About Mohit Arora

Mohit Arora is a Senior Systems Engineer with Freescale Semiconductor. Since joining Freescale in 2005, he has been responsible for IP/SoC Architecture and has led the design and development of various SoCs for multimarket segment. As a systems engineer,....

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Tips for writing a good Technical Article

I am often asked necessary tips (or rather guidelines) to write a good article so I thought; this is what I should cover as my first Blog.

 

Writing good technical articles is indeed a challenge, takes a lot of your personal time and often requires doing a lot of research. Of-course you should have a passion for reading and writing it.

 

Before you write your paper, you need to understand your audience and your message. Who will read it, and what are the key points you want that person to take away from it?

 

Before I begin explaining what article should really cover (outline) , always remember never to violate these 10 rules (or atleast try to) :-

 

#1: Always use present tense in writing Technical Article. Furthermore, the use of words like “will” tends to lead to thinking and writing about what will be done. Conversely, when the article is written in the present tense, the language is clear and unambiguous.

 

#2: Avoid lengthy, complex paragraphs. In case your article will appear in columns, even one or two sentences equal a paragraph.

 

#3: Avoid use of passive voice.

 

For example “Each message includes a time interval” (active voice) reads better than “In a message, time interval is included” (passive voice).

 

Sentences in active voice have directness and keep the reader interested.

 

#4: Expand all acronyms on first use, except acronyms that every reader is expected to know.

 

#5: Avoid “etc.” unless it is obvious.

 

Good Example: “We shall number the phrases as 1,3,5 etc”

Bad Example: “We measure performance factors such as volatility, scalability, etc

 

Also avoid using “that”, “this”, “these”, “such as,” “among others” or, better yet, try to give a complete list.

 

#6: Do not refer to colors in Figures. Most people will print the paper on a monochrome (black and white) printer and will have no idea what you are talking about. Make sure that lines are easily distinguishable when printing on a monochrome printer.

 

#7: Keep your bylines down to 6 lines or less. Publishers will not publish articles that contain excessively long bylines.

 

#8: Make sure you read your article several times and use spell-check. Though it may be obvious, this is one of the most important tips. If you are careless making silly spelling mistakes, editors will just reject your article.

 

#9 : Never write an article on a topic which you are not confident. Make sure you work out all steps and give fair amount of information to your readers.

 

#10: When providing data in form of numbers that include facts, always provide the source of information. For example “20,000 nodes on internet as per XYZ research paper dated ..”

 

Now let’s cover what Article Outline should include.

 

A well written article should include the following Outline:-

 

  • Title
  • Abstract
  • Introduction
  • The Body
  • Conclusions/Summary
  • Future Work /References

 

Title

Avoid common phrases like “novel”, “performance evaluation” and “architecture”, since almost every paper does a performance evaluation of some architecture and it better be novel. Nobody searches for these types of words on the internet.

 

Use adjectives that describe the distinctive features of your work, e.g., reliable, scalable, high-performance, robust, low-complexity, or low-cost.

 

Use a powerful headline that demands attention and try to keep it all on one line. Look for keyword combinations that will make a good title, should reflect what the article is about, and should rate fair in a keyword search.

 

 

Abstract :

 

Lot of people doesn’t realize the importance of “Abstract”. Many people read abstracts and then decide whether to go through the rest of the paper.

 

Well written abstract should be no more than 100-150 words. Highlight not just the problem, but also the results. The abstract must not contain references, as it may be used without the main article.

 

Avoid use of “in this paper” in the abstract. Avoid equations and math unless your article is about proving an equation.

 

Introduction:

 

Should briefly describe the problem along with solutions and alternatives the paper is going to cover. Problem statement should also lay emphasis on why problem is important.

 

Be sure that the introduction lets the reader know what this paper is about, not just how important your general area of research is. The introduction must motivate your work by covering the problem you are addressing and then give an overview of your approach and/or contributions (and perhaps even a general description of your results).

 

Introduction should answer the following questions :-

 

  • What is the existing problem and why it is important?
  • What is the approach to solve the problem (leave the details to be covered in the body) and how is it different than existing approach or solves a known limitation?
  • What are the Results?

 

In this way, the introduction sets up the expectations for the rest of the paper by providing a context and a preview.

 

Remember: Repeating the abstract in the introduction is bad idea so avoid it.

 

Body

 

Describe Problem and the necessary details. Unless there is a separate section on results/conclusion, that should also land up in this section.

 

Try to tell a story. The story should be linear by keeping the reader engaged at every step. Make a list of your main points. Then progress from one to another (logically), so that they lead to a conclusion.

 

Along with the text (that is obvious) to you since you know what you are writing, try to include figures, flowcharts, and tables to support the text. Believe me, this is what would keep the readers interested.

 

Conclusion/Summary

 

This should essentially include a summary of all the main points mentioned in the body. Conclusion may be merged either in the body or a separate section just after the body.

 

 

Future Work /References

 

If you are actively involved in a follow-up work (would often be true for a on-going research), there is no harm to include a synopsis on the same in this section so readers can look forward to that.

 

Provide links to all articles you think will be useful for the reader to get additional information. If you have referred any books, list them as well. This will give a clear idea to the reader to look out for more details.

 

Last but not the least, make sure you follow the publishers’ submission guidelines. Articles submitted to publishers that don’t follow the submission guidelines will most likely be rejected.

 

Make sure your article is properly formatted. Publishers won’t take the time to format your article. They’ll simply delete it and move on to the next article submission.

 

Hope this article may be helpful to you.

 

Good Luck and Happy Writing!!

 

Mohit Arora

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