Secrets to Success

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					  Secrets to Success
   in CS Scholarship
… and some advice, thoughts,
insights, and observations too
    Advice/Thoughts (Fall’11)

• There is more to writing than meets the
  eye. (Richard)
• Expect the expectations. (Scott)
• Let good questions help determine what
  you choose to read. (Kevin)
• Science vs. engineering: learn to build,
  build to learn. (Kevin)
     Advice/Thoughts (Fall’11)

• Hypotheses should be tested, but testing
  can change the hypothesis. (Scott)
• Research without validation is invalid.
• Pattern your research after reputable
  research patterns. (Skyler)
• Ethics promote excellence. (Kevin)
     Advice/Thoughts (Fall’11)

• Just as wood fuels fire, writing fuels
  science. (Richard)
• Concision entails precision and excision.
• A writer is a wright whose rite is to write
  right. (Andrew)
• Clear and concise is best. (Scott)
     Advice/Thoughts (Fall’11)

• Just as wood fuels fire, writing fuels
  science. (Richard)
• Concision entails precision and excision.
• A writer is a wright whose rite is to write
  right. (Andrew)
• Clear and concise is best. (Scott)
    Advice/Thoughts (Fall’11)

• Violated expectations a grumpy reviewer
  make. (Richard)
• Avoid the boring! (Scott)
• Punctuate properly. (Kevin)
• Respect your readers with consistent
  usage. (Andrew)
• To write effectively, learn to draw.
    Advice/Thoughts (Fall’11)

• Eschew lexical sesquipedalianisms.
• Teach not to entertain, but to inspire.
• Example and love water the garden of
  fruitful teaching. (Kevin)
• Education: expect edification—enjoy!.
     Advice/Thoughts (Fall’11)

• Review better to write better. (Skyler)
• Presentations: Pith on every slide.
• Don’t hide your light under a bushel of ill-
  prepared slides. (Kevin)
                   Secret #1
• Write a “good” abstract.
• “Good” means “exactly” of the form:
  – What’s the problem?
  – Why’s the problem a problem? (Why does anyone
  – What’s the solution? (A startling sentence.)
  – Why’s the solution a solution? (How did you
    determine you succeeded?)
• See “Thesis Proposal” in the Grad Handbook
                   Secret #2
• Embed the review you want to receive in the
  proposal or paper.
  – For NSF grants write the “embedded review” in
    labeled sections: intellectual merit & broader impact
  – For papers, write the “embedded review” in the
    abstract, introduction, and conclusion.
  – This makes the reviewer’s job easier
• The “embedded review” consists of embedding
  answers to the following questions in your
  introduction and conclusions.
  – What, precisely, is your contribution?
  – What is your new result?
  – Why should the reader believe the result?
                   Secret #3
• (Subtly) let your reader know that you have
  done something substantial or that you have
  been able to come up with a clever insight that
  others have not seen.
• Rather than “this is hard,” say
  – “longstanding problem”
  – “challenges include”
• Rather than “I am insightful,” say
  – “arriving at this insight was interesting because …”
  – “this vantage point allowed … to be seen in an
    interesting way”
                   Secret #4
• Write to the reviewers.
• Several implications:
  – Catch their attention (Secret #1) & deliver what’s
  – Make their job easy. (Secret #2)
  – Impress them. (Secret #3)
  – They’re busy, distracted, interrupted, pressed for
    time, and reading many other papers in competition
    with yours.
  – They’re not necessarily an expert in your topic (but
    also possibly the world’s greatest expert).
                Secret #5

• Writing shapes research.
  – Organizing text forces you to formulate and
  – Writing with thought and care is a research
• Write to learn (as well as learn to write).
                Secret #6
• Asking, seeking, knocking, and wondering
 are keys to knowledge and insight.
• “Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and
  ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened
  unto you;” (Matt. 7:7)
• “If we wonder often, the gift of knowledge
  will come.” (Native American proverb)
                Secret #7
• “The Glory of God is intelligence, or, in
  other words, light and truth.” (D&C 93:36)
  – Light: inspiration (D&C 88:12),
  – Truth: “knowledge of things as they are …”
    (D&C 93:24)
• “Knowledge and intelligence [are gained]
  through … diligence and obedience” (D&C
      Cool Insights/Observations
• “If we knew what we were doing, it wouldn't be
    called research, would it?.” (Albert Einstein)
•   “The most exciting phrase to hear in science, the
    one that heralds new discoveries, is not
    `Eureka!’, but `That’s funny’ …’” (Isaac Asimov)

