I am a PhD researcher in my first year. For the first 3 months all my supervisor made me do was read related papers on IEEE, so a LOT of literature review.

Recently in trying to recreate the result of another paper I was reading, I wrote some code on segmentation that appears to work really well and has got my supervisor's attention and interest. He thinks this may lead to a publication.

He asked me to write a technical report on it. So I wrote a simple report in MS Word which included a brief explanation of the method with graphs and result images but he said this is not what he wanted. What he expects from me is a IEEE style report/paper, including introduction, algorithm/method explanation, mathematical representation, experiments, future work etc.

The problem is that I believe he thinks too highly of my code, its just a for loop applied at different settings. That is all..

What is the mathematical representation of a for loop? How do I make it look more professional? As I know my reports are those of an undergrad standard.

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    It's important to remember that nothing in research is very significant, right up until the point that it becomes significant. It's ok not to win a Nobel Prize with every paper - indeed, if it only moves human knowledge forward by a grain of sand or adds a tiny amount of support to an existing study, that's ok. Treat it like it's just exactly what it is: of unknowable significance or importance to anyone else. Write it up like a full "holy moly stop the science presses" amazing discovery. It turns out those great papers tend to be written about the same as the insignificant ones.
    – BrianH
    Feb 21, 2014 at 17:04
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    all great as well as bad discoveries in computer science can be described as "a for loop applied at different settings"
    – Lie Ryan
    Feb 22, 2014 at 12:36
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    I wrote a simple report in MS Word You should really start using Latex. Your career will only benefit. A lot!
    – Ela782
    Apr 29, 2017 at 22:52

2 Answers 2


Quite possibly, your supervisor is encouraging you to write early, to learn how to write, and to get into the habit of writing your results down.

You would gain a lot by watching this youtube video by Haskell inventor Simon Peyton Jones on How to write a great research paper. Part of his message is that you can do the research while you are writing, meaning that many ideas will come to you as you are writing things down.

You ask how to write a paper. Didn't you just read a whole bunch? Pick one that you found easy to follow and inspiring. Model your paper on its structure and style.

Regarding the actual work. A formal model of a for-loop has already been done, so I suspect that this is not the right level of abstraction to consider. What is the data to which your for loop applied? What did it mean? What did the parameters mean? How are the results of your code interpreted? Were some better than others? On what scale? Part of science is learning to ask and answer the right questions.

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    +1 for having deleted the comment about using LaTeX instead of Word. Feb 21, 2014 at 16:44
  • @AvengerDr: I couldn't help myself, initially. I suspect that earned my a downvote. Feb 21, 2014 at 16:50
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    Some people think that Word is perfectly suitable for writing papers. Indeed, many people do actually write their papers in word. It is a matter of personal opinion, so not really totally appropriate for a site like this. Feb 21, 2014 at 20:01
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    @Dave: Your assertion that LaTeX is better than word for science students is a professional opinion, not a personal opinion (that would be, e.g., that you think cowboy hats are fashionable). Surely rendering professional opinions is a big part of what answering questions on this site is all about. Assuming that you still stand by your statement about LaTeX (I would and do make that statement for math students without batting an eye), I think it would be a service to the OP and others to include it. Feb 22, 2014 at 6:24
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    (Maybe you could write it in a slightly "nicer" -- or really, more transparently explanatory -- way.) Feb 22, 2014 at 6:26

From the wording of your question, it looks like what you wrote can be summarized as "I wrote this code and obtained these results". Even if your code and results are correct (I assume they are, if they got your prof's attention), this is not a publishable paper. The reason is that "I wrote this code and obtained these results" is something that you can say of any piece of code that actually works, no matter how trivial or mundane. What your prof is expecting you to write is a paper that says "I wrote this code and obtained these results, and this is interesting to you, dear reader, because...". There are a bunch of reasons why your code is interesting: it might run faster than standard code for certain cases; it opens up a different way of attacking a certain problem; it shows that a certain cases have some properties that set them apart from their complement class; and so on.

If you had decided to go into industry after getting your BSc, you would be paid to write code that works, period. In grad school, on the other hand, whether your code actually works is to some extent secondary (cf. Knuth's quote "Beware of this code: I've proven it correct, but I haven't run it yet"). What matters is whether your code teaches your peers (grad students, postdocs, profs) something new about your (sub)field.

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