A rewarding yet difficult aspect of graduate work is writing that first scientific research paper to be published in a peer reviewed journal. The reward comes from knowing that you have the opportunity to tell a story (at least in part) relevant to your thesis or dissertation hypothesis. How to actually develop the paper and put your story into words, tables, and figures can be the difficult part.
It is important to remember that the peer reviewed scientific research paper may not be in the same format as your thesis or dissertation chapter. Your goal should be to get the scientific research paper published and then you can concern yourself with the necessary thesis editing and formatting to prepare this work for inclusion into your graduate thesis.
My first scientific paper draft consumed many hours with little or no success. I would write a few sentences, then edit, wordsmith, and check grammar so that every word was perfect. I lacked any idea of how to go about presenting my scientific data. Sure, I was experienced with writing essays and graduate research papers for class, but this was different. Now with over 30 peer reviewed papers published, I have a system that makes this process easier. Within three days of gathering the final pieces of data, I can have a draft document into the hands of my colleagues and this is how I succeed.Know the preferred presentation style of your colleagues.
1. Know the preferred presentation style of your colleagues.
Take the time to read a few papers written by your major advisor and collaborators. Understand what styles and journals they most often choose and how they go about laying out the data and the story. If your work developed from a grant proposal, review that document and think about the hypothesis. In the beginning, your advisor and collaborators are going to use what is most familiar to them and you will have to prove yourself competent in writing peer reviewed scientific papers before you can develop your own style. Have the relevant literature easily accessible as you write.
2. Collect and present your data.
Often we want to start with the introduction. That is the wrong approach. Start with compiling your data and putting it all into tables, charts, and figures. Have your data in nicely formatted and easy to review “pictures.”
3. Write the Results section. Once your data is presented nicely, write the results associated with each figure, table, or chart. Do not just reiterate what is presented, but help the reader understand the relevance and connectedness of the data. This is where you succeed in walking the reader through your data, just as you would tell a story.
4. Write the Materials and Methods.
Once you have the data presented in the Results, it is time to write the Materials and Methods. Describe how you performed the experiments. Refer to previous literature and be succinct. In your thesis or dissertation writing, you can add extra details.
5. Draft five or ten key points about your work.
Put into words the key ideas you are hoping to present with this paper. These do not need to be lengthy paragraphs but rather statements that summarize the crucial elements of your work.
6. Share the paper with your collaborators.
Now is the time to have collaborators, your advisor, or knowledgeable friends review this work to see if everyone agrees on the selected data and the key points. Ask for quick feedback and select the scientific journal you will submit your work to for publication.
7. Revise based on collaborator suggestions.
With collaborator suggestions, you can then perform some research paper editing. Edit the document to address the issues or ideas brought up by your collaborators. With your target journal in mind, this is the time to go back and make sure your tables, figures, and charts are in the proper format as specified by the journal.
8. Write your Discussion.
After you have edited the Results and Materials and Methods sections based on collaborator input, write your Discussion. You can use the five or 10 points you developed earlier as the basis for the discussion.
9. Write your Introduction. With the rest of the document prepared, write your Introduction.
10. Put together your References Section.
Finally, format your references per the guidelines of the target journal.
11. To Be Certain of its Excellence, Hire an Editing Service for a Final Check.
Once all the above is completed, you must now make sure all the collaborators and your advisor read and comment. Edit and make necessary changes as suggested by the rest of the team and then write the abstract. If you’re not 100% confident in your paper’s excellence, employ a professional editing service staffed by PhDs in your discipline to go through it one more time for you. Edit911 has edited over 1200 scientific papers for publication.
1) Protect your idea with a patent/copyright/trademark.
Depending on your business venture, you will need to take precautionary steps to protect your idea. This may involve filing a patent, copyright, or trademark. In any of these cases, it is important that you develop quality documents, easy to read figures, tables, and graphics so that the reviewer can determine the merit of your work. Venture capital investors may want to review these documents and along with your business plan, this might be the first impression of you and your capabilities.
Please remember that these protections do not keep someone else from trying to develop your idea, but they do give you the right to fight it out in court.
2) Write an excellent business plan.
Your business plan is a dynamic document. One investor group may need a particular format while another group may ask you to present the plan in their preferred review layout. The business plan needs to state who you are, what you are doing, why you need investment, the scope of the market (what is the valuation of the market), how you intend to proceed with the investment, and what the return on investment will be should someone invest. Most importantly, the business plan needs to be grammatically correct and have no spelling errors.
3) Have your business plan vetted and reviewed by experts in the field.
You need to take the time to have someone in your field read your business plan. Possibly a trusted colleague or a subject matter expert/reviewer/editor can help you with noticing the little things that are missing. These people can also help find areas of weakness in your business plan. With investors, you often have one opportunity to impress. Make sure that you put your best and most developed idea forward. In the business plan, it is important to point out how much you are investing of your own money into the idea.
4) Valuation is important.
Spend time thinking about the valuation and show that you did some real work on the projections. Find a banker or investor who might give you some time and help you develop the corporate valuation.
