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  • 1

    Writing a Scientific Article

    Bogdan Dumitrescu

    “Politehnica” University of Bucharest, Romania, and

    Tampere University of Technology, Finland

  • 2

    General contents

    � What is a scientific article ?

    � When do you start writing ?

    � General structure of an article

    � Style issues

    � Review process

    � Revising a paper

    � some English and a big homework

  • 3

    1. What is a scientific article ?

    � A scientific article

    � is a written communication presenting results of

    scientific research

    � may contain theoretical results and their proofs

    � often presents experimental data that support the


    � is addressed mostly to specialists

    � is published in a journal, typically after a peer-review


  • 4

    Types of articles

    � There are two main types of scientific articles

    � Research articles: dedicated to communication of original

    research results. Depending on the length:

    � Regular (full) papers: length e.g. 8-10 pages double column or 20-30 pages single column (draft format)

    � Letters (technical notes, etc.): shorter, e.g. 4-5 pages

    � Review (survey, overview) articles: synthesis of recent

    results in a field, a topic, a problem. No original

    contribution, but typically the authors have significantly

    worked in the area and are recognized specialists

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    Full paper or letter ?

    � You need original contributions for both !

    � If theoretical contributions are minimal, probably a letter is better

    � Letter also better if you improve on other results, without coming with an original approach

    � If in doubt, write the paper. You’ll decide when the paper is almost ready

    � Warning: some journals don’t accept both letters and full papers

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    Comments and replies

    � A less significant type of article: the “comments”

    � Comments are very short

    � Referring to a previously published article, they

    � point out a significant error and maybe give a cure

    � affirm that the original contribution was actually

    published elsewhere

    � give a shorter or more elementary proof

    � A “reply” is an answer of the authors of the initial


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    Terminology examples (1)

    � Automatica

    � Survey papers - Extensive reviews of established or emerging research topics or application areas

    � Papers - Detailed discussion involving new research, applications or developments. [10 printed pages, i.e. 10 000 words.]

    � Brief papers - Brief presentations of new technical concepts and developments. [6 printed pages, i.e. 6000 words.]

    � Technical communiqués - New useful ideas and brief pertinent comments of a technical nature. [4 printed pages, i.e. 4000 words.]

    � Correspondence Items

  • 8

    Terminology examples (2)

    � IEEE Trans. on Signal Processing

    � Regular paper (max 30 double-spaced pages, 11pt


    � Correspondence items (max 12)

    � IEEE Trans. on Automatic Control

    � Full paper (max 32 double-spaced pages, 12pt)

    � Technical notes and correspondence (max 12-15


  • 9

    Where do you publish ?

    � Target: best journal that might accept the paper

    � Why ?

    � good audience—many potential readers

    � more likely that your article will be cited

    � as a researcher (even only for PhD) or professor, your

    publication list is primarily evaluated based on the


    � (a refined evaluation is done based on the articles

    themselves, but you must survive the first evaluation)

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    Narrow the target from the beginning

    � Before starting to write your paper, choose at

    most 2-3 journals, one of which will be the final

    destination of the paper

    � Check the requirements of these journals: format

    of the submission, length, other details

    � Download Latex or Word templates

    � Although they affect only marginally what you’ll

    write, these details provide a useful framework

    and free your mind for the main job—writing

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    How do you tell a good journal ?

    � Tradition and reputation:

    � you have read many good articles from it

    � famous researchers have published in it

    � your professors used it for teaching or research

    � etc.

    � Scientometrics information:

    � impact factor

    � other quality measures

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    Tradition vs. noname

    � Journals edited by societies with tradition are

    usually good (or at least not bad)

    � IEEE, IFAC, SIAM, IET—good labels, generally

    you can rely on the title of the journal to know its


    � Relatively new journals: there is a risk, try to get

    as much information as you can

    � Bad labels: WSEAS is a good example of low

    quality (but certainly not the worst)

  • Romanian journals

    � In the latest few years, many Romanian journals

    managed to get indexed in major databases

    � Before submitting, read at least the contents of a

    few issues

    � Even if the quality is not the best, it is important

    that the contents is focused

    � Counterexample: Metalurgia International

    publishes papers on materials science,

    management, environment, social sciences

  • Electronic journals

    � Some journals are published only electronically

    � They can be good or bad, as the others

    � These journals are not necessarily free, the readers have to pay (in fact, only few are free, and not the best)

    � At some journals, the authors are offered the “open acces” option: free access to all readers

    � The authors have to pay a fee going from 400 to 2000 euro (?)

  • Databases

    � Good journals are indexed in databases

    � Reciprocal is not true: databases contain also lower rank journals, conference papers

    � Main databases: � ISI web of science (maintained by Thomson Scientific's

    Institute for Scientific Information)—the most used

    � Scopus (Elsevier)—emerging and quite good, but very accurate only for data after 1995

    � Google scholar—free, very extensive, but many “gray” area papers (i.e. “garbage”)

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    Do you have to pay ?

    � Publishing is free in good journals !

    � However, some journals impose a maximum

    page number (usually big enough)

    � You’ll have to pay for the extra pages, if your

    article is very long (>10 pages at IEEE TSP, >12

    pages at IEEE TAC, in the publishing format)

    � If money is a precondition for publication, go to

    other journal

  • Copyright issues

    � At most good journals, the authors transfer all

    rights to the journal

    � So, the article becomes property of the journal

    � If you’ll want to reuse pieces of text or figures

    (e.g. in a book), you have to ask permission to

    the journal

    � If you want to protect the methods or the devices

    described in the article, you must apply for a

    patent before publishing


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    Conference upgraded to journal ?

    � Some conferences promise to publish your article


    � in the proceedings

    � in a journal (sometimes only selected papers)

    � This is not exactly good practice…

    � An article can be published only once !

    � A few decent journals publish special issues with

    conference papers; however, this is clearly stated

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    Impact factor

    � Impact factor in 2009 is

    IF = N_cites / N_papers

    � N_papers: number of papers published by the journal in 2007 and 2008

    � N_cites: number of citations to these papers, in articles appeared in 2009, in all indexed journals

    � For engineering journals � IF>1 is good

    � Max values are typically 3-4

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    Impact factors 2008 (ISI)

    � IEEE Trans. on Automatic Control 3.293

    � Automatica 3.178

    � International Journal of Control 1.130

    � IET Control Th & Appl 1.070

    � IEEE Trans. on Signal Processing 2.335

    � IEEE Signal Proc. Letters 1.203

    � Signal Processing (EURASIP) 1.256

  • 21

    Other measures

    � Impact factor on 5 years

    � Immediacy index: N_cites/N_papers from the

    same year—not relevant in engineering

    � Cited half life: median age of articles from a

    journal, cited in the current year

    � Eigenfactor

    � Warning: different databases give different values

    of the performance indices

  • Hirsch index (h-index)

    � Appropriate for researcher evaluation

    � Basic idea: it’s important that articles are cited, not only published

    � A researcher