When to start writing...

Jan 09 2013 Published by under Publishing

So I'm working up some experiments for the last bit of a paper.  These experiments will probably take a few more months, my question is when to start writing?  Now, wait until you get prelim results back from these experiments, or when the whole shebang is over?

I'm thinking to lay out my outline and maybe start some work on the introduction to explain the question that I'm trying to answer.


Oh and that damn dreaded review article is finally done and accepted for publication.  At least that burden is over with.

8 responses so far

  • Morgan Price says:

    Is there another paper you should finish first? Otherwise you should write an outline, including an abstract, an outline of the intro, and rough figures for your results so far. It shouldn't take long and it might change your mind about exactly which experiments you should do to complete it.

    • Genomic Repairman says:

      This is my next priority, my opus, where I stake my claim, this is The One. I may have some other papers roll out but nothing as substantial as this one. I have a rough idea of the figures and order that they go in currently floating in the ether of my mind. I guess now its time to sit down and commit all this to paper.

  • becca says:

    I didn't outline, so much as "storyboard" the figures. It was very helpful for me.

    I would recommend writing the M & M now if possible. It'll make you feel like the paper is more REAL.

  • miles says:

    I usually start writing very early on putting an introduction, M&M and results as they come in. I don't have an agenda and don't care about how things come out as long as the data is interesting and scientifically sound.

    For me it clears up the story as the data emerges and sharpens focus on what is necessary to finish it up.

    I guess it helps if you don't have any stock options...

  • iGrrrl says:

    I had a friend who used to write 'premature' papers, before he started the experiments, but I think it was more like the storyboarding that becca mentions above, with a twist. He would think about the figures before doing the experiment, and almost never had to re-do anything just because he forgot a control, or because it might be clearer if the lanes were in a different order, or because he wouldn't have sufficient sample size for reasonable analysis. But he also outlined, using the undergrad lab approach, making notes before he even started about why he wanted to do this series of experiments, with citations, what hypothesis he was testing, and what he thought about the results as they came in.

    When I first learned he did this, I thought he was cynical, that he should 'follow the science'. Now I think it was brilliant, and his track record attests to the success of the approach. He didn't let his outlines get in the way of really thinking through the data and following where it led, but the approach kept him focused.

  • Bashir says:

    I do story board things ahead of time. Mostly the introduction and framing. Thinking about the figures is also good. Depending on how the data comes out things can change. I don't know if I've had a data set yet that produced more answers than questions.

    • Genomic Repairman says:

      Yeah its a loose story board, I let the data tell me which road to go down. Its the author of the story not me, I just try to fill in the pieces and link it all together.

  • The trouble with starting to write beforehand is that you can so focus your thinking that you won't be able to see the really beautiful, weird, unexpected thing that emerges from the data. Methods sections are ok to have on tap. But, I try to wait & write the intro/discussion till I've finished the results.

    I think intro (context and rationale) and discussion (implications) are much more powerful when you know what you are trying to say and to whom you wish to say them.

    I'd say wait till you see what's happening.

Leave a Reply