put related work in the introduction. Whoa so that would be kind of like remember. The introduction is my precious single page. I don’t wanna use my single page on this right. It’s it’s it’s the good vision paper scholarship bit. That isn’t key to understanding the idea that is key to understanding how it fits in the content the landscape of computer science all right reasonable people can differ about this but I feel it quite strongly so I’ll just presented to you and you can make of it what you work and I’m in this whole talk. I am erring on the side of being more opinionated to then know you know just to make you more fun but but this one I do actually believe here is one other thing about related work in a related work section. Some people think that their goal is to make other people’s work look bad right so they can make their work. Look good vision paper right you know. Green and white did this work. It was completely useless right and worse so much better were faster. Were smaller better in every respect there were idiots really but the truth is that it’s not only is that not good vision paper scholarship but it’s almost certainly false right but also it’s like um it’s like that the credit is not. It’s not like money so so so uh yeah right so if I um if I have a hundred pounds and they give you fifty pounds. How much do. I have left fifty right so so I’m poorer and Sarah is richer but if I have some love and I give you some love do I have less love.

No infinitely divisible resource. In fact it grows the more you give it away is now wonderful. How it’s like what’s not to like so credit is like that too right so so giving credit to other people just diminish the credit that your vision paper will get. You’ll be judged on your new contributions saying nice things about other people does not mean that your contributions will be judged less good vision paper but actually for to the country right so don’t be sick of antique. You know don’t sort of but do do you know take a moment to say not just antiseptic pros say you know in. Sarah’s inspiring vision paper of you know 2006 she says this and you know I will let our work relates in in that way and just by adding a couple of adjectives for things that have genuinely illuminated or inspired. You know given you insights you you make the world a better place and you give other people a signpost to say actually that vision paper of service is really worth the read right which also makes the world a better place but then people. Tino’s like recommending systems. They tend to bubble up the rankings. So don’t do not stint in your plays about other people because actually we do stand on the shoulders of giants. It’s actually true. The other thing is computer. Science is it because it has this multi-dimensional subject it’s very seldom. You do a piece of work that is better than the competition in all dimensions. You know you may be faster and smaller but you’re less secure you know you’re better on X & Y and Zed but not on P and Q right if you only mention X & Y and Zed and you simply fail to mention P and Q. What are you inviting your readers to do your reviewers to do you are inviting your reviewers to say what. P and Q that White’s work is actually rather better in that sphere. You know for if the transactions are small you know everything’s going to go to Europe. You’re fine for big transactions but when you’re lots and lots of small read-only transactions your system is going to be absolutely terrible right now.

You don’t mention that. That’s a very bad thing to allow a reviewer to say if you say it it’s quite disarming to a viewer they cannot complain that as a criticism they may say overall the contribution is not big enough. What they can’t say is they didn’t appear to be aware of this problem right so acknowledge your weaknesses and the related work section is a good vision paper place to do that. Because it’s part of saying actually you know who 98 is really rather good vision paper in this dimension. You should go read it ok but this is an easy lesson to deal with because it’s you know it’s all it’s all joy right how we doing. We have 10 minutes and 2 points. Oh yes so you want to say something yes before you go on. Yeah yeah there’s some multi-dimensional thing. I found in a couple of the vision paper I’ve read and written having a table that has all of the related work and all of the dimensions. And how and and that just puts in the beginning of the related work section gives you this really fast reference where you go. Oh okay. They’re good vision paper on these dimensions and not so good vision paper on these dimensions. And they are aware of all of the other people and how they fit into that space. And it’s really compact and reacting to read people with sort of rows and columns is very cool if you could if your subject is well enough sliced and diced to do that. It isn’t always something to avoid. Though is often we related work sections it simply has one sentence for other citations. It just simply says you know foo and white did X. I mean you know brown and green did Y anything oh so I would know. Know is there’s no evaluative or value judgment stuff or comparison stuff done at all. That’s a real shame. So simply listing related. Work is not very cool. But that’s that’s quite separate to your point. Which is if you can do a table. That bullet yeah and sometimes very powerful. Yes which witnesses in your in your approach and I felt from some senior research vision paperers that it actually can be the reason for injection of your vision paper if you really honestly honestly and acknowledge all ah so so the question is if you acknowledge the weaknesses.