• “The wastepaper basket is the writer’s best
    friend.” (Isaac B. Singer)
    Cool Insights/Observations
In a major attempt to communicate,
An author began to pontificate,
What started inspired
Got lost in the mire,
And nothing was left to contributate
                      (Seth Holladay)
    Cool Insights/Observations
• God is an engineer, not a scientist. Scientists
  discover new knowledge, while engineers find
  ways to leverage already discovered knowledge.
  Since God is omniscient, He transcends science
   He does not discover new knowledge. But,
  as an engineer, He leverages His infinite
  knowledge “to bring to pass the immortality and
  eternal life of man.” (Kristine Perry)
     Advice/Thoughts (Fall’10)

• Hook the reviewer or you can sink the
  review. (Seth)
• A workflow diagram for problem
  construction will save you from reviewer
  destruction. (Rob)
• A good abstract culls the content of the
  paper while maintaining fidelity. (Rob)
• Reading with the goal of just filling your
  head is inefficient. (Neil)
    Advice/Thoughts (Fall’10)

• Science is a discovery method that
  expands our engineering potential. (Seth)
• Patterns are the forms within which
  successful research solidifies. (Rob)
• Never abuse your peers’ trust. (Neil)
• Write makes right. (Seth)
• Fine gems are like fine papers: the rough
  edges are cut; the product is shaped;
  surfaces are smooth. (Rob)
     Advice/Thoughts (Fall’10)

• A point precedes a paper. (Rob)
• Be careful with your colleagues’ identities
  and reputations. (Neil)
• For successful introduction construction,
  use Embley’s rules for production. (Rob)
• To write prose like pros, use good
  grammar to compose. (Rob)
• The clearest writers express their stories’
  crucial actions with lively verbs. (Neil)
    Advice/Thoughts (Fall’10)

• Make the math on your page worth the
  work to decipher it. (Seth)
• Strong elements (math, figures, graphs,
  tables, algorithms, textual explanation)
  stand well alone and even stronger
  together. (Seth)
• A teacher and his students should form a
  single clique. (Neil)
    Advice/Thoughts (Fall’10)

• Effective teachers don’t just augment
  knowledge; they empower action. (Rob)
• Engaging students in practical work makes
  learning outcomes come naturally. (Seth)
• A picture is worth a thousand words, but a
  good caption tells which thousand. (Neil)
     Advice/Thoughts (Fall’09)

• If you’re not sure where to start, start
  writing. (Seth)
• No matter how good the results, nobody
  will notice until you write it right. (Seth)
• Write to convince the skeptic. (Mike)
• “This” can be added to the list of bad
  four-letter words. (Derrall)
    Advice/Thoughts (Fall’09)

• Science & engineering pull each other
  along. (Derrall)
• The key to research is a problem people
  care about. (Mike)
• Will power does not validate a hypothesis;
  carefully designed experiments and
  carefully presented facts do. (Lanny)
     Advice/Thoughts (Fall’09)

• To do research right—write! (Lanny)
• In writing, less is more and often better.
• PITHY = Pointed, Informative, Timely,
  Helpful, Yet short. (Brian)
• “Clarity never faileth.” (Aaron)
• Punctuation—ambiguously eliminating
  ambiguity in writing. (Derrall)
     Advice/Thoughts (Fall’09)

• Make every word count. (Mike)
• Using “etc.” is usually bad, etc. (Derrall)
• Proofs: match your steps to your
  audience. (Aaron)
• Go figure! (Aaron)
• Teach with heart, not chalk. (Lanny)
• Chicken Chicken Chickens, Chicken.
    Advice/Thoughts (Fall’09)