5) Develop a slide show.
To go along with your business plan you will need a slide deck that puts your business plan into pictures, graphs, text, and images that people can review. Many people are visual. Reading a long business plan may not be the first choice some individuals. Give them a slide show that they can scroll through and begin to “see” your idea.
6) Have your marketing plan developed and ready to show.
The success of many businesses comes with the marketing plan. It may seem like having your marketing plan all developed is not going to help you gain investment, but the truth is that investors will be far more impressed if you can show them the details of how you plan to make money on your idea and their investment.
Consider having flyers, a short video, and other items that will help you market to your target demographic. It is important to note that by developing your marketing, you will be able to fine-tune the demographic most likely to purchase your product or idea. Make sure to have all the documents, videos, and flyers proofread by multiple people. Nothing ruins a good marketing plan more than having bad grammar, typos, and spelling errors.
7) Invest your own money in the venture.
Invest at least a few thousand dollars in your new business. If you are not willing to invest, why will someone else want to loan you money? The capital investment you put in represents a material percentage of your net wealth and shows that you are dedicated to the success of the project.
Many entrepreneurs tell everyone about the sweat equity they are putting into the business. The truth is that everyone starting a new business is putting this type of effort in and potential investors expect this effort.
8) Have a working prototype available.
Investors do not want to take on product-development risk. If your idea is fabulous, they may take this risk but they will likely want a larger portion of your company. Have a working prototype available for review. A working prototype shows the investor that the development and proof-of-concept risk is mitigated.
9) Acquire Investment first from “friends and family.”
Many investors want to see that you have raised money from friends and family because it validates that people who know you think you are capable of making this idea come to life. How much should you seek from friends and family? This depends on your idea but $25,000 to $50,000 is a good sign that you are seen as capable and competent by family and friends.
10) Generate revenue.
This is a difficult task but very important. The company does not need to be making millions in the first month but a small amount of revenue will show that you have a good marketing plan and your idea is moving forward.
On a final note, raising capital is challenging and time consuming. If you take these ten steps, you will be better prepared to be a success in the capital investment round of funding.
Typically, the beginning of a novel sets the stage for the drama to unfold, drawing the reader in. On the other hand, the story’s ending leaves the reader satisfied with what happened to the characters as its storyline reaches its resolution.
Life is about stories. We each have one. Humans use stories to create social connections, to share ideas, to entertain, and to inform. Communication takes place through stories, whether fictional, historical, or contextual. But what many people don’t know is that storytelling is just as important when it comes to academic writing.
Manuscripts submitted for publication, dissertations, and other research reports tell the story of a scientific investigation. Stories consist of five major components: setting, conflict, character, plot, and theme. Each component has its parallel in academic writing.
Since I don’t have time to dissect an entire manuscript or dissertation, I’m going to use an abstract to illustrate the concept of storytelling in academic writing. An abstract contains all the major elements of a research report: background, method, results, and conclusions.
Consider the following sample abstract:
The United States is currently facing a shortage of family practice physicians, resulting in fewer preventative health care options for patients and an increasing number of non-urgent visits to hospital emergency rooms. Despite a steady increase in medical school applications, student enrollment is limited due to a shortage of clinical faculty. Previous studies have identified high turnover rates among clinical faculty as a major challenge for medical schools. In the present study, the factors related to successful recruitment and retainment of clinical faculty were investigated by exploring the lived experiences of novice clinical faculty during the role transition from clinical practice to clinical educator.
Three common themes associated with positive role transitions were identified: orientation, training, and ongoing support. The results of this study may assist human resources personnel in medical schools with the development of programs to improve recruitment and retention of novice clinical faculty.
1. The Setting
In a research report, the setting is provided by the background information, which is drawn from the scientific literature. The reader needs to understand the overall problem and how the research topic addresses the problem. A good introduction takes the reader from a broad description of the problem to the specific focus of the study in a series of logical, sequential steps.
In the example above, the abstract begins by describing a nationwide crisis: the shortage of family physicians. The shortage of physicians is due to a shortage of clinical faculty to teach medical students. The shortage of faculty is due to high turnover rates. The high turnover rates are due to issues with recruitment and retention of faculty, which is what the study aims to address. Thus, in a few sentences, the reader is taken from a broad
problem (nationwide shortage of family physicians) to the focus of the study (recruitment and retainment of clinical faculty) in a series of logical steps that clearly explain the relevance of the study to the issue at hand.
2. The Conflict
In stories, the conflict is a struggle or an oppositional situation that involves the central character. In research reports, conflicts are based in the scientific literature. Two main types of conflict in research are discrepancies in results and gaps in the literature (i.e., unanswered questions).
