Another version for abstract writing (esp. in computer science)

Thanks to Will for this useful abstract structure, especially if your research speaks to the field of computer science /HCI. This is taken from


Because on-line search databases typically contain only abstracts, it is vital to write a complete but concise description of your work to entice potential readers into obtaining a copy of the full paper. This article describes how to write a good computer architecture abstract for both conference and journal papers. Writers should follow a checklist consisting of: motivation, problem statement, approach, results, and conclusions. Following this checklist should increase the chance of people taking the time to obtain and read your complete paper.
Now that the use of on-line publication databases is prevalent, writing a really good abstract has become even more important than it was a decade ago. Abstracts have always served the function of “selling” your work. But now, instead of merely convincing the reader to keep reading the rest of the attached paper, an abstract must convince the reader to leave the comfort of an office and go hunt down a copy of the article from a library (or worse, obtain one after a long wait through inter-library loan). In a business context, an “executive summary” is often the only piece of a report read by the people who matter; and it should be similar in content if not tone to a journal paper abstract.

Checklist: Parts of an Abstract
Despite the fact that an abstract is quite brief, it must do almost as much work as the multi-page paper that follows it. In a computer architecture paper, this means that it should in most cases include the following sections. Each section is typically a single sentence, although there is room for creativity. In particular, the parts may be merged or spread among a set of sentences. Use the following as a checklist for your next abstract:
 Why do we care about the problem and the results? If the problem isn’t obviously “interesting” it might be better to put motivation first; but if your work is incremental progress on a problem that is widely recognized as important, then it is probably better to put the problem statement first to indicate which piece of the larger problem you are breaking off to work on. This section should include the importance of your work, the difficulty of the area, and the impact it might have if successful.
Problem statement:
 What problem are you trying to solve? What is the scope of your work (a generalized approach, or for a specific situation)? Be careful not to use too much jargon. In some cases it is appropriate to put the problem statement before the motivation, but usually this only works if most readers already understand why the problem is important.
 How did you go about solving or making progress on the problem? Did you use simulation, analytic models, prototype construction, or analysis of field data for an actual product? What was the extent of your work (did you look at one application program or a hundred programs in twenty different programming languages?) What important variables did you control, ignore, or measure?
What’s the answer? Specifically, most good computer architecture papers conclude that something is so many percent faster, cheaper, smaller, or otherwise better than something else. Put the result there, in numbers. Avoid vague, hand-waving results such as “very”, “small”, or “significant.” If you must be vague, you are only given license to do so when you can talk about orders-of-magnitude improvement. There is a tension here in that you should not provide numbers that can be easily misinterpreted, but on the other hand you don’t have room for all the caveats.

What are the implications of your answer? Is it going to change the world (unlikely), be a significant “win”, be a nice hack, or simply serve as a road sign indicating that this path is a waste of time (all of the previous results are useful). Are your results general, potentially generalizable, or specific to a particular case?
Other Considerations
An abstract must be a fully self-contained, capsule description of the paper. It can’t assume (or attempt to provoke) the reader into flipping through looking for an explanation of what is meant by some vague statement. It must make sense all by itself. Some points to consider include:

• Meet the word count limitation. If your abstract runs too long, either it will be rejected or someone will take a chainsaw to it to get it down to size. Your purposes will be better served by doing the difficult task of cutting yourself, rather than leaving it to someone else who might be more interested in meeting size restrictions than in representing your efforts in the best possible manner. An abstract word limit of 150 to 200 words is common.
• Any major restrictions or limitations on the results should be stated, if only by using “weasel-words” such as “might”, “could”, “may”, and “seem”.
• Think of a half-dozen search phrases and keywords that people looking for your work might use. Be sure that those exact phrases appear in your abstract, so that they will turn up at the top of a search result listing.
• Usually the context of a paper is set by the publication it appears in (for example, IEEE Computer magazine’s articles are generally about computer technology). But, if your paper appears in a somewhat un-traditional venue, be sure to include in the problem statement the domain or topic area that it is really applicable to.
• Some publications request “keywords”. These have two purposes. They are used to facilitate keyword index searches, which are greatly reduced in importance now that on-line abstract text searching is commonly used. However, they are also used to assign papers to review committees or editors, which can be extremely important to your fate. So make sure that the keywords you pick make assigning your paper to a review category obvious (for example, if there is a list of conference topics, use your chosen topic area as one of the keyword tuples).
Writing an efficient abstract is hard work, but will repay you with increased impact on the world by enticing people to read your publications. Make sure that all the components of a good abstract are included in the next one you write.
Further Reading
Michaelson, Herbert, How to Write & Publish Engineering Papers and Reports, Oryx Press, 1990. Chapter 6 discusses abstracts.
Cremmins, Edward, The Art of Abstracting 2nd Edition, Info Resources Press, April 1996. This is an entire book about abstracting, written primarily for professional abstractors.