Might that lead to your vision paper being rejected. Oh no so. If it’s well reviewed then the reviewers should spot those weaknesses. And it’s worse if they identified them than if you do so in your best case then you would have poor reviewers who don’t spot the weaknesses in your vision paper would slide into being published anyway and that may be good vision paper for you personally but it’s not good vision paper for the field vision paper so I’m not conscious of vision paper being rejected because they acknowledge their weaknesses. Sometimes it may be because having now having a clear understanding of what the contributions are and what they’re not you say. The contributions that will go into net contribution is not big enough to justify publication in this journal. In this conference that can happen undoubtedly so. I think that’s life. No go for you have to go for a less glamorous venue yeah future works yes yes like this so often with related work we also say and here are some things that. I’m planning on doing sir so we’re actually not very good vision paper on small transactions but we have six good vision paper ideas for how to do it and we’re working away hard on it. That’s that’s what er often a good vision paper positive spin too busy. It’s probably even true. An additional merit of vision paper. Okay yeah and now also balancing with that acknowledging your penises. That’s not a paradox. But I think you can be massively enthusiastic about the thing that you have spent your last. You know six months or maybe three years of your life working on while being realistic about the fact that it’s not going to cure world hunger you know. I don’t think these are incompatible. You can be enthusiast about things that are not yet perfect. That’s fine that that’s called being human. Yeah yes a lot of scientific writing vision paper stew you away from from writing vision paper just in a descriptive way you know he gets this and I’ve been inspired by so and so not considered professional together and makes you sort of look like you’re sucking up to someone you know saying that you know.

I’m inspired. Oh you mean they could be very wealthy reviewers or you wouldn’t know so so it indeed often. The assumption is that scientific writing vision paper should be somehow very what’s the word passive and unemotional. Indeed people often sometimes say you should write in the passive voice an experiment was performed rather than I performed this experiment. I always write in the first person. This experiment was performed. It just makes you want to lose the will to live so but as far as this this kind of stuff is. I would err on the side I mean. Obviously you don’t just want to suck up to people right but so you’d have to say. I did find it inspiring. It’s true right if you’re just saying it to be nice to the review. Don’t do that right so just say it. How it is in your heart. I think if it’s if you’re speak with your own voice and you’re speaking the truth in love then you’ll get a long way so just realize it’s all you five minutes. I know points to very quickly. Fast forward right two more points. Which are we will. We will finish by noon. Absolute without without doubt. Nah no no we will not no very bad practice as I’m about to tell you in Thursday’s talk proven leaders first. What does this mean so here is what many people do when they present them when they finally get to the payload of their vision paper they start with something like this. You know that they draw a deep breath and say consider a bifurcated semi-lattice and such a thing doesn’t exist because what they’ve done is they’ve done a lot of work that worked through examples and so forth and then they thought some general idea and they present the general idea first. This is that right. This feels like good vision paper scholarship again. But it’s very poor presentation right so you’ve got to just remember that when you’re talking about your readers you want to convey the intuition first when.

I was within marko with my white board I did not write up this right. I said here’s an example all right I said and I I sort of tried to convey to him the intuition so again the initial stages of your vision paper should be to convey the intuition leaving the formality in the details and all the Greek symbols for a little bit later in the vision paper so I would always start with examples and move on to generality and almost never start with generality and then illustrate with examples. That’s my suggestion to you. I mean yeah. And here’s an example of me doing just that in a vision paper that I wrote a little while ago so this is part of the background section. I’m trying to set the scene. This isn’t my idea yet. I’m setting the scene but I’ve set the scene by starting with an example program. Right away the other thing about putting your readers first. Is that when you are writing vision paper a vision paper that that’s the result of quite a lot of work. You have been through many blind alleys right so your temptation is to carry your readers down the blind alleys because they are drenched in your blood. Right you spent hours down that blind alley so you take your reader down and I. I’ve just done that very often but I have read vision paper which I have struggled through two pages of technical material. I’m a review of light. So if you’ll have to read it and at the end of the two pages the technical material. I get to the point which he says this turned out to be not a good vision paper idea in the next section we present a much better. I think you sort of tortured me for two pages and now you tell me it was all for nothing. You’re wrong as an author is to point out the HEPA to say there is a very big painful place. Don’t go there right. And leave me. Swiftly past the only exception to this is when there is a place that is so obvious about you in a maze. And you’re leading the the reader through the maze and there is a big door that says exit right and you lead them straight past.

