Computer Science Research in a Nutshell

Computer Science Research in a Nutshell

Curious about what computer science research is? So was I.

When I first started as a research student, it would have been helpful to have had a clear and simple yet authoritative essay (or blog post) on what computer science research is and what it is that computer science researchers do. Some guidelines that would clearly tell me what was expected of me and what carrots were on offer. So, over time I developed my own (overly clinical) understanding of computer science research.

What is computer science research?

From a practical standpoint, a piece of computer science research is an academic paper or book in which a researcher(s) makes claims about algorithms, hardware, software, frameworks, models, and other things of that nature. Moreover, in my readings, I have only come across three salient types of claims:

  • X is novel
  • You should care about X because…
  • X is better than Y, Z…

where X, Y, Z… are specific algorithms, software…

All of the technical details, references, definitions, jargon, implementations and diagrams are provided only to support these claims. Anything that doesn’t support one of these claims is just waffle.

What do computer science researchers do?

Simply put, I see research in computer science as an optimisation problem:

maximise your rewards by emitting research behaviours

There are only a few behaviours available to a researcher: talking about your research, producing research artefacts (like books and papers) and submitting them to conferences and journals. A researcher will emit, assess, modify and re-emit these behaviours so as to maximise his rewards: self-fulfilment, acclamation by your peers and renumeration through employment, grants and commercialisation.

From what I could tell, that’s it in a nutshell!


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