Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Questions about Me

Now you, too, can answer standardized test questions about me. In April I shared some of the funny tweets that bored Texas teenagers posted after being forced to answer reading comprehension questions about me on a standardized test (called STAAR). Turns out that test has been released! [Full text of the test.]

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

A Formula for Academic Papers: Title and Abstract

There are many ways that people will use the papers you write. Only a few will pick up your paper and read it straight through, from start to finish. More often, your readers will approach the paper with a focus on the specific component that will aide their research. Somebody running a similar study to yours, for example, may want to borrow your methodology or build on a particular finding you present. A person doing a literature search may want to place your paper in the context of other research or use it as a source of additional papers to read. Even those who do end up reading your paper straight through will probably start by scanning the conclusion, figures, and references to decide if the paper is worth the effort. In each of these cases, however, your reader will also read the title and abstract to develop the necessary context. You want to be sure that these form a clear and complete view your work.

A Formula for Academic Papers

Academic writing often follows a formula, and for good reason. Formulaic components are time-tested, and matching structural expectations makes it easy for the reader to focus on content. As you develop your own way of presenting your research to an academic audience, you should build on the common formula in your area. The best way to learn this formula is to read a lot and study the successful elements of well-presented papers. Over the next few weeks I will share the basic formula that I use as a starting point for my papers in human-computer interaction and information retrieval, in case it is useful to you.

Common components:

This series of posts is based on a presentation I gave with Holly Rushmeier on Publishing Your Research at Grace Hopper Conference 2013.

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

The Case for Slow Search

As discussed in a previous post, Web searchers expect search engines to return results instantaneously. To meet these expectations, search engines make many compromises to shave milliseconds off their response time. But it is ironic that a few milliseconds matter so much when over half of our interactions with a search engine involve multiple queries and take minutes or even hours. Just think, for example, of the last time you planned a vacation or researched a potential medical diagnosis. For these tasks, the quality of the experience – and not speed – is what matters.