How to improve the quality of your research papers?

In this blog post, I talk about how to improve the quality of your research papers. This is an important topic as most researchers aim at publishing papers in top level conferences and journals for various reasons such as graduating, obtaining a promotion or securing funding.

Person Writing on White Paper
  1. Write less papers. Focus on quality instead of quantity. Take more time for all steps of the research process: collecting data, developing a solution, doing experiments, and writing the paper.
  2. Work on a hot topic or new research problem, that can have an impact. To publish in top conferences and journals, it will help to work on a popular or recent research problem. Your literature review should be up to date with recent and relevant references. If all your references are more than 5 years old, the reviewers may think that the problem is old and unimportant. Choosing a good research topic also mean to work on something that is useful and can have an impact.  Thus, take the time to choose a good research problem before starting your work.
  3. Improve your writing skills. For top conferences and journals, the papers must be well written. Often, this can make the difference between a paper being accepted and rejected. Hence, spend more time to polish your paper. Read your paper several times to make sure that there is no obvious errors. You may also ask someone else to proofread your paper. And you may want to spend more time reading and practicing your English.
  4. Apply your research to real data or make collaboration with the industry. In some field like computer science, it is possible to publish a paper that is not applied to real applications. But if you put extra effort into showing the real application and obtain data from the industry, it may make your paper more convincing.
  5. Collaborate with excellent researchers. Try to work with researchers who frequently publish in top conferences and journals. They will often find flaws in your project and paper that could be avoided and give you feedback to improve your research. Moreover, they may help improve your writing style. Thus, choose a good research team and establish relationships with good researchers and invite them to collaborate.
  6. Submit to the top conferences and journals. Many people do not submit to the top conferences and journals because they are afraid that their papers will be rejected. However, even if it is rejected, you will still usually get valuable feedback from experts that can help to improve your research, and if you are lucky, your paper may be accepted. A good strategy is to first submit to the top journals and conferences and then if it does not work, to submit to lower level conferences and journals.
  7. Read and analyze the structure of top papers in your field. Try to find some well-written papers in your field and then try to replicate the structure (how the content is organized) in your paper. This will help to improve the structure of your paper. The structure of the paper is very important. A paper should be organized in a logical way.
  8. Make sure your research problem is challenging, and the solution is well justified. As I said, it is important to choose a good research problem. But it is important also to provide an innovative solution to the problem that is not trivial. In other words, you must solve an important and difficult problem where the solution is not obvious. You must also write the paper well to explain this to the reader. If the reviewer think that the solution is obvious or not well-justified, then the paper may be rejected.
  9. Write with a target conference or journal in mind. It is generally better to know where you will submit the paper before you write it. Then, you can better tailor the paper to your audience. You should also select a conference or journal that is appropriate for your research topic.
  10. Don’t procrastinate. For conference papers, write your paper well in advance so that you have enough time to write a good paper.

Those are my advices. If you have other advices or comments, please share them in the comment section below. I will be happy to read them.

Philippe Fournier-Viger is a full professor working in China and founder of the SPMF open source data mining software.

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