There’s a session in APSys 2013, where Professor Gernot Heiser discussed about how to write a good system paper. It is really helpful, and I would like to share some of his suggestions here.
He introduced 4 rules of writing:
reviewers are pot luck
Most problems raised by reviewers may be:
I'm not convinced you're solving a real problem I'm not convinced you're solving the problem I don't understand - too badly writing
And one important thing we need to know is:
papers without a PC "champion" have a hard stand
Hence we must make sure there’s something which at least one reviewer will think cool!
a paper has a story
That means each paper should have one main message, and the author must know clearly what the message is, to make sure that the reader gets it, and make sure it’s an interesting one.
A paper has a narrative. It starts from zero and then works on transmitting the message. Everything you write must support the message.
The other important notes you should know are: maintain user state! ( be conscious of what the reader knows/remembers)
imited real estate: the two “c” s
Which means every sentence, paragraph, section should has a clear purpose, which should be clearly communicated, and the overall message is consistent.
be “concise” (brief but complete)
Don’t waffle! Be precise! and make sure it’s readable, lucid, enjoyable.
Other things need to consider are:
maintain reader state define before use be aware of what the reader has learned recall/remind if necessary
presentation matters - paper engineering
Some important bits here:
introduction: sell the idea, the significance and the approach build tension, make reader interested convincing argumentation top-down, not bottom-up maintain reader state convincing evaluation state assumption/limitations honestly
And notes about each section of one paper:
Introduction: most important part of the paper!
It mostly issues an idea to come, explains the problem you’re solving, outlines your approach, indicates results/outcomes, states contributions, and correctly cites PCs’ work important!!!
Meanwhile, you should capture the reader’s interest to sell your idea, and be concise (stay within about one page), make sure the paper delivers what you promise. Remember: reviewer hate “bate and switch”
background: set the scene in more detail
In backgound, you can cite related work, describe problem in detail, explain solution in detail (honest with limitations and assumptions)
it mostly used to steer to the right reviewers
what, why, achievement, implication (four sentences) important: redo for camera ready
One interesting statement is that abstract usually has two purposes:
for published: rewrite for people to read for reviewers: to select paper to review, get right reviewers!
evaluation: often largest part
It shows your solution actually works
progressive: significant improvements in important situations conservation: no (or insignificant) degradation elsewhere
Be careful about the scenarios of your benchmark
artificial/constructed best cases will be discounted think of ways in which your approach could fail/deteriorate go out of your way to be fair, anticipate any scepticism of your work
style and form
Write in engaging style, lead reader though the paper
avoid tobbom-up structure, present idea top-down follow style rules use active voice avoid buzzwords("novel", "mobile social supercomputing in cloud")
Be mindful of reader’s brain state (which is lossy)
maintain reader state don't assume every reviewer is expert in your narrow area but don't think you can hide stuff from reviewers
Follow formatting rules
don't play with margin, baseline skip etc. don't use microscopic fonts > 40y olds have problems with <8pt font
Spell-check, proof-read, proof-read
get native speaker to proof-read if you aren't get outsider to read it - great way to spot holes before it's too late!
use revision control don't use MS word use BitTex
And some other materials:
- Levin & Redell: An evaluation of the 9th SOSP submissions or how to write a good systems paper.
- Tips and Guidance for Students Writing Papers and Reports
The trip to Singapore for APSys 2013 really make me harvest a large. It is my first time to submit a poster, and the first time to apply for the Travel Grant. And I’ve meet, talked to and discussed with a lot of genius and excellent people there. Although I’m not good at social, attending such excellent meeting let you learn from others a lot, and make you much more familiar with the System community.
Finally is my photo in presenting my poster work - RemoteBinder. The audience is the lengendary people Yandong Mao, graduated from Fudan University, and now PhD of MIT CSAIL.