Writing for Computer Science

Reference: Zobel, Justin. "Writing for Computer Science". Springer, London, 2004.

1. Introduction

2. Getting Started


  • Choosing to explore ideas that seem likely to succeed, or are intriguing, or have the potential to lead to something new, or that contradict received wisdom.

Shaping a Research Project

  • Short-term and long-term goal

Research Planning

  • Explicitly consider what is needed at the end, then reason backwards.
  • Write your Ph.D. thesis to check enough research has yet been done.

Students and Advisors

  • Prepare your meetings with your advisor - bring tables of results or list of questions.

Several Characteristics Shared by Successful Research Students

  • A willingness to read widely, to explore the field broadly beyond their specific topic, to try things out, and to generally take part in the academic community.
  • The enthusiasm to develop their interest in some area, and then ask for advice on how that interest can be turned into a thesis project.
  • The ability and persistence to undertake a detailed (and even grueling) investigation of a specific facet of a larger topic.
  • The initiative in terms what needs to be done and how to present it, and gradually assume responsibility for all aspects of the research.
  • Systematic and organized, and understand the need for rigor, discipline, stringency, quality, and high standards.
  • Actively reflect on habits and working practices, and seek to improve themselves and overcome their limitations and knowledge gaps.
  • Their work looks plausible, it has the form and feel of high-quality published paper.
  • The strength to keep working despite some significant failed or unsuccessful activity.

  • Getting Stared Checklist

3. Reading and Reviewing

Research Literature

  • Papers published in a reputable venue, theses examined at a reputable institution, and books
  • The number of papers that a researcher working on a particular project has to know well is usually small, even though the number the researcher should have read to establish their relevance is large.

Finding Research Papers

  • Reading about a paper that seems relevant is never a substitute for reading the paper itself. If you need to discuss or cite a paper, read it first.
  • Exploring relevant literature: (1) use obvious search terms to explore the Web or use the search engine; (2) visit the websites of research groups and researchers working in the area; (3) follow up the references in promising research papers; (4) discuss your work with as many as people as possible.
  • Once there are several versions of the same paper: preprint in an online archive, a conference version, and a journal version. Usually the polished work that has appeared in a journal is the definitive one.
  • It is hard to find all relevant work, but finding all significant work is a critical part of doing research.

Critical Reading

  • A cynical but often accurate rule of thumb is that work that is more than one or two years old and has not been published in a significant venue probably has some serious defect.
  • Critical questions list

Developing a Literature Review

  • Develop the literature review progressively

Authors, Editors, and Referees


  • Originality and validity

Evaluation of Papers

  • Check the quality and quanity of references

Content of Reviews

  • Is the case for or against the paper convincing?
  • Is there adequate guidance for the authors?

Drafting a Review

  • Be prapred to change the minds of a paper
  • Be constructive
  • Be polite

Checking Your Review

  • Checklist

4. Hypotheses,Questions,andEvidence

5. Writing a Paper

6. Good Style

7. Style Specifics

8. Punctuation

9. Mathematics

10. Algorithms

11. Graphs, Figures, and Tables

12. Other Professional Writing

13. Editing

14. Experimentation

15. Statistical Principles

16. Presentations

17. Ethics

Written on January 15, 2018