How to write an academic paper…quickly

This year we’ve changed the format of the paper (formally a ‘note’). There were a number of advantages to using an academic format, such as:

  • Standardising referencing, which makes it easier for your reviewers to follow your justifications for your solution, and thus understand your submission
  • Standardising the format, which helps us compare and review all the submissions (so hopefully we will be proportionally quicker)
  • Gives you experience writing in academic style that will be assessed in a peer-review structure
  • Allows you to attach images, tables, and other media to your paper to help strengthen your arguments
  • Simplifies turning the top team entries into a publication format, which we will then publish as part of the OzCHI conference catalogue

Does this actually make the challenge harder? Probably not. The format for your paper is a 2-page ‘short paper’, using the OzCHI paper template. In this template, once you remove the title box, author list, abstract, references and figures (such as images), you only need to write about one page of content (which in turn is on a page with large margins).

Things you should do

Use references! References provide grounding to the real and show that your solution isn’t just based on assumptions. For example, you could use the Whittaker and Sinder reference from the challenge brief to justify the statement that email’s features have been overloaded for years.

It is a good idea to start working on your paper early. Don’t leave it to the last hour! You can fill in content as you go along – using the structure below.

How to structure your paper

The structure of your paper might look something like this:
Make sure your title is not too generic, for example don’t make it simply “The future of email”. If your solution is a specific application with a name, it’s a good idea to include the name in the title and then specify what it does.
Write a short (about 100 to 150 words) abstract that summarises the problem, why it matters and your solution (how you propose to address the problem) as well as the approach you took (e.g. if and how you evaluated your proposed solution).
Author keywords
Enter at least three keywords that describe your submission, for example the keywords might be: email, communication, task management.
Briefly introduce the challenge problem (you can repeat some of the key messages from the challenge brief), including any additional background research you might have done (most of your references will go here) and your proposed solution (briefly).
Outline your method/approach to the challenge. Try to have at least one reference justifying the approach you took.
This will be the bulk of your text. Talk about your solution, why it will be effective, how people will use it, etc. Any results from usability/prototype testing goes here.
Summarise the key findings you made through designing your solution and discuss what work needs to be done to follow on from your solution.
List your references using Harvard Referencing (APA). Remember to include both your blog’s and your submitted video’s URLs as references.


It’s a good idea to look at examples of how other papers are written. In particular we recommend you to take a look at some of the OzCHI student design challenge papers from previous years, like this, this and this. (You need to be within a university network to access the PDF versions of those papers, assuming your university has a subscription for the ACM Digital Library.)