I tweeted about starting a new paper today and was asked if I had any tips & tricks to share regarding paper writing. First I thought that I hadn’t other than referring to some resources that have been very helpful. However, on the way home from the office I thought that the resources mostly focus on the format & editing of a journal paper and not on the writing or preparation to get writing. Here are some of the resources I find very helpul. Further down I share some other tips & tricks…
Resources: This blog (http://lemire.me/blog/rules-to-write-a-good-research-paper/) is very good in highlighting what makes a good paper and has some very useful & practical tips. Another blog I absolutely love is this one: http://getalifephd.blogspot.co.uk/ not only for writing but anything academia & work-life balance. Tanya writes a lot about writing and the importance of regular writing. I’m trying to write every day but failing miserably – but having a blog & attending a writing group has helped me to write regularly even if not every day.
Another good resource can be found here: http://www.frontinus.org.uk/Resources.html These are very short postcards that highlight different aspects required for a paper.
Some other tips & tricks
Reference software: To be able to organise your papers and reference them quickly having a good reference or citing software is crucial – the sooner you start to build your library the better. There are lots of different programmes out there e.g. EndNote, Mendeley, Zotero and many more. I use EndNote because I like the flexible interface and the iPad app so I can read my papers anywhere. I tried to go paperless and I managed to get used to reading my papers on the iPad. I’m a sucker for excuses e.g. I didn’t print that paper so I can’t do any of the reading…having the pdfs on my iPad means no more excuses.
Keep track of your reading: I recently started a bullet journal and I added a reading tracker to help me see how much reading I have done and the quick overview means that I can then sort my papers in EndNote after a reading session using the overview. I have a lot of folders in EndNote but the most important one is for the paper I’m working on – I copy all the references that I want to use in it to find them more easily while writing.
Find your writing mode: As I said before regular writing is helpful and recommended a lot – I struggle to write every day but I’m slowly working towards it. I absolutely love the Hide & Write group – where we write together once a week (more here: https://stephaniezihms.wordpress.com/2015/07/30/hide-write-writing-in-a-group-and-its-benefits/) I actually am excited for Thursdays and my brain seems to know it’s time to write. Additionally I also find that figuring out what helps you write or focus on a task is important. I don’t really like writing in the office but if I need to focus I now listen to “I took a pill in Ibiza” on repeat – no idea why but this songs helps me to write & blend out any office distractions. When I put my headphones on and play the song I know it’s time to focus & so far it’s working really well.
Find your way of working: I like to write as I go along which means that I don’t write papers in order. As soon as I have done experiments I will summarise the method and any information that would go into a methodology section. I do the same with the results as soon as I have them I will summarise findings. This is not perfect text but it helps to have things written when they’re fresh in your mind. It is also nice to not be faced with empty pages when starting a paper. Similarly with reading – I take notes of papers I read and try to summarise them using a table. This gives a good overview which aspects of the paper aren’t covered by literature and which areas I should research some more. This also helps when writing the introduction since I can use the table to connect references.
Do some non-scientific writing: I find that writing for my blog (trying to write a post per month) or other non-scientific outlets e.g. University newsletter really helps with ym writing & particularly my attitude to writing. I’m now excited about writing and think it’s fun. I used to think of it as a chore but with practice I improved and started to enjoy it. This came mostly from non-academic writing but the enjoyment has rubbed off into my academic writing. Even if you don’t publish your non-academic writing give it a go. It took me a long time to actually start a blog.
What are your writing tips & tricks? Special music, special place, writing buddies? Please share in the comments or on Twitter @geomechsteph #hwhidewrite