Things to look out when writing / editing

When you are writing about another author’s text:

  • Remember there is no single authoritative reading of any text. In every case, you are the author of that interpretation.
  • Pay attention to detail and build a larger case (ie, your argument / point)
  • Grasp the central ideas of the author’s text
  • Move in + out from the details with the point / argument in mind
  • Avoid beginning a sentence too often with another author’s name / quote. Best start with your own voice + idea first.
  • When using quotes, always think whether its necessary. It is a good idea to quote if the way the author/s put their point across is very important to illustrate. Otherwise, paraphrase (and take ownership of voice).
  • Be confident that you do have an opinion, ie. you don’t need to agree with what they say, and you are allowed to say you are interpreting things they say in a different way.
  • You don’t need to use page numbers if you’re not quoting.
  • Don’t be repetitive in your references eg. I disagree with Akama’s assertion on ‘curly’ uses of cucumbers (Akama 2014:34).
  • Use the referencing style that your supervisor recommends.


Paragraphs are the building blocks

  • How is the author’s point carried between the paras?
  • What kinds of signposts are used?
  • Do para sentence start and end by carrying the argument / point forward?
  • Is connection between paras clear?
  • Are the paras ordered in a way that makes sense? Any hiccups?
  • Does anything feel slow, unlikely or muddled?



  • Avoid generalisations. Always support your point / argument with supporting sentences. This needs detail, example, explanation, elaboration, illustration etc.
  • Don’t get stuck talking about something unless you have a good reason
  • Avoid waffle and don’t fall in love with your own words. A good tip I use is to strike-through of words / paras you think you should cut (but not delete it yet) and then decide what to do it in a harsh edit afterwards.
  • Do look for the direction of the text – where is it going?



  • Look at the phrases and words that bring them to life (picture them as a character)
  • Encourage active voice and discourage passive voice. The first sentence in every para is your voice, ie, its your idea that guides the reading
  • Does the opening sentence (usually chapter starts) grab your attention? Make sure it does.
  • How does the writing flow? Look out for continuity and connectedness, sentence to sentence, para to para. Build a rhythm and pace. It sometimes helps to read it out loud to hear it.
  • Avoid very long sentences – balance this with short + medium ones
  • Don’t be afraid of using ‘I’.
  • But don’t go overboard with the ‘Royal We’ – it can often be confusing if you’re not specific to who that is, and it’s a slippery slope to generalisations.
  • The exception of the above is if it is co-authored (so the I become the we)
  • Don’t mimic poor academic writing!
  • KISS – don’t be tempted to use big words and convoluted phrases if that’s not how you normally write.




29th August class – Mason’s ‘Noticing’ reading + abstract writing

For those who missed this class, this is for you to access the reading we did and the exercise on abstract writing.

The very short chapter is by John Mason (2002) , and he talks about the importance of ‘noticing in research’. Irrespective of you doing a project or thesis, being aware of what you notice and how you are noticing is good to learn about. It shows that, when we read, sometimes we just notice what we agree with or disagree with (these emotions are good cues for how we notice), and also alludes to the ‘lens’ in which we perceive the world. We used this text as a discussion, so please read if you can, and see how it applies to your own ways of noticing.

Mason, John. 2002. Researching Your Own Practice: The Discipline of Noticing. London: Routledge Falmer.

Mason 2002 ChNoticing in Research

We also did an abstract writing exercise, using this structure and abstract examples. There’s no steadfast way in structuring an abstract, but this is a start to learn the basics 4 moves. For those who missed class, I’d recommend you doing this exercise to see how the example abstracts are using the 4 structures (or not), by literally taking each sentence and numbering the corresponding structure. Then, we all wrote our abstracts using this structure, and I’d like you all to continue this and bring your abstracts to class on the 12th Sept, and then we can give each other feedback and help re-write it.

Abstract structure

Thanks to Brea for her wonderful babushka doll performance!

Have a good productive semester break!


For Friday Class 22nd Aug

Good class today everyone, and thanks Liam and Will for sharing your work in progress.

In our discussion today, many of you said how you’d like your writing to be read by each other, thereby helping one another clarify ideas and improve how that’s conveyed. As such, we thought it best if you each wrote 500-1000 words (any element from your research) and have that posted here by Monday 18th Aug so you can each read your fellow students’ work before class.

We also discussed how small-group peer feedback (instead of the whole) will be useful, so this is a random group I made up:
1) Sean, Jo, Nancy
2) Will, Brea, Verity, Pasha
3) Liam, Paige, Melisa
So just read the ones in your group and we can probably spend an hour or so on this exercise.

I’d also like to continue with you each sharing your research with us, so I think the only ones we haven’t done yet are Melissa and Verity – is that ok?

