Planning your paper

I’ve read a couple of good books over the last few months and have promised to pass on some of the information I found most interesting. My post today from the book “Writing Science: How to Write Papers That Get Cited and Proposals That Get Funded” by Joshua Schimel is the first step in writing a paper, the planning part. In this step, Schimel, who concentrates in the book on getting the story into academic writing, explains how to find the key story points for your work. He poses four questions, each of which he says you should answer in a short paragraph – two to three sentences at the most.

1). What is your opening? This should identify the larger problem you are contributing to and let the readers know which direction you are heading in and why the problem is important.

2) What is your specific question or hypothesis? This should identify the challenge you are facing. This is, in fact, what your paper should really be about, the main element of your story.

3) What are the key results of your work? You only need a short list here – two to three points

4) What is your main conclusion? This involves reporting how the results from 3) resolved the challenge in 2) and should address the larger problem in 1):  how your work has helped the world move forward.

Once you have answered those four questions, you are ready to move on to the actual writing.

Anne Wegner

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