Rules for writing percentages in an essay

Use figures!

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Different people learn in different ways, so you should complement a textual or mathematical presentation with a graphical one. Even for people whose primary learning modality is textual, another presentation of the ideas can clarify, fill gaps, or enable the reader to verify his or her understanding.

Figures can also help to illustrate concepts, draw a skimming reader into the text or at least communicate a key idea to that reader , and make the paper more visually appealing. It is extremely helpful to give an example to clarify your ideas: this can make concrete in the reader's mind what your technique does and why it is hard or interesting.

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A running example used throughout the paper is also helpful in illustrating how your algorithm works, and a single example permits you to amortize the time and space spent explaining the example and the reader's time in appreciating it. It's harder to find or create a single example that you re-use throughout the paper, but it is worth it. A figure should stand on its own, containing all the information that is necessary to understand it.

Good captions contain multiple sentences; the caption provides context and explanation.


For examples, see magazines such as Scientific American and American Scientist. The caption may also need to explain the meaning of columns in a table or of symbols in a figure. However, it's even better to put that information in the figure proper; for example, use labels or a legend. When the body of your paper contains information that belongs in a caption, there are several negative effects. The reader is forced to hunt all over the paper in order to understand the figure. The flow of the writing is interrupted with details that are relevant only when one is looking at the figure.

The figures become ineffective at drawing in a reader who is scanning the paper — an important constituency that you should cater to! As with naming , use pictorial elements consistently. Only use two different types of arrows or boxes, shading, etc. Almost any diagram with multiple types of elements requires a legend either explicitly in the diagram, or in the caption to explain what each one means; and so do many diagrams with just one type of element, to explain what it means.

You should simply call them all figures and number them sequentially. The body of each figure might be a table, a graph, a diagram, a screenshot, or any other content. Put figures at the top of the page, not in the middle or bottom. If a numbered, captioned figure appears in the middle or at the bottom of a page, it is harder for readers to find the next paragraph of text while reading, and harder to find the figure from a reference to it. Avoid bitmaps, which are hard to read. Export figures from your drawing program in a vector graphics format. If you must use a bitmap which is only appropriate for screenshots of a tool , then produce them at very high resolution.

Use the biggest-resolution screen you can, and magnify the partion you will copture. Your code examples should either be real code, or should be close to real code. Never use synthetic examples such as procedures or variables named foo or bar. Made-up examples are much harder for readers to understand and to build intuition regarding. Furthermore, they give the reader the impression that your technique is not applicable in practice — you couldn't find any real examples to illustrate it, so you had to make something up.

Any boldface or other highlighting should be used to indicate the most important parts of a text. Even if your IDE happens to do that, it isn't appropriate for a paper. For example, it would be acceptable to use boldface to indicate the names of procedures helping the reader find them , but not their return types.

How to write a good essay: Paraphrasing the question

Give each concept in your paper a descriptive name to make it more memorable to readers. If you can't think of a good name, then quite likely you don't really understand the concept. Think harder about it to determine its most important or salient features.

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It is better to name a technique or a paper section, etc. Use terms consistently and precisely. While elegant variation may be appropriate in poems, novels, and some essays, it is not acceptable in technical writing, where you should clearly define terms when they are first introduced, then use them consistently. If you switch wording gratuitously, you will confuse the reader and muddle your point; the reader of a technical paper expects that use of a different term flags a different meaning, and will wonder what subtle difference you are trying to highlight. Choose the best word for the concept, and stick with it. Do not use a single term to refer to multiple concepts.

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This is a place that use of synonyms to distinguish concepts that are unrelated from the point of view of your paper is acceptable. When you present a list, be consistent in how you introduce each element, and either use special formatting to make them stand out or else state the size of the list.

Table of contents

I am intelligent. Second, I am bright. Also, I am clever. Finally, I am brilliant. First, I am intelligent. Third, I am clever. Fourth, I am brilliant. Some people worry that such consistency and repetition is pedantic or stilted, or it makes the writing hard to follow. There is no need for such concerns: none of these is the case. Choose good names not only for the concepts that you present in your paper, but for the document source file. Don't name the file after the conference to which you are submitting the paper might be rejected or the year. Even if the paper is accepted, such a name won't tell you what the paper is about when when you look over your source files in later years.

Another benefit is that this will also lead you to think about the paper in terms of its content and contributions. Instead, use one of the standard terms fault, error, or failure. A fault is an underlying defect in a system, introduced by a human. A failure is a user-visible manifestation of the fault or defect. Do not confuse relative and absolute measurements.

You could report that your medicine's cure rate is. I would avoid these terms entirely. Given the great ease of misunderstanding what a percentage means or what its denominator is, I try to avoid percentages and focus on fractions whenever possible, especially for base measurements. For comparisons between techniques, percentages can be acceptable. Avoid presenting two different measurements that are both percentages but have different denominators. Your paper probably includes tables, bibliographies, or other content that is generated from external data.

Your paper may also be written in a text formatting language such as LaTeX. In each of these cases, it is necessary to run some external command to create some of the content or to create the final PDF. All of the steps to create your final paper should be clearly documented — say, in comments or in a notes file that you maintain with the paper — and, preferably, should be automated so that you only have to run one command that collects all the data, creates the tables, and generates the final PDF.

If you document and automate these steps, then you can easily regenerate the paper when needed. This is useful if you re-run experiments or analysis, or if you need to defend your results against a criticism by other researchers. If you leave some steps manual, then you or your colleagues are highly likely to make a mistake leading to a scientific error or to be unable to reproduce your results later.

One good way to automate these tasks is by writing a program or creating a script for a build system such as Make or Ant. A related work section should not only explain what research others have done, but in each case should compare and contrast that to your work and also to other related work. After reading your related work section, a reader should understand the key idea and contribution of each significant piece of related work, how they fit together what are the common themes or approaches in the research community? Don't write a related work section that is just a list of other papers, with a sentence about each one that was lifted from its abstract, and without any critical analysis nor deep comparison to other work.

Unless your approach is a small variation on another technique, it is usually best to defer the related work to the end of the paper. When it comes first, it gives readers the impression that your work is rather derivative. If this is true, it is your responsibility to convey that clearly; it it is not true, then it's misleading to intimate it. You need to ensure that readers understand your technique in its entirety, and also understand its relationship to other work; different orders can work in different circumstances.