Tips for Manuscript Writing
Work from home. It is every wet lab scientists worst nightmare.
All jokes aside I hope everyone and their families are staying safe and healthy during these uncertain times.
As a PhD candidate #WFH has been a challenge for me as I would be spending a majority of my time at school performing experiments if the lab was opened. I am not really at a point where I should be working on my thesis, so this has been a really weird transition for me (especially since I'm such a workaholic). Many other scientists are in my position as well where their labs are shut down too. What a perfect time to start working on all those unfinished manuscripts!
That is exactly what my #WFH has become. Finishing/starting all those manuscripts I never had enough time to really start yet. I thought, while I procrastinate writing my own papers, I will share some tips and how I go through the writing process!
Here are some of my tips and how I work through organizing writing my manuscripts:
I always start first will writing the experimental details. Things like chemicals, methods, synthetic routes, physical characterization, etc. This is usually the easiest part because you know exactly what you did and what methods you used to do it. Also bonus: writing this part down, while simple, makes you feel like you really accomplished something during the manuscript writing process. If you're like me and hate writing, starting this section gives me the motivation to move on with the manuscript knowing I now have words on a page.
2. Results and Discussion
The second easiest part! .... see the theme
In this section I start first with planning out the figures. Usually to do this I draw them on my ipad or on a piece of paper. HEAR ME OUT! while it might sound weird to do this, I find it helps me organize where I want the figures to appear in the manuscript. Also it allows me to visualize the layout and if there are any stack plots I can make to combine and better present my data. Plus I hate plotting everything then having to go back many times to re-plot graphs. Doing this helps minimize that for me!
After I hand draw all my graphs, I actually graph them in my preferred graphing software then further organize them in a PowerPoint presentation. This is so if I need to edits/combine images it makes it easier for me to do. In this stage is usually where I figure out if there is any data missing and go collect any data I still need. However, during these times I have instead been making a list of experiments that I would like to perform to add to the manuscript to fill any holes in my story. I will make them a priority for when we are able to get back into the lab.
Once all my figures are made I add them to the manuscript and add my discussions on the results collected. Here is where I make any tables I need. I try to tabulate as many important values as I can to help the readers compare between different catalysts.
After discussing all my data I am ready to draw some conclusions!
I start by making a list of at least 3 main takeaway points from my results. Once I narrow down the most important conclusions of my work, I start to build my conclusion around those points.
This is my least favourite part, so I like leaving it for last! I also make point form notes for what I need to discuss from the literature review and I use these to help tell my story. Once I know how I want to tell my story, the rest of it is easier for me to write and form into an introduction
5. Abstract and Title
Now that I have finished telling my story, I can focus on summarizing the results in the abstract! And finally giving a title to my completed masterpiece!
6. Editing and Supplementary Information
Lastly, I focus on editing my masterpiece for grammar and making sure the story of all my hard work is told well. During this process is where I make and organize a supplementary information document. I decide during the editing process which graphs or data might be better moved from the main text to the SI.
At this point is now when I send it to co-authors and PI's to review the document before submission.
I hope these "tips" help you if it is your first time putting together a manuscript and you don't know where to start. We have all been there before. Or maybe this isn't your first time, but hopefully this gave you motivation to start/work on the manuscript you've been avoiding. I know writing this its given me some motivation to work on some of my manuscripts!
I hope you stay safe and wash your hands!