Friday, October 3, 2008

First Draft : The massacre

Countless paper readings, weeks of brainstorming, sleepless nights full of coding, playing around with gnuplot, latex ........and out of all chaos emerges your first draft of the paper. You print it and meet your advisor with a twinkle in your eye. Your minimum expectation? Of course the paper will go through! I have great results!!
Ten minutes into the discussion with advisor and the first page is filled with red marks. She hasn't even crossed the abstract and you start realizing that what you have written does not make any sense. Needless to say that meeting ends without crossing first page. You wonder what made you so excited in the morning while printing that draft.
Back to your desk, you look at the bleeding print out of your draft. One sentence that keeps you going, "Don't worry buddy, everything is gonna be just fine."

Sunday, August 24, 2008

How to do Literature Review
Amit Awekar
Points to keep in mind before you start
1. Human beings do research (at least till today) : Talk to your advisor to find out leading researchers in your area of interest.
2. Good research is generally published at a good venue : Better know before hand where to dig.

Here is my strategy
1. Decide your area of interest
2. Find out leading researchers in the field
3. Where they are publishing? Which conferences? Which journals? Who funds them?
4. Which problems or topics are being addressed in last couple of years? Which problems are unsolved for long time? Which problems are emerging?
5. Which are interesting problems/ topics for me?
6. For problems / topics that interest me which are
  • Latest papers
  • Survey papers
  • Key papers
7. Read each paper using your reading strategy. e.g Here is my reading strategy. 8. Build a cohesive story using each paper as a building block. Be creative in establishing links between different papers / problems. Try to generalize the solutions by analyzing them in more abstract way. 9. As a graduate student you are more interested in open problems. That's the reason you did all this review. Work hard over this section.

How to read a research paper

Amit Awekar

My reading strategy is largely influenced by following three papers

1. Keshav, S. 2007. How to read a paper. SIGCOMM Comput. Commun. Rev. 37, 3 (Jul. 2007), 83-84. DOI=

2. Amanda, S. How to read a computer science research paper

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3. Michael M. How to read a research paper

( )

Keep following points in mind before you start reading any paper

1. Read with a purpose : You don't read research paper just for the sake of reading. If you do, then better read a novel or newspaper. If you want to get idea about research happening in a totally unfamiliar scholarly field then scientific magazines is a good place to start.

2. Time is the key : Everyone can digest any research paper very well. The only difference will be the time required. My advisor might need 30 minutes while I still need three hours. Once gone, time never comes back. Invest your time wisely.

3. Levels of abstraction : Once you go through the abstract you can have some idea about how relevant this paper is for you. You need not understand every research paper you read to the finest details. Sometimes it is enough to understand the problem addressed and the results (if you are reading any general computer science paper). Sometimes you might want to know the solution methodology (if the paper is somewhat related to your area of interest). And there are some papers that you must understand completely (if you are going to build your research based on them).

4. Jigsaw puzzle : Reading research papers is not all that boring as you might think. Once you understand the problem setting and the results, try to guess the solution that authors have presented. Just skim through the paper for section and subsection names and figures, tables, charts. This might give you some important clues. When you are a novice you can be Dr. Watson but with enough practice you can be Sherlock Holmes.

What to get from paper?

1. Problem addressed

2. Why to solve this problem?

3. Claims

4. Conclusion

5. Related work

6. Methodology : Assumptions, Algorithm, Data Set, Experiments

7. Possible improvements

8. Connection to other problems

9. What can I do with this knowledge? : The most important

I find multi-pass strategy of Keshav[1] very rewarding. Reading a research paper requires you to be

1. Efficient : You don't have time to read all the research papers at your own leisure.

2. Critical : Not all the research papers published are good (and at times correct as well!).

3. Creative : Reading research paper is just the beginning of the research. How would you build on this acquired knowledge? I will update this documents as and when I change my strategy of reading (and get time to document it).

August 23, 2008

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

It's a small world!

I am sitting here in Raleigh, NC. My HP laptop screen goes blank all of a sudden. I call up the HP customer care center. The guy sitting there asks routine question, "Sir, may I know your name please". With all the frustration of a broken laptop in the middle of important work and fact that this was the fourth person I was telling my name to during that call, first answer I can think of is "gabbar singh". But past experience of two years with HP has taught me the essence of buddhism. It is long time since I stopped getting angry over stupid questions one after the other. So I tell my name, "Amit Awekar". Strangely the guy on the line asks me to tell my complete name. With temperature in my head nearing the boiling point, I repeat "Amit Awekar". With typical HP coolness he also repeats, "Your full name please sir." What the heck? Is this my old maamaaji or chaachaaji on the phone? But then beggers and HP customers have no choice. I tell my complete name with father's name and I get question from the other end of the line, "Is your family from village XXXXX?" I was surprised. So surprised that the concentration of chemicals causing emotion called surprise in my brain was not so high even after I had seen a footpath in Pune without any street hawkers. So it took me a few seconds to come down to level of responding. It turns out that the guy comes from the same village that my father hails from. The only sweet surprise HP has given me!