Writing research papers is one of the most dreaded (and most unavoidable) activities for many people during the PhD. In this series of posts I explore some of the reasons why writing research papers is difficult when one arrives at the PhD, and explain what concrete writing process I find myself following after more than a decade of academic writing.
This series, based mostly on my own writing experience and that of those around me, is composed of four parts:
- Baking papers, or why scientific writing is so difficult, where I analyze some of the reasons behind the writing difficulties of many PhD students. Basically, that people don’t get nearly as much training on scientific writing as they need; and that training often focuses on the end product (the nice, finished paper), and not on the collaborative and iterative process that leads to that (i.e., the many half-baked drafts that come before the final one).
- How I write papers, where I go over the initial steps of writing a scientific paper, from initial idea to outline. The post is peppered with real examples of crappy, intermediate steps from a real published paper I co-authored.
- How I write papers (Part 2), where I go over the second set of steps, from refining the outline to drafting a first version, revising and submitting it (again, with real examples of the same paper).
- In My Ten Commandments of scientific writing, I acknowledge that writing is often messy, and circumstances force us to step out of the usual process, or take strategic decisions on where to go next with the writing. These 10 guiding principles try to help you navigate such decisions during the writing process.
I wish these tips and tricks are not only useful to survive your writings, but also to transform your writing from dreaded chore to enjoyable act of connection with others (see also this related “Monday Mantra”).