Being Up Front in the Abstract

The abstract holds an odd place in a research paper. It’s not really part of the paper itself. It’s more like the elevator pitch. The abstract is usually the last section that you write, but it’s the first part that people will read. Obviously, you want to write an abstract that entices the reader to keep reading. But what if they don’t read beyond the abstract? I recently asked myself this question, and it has fundamentally changed my perspective of abstracts, both as a reader and as an author.

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Wrapping Functions in MATLAB

If your research relies on simulations, then you typically have parameters that you need to change for every simulation you run. If you use a software platform like MATLAB, then you can try getting away with changing parameter values directly via the command line. Generally, though, it’s a lot more flexible if you assign parameters in a function or script that runs your simulation. An even more flexible strategy is to use a function wrapper. This post is an introduction to using function wrappers in MATLAB.

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Diligence in the Author Proof Process

It’s always satisfying to see your paper get accepted by a peer-reviewed technical journal. You have recognition of your work, both of your research and the writing itself. You’ve satisfied the expert reviewers who were asked to assess what you’ve done. If you’ve gone through a few rounds of revision, then you’re familiar with the process of addressing concerns and suggestions. This takes a lot of diligence, since every critical point made by a reviewer should be accounted for. While it’s a good reason to celebrate, it’s not the end of the road. After a paper is accepted, and before it is finally published, there’s the proofing process. The publications team will finalize your paper in the format required for the journal, and they will send you a proof for your approval.

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How to Cite Yourself

In my last post, I offered some guidelines on choosing citations. The very first guideline was to avoid conflicts of interest, which generally refers to citing yourself (but also applies to your close collaborators). Now, I’m going to describe how to cite yourself. I’m not changing my mind on this topic, but I believe that there are scenarios when self-citations are justified. Here, I’m going to list when it’s ok to cite yourself and how you should do it. Continue reading “How to Cite Yourself”

How to Choose Citations

Choosing papers to cite is a key step in preparing a manuscript, but you shouldn’t take it lightly. Consider that a highly cited paper is often assumed to be a great paper. I don’t believe that this should be automatic, but I recognize the value of this (relatively) objective metric for judging someone’s work. With this in mind, this post offers some general tips on how to choose citations.

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arXiv “on hold”: Beware Delays in arXiv Posts

In an earlier post I described my reasons for posting on arXiv, including some consequences to watch out for. I did, however, leave out an important potential problem, especially if you are depending on a permanent link. If you are not careful, there can be a long delay in your manuscript being posted. In one case my wait was over 2 months. In the end, it was (probably) my own fault, but I wanted to share the details here so that it might help someone from making the same mistake. My warning is to be careful with subject classification. Continue reading “arXiv “on hold”: Beware Delays in arXiv Posts”

My Journey to Dropbox for Backups

This week a friend was describing what is probably one of the worst nightmares of research. They lost all of their code. ALL of it, along with everything else on their (presumably stolen) laptop. What made it even worse is that they’re literally one signature away from defending their thesis. The real irony in this story is they had just transferred their work files over from a student lab PC that got a new image, and extra copies made on two separate flash drives were in the same bag as the laptop. I believe that my friend will still be able to graduate, but this is probably one of the harsher lessons for not following the complete backup rule of three. Continue reading “My Journey to Dropbox for Backups”