Posted in Uncategorized

How to read an academic paper ( my answers)

These answers are all based on the Supporting Clinicians in Robot-Assisted Therapy
for Autism Spectrum Disorder: Creating and Editing
Robot Animations with Full-Body Motion Tracking by J. Alan Atherton and Michael A. Goodrich (2011)

Pay attention to the title. What does the title tell you about the article?

The key focus of this academic paper is using full-body motion to create and edit a robot’s animations so that it can be used to support clinicians in robot assisted therapy for those who have ASD.

Pay attention to the author(s) – Who are they? Where do they work? Do they see to be experts?

J. Alan Atherton

Work: Department of Computer Science Brigham Young University Provo, UT.

Are they an expert: According to google scholar he is a PhD candidate and has been cited in 119 articles since 2012. His focus is Human-Robot Interaction, Human-Computer Interaction, Computer Graphics, Animation and Artificial Intelligence.

Michael A. Goodrich

Work: Department of Computer Science Brigham Young University Provo, UT. (Professor, Department Chair)

Are they an expert: According to the Brigham Young University website he received his PhD in 1996 in Electrical and Computer Engineering under the direction of Dr. Wynn Stirling. After graduation, he completed two years of postdoctoral research in an associate position at Nissan CBR. His doctoral work was in intelligent control, and his post-doctoral research was in computational models of intelligent human behaviour. He spent one year as a research assistant professor in the Computer Science Department at Brigham Young University where he is currently a Professor of Computer Science. His research interests are; human-robot interaction, human-vehicle interaction, multi-agent learning, artificial intelligence and decision theory.

Read the abstract first and read it carefully. If it is well written it will tell you three things which will help you to make judgement on whether the paper will be useful.

What is the research topic?

Creating a way for clinicians to no longer have to rely on programmers every time they need to modify the actions of a robot. Instead software and hardware that can track the movement of the user and then apply this to the robot is proposed as a useful solution with the clinicians, computer scientists and mechanical engineers needing to be collaboratively involved in the design process of this tool.

What did the authors do?

It doesn’t state in the abstract what the authors did, it just talks about their experience of clinician’s desire to change the robot’s behaviour to suit the needs of different children and that because these clinicians can’t program they need to find a solution that will allow them to change the robots behaviour.

What they discovered

That robots may be more useful to clinicians if they are able to create and modify actions for the robot. And that for any idea on how to fix this problem; clinicians, computer scientists, and mechanical engineers need to work collaboratively in the design process.

Read the introduction to get the big picture of the area of research, note any words that you don’t understand and look them up. Try to identify from the introduction what ‘research question(s)’ was that the authors were hoping to answer.

Words I don’t understand

Anecdotal evidence

The term anecdotal evidence can be broken up into two distinct halves, both of which are words you are more than likely familiar with. Evidence is proof, in some form or another, offered to defend a belief or a claim. Anecdotes are short stories told to illustrate a point or support a claim. In many cases, anecdotes are presented as being true, representing real people and events.

Anecdotal evidence can be defined as a testimony that something is true, false, related, or unrelated based on isolated examples of someone’s personal experience. Anecdotal evidence is very popular in the advertising world. Every time you see a claim about a product’s effectiveness based on a person’s personal experience, the company is using anecdotal evidence to encourage sales.

There is a big and distinct difference between anecdotal evidence and scientific evidence, or proof based on findings from systematic observation, measurement, and experimentation. While scientific evidence can be independently verified using the scientific method, anecdotal evidence cannot. Anecdotal evidence is often offered when there is an absence of scientific evidence or in an effort to refute scientific evidence.

Drawbacks of Anecdotal Evidence

One problem with anecdotal evidence is when one or more ‘best case’ examples are used to generalize about some larger group of people. Diet products and weight loss programs are a terrific example of companies using anecdotal evidence to their full potential.

For instance, a commercial for a weight loss supplement might show before-and-after pictures of individuals who took the only supplement and subsequently lost weight. These commercials are emotionally driven and ONLY use the personal experiences of the individuals who have had extreme success with the supplement. The commercials are implying that what worked for some will work for everyone. However, if you look very closely at the fine print, you will see a disclaimer than states, ‘Results are not typical and will vary from individual to individual.’

It will be reasonable to question whether it was the supplement that caused the weight loss or if there were other factors. Luckily, this is a research question easily tested using the scientific method. Scientific evidence might show that the weight loss pill is indeed effective in most or even all cases, or it might show that other factors – water intake, the amount of exercise undertaken by the consumer, or changes in diet – had a large influence on the participants’ weight loss results.

Another problem with anecdotal evidence is when it is based on someone’s personal testimony. Individuals’ accounts of events can be unreliable. Personal accounts can be affected by many factors: stress levels, how questions are phrased, or reconstructive memory, when our own brains fill in missing information in an attempt to make sense of something we saw. Evidence based on personal accounts is not considered credible evidence and can become less credible with time.

Research Question/s they are asking

  • How to empower clinicians to customize the robots behaviour to suit the needs of each child?
  • Ways to change the robots behaviour without the need for traditional computer programming.
  • How to make the solution to the problem of changing the robot’s behaviour without traditional computer programming simple for the clinicians to use.
  • How to design an interface that a clinician will find easy to use?
  • Why will a full body gesture-based method for motion capture help the clinicians solve this problem?
  • Why do clinicians need to be able to program the robot?

Read the conclusion. If this is well written it will be another summary of the paper (a bit like the abstract) but it will focus more on the results and what they seem to mean.


  • Robots can be beneficial to therapy for children with ASD.
  • Clinicians need to be able to modify robot behaviour.
  • Motion capture may enable intuitive generation of complex animations and algorithmic analysis inside a gesture-based user interface can help to modify the captured animations intuitively and efficiently for non-experts.

What they seem to mean

  • Studies have shown that robots help children with ASD learn social behaviours that seem to easily move over to being used not just with robots, but with parents and children their age too.
  • Clinicians can’t all take courses in programming, nor can they turn to a programmer every time they need to make the robot do something different for each child. This is why a method that is easy for the clinicians to learn and understand needs to be created before robots become more readily available as tools used within therapy environments. The robot needs to behave differently for each child because no two people with ASD are the same.
  • Motion capture seems a viable solution because with the technology getting cheaper and more readily available and with motion being a skill that people are born with it becomes a logical way forward into programming these robots to be able to be used easily by the end user. Since the hardware is already existing within things like game consoles the next step is to figure out how to create software that anyone can easily pick up in either a mini course or using an instruction manual.



Topics I don’t understand: Read the description of what the researchers did and ask yourself, does that seem like a good way to answer the question(s) they were asking.

Read the discussion and pay attention to the conclusions that the authors are drawing from the results. Do you agree with what they are saying?



Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s