Planning paper writing

  1. Your advisor may disagree with you on the nuances of the story or structure of the paper. It is better to agree on the higher order bits first to avoid having to redo large chunks of writing.
  2. It is easier to get started on a skeleton of the paper than on 8 pages worth of beautiful sentences and figures. Writer’s block is unlikely.
  1. It is less overwhelming for you to receive and for your advisor to give feedback.
  2. It allows for parallel progress. While your advisor is taking a pass on one section, you could be working on a draft for another.
  1. Paper title. May need to be revisited.
  2. Paper skeleton: Section and subsection headings.
  3. Intro skeleton: A bulleted list describing the point you want to make in each paragraph of the intro. No full sentences.
  4. Intro filled in: Fill it in with sentences. You now have the first draft of your paper’s intro. May need to iterate on this a couple of times.
  5. Related work skeleton: List of topics related to your work, a list of papers in each you plan to discuss, and a phrase stating what you plan to say about each.
  6. Related work filled in.
  7. Approach skeleton: Subsections and bulleted list in each charting out how you’ll walk the reader through your approach. Placeholders for figures.
  8. Approach filled in: Approach sections are often longer and denser than intro and related work. I recommend splitting filling in the approach into two chunks.
  9. Results skeleton: Datasets you’ll show results on, points covering the experimental setup, subsections with associated claims you will support, placeholder figures to illustrate expected trends, placeholder tables that list existing work/baselines/ablations you will compare to, list of analyses. No actual results, data, or sentences. Iterations on this may reveal additional required experiments.
  10. Results filled in: Actual sentences, data, results.
  11. Conclusion, abstract.
Sheet to schedule and track iterations on paper sections.
  • My experience is primarily with AI conferences.
  • You may need to adapt this to your working style, the order in which you like to write the sections, the typical paper format of the conferences that you submit to, the topic of your specific paper, etc.
  • I have had limited success in getting students to follow this. To quite an extent, that is because I feel the need to give them the freedom to find their own working style. I was fortunate enough to have that freedom when I was a grad student. So I have not insisted on this as much as I could. Having said that, whenever students have followed this, outcomes, in my opinion, have been better on average. So perhaps I should be insisting on this more.



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Devi Parikh

Devi Parikh

Research Director at Facebook AI Research. Associate Professor at Georgia Tech. Generative Artist. Artificial Intelligence.