Having spent the last couple of weeks trying to duplicate the results presented in a conference paper, I felt it was time to provide a hint or six to aspiring authors. It seems that there are two industry sources for innovation, conference papers and application notes. Be it known that no matter what you discovered and promote in your paper, if it can’t be duplicated, it’s worthless. I will proceed by dedicating a paragraph to each subject of conference papers and application notes.
After the data sheet, your application note is the document that either sells your product or frustrates a potential customer and sends them to the competition. My advice is simple, leave nothing to wonder. When I wrote application notes, I listed everything right down to who sourced the Kapton tape that insulated the foil windings on my inductors. Although I welcomed phone calls from customers, I knew that providing the information was more efficient use of time for the customer than having to stop and contact me. Your application note should be self-supporting in this manner. Include all of the data. In addition to serving the customer, the network I formed with vendors who supplied complimentary products (often times passive devices for my semiconductors) would be more likely to provide quick turn samples in return for the free advertising.
As far as conference papers, there seems to be a trend in the IEEE that the more theoretical and equation oriented, the better chance of getting a paper accepted. It’s OK to list the equations however don’t disclose the actual values so we can understand them. In other words, we found this out in our lab but good luck duplicating it. Nothing frustrates an engineer more than missing information.
So what to do when the info is missing? In this day of email, there exists a chance of inquiring with a written question allowing you to detail the request. By writing it, you can think through the request and edit it. This manner works better than an actual voice question that you have to lay out real time while it is being interpreted real time. This may result in error during interpretation. Email works wonders for detailing requests. However, since job jumping became the only way to get a raise starting in the 1990s, good luck finding a person still at the company after three years. Having a plan B is your only option at this point. Plan B for me is to sleuth the internet by Googling relative questions and nomenclature.
When read my first publication, a Ray Ridley ZVS or ZCS paper, it took me several days to get through it because I hung on every equation in sequence. In this latest effort, I perused the entire paper and punched in the parameters I couldn’t find values for. This was much quicker in locating approximate values for the missing information. Also, it assisted me greatly in transforming units of measure thus helping make the values more likely to match. If only I had the internet in 1987 like I do now.
I have to interject a side note here. In the last paragraph, I used acronyms ZVS (Zero Voltage Switching) and ZCS (Zero Current Switching). Realize that acronyms may be common knowledge to you and your immediate circle however many readers are first timers trying to understand a subject. Throwing acronyms out without explanation can cause a hassle for a reader. Your paper’s intention is to solve a problem, not create one. Some may argue that Googling an acronym is so easy these days and therefore, defining acronyms is not necessary. I did have success finding acronym definitions however this can be a double edged sword. In this day of hash tags and acronyms that make texting quicker, one can end up on a web page that’s not so favorable in the eyes of company policy. Been there, done that. Be careful with your acronym search. It may have sexual connotations that you are unaware of.
Thus far, the discussion has focused on lacking information. On the contrary, TMI (Too Much Information) may overwhelm the reader. Also, conference journals are often limited in size which drastically reduces the explanation from detailed to highlights. This also cuts down the amount of paper needed for that ancient practice of printing on paper. For us “old guys” that recall dragging volumes of data books into customers or stacking them high on conference trade show tables, we identify well with the trend for fewer pages. A cute little story was that while at Motorola we noticed a huge upswing in requests for data books in Brazil only to learn that the current market for recycled paper made receiving free material a lucrative venture.
Getting back to TMI (now that I’ve identified the acronym above, I’m comfortable using it here) realize that this is the era of the internet. Cross referencing to a web page may enable more detailed analysis to be referenced. As shown in the graphic below, I reference the Planet Analog home page by using Microsoft Word’s “Insert” tab and then selecting “Hyperlink”. Using the keyboard combination of “Ctrl-K” brings up the same dialog box. This little gem of redirection is also useful for scrolling within a page.
Another useful method is to “split” the page as is shown in the graphic. I use this a lot when writing patents as it allows me to view a Claim and insert it into the Description when they are located far apart in a document.
This method of “splitting” the screen works well for looking at previous equations that are referenced by other equations too. I haven’t yet figured out how to do this in Adobe Viewer when a document is in pdf form. Sometimes I’ll just put two images into
Excel/PowerPoint/Word with the “Snipping Tool” as shown in the following two graphics for referencing Equation (13) from Equation (16)
Obtaining the information is one thing. Referencing it later on is another. As shown in the following graphic, inserting a comment may help to identify the source of the information either on the internet, or where you stored it on the hard drive. For this I use the Microsoft Word’s “Review” tab and “New Comment”.
The aforementioned, Insert Hyperlink method, also works for tagging source information. Note that web pages also disappear from time to time so I store the pdf in the same folder as the document I’m writing.
Although the document may be short in length, there is often supporting data that the documents originate from. My conference papers often started with Excel data that I then put into charts (Excel’s version of a graph) and then into a PowerPoint presentation. From there, I would create a document by filling in the spoken presentation information as typed verbiage. That’s the secret to transitioning from engineer to author. If you have an Excel file, throw that up on the website with the other documents. In this manner, you can keep your paper short and sweet and that TMI will be available so you won’t frustrate your audience with the subject of this blog, “That Missing Info from Your Conference Paper or Application Note”.
Dissecting a conference paper can be done and missing information can be found. The techniques described herein should help you as a reader as well as the author of the paper. You can do it yourself or hire a freelancer to do it. These services can be performed for you if you desire to outsource the effort.