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Paper Title

Titles can be long and descriptive:

  • Linear-Time External Multipass Sorting with Approximation Guarantees

or short and sweet:

  • Approximate External Sort

Here’s a middle-of-the-road length, plus a cute name that sticks in people’s minds:

  • Floosh: A Linear-Time Algorithm for Approximate External Sort

The Abstract

State the problem, your approach and solution, and the main contributions of the paper. Include little if any background and motivation. Be factual but comprehensive. The material in the abstract should not be repeated later word for word in the paper.

(Exercise: Write an abstract for the multiway sort example.)

The Introduction

The Introduction is crucially important. By the time a referee has finished the Introduction, they’ve probably made an initial decision about whether to accept or reject the paper — they’ll read the rest of the paper looking for evidence to support their decision. A casual reader will continue on if the Introduction captivated them, and will set the paper aside otherwise. Again, the Introduction is crucially important.

Here is the Stanford InfoLab‘s patented five-point structure for Introductions. Unless there’s a good argument against it, the Introduction should consist of five paragraphs answering the following five questions:

  1. What is the problem?
  2. Why is it interesting and important?
  3. Why is it hard? (E.g., why do naive approaches fail?)
  4. Why hasn’t it been solved before? (Or, what’s wrong with previous proposed solutions? How does mine differ?)
  5. What are the key components of my approach and results? Also include any specific limitations.

The Body

  • Content: The meat of the paper includes algorithms, system descriptions, new language constructs, analyses, etc. Whenever possible use a “top-down” description: readers should be able to see where the material is going, and they should be able to skip ahead and still get the idea.

The Conclusions

In general a short summarizing paragraph will do, and under no circumstances should the paragraph simply repeat material from the Abstract or Introduction. In some cases it’s possible to now make the original claims more concrete, e.g., by referring to quantitative performance results.

 

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