RX1: How to write papers that are easy to read? by Casual GAN Papers
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🎯 At a glance:
There only exist two types of papers: ones that are fun to read, and ones that are are a chore to get to the end of. You can image that I very much prefer one to the other, and from what I can see, so does everyone else.
Now, whether you have published multiple papers or you are a first time author working on your thesis, you can follow some simple tips to make your paper much easier on the readers. You already already got 80% of the way there by doing the research, however nailing the last 20% and making a well-written paper is crucial to getting the attention your research deserves.
Here are 5 easy tips that anyone can follow to write better papers.
I’ll be blunt. Reading even a couple of pages from a poorly written paper is agonizing. Don’t torture the reviewers who have to go through your paper, make their job easy. A happy reviewer is much more likely to give you a good score, and get you one step closer to getting that “A” on a school project, defending your thesis or getting accepted to a conference.
🔍 Main Ideas:
1) Check your spelling and grammar.
There are simply no excuses for lousy grammar and spelling errors in papers. They make your text look unprofessional, lacking in polish, and most important - hard for the reader to follow.
2) Explicitly list your contributions in the introduction and conclusion.
Don’t make the reader guess what the point of your paper is. Make it obvious by clearly listing out the main contributions at the end of the introduction and again in the conclusion. Focus on 2-3 biggest problems you solved. This should not be a boring changelog of all the things you tried and minor issues you overcame, this should be a knockout punch that makes you look like David vanquishing Goliath.
3) Assume your reader knows nothing.
The easiest way to confuse your reader is by throwing around model names and abbreviations without first introducing them. Unless you are talking about a convolutional layer or matrix multiplication assume that the reader does not know what any of the acronyms mean. Even the good old MLP should be first explicitly written out as “multi-layer perceptron (MLP)” before defaulting to the short-hand notation. It goes without saying that this rule is even more important for more exotic concepts and acronyms. Remember that unlike you, the reader most likely did not spend the last three to six months going on a deep dive into the subject of the paper.
4) Write self-sufficient descriptions for figures.
Every figure and table should tell a story. If the reader can understand every figure just by reading the descriptions, you are doing a good job. Writing descriptions that are self-sufficient is essential to hook the reader, since people tend to start with the figures when reading papers. However, writing a good description for each figure and table alone is not enough, always reference each figure and table in the text at least once and reiterate what is written in the description. Do not assume that the reader will remember what is on “Figure 4” and “Table 3” when they are mentioned in the text just because you wrote it in the corresponding description.
5) Explain every formula in the text.
Just dropping raw math on your reader is a sure way to lose her attention and especially bad if it involves multiple new variables. Explain every formula and the meaning of all of the new greek letters in it like you are talking to a five year old. Put it in the text right before or after introducing the math. Surprisingly, omitting the mathematical notation altogether and explaining every concept and loss function with words is also a bad idea as the entire purpose of formulas is to give a concise representation of an idea in a canonical representation that is agreed upon.
Check your spelling, clearly state your contributions, explain things, write good captions, support formulas with text, and you will make any paper you write that much better!
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