• Being a good teacher is better than being
  thought to be a good teacher. (Derrall)
• Knowing where you want to be helps you
  get there. (Lanny)
• A presentation is a technical
  advertisement for a paper. (Aaron)
• Review unto others as you would have
  others review unto you. (Aaron)
       Advice/Thoughts (Fall’08)
• Writing is like programming: once you start, the
    flaws in your ideas become apparent. (David)
•   Like “following the yellow brick road,” following
    good writing guidelines leads to success. (Sole)
•   Write clearly and concisely; if readers can’t
    follow your logic, they won’t be convinced of the
    validity of your claim. (Sabra)
•   Wondering what others will question about your
    work helps writing be clear from the start.
       Advice/Thoughts (Fall’08)
• Read with a purpose: if you know your
    destination ahead of time, it’s a lot easier to end
    up there. (Sabra)
•   Debate your hypothesis in your mind. (David)
•   Scientific research never ends up exactly as
    expected—neither do exacting thesis
    statements. (David)
•   Just because a research problem is important to
    you doesn’t mean it’s important to everyone
    (Sabra); conjoining research with established
    claims and strategies and avoiding fallacies can
    help increase importance.
       Advice/Thoughts (Fall’08)
• Don’t let readers second-guess your findings:
    validate your results properly. (Sole)
•   Write early and often—writing stimulates
    research, and research stimulates writing.
•   Writing is like coding: it requires skillful
    debugging. (Sabra)
•   No matter how meticulously written, if no one
    reads your paper, they’ll never know your
    results. (David)
       Advice/Thoughts (Fall’08)
• When editing, two sets of eyes are better than
    one. (Sabra)
•   If you’re unsure about a grammar rule, at least
    be consistent. (David)
•   Positive and active words will keep your prose
    short and readable. (David)
•   Avoid discouraging readers—be precise,
    consistent, and lively. (Sole)
•   You may not be able to judge a book by its
    looks, but you can often judge a paper by its
    looks. (David)
       Advice/Thoughts (Fall’08)
• (1) Write (2) Review (3) Edit (4) “Rinse” &
    Repeat. (Sabra & Sole)
•   Knowledge is like a good dessert—share it!
•   Just like good writing, good teaching requires
    good editing. (Sabra)
•   Children are learning machines. Since we are all
    children in a spiritual sense, the learning process
    should never end. (David)
•   The presentation shouldn’t be flashier than the
    presenter. (David)
       Advice/Thoughts (Fall’08)
• Always aim for pithifying and editing anything
    you write, or present. (Sole)
•   Good presenters aren’t born; they’re iteratively
    refined. (David & Sabra)
•   The Golden Rule applies to refereeing: review
    for others as you would have them review for
    you. (Sabra)
       Advice/Thoughts (Fall’07)
• The less you have to say, the more words you
    need to say it. (Philip Cook)
•   Make scientific writing pithy  concise but
    meaningful. (Jie Long)
•   Good research may overturn past assumptions.
    (Terry Wilcox)
•   Literature search  yet another case of “less is
    more.” (Terry Wilcox)
•   If you start with a clear hypothesis, it is easier to
    end with a clear contribution. (Philip Cook)
       Advice/Thoughts (Fall’07)
• Honestly convince yourself first of the validity of
    your claim, then it will be easy to convince the
    rest of the world. (Oliver Nina)
•   Writing and research stimulate each other. (Jie
•   Don’t worry about writing; worry about editing.
    (Alan Atherton)
•   Very very good writing uses “very” very very few
    times. (Philip Cook)
•   One paragraph, one topic. (Cui Tao)
       Advice/Thoughts (Fall’07)
• When editing, trim the “fat” first, then tone the
    “muscles.” (Alan Atherton)
•   Using precise words is hard, but necessary to
    deliver precise thoughts to readers. (Yihong
•   When we use a graph or a figure, it should first
    be pleasant to our eyes. (Cui Tao)
•   One clear figure is better than one hundred
    vague words. (Yihong Ding)
•   Forgotten rules have no power. (Terry Wilcox)
       Advice/Thoughts (Fall’07)
• Teach as you would be taught. (variation of
    thoughts by Philip Cook & Jie Long)
•   Learning is like walking together  both the
    teacher and the student have the responsibility
    to move toward the light. (Oliver Nina)
•   Good teachers not only teach, they inspire.
    (Oliver Nina)
•   A good presentation requires a passionate
    presenter. (Yihong Ding)
    Advice/Thoughts (Winter’07)
• Quickly convey or extract the relevant
    information in a paper that you are either
    writing or reading. (Matt Smith)
•   Unity of purpose encourages learning;
    contention stifles learning. (Jared Jardine)
•   Researchers have an inherent responsibility to
    present their work truthfully and clearly. (Neha
•   Your time is precious, research with a purpose.
    (Richard Arthur)
•   Creativity comes from a solid understanding of
    the area. (Lei Wang)
    Advice/Thoughts (Winter’07)
• Writing a hypothesis is an iterative process that
    can be refined through experimentation. (Jun
    won Lee)
•   An appropriate discussion of limitations
    sometimes provides readers with really good
    insights. (Lei Wang)
•   Write while you research. (Lei Wang)
•   Organizing your paper properly can clarify your
    work. (Richard Arthur)
•   Don’t worry about style before you have
    something to say. (Jun won Lee)
    Advice/Thoughts (Winter’07)
• Writing is like fine silverlots of polish makes it
    shine. (Jared Jardine)
•   You can’t teach something effectively unless you
    really care about it. You can’t teach someone
    effectively unless you really care about them.
    (Kristine Perry)
•   It’s what you want your students to do or be,
    not what you want in your lectures. (James
•   Teachers need to constantly evaluate what they
    teach and how they teach. (Josh Keeler)
    Advice/Thoughts (Winter’07)
• Good presentations have the potential to
    increase your reputation as a researcher.
    (Kristine Perry)
•   Effective critiquing can help you fine-tune your
    writing ability. (Richard Arthur)
•   Refereeing: With great power comes great
    responsibility. (Neha Rungta)

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