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2.2.1 Introduction Desktop Research and Literature Study

Multidisciplinary Research Methods for Engineers

Home Courses Multidisciplinary Research Methods for Engineers Course materials Readings 2.2.1 Introduction Desktop Research and Literature Study

Course subject(s) Module 2. Phases & Methods of Scientific Research

Introduction to Desktop and Literature Study

Identifying the related research for your project is an important starting point. Desktop research and literature reviews can be done for different purposes. Taking a traditional literature review can for example be done for a critical assessment of a theory or standing hypothesis, a conceptual review could analyze the conceptual components of a complex phenomenon or a state-of-the-art review can identify relevant research findings.

Literature analysis and desktop research help you to:

  • Identify relevant variables in your design
  • Understand recent approaches to the problem
  • Learn about the problem context and different factors having an influence
  • Learning about different theories and conceptual models considered

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Finding and reading literature

  • [Read this  Simple guide to the research process: a tutorial .]
  • Start with books and survey/overview papers: they are generally easier to digest. Then try some more specific journal papers. Use conference papers mainly for finding out about recent results.
  • Search in  Google "Scholar , TU Delft Library Mult-database search,  Citeseer (ResearchIndex) ,  Scopus ,  ACM ,  IEEE , and our own  University library's catalogue .
  • Keep track of conferences and journals on your topic and check (once in a while) whether some interesting articles have been published in those.
  • As soon as you find an interesting article, also check the author's homepage(s) for more recent results, and of course follow the references made in this paper.
  • Find people in our faculty or another faculty at TU Delft, or otherwise nearby who have more expertise in this field than you have and ask (email?) them to recommend some literature or conferences.
  • Search on-line using a computer on the campus of your university; many journals are available only to subscribers, and this is often checked using the IP address your browser sends along.
  • Add a paper to your  BibTex  database as soon as you find it (before you even save/print it).
  • Make some notes immediately after you read it.
  • How to read a scientific paper  -- by Mihai Pop

Writing instructions

  • Try to focus on one original idea in your paper. Summarize it in the abstract, introduce it in the introduction, explain it in detail in the body, and draw some conclusions in the final section.
  • Use a dictionary and a  thesaurus ! On the web you may like  Merriam-Webster  or the  Oxford English Dictionary  (the latter is subscribed by the Delft University). The TU Delft has made the  Van Dale  locally available.
  • Should be obvious, but apparently it isn't: use your spelling checker!
  • Use  LaTeX  (Windows:  MikTeX ) for your text, with for example the  LyX  frontend or the cloud-based Overleaf .
  • Use  BibTeX  and for example  JabRef  for your references. (Both programs are included in any Linux distribution.)
  • Use  GnuPlot  or R to generate your graphs, and for example  GasTex ,  GraphViz , or  XFig  to draw figures like graphs.
  • Use  Subversion  or Git to keep track of all your files and documents (both code and text). Request a repository from our IT support.
  • A rather extensive description of how to do a research paper assignment is given by Paul Brians
  • Rules of thumb for writing a research paper
  • translation help by our university (check out the word list)
  • Transition words in an English text
  • A humorous list of writing rules
  • My favorite on-line dictionary
  • Common errors in English
  • The Keables Guide gives a number of tips, also for teachers, to learn to improve your writing skills.

It may also be helpful to take the reviewer's perspective and browse through this tutorial on how to review .

More help with LaTeX

  • A (Not So) Short Introduction to LaTeX2e , "while it is not as comprehensive as Lamport's book, it should be sufficient in most cases."
  • Online tutorials on LaTeX , by the Indian TeX Users Group, including sources, these are *very* useful, and subdivided by topic.
  • The TeX showcase , many examples of what you can do with (La)TeX, in most cases including the source

My colleague Ulle Endriss from the UvA has written some great and detailed instructions on how to do a proper review (e.g. for an AI/CS conference).


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