Some Research Paper Writing Recommendations

Arie van Deursen

Last week, I received an email from Alex Orso and Sebastian Uchitel, who had been asked to give a talk on “How to get my papers accepted at top SE conferences” at the Latin American School on Software Engineering. Here’s their question:

We hope you can spare a few minutes to share with us the key recommendations you would give to PhD students that have not yet had successful submissions to top software engineering conferences, such as ICSE.

An interesting request, and I certainly look forward to receive some of the advice my fellow researchers will be providing you can see the advice of my fellow researchers in a presentation by Alex Orso.

When working with my students on papers, I must admit I sometimes repeat myself. Below are some of the things I hear myself say most often.

Explain the Innovation

The first thing to…

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Surfing on the Waves of Publication!

In [1], Meyer (2013) criticizes the current scientific publication methods. He believes that with the technological evolution it is possible to transform the articles in dynamic documents that can evolve over the time. In other words, the publishing process should also evolve. For this reason, the author presents the waves of publication.

As stated by Meyer, “The very notion of publication has changed. The process part is gone; only the result remains, and that result can be an evolving product, not a frozen artifact.”

Moreover, the author suggests to start with a blog post, then register the work first version as a technical report (usually not considered prior publication), then submit it to a workshop, then to a conference, and finally, a version of record in a journal (extended version of a conference paper including at least 30% of new material). The Figure below summarize the publication evolution process (waves of publication).


In blog posts, the writer audience work as “reviewers” through comments. They contributes with different perspectives and point of viewers. The drawback is the feedback low reliability. On the other hand, in technical reports,  the researcher advisor (or responsible) reviews the work. Generally, there are institutions/organizations involved in the process.

In Workshops, (at least 2 or 3) reviewers will evaluate the paper. We can consider as the “first” external evaluation. Although conferences and journals are harder to publish, the reviewers contribution are important to evolve the work. Furthermore, there is a chief editor to coordinate the revision.

According to Meyer, “there is a whole gradation of prestige, well known to researchers in every particular field: conferences are better than workshops, some journals are as good as conferences or higher, some conferences are far more prestigious than others, and so on” [1].

We support the idea that publication should evolve along with the research and the journal should combine different kind of studies to allow a broader view of the work. Hence, we suggest the combination of the waves of publication with Mafra et al. methodology [2] as an iterative and incremental publication process (see the Figure below).


According to Kitchenham (2007), “A systematic literature review (SLR) is a means of identifying, evaluating and interpreting all available research relevant to a particular topic area” [3]. SLR will serve as basis for defining the state of the art. The focus is Evidence-Based Software Engineering conferences.

Since the workshop is the first contact of the work with the research community, the initial ideal  can be submitted to a Software Engineering workshop. Once the idea is establish, the work is prepared to conference evaluation. The Technology Development includes the development of: tools, processes, frameworks, models, guidelines, approaches, and so on.

Moreover, the researcher should execute the Empirical Evaluation of the Technology. It includes controlled experiments, case studies, qualitative research, interviews, etc. Finally, the different papers should be combined in a journal paper by adding more 30% of new information.


[1] B. Meyer: Communications of the ACM Blog: The Waves of Publication, January 2013, available in:  ACM Blog.

[2] S. Mafra, R. Barcelos, G. Travassos, Aplicando uma Metodologia Baseada em Evidência na Definição de Novas Tecnologias de Software (Portuguese), in: XX Brazilian Symposium on Software Engineering (SBES), 2006.

[3] B. Kitchenham, S. Charters, Guidelines for performing Systematic Literature Reviews in Software Engineering, in: Keele University and Durham University Joint Report, 2007