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Typical Structure of a Scientific Paper

Abstract This section is key - it's a mini-summary of your paper, intended to allow others to decide whether your work is relevant to their work (and whether they should read on)
Introduction Overall context of the work, short summary of related work and a presentation of the motivation for the work - the problems that are to be addressed. Last paragraph: Explain the structure of the paper.
Motivation Explicit presentation of the motivation (or fold this in with the Introduction, if the motivation can be expressed in 1-2 sentences).
Related work / Literature review Relatively dry discussion of prior work and how it is inadequate in addressing the problems that your idea addresses. What have others done? Why is it not adequate for answering your own question(s)?
Contributions Your idea, your work. This is the topic of the paper. Describe it as clearly as you can.
Evaluation How do you make sure your idea is a good one? How do you convince others that it's a good idea?
Results Present the results so that they support the claims made throughout - and support the idea that your idea (the topic of the paper) is worth publication.
Discussion Optional section - sometimes things that did not fit into the paper but may be of some interest and relevance.
Conclusion This is the conclusion you draw from the work, as presented in the paper. Based on what has been said in this paper, what conclusions can you draw? This is often a semi-summary of the paper.
References A structured list of publications that relate to the work described in the paper.

Remember the Audience

Ask before you start your research This will determine your research context, experimental paradigm and the emphasis or slant you choose for your work.
This is especially important if you are working in interdisciplinary research or on projects that can appeal to more than one scientific community.
Ask before you start writing your paper Select the journal / conference first.
Do a background search on papers recently published there, to verify that your background section and description of work fits into their context (less important for journals).
Ask again when you do your background research It is good to remind oneself every now and then about who one wants to read the paper. A very good time to ask this question is right before starting to do background research - online search for related material.

Pick your style - be consistent !
The fewer words the better As few words as possible, but not fewer (to paraphrase Einstein).
Pointed paragraphs Make sure that each paragraph has a point. The last sentence should give the reason why the paragraph is there by tying into the work that the paper describes.
Example: “This work [reviewed in this paragraph] therefore shows that no solution has been found to the problem of X.” – where the paper is about finding a solution to X, or where X is related to the topic of the paper and is addressed as part of the paper.
Structure: Prior work achievements and shortcomings The main purpose of this section is to tie your work firmly to what has been done before. Therefore, the section has to show that there are shortcomings of prior work that need to be mended.
Support your main argument Remember: A scientific paper is an argument. The section on related work needs to support the main arguments made in the paper:
— Be selective on what papers you present in the section.
— Construct a narrative (tell a story), to keep the reader interested. Nobody likes to read a long, dry recount of what has been done. Use your motivation(s) (what questions are you trying to answer?) to keep the story interesting.
Use topic to steer inclusion of related work The major topic of your paper will tell you what you need to review. Use your title and abstract to figure out what work to review.

The Potatostamp Method™

What is it? A handy method to help you write a nice Related Work section
Step 1 Group the paper you have identified as related work into groups, where each group represents (a) a particular way of solving the problem at hand and (b) all the solution have particular shortcomings.
Step 2 (C) Write 2-3 sentences about what the researchers in the first group did; (d) write 1-2 sentences about the shortcomings of the work in this roup, wrt your own work (that is, write the shortcomings in a way that the reader sees why your own contribution is a direct response to these shortcomings
Step 3 Go back to Step 1. Repeat as often as needed (a reasonably-sized Related Works section contains at least 3 groups of related work papers).

When have I searched enough? That depends on how “green” you are in your field of study. The bottom line is: You can be sure you missed at least one paper that is highly relevant to your work. Ergo: Keep looking until the last minute. Just don't miss the deadline.
Cited work: Is there a maximum? No. Most journals and conferences put no limitations on the number of references one can have in a paper.
If the paper calls for a lot of references then you should try to include them all.
Using the rule of proportions: It is strange to see more than 30% of the words in a paper devoted to references (typically it will be between 5% and 10%).
Cited work: Is there a minimum? Yes: >1.
Work with no references will not get published.
Exceptions include: Letters of Opinion; Presidential addresses; published dialogue; and perhaps a few other ones.

Structure of the References Section

Name-Year system Name of author and year listed; alphabetical in reference section.
Jones, J. P. (2002). Bass Playing Through the Ages. International Musician, 12(8): 232-234.
Pullman, J. (1999). The Effects of Toasters on Human Health. J. of Toasterology, 11(12): 11-22.
Citation-sequence system Publications are numbered in the order they are cited.
[1] Pullman, J. (1999). The Effects of Toasters on Human Health. J. of Toasterology, 11(12): 11-22.
[2] Jones, J. P. (2002). Bass Playing Through the Ages. International Musician, 12(8): 232-234.
[n] …
Kyed [PULL99] Pullman, J. (1999). The Effects of Toasters on Human Health. J. of Toasterology, 11(12): 11-22.
[JON02] Jones, J. P. (2002). Bass Playing Through the Ages. International Musician, 12(8): 232-234.

Structure of a Reference

APA Style (Amer. Psychological Assoc.) Very common – possibly the most common reference style; used in many fields. The one we will use.
Book: Molich, Rolf (2003). Brugervenligt webdesign. Copenhagen: Teknisk Forlag.
Journal: Thórisson, K. R., H. Benko, A. Arnold, D. Abramov, S. Maskey, A. Vaseekaran (2004). Constructionist Design Methodology for Interactive Intelligences. A.I. Magazine, 25(4): 77-90. [OPTIONAL:] Menlo Park, CA: American Association for Artificial Intelligence.
Conference: Melson, G. F., Kahn, Jr., Peter H., Beck, A. M., Friedman, B., Roberts, T. and Garrett, E. (2005). Robots as Dogs? Children's Interactions with the Robotic Dog AIBO and a Live Australian Shepherd. Proceedings of CHI 2005, Philadelphia, PA, April 2-7, 33-39.
Other styles see e.g.:


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