Having completed a study and acquired all the data required to present it, you are ready to begin preparing a paper. However, before beginning to write, you have to take several critical preliminary steps:
- Your notes must be gathered, A suitable place for writing must be found,
- A selective literature review may be helpful,
- A target journal must be identified,
- Linguistic limitations must be recognized,
- The study must be defined and delimited, and the information must be arranged.
Failure to take these steps will make writing more difficult and seriously compromise the chances of publication. Therefore, this article outlines what needs to be done in each of these steps.
Gather Your Notes
Writing a paper can be greatly facilitated by keeping good notes during the study phase. A comprehensive laboratory or field notebook (either electronic or handwritten) is a valuable resource when you finally sit down to write your paper. It is easy, during data collection, to assume that you will be able to remember why or how you did things. Unfortunately, when you begin to write up your work, several months or even years later, you are likely to find it difficult to recall details. Keeping thorough notes as you proceed, supported by other sources of information such as sketches or photographs, can alleviate a great deal of stress in the latter stages of your study. Of course, it is not only essential to keep good notes, it is also essential to use them.
Thus, before sitting down to write, all the relevant notes must be gathered.
Find Somewhere Quiet
Having gathered your notes, it is essential to find somewhere peaceful to write, or at least somewhere where disturbances are minimal, because writing well requires intense concentration. Ideally, one should find a quiet room and pin a ‘Do not disturb’ note on the door while arranging the material and writing. Supervisors can help by refraining from demanding to see how the work is progressing every few minutes. Supervisors have many ways to make students’ and post-doctoral workers’ lives miserable if they wish, but constantly disturbing them when they are writing is particularly unhelpful; it reduces the quality of the output, thus impairing the chances of publication. On the other hand, an inexperienced writer will need help.
Hence, setting a good balance between providing helpful advice and interfering too much is an important ‘soft skill’.
Blackwell, J., & Martin, J. (2011). A scientific approach to scientific writing (p.6). Springer Science & Business Media.