When writing a paper or dissertation, a clear description of the conflict serves to engage the reader and imparts a degree of importance to the study. In the example above, the conflict is a gap in knowledge regarding the reasons for high turnover rates among clinical faculty in medical schools. The importance of the study is emphasized by connecting the gap in knowledge to the broader problem: the shortage of family physicians. Importantly, the consequences of the present situation are clearly identified: emergency rooms are being taxed by visits from patients who would be better served by a family physician, and family physicians often engage in preventative health measures to further reduce the need for hospitalization. Thus, in this case, the conflict is presented as a crisis situation with implications for healthcare costs and the health of U.S. citizens.
3. The Character
Once the background (setting) has been presented and the reader is made aware of the conflict, it is time to introduce the main character: the study. The study should be introduced to the reader as the solution to the conflict. I like to think of it as the hero swooping in to save the day.
In the above example, the problem has been clearly presented in the first three sentences. The fourth sentence introduces the study by presenting it as the potential solution to the
In the present study, the factors related to successful recruitment and retainment of clinical faculty were investigated…
The reader has already been made to understand how the successful recruitment and retainment of clinical faculty relates to the overall problem (the shortage of family physicians). The study is introduced as a means to resolve the problem (by identifying the factors involved in successful recruitment and retainment of clinical faculty). This introduction not only emphasizes the importance of the study to the reader, but also continues to engage the reader and maintain interest. Importantly, the reader is clear about the role of the study in resolving the conflict, and the need for the study is apparent.
Aside from presenting the role of the main character (to resolve the conflict), the reader
also needs to be introduced to the main character. The sentence fragment above ends with the following brief description of the methodology that not only explains how the study aims to resolve the conflict, but also describes the nature of the study itself:
…by exploring the lived experiences of novice clinical faculty during the role transition from clinical practice to clinical educator.
The qualitative nature of the study is made apparent by the description of the method (exploring the lived experiences of novice faculty). In addition, the reader learns that the phenomenon of role transition provides an outcome measure for the study. In other words, factors that are associated with successful recruitment and retention of clinical faculty are assumed to be associated with a positive role transition. Thus, the study is also phenomenological in nature.
With this information, the reader can create a framework, a mental context in which all the information that follows will be interpreted. Once again, this technique serves to engage the reader and reinforce the importance of the study.
4. The Plot
The plot consists of the events that happen in a story that relate to the central conflict. In a research report, the plot is simply the description of the study and the results. However, as with fictional writing, the connection to the central conflict must be made clear to the reader throughout the manuscript or dissertation. Confusing plotlines are the bane of any writer.
The purpose of the methods section is to provide a context in which the reader can interpret the findings and to allow other researchers to reproduce the study. Ideally, the methods section is written in a logical order that follows the sequence of events that comprise the method, beginning with sampling and followed by data collection, sorting or filtering (if applicable), and data analysis.
Results should be presented in a format that is easy to follow using visual aids such as tables, graphs, and illustrations as appropriate. The goal should be to make it easy for the reader to access the results. For example, lengthy textual descriptions of measures or statistical data should be avoided. No matter how groundbreaking the research, nobody wants to slog through paragraphs filled with numbers.
Results should be presented in a way that clearly connects them with the research topic. One of the more common mistakes I find when editing a dissertation is the presentation of results that have no clear connection to the research topic. Like a plotline that has no clear connection to the main conflict in the story, such tactics leave the reader with the impression that the material was added to provide bulk rather than substance.
5. The Theme
The theme of a story is the central idea or belief that the author wishes to convey. In a research report, the theme is largely found in the discussion of the results and the conclusions drawn from the findings, including implications for future research.
In the sample abstract above, the findings are necessarily brief. However, they convey a central message: novice clinical faculty need proper training, orientation, and support in order to be successful in their transition from practice to teaching. The implications are clear: implementing these practices will help retain novice faculty, which will boost the number of medical students and increase the number of family physicians.
The theme of a study is important: it emphasizes the contribution of the study to the body of knowledge in the field, it offers explanations for unexpected or potentially conflicting results, and it provides the reader with a sense of direction for future studies. In the sample abstract, the last sentence leaves the reader with a sense of future directions for the research.
The results of this study may assist human resources personnel with the development of programs to improve recruitment and retention of novice clinical faculty.
There is an art to writing about results. The researcher must be honest about what the study found (or did not find), point out limitations while not making the study appear weak, and draw conclusions that are clearly supported by the data. While major findings are easier to present in a positive light, the reality of scientific investigation is that studies often yield negative or conflicting results. The ability to demonstrate the importance of such findings is the mark of good academic writing.
I’ve mentioned reader interest and engagement frequently in this article, and you may ask yourself why, as a researcher publishing a study, these things should matter. The truth is that scientists, like many other professionals, succeed by convincing others of the importance and relevance of their work. This is achieved through clear communication
that engages the reader.
Storytelling has been a method of information exchange for humans since we first began to communicate ideas. Thus, applying the concepts of storytelling to academic writing can promote the conditions that are necessary for success. Grants are awarded, promotions are granted, and presentations are well attended all on the basis of clear, engaging communication. There are thousands of scientists out there who possess a high degree of intelligence and are doing work in important areas of research. To stand out among the crowd, you’ll need clear and effective communication. The best way to do that? Tell a good story.
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