Scientific writing advice

(8 Posts)
IamAporcupine Fri 18-Nov-16 14:04:25

I work in clinical science. I wrote my PhD quite a number of years ago. It was not easy but I got there in the end (English is not my first language). After that I got a good number of papers published, but even when I was first author I think I never wrote them 100% on my own as my previous PIs wanted to be highly involved (or didn't trust me!)
So in summary, I am writing this paper now and I want to cry because I realise I just do not know how to do it! I just cannot find the words.
I can do the intro, methods, results...it is mainly the discussion that paralyses me. This is also my first paper in this new job and I guess that also makes me doubt myself a lot.
I am usually good at re-writing stuff or correcting other's work, but the blank page... sad

Any advice will be greatly appreciated!

Lookinatu Fri 18-Nov-16 20:41:05

Is it based on research or a study? This would be the best place to discuss what you hoped to find out or any trends at the time.

NappingRabbit Fri 18-Nov-16 20:47:24

I publish on psychology/epidemiology/public health so hope some of this may be relevant.

I generally approach the discussion with the same loose structure:

- brief summary of findings
- how they relate to previous studies/the wider literature
- implications for future research/clinical practice/policy
- strengths and limitations
- conclusions

Start with those headings and bullet point below them as you think of things. Much much easier than starting with a blank page and going straight into writing.

IamAporcupine Fri 18-Nov-16 22:09:34

lookinatu it is research - genetics applied to

NappingRabbit not all those headings apply to my work, but I should try to think of a similar approach, thanks!

My other big problem is that I am so busy at work that I have very little time to read scientific papers in full. I am sure that does not help either sad

cordeliavorkosigan Mon 28-Nov-16 19:33:34

I think the discussion is the "what you think this means". The intro contains the background, setup and motivation; the Methods section describes precisely what you did. The Results describe what you found. The Discussion describes what it means - so like Napping says, this would typically start with a brief summary, go on to relate it to relevant literature and place it in context (what does the world know now that it didn't know before -- no need for a lit review); something about what's great and not so great (strengths and limitations), and a couple of ending sentences. I would avoid outlining what you would do next, but some brief extension ideas might be appropriate.
I sometimes write a draft with a pen and paper before typing. That way there are fewer distractions, I tend to write more fluidly, and by the time I type it in, it's a second draft already because I can edit awkward phrases or re-order ideas a bit. And it's not a big blank screen. Good luck!

IamAporcupine Thu 01-Dec-16 23:25:28

thanks cordelia
I think the big problem is that I need to do more reading to be able to discuss the results better.
I am getting there though

MedSchoolRat Fri 02-Dec-16 19:45:57

Target your efforts by looking at what the most cited similar papers, or any systematic reviews conclude, and see if your results are similar or point out what your results add that wasn't clear previously. Try to talk up what your research adds. Try to come up with recommendations about what research needs doing next (you can get cited specifically for saying that kind of thing).

The BMJ has boxes "what was already known" & "What this research adds". Distill your message into 1-4 core messages about what your research adds, and then pad that out with caveats and nuance.

IamAporcupine Tue 06-Dec-16 11:50:17

thanks again!

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