How to write a conference paper

  1. See call for papers for conference that might be related to your research area.  File away and/or note date and URL in spreadsheet.
  2. Ignore spreadsheet until 90% of the due dates have passed.
  3. Suddenly remember conference deadline coming up in less than a month.
  4. Confidently assume that you can submit a paper based on that fabulous research you and your students did last term/last summer/last year/sometime since you got this job.
  5. Start tracking down the data and results files and/or the students’ writeup.
  6. After a week of searching, begging, pleading, and/or threatening, realize that the data and results are either (a) lost forever or (b) in a format no one understands anymore.
  7. Start rerunning relevant experiments.
  8. Restart relevant experiments after you find an error in your software.
  9. Download style files from conference web site.
  10. Struggle with style files for several days.
  11. Write the intro and methods sections.  Try to avoid the temptation to copy the intro and methods section from your last paper.
  12. Finally, some results!  Make some pretty graphs.
  13. Fight with Matlab for several days to get pretty PDF versions of said graphs.
  14. Redo graphs after figuring out a better way to present the data.
  15. Screw graphs, let’s just use tables.
  16. Time to add some text to the results section!
  17. Lift and paraphrase key sentences from intro = instant abstract.
  18. Damnit, the paper is 5 pages too long and I haven’t written the conclusion yet!
  19. Cut out all important details and explanations.  Realize the peer reviewers will skewer you for lack of detail later.
  20. Still too long!
  21. Paper triage time—cut out any text that’s non-essential.
  22. Made the page length!
  23. Try to remember which undergrads contributed to the original research.
  24. Struggle with the author ordering for the undergrads, then decide to just list them alphabetically.
  25. Add cringe-worthy title.
  26. Time to submit!
  27. Fill out 80 zillion fields in the paper registration form—all with info that can be easily gathered from your paper.
  28. Fight with the online submission system to actually get the paper submitted.
  29. It’s in!  And with 5 minutes to spare!
  30. Wait 2-3 months.
  31. Get reviews back.  Realize after reading the reviews that the reviewers (a) completely missed the point of your paper, (b) feel that your paper, even though it does contain research relevant to the conference’s scope, is “actually more of a paper for X subfield”, and/or (c) were clearly having a bad day when they reviewed your paper.
  32. Sigh and go back to Step 1.
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