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									  SWM43 Research in Computing:
Introduction to Computing Research

                   Anja Belz
      Natural Language Technology Group

         Purpose of this lecture
• To touch on all aspects of research at least
  briefly, giving pointers to further reading (see
  list of references on last two slides)
• To look in more detail at the two areas that
  are of most practical relevance to you at the
  – Planning research
  – Reviewing the literature
• To give practical guidance (including an
  exercise) on how to get started with research
 Part I – Introduction
    1.   Four golden lessons
    2.   What field are we in anyway?
    3.   Examples of research projects in informatics

 Part II – Preparing the ground
    4.   Planning research
    5.   Reviewing the literature
    6.   Exercise: first steps in planning research

Part I – Introduction
 1. Four golden lessons
 2. What field are we in anyway?
 3. Examples of research projects in

Four golden lessons (Weinberg, 2003)
 1. No one knows everything, and you don't
    have to.
 2. Go for the messes — that's where the
    action is.
 3. Forgive yourself for wasting time.
 4. Learn something about the history of
    science, or at a minimum the history of your
    own branch of science.
What field are we in anyway?
 • Computing science, computer science, information
   processing, information technology, software
   engineering … ?
 • Now increasingly known as: Informatics
 • Old subdivisions:
   – Computer science: study/build artificial systems
   – Artificial intelligence: emulate intelligence using artificial
   – Cognitive science: study mind from computational
   … aren’t really separate anymore!
Informatics techniques (Bundy)
 Types of techniques:
    •    Theories
    •    Architectures
    •    Information representation
    •    Algorithms
    •    Software engineering processes
 Research aims:
    1.   Extend knowledge about properties of techniques
    2.   Improve existing techniques
    3.   Create new techniques
    4.   Combine techniques to create systems              7
Informatics techniques (Bundy)
 Implications of technique type and research aim:
    – What broad phases your research will go through
    – What kind of evaluation is appropriate
    – What kind of use will be made of your research
 Specific research field also important:
    – Fine-grained divisions: evolutionary robotics, machine
      translation, computer vision, etc.
    – Standard tools and methodologies to apply
    – Terminology, knowledge you can take as given
    – Dissemination media and style
Examples of informatics research
• Academic:
   – Masters and PhD thesis research
   – Research internally funded by universities etc.; some
     incidental, some more formally in projects
   – Publicly funded research projects (UK research councils,
     European Commission, US National Science Foundation)
• Industry: R&D departments, research labs, dedicated
  research companies; limited dissemination
• Private: people working from their home computers, in
  their garages, attics, garden sheds
   – French girl who invented speech recognition technology in
     her parents’ garage
   – Chinese farmer Wu’s robots
   – Participants in DARPA Autonomous Vehicle Challenge        9
Examples of informatics research
 • Some Informatics MSc topics from University of
   Edinburgh (2003-07):
    – A P2P Network Visualiser
    – Automated Probability Assessment in Plausible Crime
    – EvoTanks II: Co-evolutionary Development of Game
      Playing Agents
    – Cooperative Multi Agent Systems in Automobiles
    – A Web Service Interface to Astronomical Databases
    – Clustering Tags of Social Bookmarking Sites
 • Hardware Evolution: Automatic design of electronic
   circuits in reconfigurable hardware by artificial evolution
   (PhD, University of Sussex)
Examples of informatics research
 • Probabilistic Deep Generation (3-year project, funded
   by EPSRC): ―to develop, for the first time, a comprehensive,
   linguistically informed, probabilistic methodology for
   generating language that substantially improves development
   time, reusability and language variation in language generation
   systems, and thereby enhances their commercial viability‖.
   Value (£):211,199, University of Brighton.
 • Research Consortium in Speckled Computing (4-year
   project, funded by EPSRC): ―a radically new concept in
   information technology […] realised by minute autonomous
   specks, each of which encapsulates sensing, programmable
   computation and wireless networking. Computing with
   minute specks will enable linkages between the material and
   digital worlds […] will be fundamental to truly ubiquitous
   computing‖. Value (£):3,721,432, Edinburgh.                 11
Part I – take-home points
 • Take on board Weinberg’s 4 golden lessons
 • There is a huge variety of research in informatics
    – Be aware of the types of technique you’re working
      on, and of what your overall research aim is
    – It’s important to learn about the research
      methodologies, evaluation criteria and other
      conventions in your field of informatics research
 • You can make an important contribution to
   research wherever you are
Part II – Preparing the ground
 4. Planning research
   •   First steps
   •   Background reading
   •   Methodology
   •   Aims, outcomes, deliverables
   •   Requirements
   •   Subdividing and estimating effort: work packages
   •   Writing a research proposal
 5. Reviewing the literature
Planning research – first steps
 • Aim: Come up with a rough sketch of the research you
   want to do
 • Identify an area of informatics that interests you
 • Do some superficial background reading:
    – Wikipedia – but bear in mind it’s not 100% reliable, and don’t
      cite it!
    – Course web pages from leading universities
    – Websites of professional organisations
    – Research project websites
    – Individual researchers’ webpages
 • Decide on a smaller area in which to locate your
   research (but still larger than your project), and
   identify several ways in which you could make an
   original contribution
Planning research – first steps
 • Start identifying key characteristics of your chosen
    – Important conferences
    – Leading journals
    – Internationally leading researchers
    – Current research projects
    – Mailing lists
    – History: when did it begin? What are key advances, when
      did they happen?
    – How good is current technology?
    – What are the issues research is currently grappling with?
Planning research – background reading
 • Aim: familiarise yourself with chosen field of research well
   enough to decide on your project and write a short
   outline of it
 • Read survey papers and look up textbooks
 • Start reading (abstracts of) academic papers in
   conference proceedings and journals
 • Start compiling a bibliography (with star ratings)
 • Use tools like Google Scholar to check status of
 • Continue to collect key characteristics of area
 • Write project outline (a few sentences)
Planning research – methodology
 • Aim: to decide on the technical details of how you’re
   going to carry out your research
 • Won’t be able to specify all of this in advance – some
   of it is necessarily part of doing the research
 • E.g. if building a system: outline of architecture and
   functionality of modules; general approach (e.g.
   symbolic or statistical), even algorithms
 • Good idea to include fall-back options (if A doesn’t
   work I’ll do B)