Unfortunately, there’s a high-level Uni meeting I really must go to on Friday morning, so I’m going to be late coming to class (I should be there by 10.30am). I’m sorry. It would be fantastically “mature and responsible” if you can get going with the peer-feedback exercise in class in the meantime?

I’ll bring gluten-free, lactose-free snacks to share as rewards for hard work ;-p

Thanks and have a great weekend!


Continuing with the reflective exercise…

Thanks Sean for hosting this class in the GEE-Lab on Friday (and also exposing us to the wonders of Mindcraft!)

We’re going to continue with the reading (see last post) on reflective practice so please download the text and have it read before class. There are four main things I’d like to do in the next class:

– discussion of the reading
– chattette of Pasha and Brea’s research
– reflective writing (continued from this class)*
– and other informal “AA” ish conversations

* This is something we’ll be doing for the next few weeks, until we’ve been able to ‘build your muscle’ in deepening your reflective practice skill. Have a read of my own reflection as an example that used the four layers of reflection. Again, as discussed, there is no ‘right or wrong’ in doing reflection, and the differences between the 4 stages aren’t clear cut, but I hope you can see the gradual movement towards a deeper understanding, and the ‘sling shot’ movement we talked about surfacing  ‘new’ thinking / direction. I hope what I wrote gives you that ‘gist’.

We didn’t get a suggestion for where we’ll meet, so we’ll convene in the Honours Lab, and do a belated celebration for Nancy’s birthday.

Have a good weekend everyone 😉


Reflective practice example

Reading on reflection

I forgot I had already posted a chapter on Schön when we talked about ‘tacit knowledge’. Feel free to read it again, if you’d like a reminder, as Schön, among others, is the most frequently cited scholar in this area (so its handy to know, if you want to be more knowledgeable about reflective practice). Anyway, I’m posting up another article (this is quite short – a book chapter) which gives an interesting overview and relevant to our area. Please download and we’ll do a discussion session in class next Friday ( 1st Aug).

Burnard + Hennessy eds 2009

The reference for this article is:
Burnard, P. 2009, Rethinking the Imperatives for Reflective Practices in Arts Education, in Burnard, P. and S. Hennessy, Eds. Reflective practices in arts education. Dordrecht, The Netherlands, Springer, pp. 3-12.

Also don’t forget we’re meeting at T-square cafe next class, which is at the bottom of RMIT Design Hub (corner of Swanston + Victoria St – the circle glass building, you won’t really miss it). The cafe can be accessed via Victoria street, via the sloping steps on the side. Its Nancy’s birthday as well, so we’re going to be celebrating that with a CAKE (wow!) that Nancy has offered to bring. Sean/Will will then find us a spot to go to on lvl 4, if not, we can go up to level 8 meeting room at the DRI.

Sean / Jo – thanks for leading us with your ‘critical object/reading’ bite-size chattette too.

See you all Friday and have a good weekend 😉



The 4 Rs of reflection

Reflection moves from surface to deep, from self to others (visualise a cone)

Self > peers

Self > peers > sector

Self > peers > sector > society


The reflection don’ts (common pitfalls)!

  • just description of what you did

  • a ‘personal journal’ (emotional and rambly)

  • ways to get ‘easy’ marks (eg. it’s honest and admits to making mistakes)


The 4 Rs:

1.Reporting and Responding: Report what happened or what the issue or critical incident involved.

  • These ‘critical incidents’ can be a challenge, a curiosity, a surprise, a shock, a realisation, a confusion.

  • Try and observe it and note it down. Why do you think its relevant?

  • Respond to the incident or issue by making observations, expressing your opinion, or asking questions.


2. Relating: How does it relate to you?

  • Make a connection between the incident or issue and your own skills, experience, feelings, aspirations  and your research topic.

  • Have I seen / felt this before, or is it a radically new thing? Why?

  • Were the conditions the same or different?

  • Ask if you have the skills, knowledge, experience or emotional capacity to deal with this, and explain why. What does this tell about yourself?


3. Reasoning: Highlight in detail significant factors underlying the incident or issue.

  • Explain and show why they are important to an understanding of the incident or issue.

  • Refer to relevant theory and literature to support your reasoning – what have others said about something similar? Consider different perspectives.
    (anything/readings from the course eg: site visits, guest speakers, links to reading on brief, anything we have shared, anything you have found eg case studies etc.)

  • How would a knowledgeable person perceive / handle this?


4. Reconstructing: Reframe or reconstruct how you will do it differently next time.

  • What might work and why? Are there different options – can you see them?

  • Ask, ‘what might happen if…?’ Are your ideas supported by theory / readings / other people, and if so how? If not, why? (refer to red note as above)

  • Can you  make changes to benefit other students / peers / people?

  • What understandings have you challenged to create new ways of understanding something? What’s changed about the way you think now?


