W. Stenson: Manuscript Writing

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W. Stenson: Manuscript Writing

  1. 1. Manuscript Writing William F. Stenson M.D. Professor of Medicine Division of Gastroenterology Washington University School of Medicine
  2. 2. How do you write a scientific paper?
  3. 3. Hey, Old Guy, how can I be published and funded while coming in late, leaving early and spending the interim drinking coffee?
  4. 4. Importance of Scientific Writing <ul><li>Writing is generally undervalued </li></ul><ul><li>Writing is not given sufficient priority either in time or effort </li></ul><ul><li>Effective writing has more to do with logical thinking than with “style” </li></ul>
  5. 5. Before You Write
  6. 6. The time to think about writing is when you design the study <ul><li>When you design the study you should have some idea of how it would appear in print, in particular how the figures would appear </li></ul><ul><li>A paper with good data almost writes itself </li></ul>
  7. 7. Study Design <ul><li>The study should be designed to answer a specific and easily articulated question </li></ul><ul><li>Each experiment should be easily related to the question addressed by the study </li></ul>
  8. 8. Think about each experiment in terms of how it would fit in a paper <ul><li>After the experiment make a figure such as would appear in a paper </li></ul><ul><li>Think about which figure would appear next in a paper </li></ul>
  9. 9. Constant Reassessment If you constantly review where you are and think “What more do I need to make a paper” you will avoid three big problems: *Not knowing when to stop *Doing studies that are not going to fit into any paper *Ending up with portions of three papers but not all of any one paper
  10. 10. Decisions <ul><li>Analyze your study to determine what decisions you made (what model to use, what methods to use, time points, concentrations) </li></ul><ul><li>It is better to do this analysis when you are designing the study </li></ul><ul><li>Identify those decisions that may need to be explained/justified </li></ul><ul><li>Use sentences that begin “We chose to do ________ because_______” </li></ul>
  11. 11. Old Technology, New Technology There is a temptation to use the technology you are familiar with rather than the technology that is appropriate to answer the question at hand .
  12. 12. How Much is Enough? <ul><li>You can always do more, you can always do less </li></ul><ul><li>Look at other papers in the journal of interest to see the scope of the studies </li></ul><ul><li>Try to define the scope of the study before you start </li></ul>
  13. 13. Writing
  14. 14. Starting to write <ul><li>Start by developing the figures </li></ul><ul><li>Then do the figure legends </li></ul>
  15. 15. Title <ul><li>Does your title summarize the main point of your paper? </li></ul>
  16. 16. The importance of the abstract, figures and figure legends <ul><li>The editor/reviewer should be able to evaluate the paper based on the abstract, the figures and the figure legends alone </li></ul>
  17. 17. Abstract <ul><li>Does the abstract have a single sentence that clearly defines the fundamental question being addressed in the study? </li></ul><ul><li>Is all the information in the abstract consistent with the information in the rest of the paper? </li></ul><ul><li>Have you stated your main conclusion? </li></ul><ul><li>Does the conclusion relate to the fundamental question? </li></ul>
  18. 18. Introduction <ul><li>Have you reviewed the relevant literature in your introduction? </li></ul><ul><li>Is the significance of your study clear from the introduction? </li></ul><ul><li>Have you stated the specific purpose of your paper at the end of your introduction? </li></ul>
  19. 19. Materials and Methods <ul><li>Have you described all selection criteria in your methods? </li></ul><ul><li>Have you described all the methods you used? </li></ul>
  20. 20. Results <ul><li>Is the result section logically organized? </li></ul><ul><li>Do you use transition sentences? </li></ul><ul><li>Do you explain your decisions? </li></ul><ul><li>Have you presented your findings in one place only? </li></ul><ul><li>Have you omitted all interpretation of the data? </li></ul>
  21. 21. Transition sentences <ul><li>“ Having demonstrated ______ , we next sought to determine __________ using the ______ method. This experiment demonstrated ____________ . These studies indicate ________________ .” </li></ul>
  22. 22. Decisions <ul><li>Analyze your study to determine what decisions you made (what model to use, what methods to use, time points, concentrations) </li></ul><ul><li>It is better to do this analysis when you are designing the study </li></ul><ul><li>Identify those decisions that may need to be explained/justified </li></ul><ul><li>Use sentences that begin “We chose to do ________ because_______” </li></ul>
  23. 23. Discussion <ul><li>Is the answer to the study question presented at the beginning of the Discussion? </li></ul><ul><li>Have you explained the meaning and significance of your results rather than merely repeating them? </li></ul>
  24. 24. The Review Process
  25. 25. How one reviewer reviews <ul><li>Reads abstract </li></ul><ul><li>Examines figures and figure legends </li></ul><ul><li>Reads the rest of the manuscript to answer questions created by the review of the abstract, figures and figure legends </li></ul>
  26. 26. Questions Reviewers Ask <ul><li>Who cares? Is there an important question addressed? </li></ul><ul><li>How does this fit in with previous work? </li></ul><ul><li>Does the experimental design fit the question? </li></ul><ul><li>Does the data mean what the investigator says it means? </li></ul><ul><li>If I were doing this study would I have done it differently? </li></ul><ul><li>Are there other experiments I would have done? Did the investigator do them and not tell us? </li></ul>
  27. 27. The review, potential responses <ul><li>Accept </li></ul><ul><li>Happy Reject </li></ul><ul><li>Willing Reject </li></ul><ul><li>Priority Reject </li></ul>
  28. 28. Reasons for Rejection <ul><li>The research does not address an important question </li></ul><ul><li>The results do not make a “discernible point” </li></ul><ul><li>The results are not novel </li></ul><ul><li>Problems with experimental design </li></ul><ul><li>Problems with the quality of the data </li></ul>
  29. 29. Replying to Reviewers <ul><li>Remember your goal is to be published not to demonstrate that you are smarter than the reviewers </li></ul><ul><li>The editor’s letter should spell out the minimum that you need to do in terms of additional studies </li></ul><ul><li>You should respond to every comment even if you don’t do everything requested </li></ul>
  30. 30. How do you get published and funded? <ul><li>Learn to focus </li></ul><ul><li>Learn to finish </li></ul><ul><li>Attempt to keep up technologically </li></ul><ul><li>Learn the system </li></ul><ul><li>Learn to write </li></ul>

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