One of the most difficult processes of a scientific career is writing papers. You plan, you execute, you analyze the life out of your data, you spend countless days with your subject, data set, cells, humans, animals, you name it….
But then it comes the time when you have to share your findings and the tangled web of thoughts and premises have to make it on to an A4 sheet with set margin, rules and references.
Not only do you have to disentangle what you have done, thought and will say, you have to find relevant peers who can support or dispute your premise and disentangle what they have said and meant.
Just reading thing may give you a headache.
But through the years, and since I do have a lot of experience writing novels, I think I have created a helpful system that may seem obvious but is so rarely used. I’ll come back to it in a minute.
We try so hard to make a good and understandable paper, so it can have a great impact and reach out in the best way to our peers and the community.
It has to be objective enough to sound as if a robot has written it, and fun enough that it will be picked up by a dulled out undergrad doing a weekly assignment.
So how do we untangle the mess and start writing?
Start explaining as if you were a teenager in a garage with your friends, don’t be afraid to sound dumb, it is the point of the exercise;
We had these people who came from all over the city after seeing an ad, and they brought their parent, the parents were really really old. We asked them to spit in cups and then they sat like for an hour and we asked them to fill in a paper when the nurse came and checked their blood pressure. They were like 200 people and 360 parents. Some were around middle-aged and some were not. We checked their saliva and found bunch od DNA that we looked at before (Jenny wrote a paper on it and how we did it before) at and it contained these genes we were looking at before.
So b) refining the text (not real study only example):
Participants were community dwellers from all areas of London, UK. The announcement was made in a local newspaper about participation in our “CardioGen Health” study initiated in 2003, procedures and study design explained in Watson (2004). Participants were asked to bring one or both biological parents. Final participants that were examined in our study were; Children (n=200) Mean(SD) for age 34(14.7), Parents (n=360) 69(20.2), Female gender 68% . The tests consisted of two questionnaires administered on site; the cardio health questionnaire and one depicting demographic characteristics. Genetic sampling was made for XCFRT22 gene.
Initiating your study with “dumb” language gives you and opportunity to say what you want to say, and move forward with your paper, and the refining process allows you to construct and untangle.
May not work for everyone, sometimes when words lack all together it does not even help me, but trust me, it will make the flow a lot easier if you at least try.