Planning research – aims, outcomes, deliverables

 • Aim: clarify the purpose of your research to the point where you
   can write it down in detail
 • Aims: overall goals you hope to achieve with your research
 • Outcomes: specific results you plan to achieve with your
    – Will knowledge be increased? How?
    – Will new resources be produced? Which ones?
    – Will new techniques be created? Existing ones improved?
 • Deliverables: the specific documents, software and other
   resources you commit to producing, with deadlines
    – Technical reports, manuals, webpages, etc.
    – Software specifications (modules, interfaces), tools, systems, etc.
    – Data collections (database of images, corpora of texts, etc.)
Planning research – requirements
 • Aim: to determine everything you will need to carry out
   your project, apart from your own time and effort
 • Are you going to carry out experiments involving
   people? How many subjects? Will the university’s
   research ethics allow it?
 • Programming environments, tools, your skills.
 • Equipment, data, licenses, etc.
 • Will any of it cost anything? Where will the money
   come from?
 • If you’re not sure, find out now!
Planning research – work plan
 • Aim: to create a detailed research plan which lists work packages,
   specifies the amount of time required for each and assigns a time
   slot to each
 • Divide tasks into related groups (work packages, WPs); write
   short descriptive summary for each WP
 • Estimate time/effort each WP will take (person days or
   weeks) – always add contingency!
 • Establish partial order of WPs – which WP requires other
   WPs to have been completed?
 • Create a calendar diagram where each WP is assigned a slot –
   don’t forget to allow for other commitments

Planning research – writing a research proposal

 • Aim: to put the results of your planning work into prose that will
   convince people that your planned research is of quality and
 • Actually very time-consuming!
 • Sections:
     – Synopsis – ―executive summary‖
     – Introduction – motivate your research, why is it needed?
     – Aims, outcomes, and objectives
     – Related research – compare and contrast with existing work
     – Methodology – describe what you’re going to do, clarifying what is
       new, and where you’re going to use existing resources and ideas
     – Research in wider context – beneficiaries, dissemination, marketability,
     – Work plan
     – Bibliography
Planning research – writing a research proposal

