Writing for Research and Technical Work



Basic Technical Writing Tips

KISS - Keep It Simple and Short

bulletRemove redundant words and phrases from sentences.
bulletDo not repeat yourself.
bulletAvoid colorful language and adjectives.

Lead the Reader

bulletDirect the reader through your text using subtle or not-so subtle guides.
bulletParagraphs should "flow" together in text.
bulletA paragraph should have an opening sentence representative of its general contents and often have a closing sentence to summarize the paragraph discussion.
bulletOrganize your presentation into sections such as introduction, motivation, background, topic related sections, and conclusion.
bulletTry to avoid directly referring to the reader such as "Let us examine ..." or "As you will see..."

Be Intelligent but not Too Smart

bulletUse more technical and descriptive words whenever appropriate, but do not use a thesaurus just to look "smarter".

Use Bold and Italics Productively

bulletBold and italics are intended to draw a readers attention, so do not abuse them.
bulletUse bold/italics for definitions or important words in text. Example: "An object consists of attributes and methods."
bulletUnderline is rarely used.

General Tips and Common Mistakes

bulletUnnecessary Capitalization - Do not capitalize terms in sentence unless they are proper names.
bullet"Because ..." - Do not start a sentence with because. Re-arrange your sentence so because is not needed or substitute "Since ..." or "Due to ...".
bulletAvoid Abbreviations - Do not use abbreviations such as "let's" (let us) and "that's" (that is).
bulletAvoid Self-References - If possible, do not use "I" in the text. Change the sentence to avoid a self-reference or substitute "we" if appropriate.
bulletDangling "This" - Do not abuse "this" to substitute for a topic in discussion. "For example, this is a bad situation because the sentence is ambiguous." Replace "this" with the item being described such as "Using the word 'this' inappropriately results in a bad situation because the sentence may be ambiguous."
bulletDefine Before Use - For terms and abbreviations, please define before use (DBU). Otherwise, the reader may not understand the concept or abbreviation if you do not DBU.
bulletNew Paragraphs - As a general rule, split larger paragraphs into two or more paragraphs if the topics describe are sufficiently distinct.
bullet"Further" Instead of "Also" - Replace "Further" with "Also" to start a sentence.
bulletBe Consistent with Terms - If you define a term, abbreviation, or proper name, be consistent in its spelling, use, and capitalization throughout the text.
bulletDangling Headers - Do not have text headers end a page followed by no text. Similarly, try to avoid lines of text with only one or two words at the end of a paragraph.
bulletTitle Capitalization Rule - Headings should be capitalized (i.e., nouns, verbs, and all other words except articles, prepositions, and conjunctions should be set with an initial capital) and should, with the exception of the title, be aligned to the left. Words joined by a hyphen are subject to a special rule. If the first word can stand alone, the second word should be capitalized. Here are some examples of headings: "Criteria to Disprove Context-Freeness of Collage Languages", "On Correcting the Intrusion of Tracing Non-deterministic Programs by Software", "A User-Friendly and Extendable Data Distribution System", "Multi-flip Networks: Parallelizing GenSAT".
bullet'An' versus 'A':
bulletMnemonics such as XML requires the article 'an'. Example: an XML document
bulletWords beginning with 'u' require the article 'a': Example: a unique or a unified approach
bullet'That' versus 'Which' - 'That' should be preferentially used instead of 'which'.

Writing Resources

bulletWilliam Strunk, Elements of Style, New York, 1918.
bulletJustin Zobel, "Writing for Computer Science - The Art of Effective Communication", Springer, 1997.

Research and Writing Resources

bullet Advice on Research and Writing (primarily for computer scientists), compiled by Mark Leone, CMU.
bullet Advice on Academic Writing, University of Toronto.
bullet Online Resources for Writer.
bullet How to Write and Abstract for CS Paper, Phil Koopman,CMU.
bulletGuide to Grammar and Writing
bulletEfficient Reading of Papers in Science and Technology
bullet Computer Science Student Resource Site, by William Stallings.
bullet General Research Links for Computer Science Researchers
bullet Graduate Studies, Research and Careers in Computer Science, Iowa State University.
bullet How to Write a Technical Paper
bullet How to Write a Paper in Scientific Journal Style and Format
bullet PaperStarter, Resources for the Essay Writer

Paper Style Templates

bullet IEEE Computer Society Paper Format and Style
bullet ACM and IEEE  Conference Style Information and Resources (for LaTeX)
bulletFormatting IEEE Papers
bullet IEEE Transaction LaTeX and MS Word Style Files
bullet ACM SIG Proceedings Articles Templates

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This site was last updated 08/13/13