Preparing my First Manuscript

Instead of working on a writing assignment that’s due tomorrow, I’m writing this blog post #priorities. Before I started working in my lab, the very first meeting I had with my advisor was about publishing a paper by the end of my grant period. Well…it’s June, and it’s the end of my grant period. Overall, I would say my project was a success and I was able to generate data that addressed my research questions.

So now what? For the past 1-2 months I should have been drafting a paper. But my ole ambitious non-writing behind continued doing experiments to see what else I might discover. Doing experiments tends to be an excellent mode of procrastination when it’s time to write. I did the same thing writing my Master’s thesis. It took my defense date being set to light the much needed fire under my @#! to get to work. At that point, I stopped going to lab altogether and wrote in the graduate library, otherwise I would never stop science-ing.

I have 0 experience writing an entire research manuscript. While I am a co-author on two publications, I was minimally involved in the writing because  I was already long gone from the lab when my data was published. Had I been around longer my authorship would have likely shifted to first but that’s neither here nor there. The point is, this is the first time that I am present during the manuscript writing and the first time I have the responsibility of pushing the paper forward.

To keep it 100, 100, 100, I  feel like I have no idea what I’m doing, but I actually (kind of) do know what I’m doing because I’ve written a thesis (thank GOD, it’s great practice) and I’ve read papers. This is just new territory for me and something I’ve never done before (which is exactly what I wanted from this experience, new skills and training).

That said, my response to major assignments I’ve never done before is to *drumroll* procrastinate!

However, considering I have a 2-day writing workshop tomorrow that is focused on writing this paper, I should probably get started huh?

So here are some tips I have for getting started with writing your first (or umpteenth) paper!

  1. Start with the results section, then the materials/methods/experimental procedures
    When I wrote my Master’s thesis, I struggled for weeks with getting started. I later learned that I basically started writing the most difficult parts of my thesis first (i.e. the introduction).Since the story that you’re going to publish will be centered around your results, knowing what data you’re going to include will make writing the other sections easier. In fact, if I remember correctly, I was told to write the introduction last.
  2. If you can’t stop doing experiments, don’t write in (or near) the lab. Change locations to a place that’s conducive for writing! (i.e. library, home, coffee shops, etc.).

That’s all I have for now but I will update the list as I learn more.

Part of the reason I started this blog was to document my experiences as I’m going through them. It’s nice to have polished “what-to-do” posts, but I think it’s also important to document the learning process. Sometimes life moves so quickly you’ve already solved the problem before you can write about it(#storyofmylife). But since I’m in the midst of uncertainty, this is the perfect time to share!

Anywho…I guess I’ll get back to “writing.”

Let me know if you have writing hacks/tips/suggestions!

With Love,

ChiChi

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