Handbook for PhD Students

This PhD Handbook serves a dual purpose: it defines the research methodology of our group and gives general advice to students, and it sets out standards and processes which all students in the group are expected to strive for.

Writing tips direct link
  • Author list: list authors by contribution; supervisor usually goes last
  • Abstract: the abstract is a 1-paragraph condensed summary of the introduction section; e.g. one sentence for each problem-driven research question, and a brief summary of the main results
  • Introduction: follow problem-driven research questions; and don't waste your space with a paragraph at the end to explain the structure of the paper, this should be clear from the section titles
  • Related work: the related work section comes either after the introduction or before the conclusion
  • Preliminaries: be very careful with your problem definition; double-check your maths
  • Math mode: use \arg,\max,\min,\log, \left( \right) for auto-sizing brackets (also works with [],{}); each equation that is shown in its own line should also show an equation number so you and readers can point to it
  • References: make sure references are complete and correct, and use a consistent formatting
  • Citing: don’t use citations as nouns or subjects (i.e. don’t write “In [5], an RL algorithm is used to...” or “[1] show that...”); instead use active citing (“Albrecht et al. [1] show that...”) or passive citing (“...was shown [1]”)
  • Name your method or algorithm. It allows for more concise writing and makes referencing easier.
  • Capitalise Section, Figure, Table, Algorithm ("see Section X", "as shown in Figure X"). In Latex, use tilde to avoid linebreaking before the \ref command ("Section~\ref{xx}").
  • Use consistent terminology, don't switch between different terms to refer to the same thing
  • Use Oxford commas: not “We tried a, b and c...”, instead “We tried a, b, and c...”
  • Don't use "he/she" pronouns for agents; use "it" (no gender)
  • Only use "we" when referring to the authors; write "the agent/algorithm does X" when referring to agent/algorithm
  • When writing “This” or “These”, always follow it with a noun; not “This shows that...”, instead “This experiment shows that...”
  • Know when to use "if" vs "whether": "if" is a conditional statement (think if-then-else), "whether" is a choice between two alternatives
  • Avoid informal writing: isn't -> is not, can't -> cannot, like -> such as, big -> large/significant
  • Avoid imprecise descriptions, e.g. "performs better/worse than..."; be precise, e.g. "achieves higher average returns than..."
  • Use British or American spelling, but not both; my preference is British
  • The microtype Latex package makes your papers look better.