 • Give it to different people to read – for:
    – Grammar/style: does it read well?
    – Clarity: are your aims and plans clear?
    – Quality: is this a good idea?
 • Look at general advice on academic writing

Writing a literature review
 • Literature review can build on, but goes
   beyond, research planning
 • More in-depth reading/understanding than you
   need for project proposal
 • Typically part of reports of completed
   research (Masters and PhD theses, project
   reports etc.)
 • Or publications in their own right: survey
   articles in journals or as book chapters
Writing a literature review
 • Aim: to thoroughly review a given area of research,
   mentioning all important relevant research
 • Two basic forms:
    – Survey/state-of-the-art: balanced overview of given area of
      research; inclusion and space reflect importance of work
      in field; keep opinion to minimum
    – Project-specific review: inclusion and space reflect
      relevance to project; lead up to justification and
      motivation for project; opinion is important part of review
 • Important difference: for surveys, you don’t need to
   understand in detail how techniques work, but if it’s
   relevant to your project you do need to
Examples of survey-type literature reviews
 • Emotional language generation:
 • Speech technology (1994):

Writing a literature review – reading
 • Identify relevant publications
 • Determine status/importance (e.g. use Google
   Scholar to check on citations) – you can’t read all
   relevant publications
 • Use star-ratings to reflect importance
 • Read at different depths
    ***: read article in depth
    **: skim article
    *: read abstract and conclusions
 • Build up annotated bibliography (title, publication
   details, summary of contents, your comments)
Writing a literature review – writing
 • Don’t just list names and contents of papers – that’s
   an annotated bibliography, not a literature review
 • Turn it into a story – tell the story of the field
 • How does it all fit together?
 • What are the subfields, developments,
 • What is the state of the art?
 • What are the hot topics at the moment (reflected in
   special themes and special sessions at conferences,
   one-off workshops, and special issues of journals)
Writing a literature review – writing
 • Give your review structure:
    – Introduce the field
    – Bring out commonalities and differences between
    – Can key results be summarised in a table or a graph?
    – Comment on more/less successful approaches
    – Conclusion:
       • Survey: summarise the state of the art of the field
       • Project-specific: identify area(s) where more research is needed
    – Bibliography
    – Appendix: research groups, data resources, web links
Part II – take-home points
 • Zoom in on your chosen area of research gradually
   (don’t start with academic papers):
    – Superficial reading of online material
    – Background reading of survey articles, text-books, etc.
    – Literature review of research area of appropriate size:
      academic papers in conference proceedings and journals,
      book chapters, etc.
 • Read at different depths:
    – Read most important papers carefully
    – Skim less important papers
    – Read abstracts and conclusions of least important papers
Part II – take-home points
 • Plan every aspect of your research thoroughly
   and in detail
 • For a literature review, do not just list
   publications and contents – instead, tell a

Exercise: first steps in research planning
 Aim: write a short review of the area of Machine Translation
   and prepare a brief presentation of it

 1. Look at p. 14, do online research, and fill in as many of
    the categories on p. 15 as you can;
 2. Write your findings up as a 1-page report;
 3. Prepare a presentation of your findings, about 5
    minutes in length;
 4. Deliver the presentation on Friday morning.

 Work in lab (W622) this afternoon, tomorrow morning
  and on Thursday; finish report and presentation for
• Stephen Weinberg’s Four Golden Lessons:
• Types of Research in Computing Science, Software
  Engineering and Artificial Intelligence by Aaron
• Alan Bundy’s Researcher’s Bible:
• CMU’s Advice on Research and Writing:
• A Computer Scientist's Guide to Writing and Publishing
  Technical Articles by Paul Martin:
• Why you can’t cite Wikipedia in my class by Neil Waters
• Robert Dale’s tips for presentations:
• Robert Dale’s advice on time management:

• Cooper, H. (1998). Synthesizing Research: A Guide for
  Literature Reviews. Main points summarised here:


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