This document contains some tips that I have gathered from a number of sources about how to write a paper. It is intended to augment what you should already know. I have compiled this list from personal experience writing such documents, from personal experience reading and evaluating such documents, and from the recommendations of good writers (including some computer scientists!)

The Process of Writing a Paper

Here is the process that I recommend you use when writing any paper: (1) sketch an outline, (1) expand your outline, (3) write your paper, and (4) re-write until you get it right.

I also suggest that you follow some specific guidelines for grammar and word selection.

The Steps

1 -- Sketch an outline of the paper.

2 -- Expand your outline.

List the major points you want to make about each topic.
Add subheadings, especially for larger sections.
Discuss your sketch with me.

3 -- Write your paper.




4 -- Re-write until you get it right.

Read what you have written out loud.

While reading, if you cannot decide where to pause or to place stress, then no other reader will be able to, either.

Don't be afraid to re-write a whole paragraph or a whole section if you feel it is necessary.

Specific Examples of Grammar and Word Selection

Following each of these rules is bound to improve your paper:

A Sample Outline for Research Reports and Theses

You should organize your paper in a way that fits your project and your writing style. But you should also ensure that your reader can find and follow the important points in your paper. You may want to start with this draft outline:


This section should motivate what you are doing and why you are doing it. What is the problem you tried to solve? What approach did you use? What is important about your results?


Tell the reader what she needs to know to understand your problem and project.


Describe the design of your experiment or system. Why did you take this approach? What alternatives did you consider?


How did you implement experiment or system? What issues arose during the project that you had not anticipated? How did you resolve them? Did you have to make any changes in your design? Why and how?

System in Action

Give a demonstration of your experiment or system in action. This may consist of narrative text, system transcripts, or both. Use examples that illustrate the strengths and weaknesses of your system.


What are the results of your work? These might be performance results or an evaluation based on user feedback.

Future Work

Based on the results and your own evaluation, describe projects that might follow up on, confirm, or expand upon your project. What questions do your results leave unanswered? What new questions do they raise? (This material may be included in the Conclusion.)


Summarize your project briefly. What is important about your project and its results? What did you learn in the process?

Eugene Wallingford ==== wallingf@cs.uni.edu ==== August 24, 2003