An example of a stage 4 reflective piece:



Bain, J., Ballantyne, R., Packer, J., and Mills, C. (1999). Using journal writing to enhance student teachers’ reflectivity during field experience placements. Teachers and Teaching, 5(1), 51-73

Carrington, S. and Selva, G (2010). Critical social theory and transformative learning: evidence in pre-service teachers’ service-learning reflection logs. Higher Education Research & Development, 29(1), 45-57

Download the 4R chart here:



Critical reading for Friday – Phenomenology

Hi everyone

As discussed in last week’s class, I think having some understanding of Phenomenology will help you understand ways to think what knowledge is with respect to your topics. To give you an overview, instead of reading Meleu-Ponty, I thought this one will be more useful and provide a way to see how different thinkers have contributed to its development over the 20th century.

Please read the ‘Introduction’ Chapter, of  Introduction to Phenomenology by Dermot Moran. Its only 20 pages, so not that long 😉

When you read this, try connecting it to the reading you’ve done before on Michel Polanyi and Donald Schön on “tacit knowledge” too, as they strongly relate to one another.




Introduction to phenomenology Moran 2000

Critical reading / object for class, 9th May

Hi everyone

This is from Sean:

There is a short story called The Right Book by Cory Doctorow.  Read it here:

or you can listen to it read by Neil Gaiman:

The words associated with this are:

Collective: community; creative.  Futures: evolution; embrace.

This is related to my research as it explores the themes of the users having the control to modify and create within a particular medium, and the communities that can emerge out of this phenomenon.  I am using Minecraft to make an education game, and the way Minecraft has been constructed means that it is can be modified by the users very easily.

I was reminded of this story when I came across the “end poem” for Minecraft.  It appears at the ‘end’ of the game, which I’ll explain further at our lab on Friday.  The poem isn’t necessary for the lab, but if you are interested it can be read here:

Questions for you to consider:

o  How do you currently use books and ebooks?  Are you a consumer and a creator?
o  How likely do you think the story’s proposed futures are?


And from Pasha


The field experiments is an ongoing project that was started and conducted by an internationally well-known graphic designer, Stefan Sagmesiter who went to undergo a “sabbatical” experiment in Bali, Indonesia with the purpose is to reconnect with his inner-design and creativity so that it enables to refresh his mind from client-based works. Sabbatical can be defined as period of time during which someone does not work at his or her regular job and is able to rest, travel, do research, etc. During his time in Bali, another designer by the name of Paul Marcus Fuog, a designer from Melbourne joined him to assist Sagmeister’s design projects. The field experiments is then recently being continued by Paul Marcus Fuog and other two designers whose name are Benjamin Harrison Bryant from New York city, USA and Karim Charlesbois Zariffa from Montreal, Canada. The Field of Experiments is a collaboration between designers from their respective fields to produce a collection of experimental, yet unforgettable design works that will hope to be recognised and possible to use for the future. Although the project was meant for more exploration to other areas, Bali is their first destination to start their project where they are challenging the conventional and existing arts & crafts of Bali to build an idea that an object of souvenir or arts & crafts can be an object of desire and appreciation so it can be used over time rather than using the object just for needs. The designers have come up with wicked ideas that can be looked at a design perspective using different materials to make odd combinations. The Field Experiments would also benefit Sagmeister to develop a documentary movie project about happiness during his time in Bali to undergo his sabbatical experiment.

(Note: In the official field experiments website, click on the link that says “Selected Projects” to see the collection of work.)



In relation to the Field Experiments, Stefan Sagmeister presented during TED TALK about the power of time off and basically its about The refreshment of having a time off effectively creates fresh new ideas. In this video he talks about his experience in Bali performing a sabbatical experiment to create a collection of unforgettable design works which are conducted through his own creativity and thinking. The whole point that he is trying to get across during his presentation is that by performing “Sabbatical” projects, it will give him more happiness and joy when going back to client-based works. The link of the videos are at the bottom:

Stefan Sagmeister TED Talks:


The Happy Film Titles:

(Worth to check out both videos in order to save an amount of time for friday’s class 🙂 Thanks.)


This is an article that Paul Fuog was interviewed about his time and experience in Bali working with Stefan Sagmeister to conduct the sabbatical projects:


You can check out the two designer’s folio of work on these links:

Paul Fuog’s Folio:

Paul Fuog’s Studio:

Stefan Sagmeister’s Folio/Studio:

Questions In Mind (Able to use for discussion):

Would a country like Indonesia (a conservative country) be able to accept these form of objects and exploit them for their own purposes? What about other conservative countries, how would they react?

How does a sabbatical experiment benefit other practitioners to be more creative and will this work work for them (other than designers)?

Do you think that we all should/can do a sabbatical project?

What is the idea of happiness that is heavily involved in conducting a sabbatical project?

(Note: More questions will pop up during Friday’s class).