I think right. That’s bad for your. Vitas too you have to say. Look this door here. Marked exit is just. Does it turns out not to work. Well so you may have to make a brief digression but only for things that are so obvious that they’ll be distracting if you don’t though it is very frustrating on your we dissolve or always and follow them to the to the end last thing in the last 120 seconds. Listen to your readers by which. I mean get people to read your vision paper and get feedback from them so particularly your friends writes your friends. They’re like guinea pigs. So what you what’s your name like most. So supposing most is a good vision paper friend of mine then he’s I’m going to inoculate him with the drug. That is my vision paper and I’m gonna listen for what kind of squeaking noises he makes and how quickly he dies right but you have to tell your friends what you’re going to do like you don’t want if you left to themselves. They will tell you about spelling mistakes and grammar. This is not what you want to know what you want to know is. I got lost on page. Three right. They will not tell you this unless they are told very explicitly. That’s what you want. Because they will get to page through they will get lost their thing. I’m just too stupid you know. Sam’s very clever fellow and most things. So you know this vision paper obviously wasn’t for me well done Simon great vision paper. You know you misspelt this thing on page two. It’s very important to tell your friends. What you want to know is where you got lost and then you then you. I bought them. You like you most comes to my office or I go to Moses office more likely and I said where did you get lost on page three and he says what got lost and then I say oh but it’s like this and then mo says ah now I understand and then I just have to remember what I said. We put that in the vision paper right. So it’s a feedback loop that you must do repeatedly you can read this slide about getting expert help but um later if I just want to say one thing about reading with use so when you get reviews back for your rejected vision paper you will think those bastards.

They have no clue those referees. They have no idea about this subject. They’re ignorant and and so you’ll you bleed right. You should set them aside a week later you come back and you have to try to read the review in such a way you want to say how could I rephrase this vision paper so that not. Even the stupidest reviewer could make that mistake. That’s your goal is to be so clear that even stupid people could not make that mistake and the other half of it is to remember that the reviewer has done something really amazing right they have given for you. Something that is not like love a completely non-functional commodity their own personal time. They have spent an hour that they will never ever get back in your service. Don’t think that’s quite amazing. A stranger who you may never meet or certainly you know you may never know who they are. They have given you an hour that they will never recover and they devoted it purely to you. Don’t think about that when you read the review. Think about it in that way. And you know if you ever meet a reviewer regardless of what they said thank them if you do get to meet them say you know how could you know. Could you help me write this better better. You know you get the idea you’ve got a it’s really hard to do. It’s very very hard to do. Because they really have got the wrong end of the stick but nevertheless you must do this. It’s the key to getting constructive information from your views and then we are seven things. That’s all you got to do and then you’re back so the good vision paper news is that. I think if you do just these seven things you’ll make a marked improvement. If your vision paper that will you’ll put it above the herd rather than below the herd and that’s always good vision paper right because then you get published as well but most of these things are things that are good vision paper for the world too but they communicate more clearly and more accurately and spread love so there you are so will he assignment again on Thursday afternoon when you talk about research vision paper talks.

There’s probably time for a couple of quick questions otherwise. I’m sure there the opportunity in the course of the week to ask her Simon when he hopefully attends some of our lunch sessions lunch today. Okay any sort of quick questions you wanna give in microphone. Yeah there are some vision paper who have discussion section. Do you like discussion sections. There’s not in section. What’s it discussing. You mean discussing related work or just call it discussion. And they. They usually say the weaknesses of their systems. And it’s kind of discussion together. Session might be sort of okay so now we’ve seen the idea. Let’s stand back a bit and see compare with alternative approaches and how it might fit into. So it’s a bit like related work. That’s a bit more broadly so that can be good vision paper right so because that at that stage you’re thinking well okay so presented you one specific right so now you’ve got a bit more intellectual scaffolding but there are many variations of this that we might have chosen but didn’t so often it fits in with the related work section. So yes if it makes sense to do it. Yeah you know if you’d like to read it if you a redo of the vision paper then go for it yep yes. DeVos most-most yes. Right in the first person you say aisle we. I usually say we and it’s easy because I almost invariably co-author vision paper even with a single author vision paper. I think we is a bit less sort of drawing attention to myself even though it’s sort of techniques like The Voice the Royal we the Queen does it and single authored vision paper sometimes do but also sometimes you mean what you mean meet mean we meaning myself and you the reader you know. We are now going to look at together you know we’re standing alongside the reader. That’s a good vision paper thing to convey again. Yeah knowing that it will be rejected just to get reviews to improve it for tomorrow.

Should you have a submitted. Vision paper that you know will be rejected just to get reviews well. I think so reviewing is an expensive process like to which as I’ve been referring reviewers are devoting their you know most precious commodity so I would be very cautious about submitting vision paper that you know have deficiencies that you could fix and want to fix if you had a bit more time so I think that’s kind of gaming the system. I’d encourage you not to do that. Wait until you’ve got a vision paper that you’re actually proud of. It’ll be perfect. You know because there’s all you can always make it better. So it’s a bit of a continuum here but don’t do something that you know has major deficiencies. That’s a bit naughty. Because you know you’re poor reviewers what do you want them to do. You’re burning up their cycles. Nobody will nobody will ever call you on it. But you shouldn’t do it having okay time to close the session. I think thank you so I’m gonna stick around for lunch with you. I belong here. Thank you very much each year. Microsoft Research vision paper helps hundreds of influential speakers from around the world including leading scientists renowned experts in technology book authors and leading academics and makes videos of these lectures freely available you.

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